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Etching Glass the easy way. 56K WARNING!!! Lots of Pics!

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TekeTorvo

Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2003
Location
Egypt
I have never done a How-To, so bear with me. Also, I started this project with a gift for my Wife in mind. THERE ARE NO HIDDEN AGENDA'S IN THE PROJECT AT ALL! It is a Picture that one day I hope to get a tatoo of. You will see what I mean as the project goes.

First a word to the few people that can etch glass with a Dremel. You have skills beyond me. I own a Dremel, and alot of different tips for it. How anyone can etch glass with it is beyond me, and my hat is off to you. This How-To is for those like myself that can't etch with a Dremel.

On to the Project.

For starters, few people would be able to get Tempered glass like I used in This Project. So I decided to use regular 1/8" glass that measured 18"x18". 1/8" glass can be had from most any hardware store.

I used some Self adhesive Shelf and Drawer liner paper from Home Depot. I completely covered the side I will etch with it. 2005_1122Image0011Custom.jpg

I then took a Glue Stick and put glue every where that my picture would go. I then took a picture I had printed, and firmly pressed it to glue it in place. 2005_1122Image0012Custom.jpg

Depending on how good your line edges are, you may want to trace the lines you will cut with a Ball Point Pen, like I did.
2005_1122Image0013Custom.jpg

Now for the tedious, (and most difficult part to this project). Time to cut your picture. Only cut out what you want etched. I used an Exacto Knife.
2005_1122Image0014Custom.jpg

Now it is time to Etch your glass. I used a small, (and very afordable) Sandblaster you can get from Home Depot. Although I have seen the item sold there, I can't find a link so here is a similar product. Sandblaster.

In order to use that Sandblaster, you will need a compressor. You won't need one for very long so maybe you can borrow one if you don't have one. You might even be able to get the local Auto repair garage to let you plug into their air hose for a few minutes. Also, you will need about 80PSI constant, so don't try useing a small compressor you may have to pump up a car tire with. (Sorry, I figured I might better add that info). Also, you can get Playground sand in a bag from Home Depot. They also sell Blasting sand, but I have not tried it. I know from my past in construction that Sand explodes on impact, and Silca does not. Meaning Silca will try to go through the glass like a bullet, and you have a better chance to bust your glass. Don't use Silca, (I think that is what is was called).

Anyway's, here is the finished Product.

This is what we have after we Sandblast it.
2005_1122Image0018Custom.jpg

2005_1122_173449Custom.jpg

2005_1114Image0006.jpg

Hope you like it, and I hope it helps you with your Mod.
 
OP
TekeTorvo

TekeTorvo

Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2003
Location
Egypt
Just a quick note. You may want to go over the entire Shelf liner with Painters Blue Masking Tape. And glue your picture to the tape. Towards the end of Blasting, the sandblasting started eating through the shelf liner. I don't recommend doubling the shelf liner because the second layer will not stick very well to the first layer. The Painters tape will. Well, any masking tape for that matter will do just fine.
 

moz_21

Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2002
Location
MN
Looks good. I have a question though; can this be done to plexiglass/lexan sidepanel?
 
OP
TekeTorvo

TekeTorvo

Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2003
Location
Egypt
moz_21 said:
Looks good. I have a question though; can this be done to plexiglass/lexan sidepanel?

I happen to have some plexi-glass in the garage. When I get the time, I will give it a shot and let you know.



I'm not done with the project. And you can see some places where I could have done better, (I am a perfectionist). I had no time, but wanted to get the How-To written. Will post pics when I complete it.
 

demortey

Member
Joined
May 30, 2005
Location
Niagara Falls, Ontario
it should work...you would have to do it a lot quicker and turn the compressor to a lower cfm output so that the sand won't eat into the plexi too quickly...the glass is an awesome idea...i think i just may put a glass window in my v-1000b...
 

NeoSpawn

Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2004
Location
Maryland
Sweet job man! I can use this in some sculpting projects of mine. Great lil how to do you wrote up. I didnt realize that thin of shelf paper would stop the sand from making imprints like that. Which side is the etching on? Facing out or on the inside?

But a lil thing about Silica sand. Silica sand is a finer grit of sand, ranging in their own level of fineness. And yes silica sand is harder, silica is a component mixed in with glass to make it harder. I use silica sand when doing sand molds for metal casting. We use it because it can take high temps like 3000F+ of metal without much of problems. Only thing that happens to the sand is that it's blackened but can be refined and reused once again to a point.

