Wind-etching was a method of sculpting peculiar to the desert Fremen/DE.
This method produced patterns of great delicacy and beauty and many Fremen were justly recognized as master artists at wind-etching. Inscriptions were popular subjects for wind-etchings. A wind-etched stone could be used outdoors as a sign or frieze on the cornice of a building.
The process of wind-etching made use of the resin secreted by the insect Laccifera arctica which gathered and traded to the desert Fremen. Wind-etching was employed for the first time in a monumental scale for "The Eyes of Muad'Dib" for which plasteel was used.
- The Fremen boiled the resin to produce a gumlike varnish,
- The varnish was spread in a thick layer on the surface of the stone to be etched;
- The design was scratched in the coated face with a flint scribing tool.
- On the next day of calm weather, the stone was taken out of the sietch and set up in a spot in direct sunlight but protected from the wind. The heat of the sun baked the gum to a hard, smooth coating.
- Before the next expected sandstorm, the stone was placed so that the wind would blow directly on the coated face.
- The sand carried by the storm would abrade the coated face, wearing it away, etching the stone directly in those areas uncovered by the scribing tool.
- After the storm subsided, the sculptor would remove the remaining coating; the face was re-coated, and the process repeated.
The process was repeated as many times as necessary (sometimes 10-20 times) to produce the different patterns of decoration and bas-relief that were desired. Since only a major storm could produce the sand-blasting force that made a distinguishable effect on the stone face, such sculptures were often years in the making.
When used outdoors, the sculptures needed to be constantly protected by applications of varnish over the whole surface. The abrading layer had to be uniform in thickness to allow the relief to show, and it needed to be reapplied at intervals depending on the amount of weathering that had taken place. As a result of the care that outdoor sculptures required, artists seldom thought of their work as something separable from them, or as something with which they were finished when the etching was completed.