Monday, April 13, 2015

Glass Etching: Basics and More

Etched Casserole by Lauren at The Thinking Closet Blog

Glass etching is a great way to customize glass. You don't need to be a glass artist of any kind to do it, either. Any glass can be etched--wine glasses, plates, window panes, whatever. There are just a few things you'll need to know first.

Results may vary. 

An easy way to etch glass is to use an etching solution, such as Armor Etch. There are lots of tutorials on how to use these creams, so I won't go over the details. However, once again, PLEASE READ the caution information on the packaging. The chemicals that create the etching are hazardous to your health.

My experiences using Armor Etch are not all equally successful. The etching is often very light and doesn't show up well on colored glass. Clear glass seems to show the etching better. The pros of using an etching cream are that it is cheap and doesn't require a lot of extra equipment. Hand etching a special mug or glass makes a nice gift that anyone could do as a project. This would also make a nice parent-child project.

(An interesting tid-bit I came across online is that etching creams are illegal in Cook County, Illinois. Apparently some creative gang-types were using it to tag windows.)

Gravely engrave.

Another option for glass etching is to use an engraving tool. The cheapest, most manual engraving tool is a pen-type with a tungsten tip that scratches the surface of the glass ($9-12). This is easy to use and control the amount of pressure to change the results, but again don't forget that you are scratching glass and that particles will be floating around. Use your dust mask and have a damp cloth nearby to wipe the work surface when it gets dusty.

There are also motorized engraving tools, like Dremels. This is a little more tricky because you need to be VERY careful with the amount of pressure you apply to the glass, how thick the glass is, and to monitor the glass for signs of stress to prevent the glass from breaking while you are working. Another necessity is to keep the glass cool with water. This is really tricky. I've seen recommendations to work with a sponge to wet the glass as you work and also sophisticated drip systems that drip small amounts of water onto the glass surface while you work.

Blast it all!

Sand blasting glass is a fast technique that has great results. The downside? The equipment is more expensive, and for large work with professional results, you'll need studio space. (There is a mini-blaster set that uses compressed air from a can--$35-64.99. However, the canned air has bad reviews and the product cannot be shipped.) A beginner set from Delphi Glass $429.95, without shipping costs.

Practice, Practice, Practice.

As it is with any endeavor, you'll get better if you keep working at it.

I found this truly impressive post online about detailed, multi-technique glass engraving at Lesly Pyke Ltd Engraving. This is an example of fantastic craftsmanship. I hope it inspires you!

May all of your scores run true!

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