Great care must be taken that the plate is perfectly dry; if it is not, it may be placed before the fire, but not close enough to melt the wax. Having carefully wiped the canvas, lay the plate a little more than half-way upon it, so that the balance remains upon the table. Apply a lighted taper, or a folded paper match, progressively under the wax; pull up the wax, Fig. 30, as the warmth proceeds; a very slight warmth answers the purpose. By removing the wax with a knife you are liable to injure the margin, which is difficult to remedy. Should any of the wax adhere to the plate, remove it by using a piece of wood cut in the shape of a chisel. Fix the vice on the same place as when laying on the ground. Rub the plate over with turps, taking care to go over every part; hold the plate up by the vice; heat the back with burn-ing paper as be-fore, until the ground varnish and tallow are melted. Rub off with a soft rag. Should any smut remain, apply a little turpentine; withdraw the vice, and wash the spot it covered with turpentine. Rub the plate front, back, and sides with the rag.
Dab the plate with the bag of rotten-stone; pour on it a little sweet oil; and polish the plate with the oil-rubber, using considerable up-and-down pressure; wipe the plate quite clean, and polish with fine whiting. Should the biting-in have succeeded, the plate is ready for the printer.
The dry point may next be used. For this purpose the needle No. 3, well pointed, may be employed, as indenture must be made by pressure of the hand. For interlining the parts which are too weak, and uniting lines neglected in the etching, the dry point will be sufficient; but the pressure will leave a projection or burr on the plate, which must be carefully removed by the sharp scraper; should the plate require more than the dry point can accomplish, recourse must be had to re-biting.
Heat the plate as before, but make one corner, the one with the least work in it, hotter than the other part. Prior to laying the ground, the plate should be polished with whiting, or with methylated spirit and aquafortis, using a piece of old muslin folded in the shape of a dabber, which will fill the etched lines, and prevent the new-laid ground from entering. Rub the ground on the hot corner, and with the dabber take the ground therefrom, and dab quickly over the other part until the whole surface is covered. All the parts but those wanting more colour may be stopped out as before; the border wax must again be used. Next follow the same process with the acid.
This is the most certain method of finishing the plate. The ground must be laid as in the first instance, but using a greater body, and with the dabber, Fig. 31, rubbing it well into the lines, taking care that no whiting remains in the etching marks; for this process the plate should he merely washed with turpentine; a slight extra warmth and good dabbing will render the ground acid proof. The smoking is here dispensed with. Set up the ground, and work at the plate as in the first instance. Now use No. 3 sharp point, and interline the parts that should be darker and where greater strength is wanted, crossing the lines, not at right angles, but lozenge-ways. The plate, cleaned off as before directed, receiving a light oil rubbing with a little rotten-stone, and washed off with turpentine, may now be sent to the printer's, and a proof -obtained. By repeating the re-etching, the plate may be worked up to the colour of a line engraving. In some of the darker parts a graver or lozenge-tool may be used; but it is rather dangerous in the hands of the uninitiated; as it is apt to slip, and make deep lines where none is wanted.
Re-biting will produce any extra colour that may be wanted, with little more trouble and with greater safety.
For the first biting, ground and smoke the plate in the ordinary manner, then etch those parts only which are to be darkest, such as vigorous foreground in landscapes, and other deep work. Use no delicate lines at this stage; japan the back of the plate and the spot where the hand-vice was placed; use a photographer's tray as an acid bath, in which immerse the plate in nitric acid until the very black lines are bitten-in. Clean the plate, and take a proof. For the second biting, ground the plate again, and smoke it; the first lines will still clearly show. Draw all the work of a medium darkness, with a sharper point than that used for the first biting-in. Place the plate in the acid bath, and let it remain until the lines are of a moderate depth. Remove and clean the plate, and take a second proof. For the third biting, ground with transparent ground, and do not smoke it. Etch all the delicate work, keeping the lines close to each other, and using a sharper needle than before. This operation requires more care than the two previous ones, as the lines will not show very distinctly.
This process is of great service for intricate work, in consequence of the facility it gives for introducing pale lines amongst the darker work, and a delicate background beyond the vigorous lines of the subject; whilst, by taking proofs after each biting, the progress of the work may be seen, and its correctness ensured. By covering the back and edges of the plate with japan varnish, the old and tedious process of banking up the sides with wax is avoided, and the plate may be plunged into the acid bath without any further risk or trouble.
The following directions will relieve beginners from much trouble, and enable them to avoid many accidents to which engravers- are liable: - When using the acid, slightly grease that part of the hand likely to come in contact with it, as a preventive to its making stains, which are not easily eradicated. When your border wax has done its duty, have it well washed in cold water, then wanned before the fire, pulled out and pressed together again, as the more frequently that is done the more pliable the wax will be for future use. As your aquafortis will become reduced in strength by exposure to the air, it becomes necessary to add a portion of- No. 3 bottle to that of No. 2, and a small quantity of No. 1 bottle to No. 3, No. 1 bottle containing the undilute acid. When making a point to an etching needle, work the point round, as, should there be any flat side to the point, it will bite the cop-per, and prevent the freedom of hand required to give spirit to the etching. The burnisher will soften down any part of the etching that appears harsh or crude, by gently passing it over the parts to be reduced in colour.