TUS Stencil Cracks & finger nail polish?

MTBob

Member
After less than a dozen applications my stencils from TUS are developing hair line cracks aground the image. Those cracks show up on the steel as small spider web lines around the image. I'm using a Personalizer Plus typically set at 3.5-4 and do a 2 step cycle, first etching then marking. I tape the stencil to the blade on all 4 sides when applying the pad. I called TUS and they said that the cracking was due to bending the stencil when removing it from the steel and said the stencil material was very brittle. They recommended that the stencil only be applied to the work piece with tape on one end and that the pad be moved across the stencil, moving the pad away from the tape. Apparently that will limit flexing in the stencil and resulting cracking. After each use I wash the stencil with windex, wash & dry it and then store it in a plastic envelope (not pressed flat).
The guy at TUS said that to fix this problem I needed to paint finger nail polish on the cracks around the stencil image.
Do you'll experience this kind of cracking? If so, what do you do to fix the problem?
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
First, I do far more stamping marks then etching..... so there are more experienced folks then I when it comes to using etchers..... but I do etch all of my folders, and those knives that a stamped mark might wreck.

Personally, I've only used TUS stencils once, and had them crack after several applications/uses.... and haven't used them since. My go to stencils are Blue Lightning from Ernie Grospitch.

POSSIBLY.... one of the issues you might be having.... is HOW you apply the etching pad to the stencil..... do you place it on the stencil and leave it for a given duration? Or, do you "dab" it on and off? Most stencils work the best/last the longest if you apply the etch pad at a medium to low setting on the machine (keeps the heat on the stencil down), count 3-5 seconds, then raise the etch pad to allow the gasses and heat to escape. Then repeat for whatever number of reps works best (I do 10X on the "etch" setting, and 10X reps on the "Mark" setting (I use the same etcher).

IF you are holding the etch pad on the stencil for more than about 5 seconds at a time, the stencil is likely being "burned" (none of them will hold up if the pad is applied and left there for more than a few seconds at a time.) With the Blue Lightning stencils....if you hold the pad on too long.....the will curl up and become useless.

I think you can fix the cracks with nail polish, but remember that nail polish has ZERO flexibility! That means anything other then the stencil being perfectly flat (or the shape it was when you applied the nail polish) and the nail polish itself will crack.....and you're right back where you started. ;)
 
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Nick Riggi

Well-Known Member
I use TUS for my stencils- used one for over 25 applications- only changed it because I had them shrink the size down to a smaller design. Have done over 25 more with the new one and still going.
I do AC/DC etch- to get a recessed impression and then to darken. I use a 5 amp -12 v power supply and use short bursts- about 5 second passes.
Important to clean the stencil when finished- neutralizer solution then soapy water and rinse and dry.
 

MTBob

Member
Thanks Ed, great comments.
As you suggested, I have been "degassing" the stencil process by placing the etch pad 3-5 seconds on the stencil and then lifting. I have varied the number of pad applications from 10 to 30 during the etching process to see how much depth is achieved in the image.
You and I are have the same thoughts about finger nail polish, it would seem that stuff is too brittle to solve the problem. I suppose another approach would be the application of some thinned silicone caulk (say Lexan brand) - that is, if I want to mess with this fix at all. Trying to get some kind of cover on the cracking right up to the edge of the image may be very difficult.
I tried to get stencils from Ernie but, at the time, he was having health problems and he asked that I look elsewhere.
Curiously, the TUS rep recognized the problem and didn't offer any remedy other than "not bending" the stencil and, if it cracked, paint over the crack. Frankly, I don't see any way of not bending the stencil slightly when applying it to the work piece or cleaning.
 

MTBob

Member
I use TUS for my stencils- used one for over 25 applications- only changed it because I had them shrink the size down to a smaller design. Have done over 25 more with the new one and still going.
I do AC/DC etch- to get a recessed impression and then to darken. I use a 5 amp -12 v power supply and use short bursts- about 5 second passes.
Important to clean the stencil when finished- neutralizer solution then soapy water and rinse and dry.
Nick: Perhaps my problem is not using the neutralizer solution that came with the power supply. I've been using Windex instead. Interestingly, the guy from TUS said that shouldn't make any difference, and that my issue was simply bending the stencil too much.
 

KenH

Well-Known Member
I use stencil material from http://www.img-electromark.com/ to make stencils and have good results. I have no idea how many etches I usually get from each stencil - well over 20 or so at least. Charlie of https://charliescapo.com/ uses stencils I make for his etching you can see at the link. I know he gets well over 100 etches from each stencil. He says 200 to 300 etches, and that's using a homebrew stencil setup I made for him.
 

Randy Lucius

KNIFE MAKER
I use a personlizer plus and about the same setting as you. 3.5 power. 10-12 reps each at 5-7 seconds. Stencils from Ernie. No problem with stencils.
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Casey Brown

Well-Known Member
I will second Ernie's stencils. I purchased one of the power supplies he recommends on his website, and it has been great for me. It is adjustable from 0-40v DC and AC. I also bought a hand marking tool from usaknifemaker about three years ago. It has gone up in price quite a bit since then, though.
 

Nick Riggi

Well-Known Member
Nick: Perhaps my problem is not using the neutralizer solution that came with the power supply. I've been using Windex instead. Interestingly, the guy from TUS said that shouldn't make any difference, and that my issue was simply bending the stencil too much.
Some Windex DOES NOT contain ammonia- which does the neutralizing-- have to get the original formula if using Windex. But I find the actual TUS neutralizer works great.
 

Heikki

Well-Known Member
I've been using the Neutralyte from USAKnifemaker and it works great for cleaning, as well as neutralizing.
 

izafireman

Well-Known Member
Stencil cracking will be due to the amperage or the way it is delivered to the steel. If the amperage is too high the stencil will over heat and breakdown....which was said above . With cheaper machines you will normally have to dab the stencil then lift the pad to let the heat and gases out, sometimes repeating many times. This is tough on the stencil. I have had stencils from TUS and Ernie and the were fine but as with all stencils they will be susceptible to heat/high amps.

I was lucky enough to have just about the best machine available here in the UK for a fraction of the normal price, I think they are about £1000 / $1300 new. The speed of the etch, which is 3 seconds total and the quality of the etch which so far seems to be superior to knives I have had lasered has meant it was well worth it. Additionally I think from memory the stencils will now last into the several hundred etches as the machine delivers the amps smoothly as such.



 
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MTBob

Member
Huh, ... and I thought phone books were used by knife makers as a convenient source of paper for testing edge sharpness.
The last pay phone I saw in Montana was in Cooke City and it had instructions on how to insert coins and push the buttons!
Thanks for the tip - I'll begin storing my stencils in a book from now on.
 
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