How To Work With Etched Brass

how to brass etch feature imageSo today we’ll take a look at how to work with brass etch as that is somewhat of a mystery to many modelers. I have also included a bit about using brass chain and brass jewelry wire as these too can be fiddly to work with, but can leave you with great results. We will start out with looking at some useful tools that will come in handy for working with brass, there are plenty of specialized tools you can acquire as well, but we will focus on using some basic tools that are easy to obtain instead.

When applying etched brass details to models you have to take into consideration the shape of the surface you will be applying it to. Etched brass comes in sheets and therefore the pieces are all flat, but that does not mean you can only apply them to flat surfaces.

Now applying etched brass to a flat surface is easy, and we won’t go into detail with that as the same techniques for applying the brass neatly applies to flat pieces as well. Instead this article will focus on the more challenging applications, namely to rounded and curved surfaces.

Let’s start of with looking at some practical tools:


  • Clippers – for cutting larger pieces of brass.
  • Tweezers– to handle small details.
  • Cutting mat – not for cutting the brass, it will bend before being cut, but it is a great surface for shaping brass on.
  • Sticky Tac – for dry fitting and aiding in applying the brass.
  • Needle or other pointy object – to apply superglue in small quantities.
  • Hard plastic object – This can be any sort of scrap plastic, like a CD cover etc, to cut brass with a knife on.
  • Scalpel/hobby knife – for cutting.
  • Files – for hard to get edges.
  • Sandpaper – in case you need a smoother finis than the files can manage.
  • Pliers, round and flat nosed – for bending brass parts without cutting yourself.
  • Large brushes – an assortment of different large brushes with rounded handles for shaping the brass.

Most modelers have these tools already, and tools such as the round nosed pliers can usually be bought cheaply (I paid very little for mine). Now we will go in depth with some examples on how to prepare and apply the brass.

Here you can see an assortment of different etched brass details, brass chain and brass wire.


Brass is an excellent material for modelers as it allows you to make much more delicate detail that still have a lot of strength. Therefore I have also added an example of how you can super detail a miniature using chain and wire along with etched brass later in the article.

But we will start off by looking at the biggest challenge, fitting brass to a curved surface. For this example I choose to use one of the round Imperial Fists icons from the Forge World range (see our review here) that is going to be applied to the turret of a Deimos pattern predator, also from Forge world, as it has a good shape for this challenge.

First we take the icon, this should be cleaned of all excessive protruding brass from the frame (the little pegs sticking out of it), use a hard surface like a piece of plastic to get a clean cut, if you cut it on the cutting mat it will bend as the mat is too soft.

Usually I would use the back of a big brush to press the icon into the shape of a contact lens if the icon was to be fitted to a space marine shoulder pad or similar, but this icon is too big for me to use the brush.

Therefore I had to find a bigger rounded object to use, and in this case the wooden ball handle of my pin vice turned out to be perfect. I also found out that the cutting mat wasn’t flexible enough to cushion the brass part of this size, so I found a cork plug from a bottle of wine that had more flexibility. I then placed the brass piece on the flat side of the cork plug with the backside facing up, and pressed the ball handle into the center of the backside pressing the flat brass into the desired lens shape.

how to_brass- predator5After dryfitting to see if the curve would fit the surface I used a piece of sticky tac and made a handle. This is to prevent my fingers being stuck in the superglue.

how to_brass- predator6I then placed a dot of superglue in the middle of the icon, it’s important to use the glue sparingly as it will expand to the entire surface area of the brass when you press it in place.

how to_brass- predator7Now you might experience that the edges of the brass gapes a little which will be very visible when painted – trust me… The solution to that is to add a little superglue (this has to be the thin kind to work) with a needle or other pointy instrument, it just needs a fine tip.

how to_brass- predator8The glue will be sucked into the recess by capillary force, and all you have to do now it to press the edge tight, preferably with a tool that doesn’t scratch the brass like a wooden match etc, and wait till the glue has dried. This will have to be done in several stages depending on how many gapes are visible.

That’s it really, now the part is ready for painting.

Here’s some examples of how brass can be used for detailing, even the leftover frames can be used to make stuff such as hinges etc. Only your imagination is the limit.

howto_brass-leftover-framesNever throw anything away, these leftover frames might just come in handy.

howto_brass-example (5)Here’s a few examples where old brass frame have been used to make hinges for the brass chain.

howto_brass-example (2)Brass wire was also used to add extra detail.

howto_brass-example (3)This converted terminator has had detail added from the Forge World Iron Hands Etched Brass.

howto_brass-example (1)Lastly, here’s some examples of how brass can be used to add detail to tanks, even small details like adding brass numerals can add an extra level of detail and character to your model.

howto_brass-example (4)This Land Raider has had a brass VII added as its legion number, which is a theme I’ve used throughout my Pre-Heresy Imperial Fists army.

That’s it for now, I hope this tutorial will come in handy for some of you out there. I would love to hear some of your ideas for other uses of brass, or if you have any new tips/experiences you would like to share then throw them in the comments.

author avatar tda

The Damned Artificer or TDA is an avid painter and modeler with over 12 years of experience. He’s been an active forum blogger since 2009 and his work can be found on fora such as Warseer, Dakkadakka, B&C and several others. TDA is the newest contributor to Graven Games and there is a lot of exciting stuff in the pipeline.

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