Thursday, February 26, 2009

White Marble Altar Tile

I make a lot of altar tiles. I make a lot of things in general with pentagrams on them. Pagans like pentagrams. Pentagrams are something that you don't find a lot of in mainstream shops. You could take just about any kind of product, slap a pentagram on it, and sell it in a metaphysical shop. Not that I'd do that ;)

This is a 12in. x 12in. piece of nicely marbled polished white Italian marble. Some years ago I began experimenting with acid etching techniques. My first attempts were pitiable. I used bees wax to coat the design on the marble face, then cut the design with a razor knife. Wow, was that unnecessarily difficult! Years later it dawned on me to use vinyl contact paper (shelf paper) for the masking. Now I can do much more intricate designs with far less effort. I use the same technique as I did on my Etched Glass Goblets, except that instead of the etching paste, I use hydrochloric acid.

You can find hydrochloric acid in the hardware store under the name Muratic Acid. It is used for cleaning pools and concrete garage floors and the like. I do it over a utility sink so that the acid doesn't get on the floor. Also, I'll need the water to rinse the tile when I'm done. The first couple of times I tried this, I just about knocked myself out with the fumes. Using hydrochloric acid on marble releases noxious chlorine gas, so I HIGHLY recommend doing it outdoors. It also releases some hydrogen gas, so don't smoke while etching and don't do it near an open flame. Eventually I rigged up a fan and a duct pipe to draw off the fumes. If you have any open soars on your hands, I'd recommend using rubber gloves. Nitrile gloves are best. Eye protection is a pretty good idea too. You really don't want to splash acid into your eyes.

In addition to etching the design, sometimes I tint the etched areas as well. This one is tinted with an iridescent yellow-green to make it stand out from the background. The masking usually doesn't survive the acid and rinsing, so I usually make another one for the tinting. I just put a new piece of vinyl on top (after removing the old one and cleaning up the surface of any remaining glue) and trace around the design with the razor knife. Then I put a light coat of spray adhesive on the exposed marble, and brush it with powdered pigments. Then I top coat it with a matte spray and remove the mask.

I always sign and date the bottom of these. Then I apply a pad to the bottom, usually felt or that soft foam stuff they make kids crafts with. That way it won't scratch the table.


  1. Love these tiles! When I first looked, I thought you had painted them, but I see you used powdered pigments. I think I will have to try that in the future. They look really great!

  2. The powdered pigments are a little hard to work with. I have since switched to using paint on most of these.

  3. Simply OUTSTANDING and stunning and glamorous, and beautiful!
    white marble tile