How to Print on a Stainless Steel Plate

By Daniel R. Mueller
Printing on stainless steel with cloisonne is similar to making a badge or medal.

There are a few different ways to print images on a stainless steel plate. Some require complex and expensive computerized printing apparatuses that are usually beyond the financial grasp of the average hobbyist. Given enough time and practice, a do-it-yourself enthusiast can combine the art forms of metal etching and cloisonne to print a variety of detailed images on stainless steel. Traditional art forms potentially command far greater value than simple computerized printouts. Cloisonne is a traditional art form most commonly seen on ornately crafted police badges and enamel jewelry.

Etching the Image

Draw the image onto the steel plate using a metal compatible marker.

Using a rotary hand tool and a metal etching attachment, gingerly etch out the image. When controlling the rotary tool, brace your forearm against the worktable and slowly edge in small, controlled wrist movements to avoid etching outside of the designated lines. The relief created by the etching process needs to be at least 1/8th of an inch in depth to successfully color the etching with cloisonne.

Use the metal brush attachment on the rotary tool to impart a brushed texture to the inside of the finalized image and remove metal burrs created during the initial etching. Use the buffer attachment on the rotary tool to clean up the edges to a smooth finish, but leave the inner surface brushed to allow for better adhesion with the cloisonne glass.

Coloring the Image With Cloisonne

Scoop the colored powder cloisonne glass using a small spoon and pour it gently into the relief section of the etching. Take special caution to control your breathing while handling and placing the powdered glass, since the gusts of one's breath can easily displace the material.

Fire the stainless steel plate in the kiln, following the specifications outlined for the particular type of powdered cloisonné glass used for the job. Allow the stainless steel plate ample time to cool.

Buff the stainless steel plate to remove excess cloisonne glass from the extra relief until the desired effect is reached.

Tip

Be prepared to do a few test runs during the etching process. Etching by hand is a difficult skill that requires significant practice.

If you've added too much cloisonne powder, you might need to use a coarser grinding wheel before buffing to achieve a professional finished look.

Warning

Wear safety goggles at all times when operating a rotary tool.

Take appropriate fire safety precautions when operating a kiln.

About the Author

Daniel R. Mueller is a Canadian who has been writing professionally since 2003. Mueller's writing draws on his extensive experience in the private security field. He also has a professional background in the information-technology industry as a support technician. Much of Mueller's writing has focused on the subjects of business and economics.