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New York Daily Photo: Unkindest Etch of All
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Monday, 4 February 2008

Unkindest Etch of All

This morning I have been reading websites like bombingscience and wetcanvas. My head is swimming with grafiiti terminology and threads on the various ways and means of working with Armor Etch, Etchall, bath etc. Creams are too thick and dips too thin. Mixing with shoe polish or paint. How to apply it. Getting the stuff in markers. And the sites are laden heavily with expletives directed at anyone not in the know and asking "stupid" questions.
Technology and ingenuity cut two ways and in the case of graffiti, purveyors have upped the ante with acid. If you have seen work like that on the subway car window in the photo, this is not the result of scratchiti (scribing), giraffiti or conventional graffiti, but the handiwork of individuals who use acid etching solutions to permanently write on glass. The problem has become epidemic in subways, on retail store windows and anywhere there is a public pane of glass. There are now laws regarding the purchase of acid etching materials as well as buying spray paint. Of course there is controversy regarding legislation and the sale of art materials.
I wrote about the graffiti phenomenon in March, 2007 in an article on the retail shop, Scrapyard - click here.
I think most people find the whole acid etch graffiti thing quite disturbing, once they realize that the damage is permanent and the entire glass window must be replaced at great cost. Many retailers afflicted with the condition tend to just leave it in place - saving money and not running the risk at having vandals do a repeat performance. For new subway cars, the transit system has availed itself of a 3M product - Scotchgard Anti-Graffiti Window Film - a Mylar protective film not affected by etching acids.
Oh, I didn't tell the whole truth. Conventional wisdom and most articles you will find about acid etch will state that the damage is permanent. Not quite true. It can be removed in a laborious process of grinding and polishing - I once spoke with a worker removing etchings from a retail store on Broadway. There is a company Unscratch the Surface in California that does this - you can watch a video of the process on their site. A new industry is born to deal with the unkindest etch of all ...

Photo Note: This photo was taken on the F Train in Brooklyn. For a second shot with the city skyline, click here.


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