DIY Graduated Pitchers/Tumblers/Shakers

The graduated frothing pitchers out there are great and a big step forward in reducing milk waste.  But sometimes you just want to pour with a lucky pitcher, want an etched tumbler (for iced lattes etc), or just want an excuse to do a fun little project.  So in an effort to assuage the baristas while still keeping an eye on milk waste, I tried a couple of methods of etching lines on the interior some stainless steel vessels.

  • Dremel and various bits (cutting, grinding etc.)  I think in theory this could work extremely well if you properly clamp the Dremel in place, and ideally the pitcher too.  In practice, this was well beyond my weak Dremel skills and I ended up with a lot of messy scratches and a poorly defined score line.
  • Etching with electricity.  Eureka!

I can’t claim any credit for the this idea, there are plenty of great videos on the internet showing how it is done.  But I can say I tried it, it works, it is super cheap (you probably have almost everything you need in your shop already), and it’s quite satisfying.  Here’s the quick version of what worked for me (try at your own risk...this is an educational post only!):

Materials:

  • Four alligator clips
  • Wire
  • 9v battery
  • a bit of salt water
  • a bunch of Q-tips
  • a flashlight
  • electrician’s tape
  • an exacto knife/box cutter
  • and of course the metal vessels you wish to etch.

Steps:

  1. Clean and dry the interior of the vessel.  Mark the line you’d like to etch with a Sharpie.
  2. Cut a thin bar into the electrician’s tape with a precise cutting instrument (I used blue tape, but in hindsight electrician’s tape would have been better, probably would have helped create crisper borders). Stick the cut-out tape in place over the Sharpie mark.  In practice, this is the most difficult part of the whole project given that you need to try to get it level pretty deep inside the pitcher.  Sticking the tape to the end of a straight edge (aligning it such that the center of the cut-out is at the corner edge of the straight edge), then running the straight edge down the middle of the spout, helped to get the tape as level as possible.  A flashlight also helps when trying to position the cut-out over the sharpie mark.
  3. After you’ve attached alligator clips to both ends of two wires, attach one clip to the positive end of the 9v battery.  The other end gets clipped to the pitcher.
  4. Soak the end of a Q-tip in a bit of saltwater (to better conduct the electricity) and clip the Q-tip (closer to the tip works better) with one alligator clip on the second wire.  The clip needs to be biting down on wet cotton.  The other end of the wire gets clipped to the negative end of the battery.
  5. Hold the Q-tip by the shaft and “paint” the cut-out, going back and forth.  You’ll probably need to do this for about 5 minutes if you are using a 9v battery, and will probably need to replace your Q-tip (swapping ends as they blacken) several times in order to get a good etch.  You’ll see a bit of very tiny bubbling, maybe a wisp of vapor, and hear a slight hum.

The etch marks aren’t quite laser crisp, but they are visible and work!

-Aaron

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