Design/Etch By Richard Smith
Questions and Answers Version 1
January 10, 1997

When I started this web site back in June of '96, I didn't imagine that there would be such a response from the etching community. I am getting 2-3 emails a week with questions about techniques, materials, uses etc.

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Please Note:

My answers are based upon personal experiences. There are many variables to consider when sand etching, I do not guarantee results, and assume that you take appropriate safety precautions when working with glass and sand blasting or acid.
If you have an etching question, email me, and I will attempt to answer it here, if I can't, or have no experience in it, I will post it under questions below. I prefer to use your name, and city, for your questions, but will not include your email address.
I do appreciate hearing back from you whether my comments and suggestions are helpful or not; as I'm not getting any monetary return out of this, this is the only reward - right? :-)

Quick links for Version 1: Answers | Questions | Hint | Useful Links

Answers #1 from me:

From C. Hofford in Los Angeles, California - his questions are a good sampling of what people are asking:

"I currently etch with hydrofluoric acid cream. I am aware of the sandblasting technique, but I thought that I may have a few problems with it. On your page you indicate that you use vinyl resists. Are these sufficient resists for sandblasting?"

Yes, I have found them perfectly sufficient for surface and semi-surface etching. Depending on the thickness of the vinyl that you are able to obtain, you may have to use more that one layer. I generally use one layer on the back on mirror, and two layers on glass, though this is dependent on the air pressure to be used, and how deep you will be etching.

"I am also aware of the dangers inherent in each method - acid burns vs. silicosis. Which brings up another question - in that you sandblast, what precautions do you take against silicosis? I'm sure you blast outside, but is there any type of mask you wear to filter out the dust particles? This is another concern I have with blasting."

This is extremely important: glass etching can be very dangerous if health precautions are not taken. Aside from the acid burns, one must watch the fumes given off by the etching compounds. With sand blasting, I have constructed a sand blasting booth for smaller pieces, which is air tight, and has an exhaust fan to the outside. When etching larger panels, I enclose an area in plastic, to avoid sand scatter, and wear coveralls, leather gloves, a helmet with face screen, and a respirator (certified for silica dust).

"Is it possible to etch from the rear (taking off the silvering) of a mirror without sandblasting?"

I have never tried it, because I use sand etching, but there is a product that is sold to remove the mirroring (It is manufactured by Armour Etch, and sold by either of the companies below.)

"I've read that cutting the silvering with a hobby knife is very difficult to do without cracking the surrounding silvering."

I have never found a problem with this, I would suggest that you only have to press as hard on the mirror as is needed to cut the vinyl (which isn't very hard). Also you should keep your knives sharp.

"You mention that you scan designs into your computer in order to work them, then print them out. This is something that I have also thought of doing. Which program do you use in working with a design?"

Mostly I use the computer for rough sizing, and reversing an image. Most graphics programs will do this easily, I don't use the computer for the actual design work, so I would prefer not suggesting one program or another.

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Questions #1 for you:

If you have information, or can answer a question for these etchers, email me, and I will post it here next update.

From R. Landwehr, in Austin, Texas:

"I am looking for a UV compound that will allow me to do more detailed sandblasting (etching) on glass. I am presently using a plastic adhesive and cutting out the shapes by hand then blasting. This is OK for larger shapes by I am looking for a way to get more detail."

From J. Harris, in I don't know where:

He is looking for another supplier, a manufacturer or distributor for:
"An ultraviolet sensitive film 3 or 5 mils in thickness which is exposed in contact printer and developed with plain water. But the cost of this film is getting to be prohibitive."

From S. Carter, in Delaware:

He is looking for a second supplier for:
"Beveled edged glass ornaments. and small glass hearts for the neck of champagne bottles at wedding receptions."

From R. Scott, in I don't know where:

He is looking for a second supplier for:
"Glass supplies, resists and glass products and especially glass blanks (paper weights, icebergs etc)"

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Hint #1:

Always test a new method or product on a small scale first,
to make sure that it will work,
before committing many hours into it.

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Useful Links #1:

Some suppliers for etching cream, mirror remover, pre-cut stencils, and glass blanks.

The Glass Place - Canada's Largest Mail Order Stained Glass Supplier. Located in Ontario Canada, Robert is presently putting his entire catalog online, it should be a real good site when he has it finished. If the product you want is not online, email or phone him about it.

Eastern Art Glass - A glass craft supply store in New Jersey. They have an online catalog of their products and supplies.

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