Salt water can cure a severe case of boredom when combined with a battery to etch a metal water bottle. This is a fantastic project that is sure to excite! More than a simple craft, this project qualifies as science. Having conducted the experiment, I submit to you… my lab report.
Problem: Can salt water cure a severe case of boredom? The boy was in a rut. Perpetually bored, he was glued to his computer game and needed a change of scenery, or maybe I needed a change. Either way, we were presented with a problem and I was determined to solve it.
Research: I explored the Internet for a fresh craft idea. I visited a blog link party and scanned the entries for the project capable of generating the kind of excitement strong enough to pry a teenage boy away from his laptop. I took note of a decorative idea using a chalkboard as well as a new recipe. But those were for me for another day.
Then I spotted it! A thumbnail photo of a metal water bottle, labeled “Salt Water Etching”. The boy loves chemistry. This might be the one! I visited Annie’s post at Upstate Ramblings. She explained the process so well, I was confident we could follow her directions.
This science-based art activity would certainly peak his interest. As we were in separate rooms, I sent a link to the boy with the subject line, “Wanna do this?” Not thirty minutes later, he called out to me, “ I wanna do it!”
The science underlying this project involves using a battery to cause a chemical reaction between a saltwater solution and a metal water bottle. The reaction leaves the bottle discolored. By forcing the reaction to occur in a stenciled area, the result is a uniquely etched water bottle.
Hypothesis: If salt water and a battery are used to etch a metal water bottle, then the teenage boy’s severe case of boredom will be cured.
Experiment: Once you have gathered the supplies, the experiment should take 30-45 minutes, depending on the intricacy of the design.
- Metal Water Bottle, either stainless steel or aluminum
- Stencil for design to be etched on the bottle
- Small glass
- ½ cup of water
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 9-volt battery
- 2 Test leads with alligator clips (can be purchased for a couple of dollars in the automotive section of a variety store)
- Cotton swabs
- Paper towels
- Garbage can
- Choose a design to etch onto the bottle and create a stencil. The boy chose album artwork. I imported the file into Cricut Design Space and converted the image to the desired size. Next, I cut a stencil from vinyl on my Cricut Explore. A simple design could be marked off using painter’s tape, but these were not simple designs.
- Place the stencil on the water bottle. Wash the outside of the bottle, remove the lid, and allow the bottle to completely dry. Place the stencil in the desired location. The open areas of the stencil will expose a metal surface to react with the solution creating the chosen pattern.
- Make the saltwater solution. Place ½ cup of water in the glass. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and stir. The saltwater solution will be nearly saturated and should appear a bit murky. Allow a handful of cotton swabs to soak in the saltwater solution.
- Connect the wires. Attach one wire connecting the positive terminal of the 9-volt battery to the open neck of the water bottle. Attach the second wire connecting the negative terminal of the battery to the wet cotton near the end of a swab.
- Etch the design. Touch the wet end of the swab to the bottle in the open space of the stencil, careful not to allow the solution to run outside the stenciled area. Keep paper towels near by. Move the swab to reach all parts of the design. It may look like nothing is happening, however the reaction produces a slight color change and will be visible when the stencil is removed.
- Replace swabs, as needed. The chemical reaction will cause the swabs to turn yellow-brown. Replace the swab when the discoloration occurs. We used scissors to cut the swabs in half, discarded the used tip, dipped the remaining tip in the solution and used the other half of the swab to continue to etch the pattern. The number of swabs will be determined by the complexity of the design.
- Clean up. When you feel you have allowed the saltwater solution to react over the entire area of the design, dab the water bottle with paper towels. Remove the stencil and thoroughly wash the water bottle.
Data: After conducting the experiment, the boy had successfully etched a fairly intricate design into his water bottle, making it uniquely his. I asked what he thought. He smiled and asked, “Do you think you could cut me another stencil for the other side?”
Conclusion: Our hypothesis was proven to be true. Using salt water and a battery to etch a metal water bottle successfully cured the teenage boy’s severe case of boredom. He did go on to etch another design on the opposite side of his water bottle. We are so grateful to have found Annie’s post.
Print a Creativity Card and Etch Your Own Water Bottle!
What other metal objects do you think you could personalize using this process? Leave a comment below.
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