Attempts to Follow Hugh Plat's 1594 Recipe for Acid-Etching Eggs

 


The Recipe

How to acid etch eggs from "The Jewel-house of Art & Nature" by Hugh Plat 1594: 

"32. How to grave any armes, posies, or other devise upon an egg shel, & how to through-cut the same, with divers works & fancies, which will seem very strange to such as know not the maner of the doing thereof. Dippe an egge in suet being molten, first the one halfe, and then the other, holding the same betweene your thumb and forefinger when you dippe it, let the same coole in your hand, and beeing colde, with a sharpe bodkin or some other instrument of iron, worke or grave in the suet what letters or portrature you wil, taking away the suet clean, & leaving the shell bare at the bottom of your worke. Then lay this eg thus engraved in good wine vinegar or strong alliger in a Glasse or stone Pottinger, for some six or eight houres, or more, or lesse, according to the strength and sharpnesse of the Vinegar, then take out the egge, and in water that is blood warme disolve the suet from the egge, then lay your egge to coole, and the woorke will appear to be graven in the shell of a russet color. Saepius probatum. And if the egge lie long inough in the vineger after it is so graven, and sovered in suet as before, the letters will appear upon the egge it selfe being hard sodden, or else if you care not to loose the meate, you may picke out the same when the shell is through graven, and so you shall have a strange piece of work perfourmed."


Trials and Notes

-The higher the acidity of the vinegar the faster the etching.

 -Use Red Wine of Cider Vinegar to get the reddish colour Hugh speaks of.

-Use farm eggs that haven't been washed (typically farmers are required to wash their eggs in a weak bleach if they are going to sell them for food). The residual bleach on the egg has two effects on the process it causes the vinegar to act as if it's a weaker strength - so it takes longer. It also seem to affect the deposition of the red colour slightly. Farm eggs have thicker shells so produce deeper etchings.

 

Suet Type Approximate Heat  Result
Beef Suet  Suet Heated until molten  Whole egg turns red 
Beef Suet  Suet Warmed in the sun  ~ the consistency of butter. Blotches of red but no 'graven images'
Beef Suet  Suet Warmed, Put on egg then placed in the fridge (4C) Blotches of red but no 'graven images'
Beef Suet  Suet Warmed, Put on egg then  placed out in the winter (-5C) Blotches of red but no 'graven images'
Lamb Suet  Suet Heated until molten Whole egg turns red 
Lamb Suet  Suet Warmed, Put on egg then  placed out in the winter (-5C) Blotches of red but no 'graven images'
Lamb Suet from beneath the tail, High wax content    Suet Warmed, Put on egg then  placed in fridge (4C)    Better then the others but not images, Still blotchy. (Egg destroyed in transit)
Beeswax

Red Wine Vinegar

Heated until molten, Put on egg allowed to cool.

Does not melt off in warm water

70 Beeswax/       
30 Suet Mix

Red Wine Vinegar

Heated until molten, Put on egg allowed to cool.

Does not melt off in warm water

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