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The picture above shows some etching tools, the copper plate and the impression from the plate. 
1. First a copper plate is polished and the edges bevelled with a file.
2. The plate is warmed on a hot plate and covered with a thin waxy substance with a dabber or a roller.
3. When the plate cools a needle is used to draw directly onto the waxy plate.
4. The plate is placed into an acid bath and where the needle lines are, the acid bites downward into the plate leaving a channel.
5. The plate is removed from the acid and cleaned of the waxy layer.
6. The plate is inked to fill the groves made by the acid, placed face up on an etching press.
7. A piece of dampened paper is placed on top of the plate and felt blankets are placed over all this. It is then run through the press under great pressure. The pressure pushes the paper into the inked grooves.
8. The paper is then removed from the plate and placed between bloting papers to dry. The etching which results is one of the only printing processes in which each impression (as it is called) is considered an original work of art. This is not surprising as the plate is similar to a mold in sculpture where as in etching, the copper plate is a mold of a drawing.
Limited editions are created with etchings because the copper plate wears down over time and no longer creates a clean crisp image.
 In Rembrandt's time, there was no such  thing as limited editions and Rembrandt often reworked plates to keep them fresh.