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Thread: Stainless etching options - restoring Shun finish

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2016

    Stainless etching options - restoring Shun finish

    I have this Shun (shhh... don't tell anyone, it was a gift). Of course I immediately scratched it, polished out the scratches, and decided that I would learn how to re-etch damascus. First I got some ferric chloride and tried it both straight and with vinegar; I prefer straight. It looks nice but is definitely not restored - more customized. Most notably the core steel (VG-Max) is dark rather than bright. After some further reading, it seems that this might be related to manganese content and I might get a closer result to the original by using muriatic acid, which I'll try next after a high polish.

    There are so many posts out there on how to etch, how to polish beforehand, how to finish afterwards, dilution vs. time, and other decision variables that all I can conclude is that it will take some experimentation. How can I (and can I at all without a better equipped shop) restore the factory finish on something like a Shun? The target characteristics are highly polished core steel and cladding bands, smooth feeling blade faces, and good contrast looking straight down under direct light. What I have now looks better at a slightly oblique angle of view or illumination than straight on.

    Is the core steel masked with resist before etching to keep it shiny, or is it simply a factor of etchant choice and polishing before and after?

    Is the blade etched significantly darker and polished post-etch, and can I do this without taking off too much thickness?

    Does that particular finish require a buffing wheel (too dangerous for me) and/or a kasumi-type stone?

    Thanks for any pointers you can give me.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Vancouver, WA
    I believe that they are bead blasted and the softer steel takes on a frosty look rather than a chemical oxidation.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Yea I also believe blasting is used alot. Polish it and put it in warmed up muriatic 34% is what I believe I have. I think I usually run it around 50 deg c. Then just find the right time that will give you desired result, try maybe three minutes at first, also worth trying is neutralizing and then giving it ~30 sec in ferric post the muriatic. Polish post as much as you need for the performance you want. That seems to depend alot on pattern for me, how dark I can leave it. Damasteel does well with "strong" looks usually.

  4. #4
    Senior Member zetieum's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Germany - France
    Once I etched a stainless knife with VG10 core with classical Fe3+ Cl- solution (note be sure that it is compleitly dissolved before etching: there should be not powder at the bottom). It did not darken the steel like for carbon steel with a powdery aspect. It made it a bit darker. damas was indeed a bit more frosty. After that I just wiped it with 2000 grit sand paper and with then mirocmesh which strengthen the shiny aspect.
    The result was OK, although it was not absolutely perfect (I was not chasing it). I think to get smth better, the pre-etch polish should be done nicely. (Note: I am no expert)

    EDIT: it took a long time in the solution: maybe 15-20 min altogether.

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