I need to make a brass nameplate with (not surprisingly) a name on it, but I don't have a CNC mill. Is it possible to use pcb etching techniques (use a Word processing package to print a master then somehow transfer it onto the brass as a resist layer)? Or is there a better way that everyone except me knows about? Or is this something to outsource?
Should be possible to use the laser toner resist approach - basically what you do is print the resist on a laser printer onto glossy photo paper and then iron it onto the metal. Make sure the metal is really clean; you may need to experiment to get the ironing temp/pressure/time right.
You then soak the paper in warm water and carefully rub it off. The glossy "gel" coating on the paper should make this possible without damaging the toner "resist". If you need to start again, the toner comes off nicely with fine wet&dry or Scotchbrite.
I found PC World's "PC Line" glossy photo paper worked OK for doing PCBs. Obviously you need to print a mirror image and in negative (white areas will get etched) to get the right result.
You will need to paint the edges and back of the plate as well, but that should be easy enough with celulose or even the PCB resist pens that you can buy from Maplin or RS.
Not sure how well the PCB etchants (ferric chloride for example) work on brass, but I'm sure you can find something that will work.
Don't be tempted to etch too deep or the resist will get undercut at the edges and you get an untidy result.
This method should work, as it does for PCBs. You may find the transferred toner (which has some of the paper coating stuck on it) can float off during etching - deeper the etch, worse the chances - it's hard to get it to adhere well & evenly to the metal.
Should be fine, ferric chloride will etch copper & zinc in a more controlled way than acid. Here are some good pages: