For a long time, I’ve been interested in etching glass. Way back when, I even had a little bottle of glass-etching acid paste from the craft store and played around with a few small stencils. However, I was pretty limited to the stencils available.
A sandblaster is one of many tools that I don’t have the room for and would seldom use, but would LOVE to be able to use. In other words, it’s a perfect thing to have at a collaborative workspace and tool-sharing organization like the Makerspace.
Yesterday, Pete was offering a workshop in how to go from scratch to etched glass in one afternoon. We all met up at the Makerspace where Pete had his Cameo vinyl cutter plugged into his laptop. From there, any vector art could be loaded into the software, where it would get sent to the vinyl cutter. At that point, it’s basically a CNC Exacto-Knife – the machine quickly and accurately cuts the shape from the vinyl. In this case, we were using the NEGATIVE space to make stencils, so we have plenty of “stickers” left over.
We started off by making a few stock shapes, letters, the Makerspace logo, etc, and then sticking them on to beer bottles to use as practice pieces. We masked off the rest of the bottles with tape, and then headed into the shop to learn how to use the sandblaster. The blaster is pretty easy to use, but does require making sure it has enough sand in it, that the fan is on, and the airline valve is open. We took turns using the machine, blasting away negative space on the bottle. After a few minutes, we all had the hang of it.
Back in the craft area, we then worked on our own designs. I had actually gotten a phone call a bit earlier, and found out I would have to leave earlier than planned, so instead of designing my own vector graphic from scratch, I simply re-used an existing one. I really liked the etched beer mug Pete had made, so I decided to imitate it as a first piece.
I loaded up the art and proceeded to cut it out. Next, was applying the negative space template on both sides of the glass, and then mask off the rest. With that, it was off to the sand-blaster. Right away, I had problems. NO SAND was coming out. Hmmm – jiggle the machine? Test the “air-boost” – nope, nothing. Plenty of sand in there…. Ah. Here’s the problem. It would help to turn the air valve to ON!
With the machine actually working, etching the glass was almost as simple as spray-painting. Point the sprayer at the glass, pull trigger. When both sides were done, I pulled the dusty glass out and started peeling away the tape and masking. Under it, the glass was clean and clear. The detail around the vinyl mask was great!
I washed off the glass in the sink and headed back to the craft lab to show the other guys. I was really pleased with how it turned out. Another member was working on a pub pint with the Power Wheels Racing Team logo on it. Another great design that turned out fantastic!
I’m pretty excited about glass etching with a sandblaster. It’s so straight-forward, but the use of custom-created vinyl stencils offers some really amazing possibilities! I could do anything from putting names on drink ware to making custom window glass. What I would really love to do is create some pendant lights from wine bottles, with custom patterns etched into them.
For now, I’m just proud to finally had a chance to do something a little fun and creative with a sand-blaster. I’ll drink to that!