Design/Etch By Richard Smith
Questions and Answers Version 2
February 10, 1997

I guess that my purpose for this section of my site has worked, because I have only received, two emails in the past month asking for information or questions! A BIG difference from the past few months.

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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 2: Answers | Questions | Hint | Useful Links

Answers #2 from me:

From J. Bonneau from Alberta, Canada:

"I use an 8 mil clear resist and 1/4 " Olfa blade knives. I haven't found knives I really like. What do you use?"

I started by using a retractable X-Acto knife, with a replaceable blade (the blade is about 1/8" across, the knife looks like a ball point) it is real nice to work with, but like many things has a down side - the blades can only be bought from X-Acto and are about $7 for 5 blades. They can be sharpened with a stone, but it's not as sharp as new. I also tried the craft knives with the pivoting head - I don't like them, they don't give enough control.

I am using now an NT Cutter # D-400 it's shaped like a pen, and uses single pieces of snapable blades (sort of like an Olfa blade, but a different angle). A real nice knife, and the price is super, about $4 and comes with 5 sections of blades (enough for 50 pieces - these I sharpen also to stretch their life). I found it in a stationery shop, probably most could order it in.

From Neil, in Bristol England:

"Could you give me some recommendations on basic equipment."

There are two ways you could go about this,

1. For now, just worry about the design and actual glass work, and get a shop to sand blast it for you.

2. Buy the materials required, and do everything yourself. If you take this route, you will need a sand blasting gun (I don't know what you would have in England, but in Canada automotive places would carry this kind of equipment) this is a gun with a sand container. This is connected to an air compressor, you will have to check the air requirements of the blasting gun with the output of the compressor to make sure that the compressor will put out the volume of air required (in Canada we call it CFM - Cubic Foot Measure).

On the air hose you should have a air-line filter to filter out the moisture in the compressed air, otherwise the sand will cake, and be useless.

"Presumably there are some basic tools I would need, I don't know how high a pressure would be used for sand etching equipment."

Pressure is dependent upon the desired effect. The higher the air pressure, the deeper the etch will be. I have used air pressures from 40 - 90 PSI (even though we are Metric here, many things are still measured in English measurements) with out the glass getting broken. (though this will depend somewhat on the thickness of the glass). An other thing to be aware of is the grit of the sand used, the larger the grit size, the coarser the finished etch will be. The finer grit size, can make the etch like an acid looking etch. Also you can use different types of grit (glass beads, silica sand, carbide sand, etc.)


If you are going to etch the glass yourself, be aware that exposure to glass particles can cause silicosis (a deadly lung disease). You should wear coveralls, gloves, a face shield and a respirator to filter the particles of glass and sand out of the air before you breathe it.

From C. Goodman, in Frederick, Maryland:

"Have you ever experimented with edge lighting clear glass panels?"

Yes, it takes the glass from an etching, to something stunning. The wider the glass the better it works, as more light is let through the glass.

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Questions #2 for you:

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

Stephen Carter "Steve" a glass etcher, in the state of Delaware, would like to hear from other glass etchers by e-mail:
At "press time" he had two email addresses: or

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Hint #2:

Keep detailed records of all your etching projects - with information on everything that you did. For example, air pressure used, aggregate, resist, what worked and what didn't. You'll find that you can remember a lot easier, and if in the event that you do forget, it's easy to look up specifics!

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Useful Links #2:

Source and supply of UV film:

I have spent a few hours on the web this month, and come up with a lot of interesting information on the use and supply of photoresists below are some links that you all will find interesting.

PhotoBrasive Systems is: "the world's leading supplier of products used in a popular and profitable decorating technique known as sandcarving."
Their web site has details and information on their products, of particular interest is the UV film which they manufacture and sell. Their web site includes areas as: What is sandcarving? What is a photo resist stencil? Why sandcarving? What do I need to get started?

Rayzist Photomask Products has: "a complete line of products that will enable you to sandcarve on crystal, glass, marble, granite, stone, wood, or metal."
Their web site has information on their photomask products and how to use them.

Some sites and articles that are worth looking at and reading:

International Guild of Glass Artists a very informative site with information and links for every kind of glass artist - well worth spending some time at. They also have posted from their newsletter, an article by Rebecca Marvel: Sandblasting: photoresists. An interesting article detailing the good/bad things that the author has found, while personally using Rayzist and PhotoBrasive film resist products

A & E Magazine "The trade magazine for the awards and engraving industry". Has an article by Bob Pickard titled: Getting Started Etching Glass , it details engraving as a type of etching; and abrasive blasting as a type of etching;

GLASS LINE Newsletter "The newsletter for HOT GLASS Artists <ONLINE EDITION>" since 1987, edited by Jim Thingwold. It covers, lampworking, glassblowing, glass art - has links to suppliers.

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