Play sand is white beach sand right?
 

clocker2

Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2003
Location
Mile High
it should work...you would have to do it a lot quicker and turn the compressor to a lower cfm output so that the sand won't eat into the plexi too quickly..
Actually, the reverse is true.
Plexi, being softer and more resilient, is harder to etch properly than glass...the media bounces off rather than cutting into the surface.
Also, sand is really not a very good media to use although it is admittedly cheap and easy to acquire.
There are many specialized media that can be employed depending on the material being etched and the desired depth of the cut (multi-depth cuts can add a real sense of 3-d to a design, but requires a good deal of preplanning).
Using regular play sand and masking tape frequently results in fuzzy edges as the tape begins to erode before the desired etch is achieved, especially if the design is intricate and the mask has lots of thin sections.

Very cool effects can be achieved by increasing the depth of the etch and then edge lighting the panel...the design will glow, seeming to float in the clear surrounding space.
With glass this is typically done using tube lighting and gel filters (for color), but if thicker Plexi was used ( say, 1/4"), LEDs inserted into holes drilled in the edge would probably work as well.
 

NeoSpawn

Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2004
Location
Maryland
Aside from lazer cutting, how can one do the multi-depth cuts? Just blast into those areas a lil longer if doing it via sand blasting?
 

clocker2

Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2003
Location
Mile High
NeoSpawn said:
Aside from lazer cutting, how can one do the multi-depth cuts? Just blast into those areas a lil longer if doing it via sand blasting?
Basically, yes.
For real 3d work one works from the back of the panel...the design is reversed.
Now comes the forethought.
You decide which areas will be cut most deeply (bringing them closest to the opposite surface) and only cut the masking around them.
Then the next level, cut the mask and blast, and so forth.
Keep in mind that the first cut keeps getting cut even deeper for every extra level you blast because it's exposed the whole time.
Here is a simple example (not my work) with just two layers...
glass.jpg
 

NeoSpawn

Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2004
Location
Maryland
Hmmmmm....a lot of planning involved it seems. But from what you are saying Clocker2, this is one way I can see doing it possibly.

Via stencling and lots of measuring, depending on how many layers you wish to do. First layer that you do should be the deepest one and do that layer. And every layer after that will be just one up above that. Like if I was doing a simple half sphere in 4 layers. From the tip to the back, split it in to four stencils, first one being the smallest and going bigger, and blasting each one.

A possibly problem, doesnt it need to be even while blasting each layer? Like 3 inches per second or something like that.
 

clocker2

Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2003
Location
Mile High
Neo, sounds like you have grasped the concept.
Experimentation will quickly develop a workable technique.

A few tips...
-The masking material becomes more important as the stencil gets more intricate and the cuts deeper. Masking tape (even good quality stuff) really isn't the best choice as it simply won't hold a crisp edge through the whole process.
Naturally, there are specialized products that work much better...google will reveal sources.

-Sand is only really ok for practice/simple stenciling.
It's not terribly abrasive to begin with and powders in use.
Aluminum oxide abrasives are much sharper (which translates into faster and deeper cutting) and fracture in use, revealing more cutting edges. It's far easier to "sculpt" into your glass and develop the 3D effect you want using such an abrasive.
The example I posted above (which, to be honest, I think was actually etched with acid) might take an hour to blast with sand but only 15 minutes with aluminum oxide.

If you're really into it, there are companies which can photo expose designs into the stencil which allows for intricacy that hand cutting the stencil cannot achieve.
At that level, laser engraving becomes a viable option.

TekeTorvo has taken the first steps and can probably relate to some of my commentary...it's much easier to see what I'm talking about having tried it.
 

NeoSpawn

Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2004
Location
Maryland
Yeah the photo you put up does look like an acid method. Those curves are just way too good and its very clean. Kind of like ice now that I look at it. Thats good I grasped the concept ^^ Im thinking about doing this metal and glass scuplture, and putting an etching factor would be a really nice touch into it.

But thank you for telling me about the aluminum oxide abrasives as a possible alternative to sand. I'll also look into acid etching, see the methods into that and if people can use it with relative ease. As well as a few other methods Im thinking about..god I love being a sculptor ^^