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The brown acid, man

I was a printmaking major in art school. Did I ever mention that? Maybe not. I was a printmaking major for about two weeks before I dropped out. It was mostly down to financial issues; I loved printmaking.

Downside of being a printmaking major: I ended up with a big glass carboy of nitric acid in my closet that worried me exceedingly, especially when it came time to move. How do you get rid of such a thing?

As it happens, I paid a man to take it away. I have no idea what he did with it. All’s I know is, the answer to most problems in life is to pay a man to take it away.

I signed myself up for a local printmaking course today, hoping to get back into it. I then went shopping for materials (shopping for materials is the best bit of any artmaking endeavor). These days, it’s apparently murder to get your hands on nitric acid — you can’t mail the stuff and you have to promise you have a proper chemical hood and everything before anyone will sell it to you in person.

All the tutorials are saying to use copper sulfate instead, which is safer to handle and and etches metal just as quickly and well.

My question is…if it’s safer to handle and just as good, why did we ever use nitric acid?

Stay tuned.

Pictured: acid carboys from my field trip to the True Crime Museum in Hastings. They were bought from the workshop of John George “Acid Bath” Haigh. The Museum bought six empty carboys; the acid from three of them was used to dissolve the body of Olive Durand-Deacon…and they don’t know which three.

February 18, 2019 — 8:47 pm
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