Design/Etch By Richard Smith
Questions and Answers Version 4
June 28, 1997

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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? :-)

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Answers #4 from me:

From G. Blythe in "here":

"I have been dabbling in mirror etching for a few years. You have mentioned that you use different tinted mirrors to create different effects. Where do you find them? I would love to experiment with them. Also what kind of paint have you found for the mirror backs, is it available on the market here?."

Sorry, but I don't know where here is! (see Q&A #3 for info on the colouring that I use). I can order these glass mirrors from glass supply houses locally, the more common colours they usually have in stock (bronze, blue, peach). If you are interested in using plexiglass mirrors, they are available in 20 different colours and have advantages over glass - such as being shatterproof, and half the weight of glass mirror

I use Laird Plastics as my supplier for these Plexiglas products. If you are interested, in using Plexiglas (or another of the acrylics) I would suggest that you contact Laird for information (they have over 32 locations in the US, and 7 in Canada). Catalogue sales can be reached at 1-800 610-1016. Or, their website is Laird. Their catalogue has much helpful information on using plastics and selecting the product.

From C. Lott in the US Navy:

"I've been trying to find a method to illuminate glass and mirrors but can't come up with anything solid. I've tried routering wood and inserting light rope so the light shines up through the glass, but it's pretty shoddy."

"I read in your web site about special frames/material to illuminate the glass and make the images come alive. Would you mind sharing your secret? Where I could buy the materials or the technique you've mastered?"

I agree with you about the light rope, I have found that there is just not enough light that is given off from it. Generally, the stronger the light source, and the deeper the etch into the glass/mirror, and the thicker the medium, the better the piece will be edge illuminated.

I have found that the best light source for back-lighting mirrors is fluorescent lighting. Either behind the mirror in a cavity in the wall, or in a unit as you would see an illuminated plastic sign. You have to be careful to place it far enough from the surface so that the bulbs are diffused some, and that they will not over heat the glass (also if you can include the plastic panel that comes with many fluorescent light fixtures, this will diffuse the light so that you can't see the bulbs in the image). Depending upon the image size and shape that you have to light, you can select the type of bulb for your application.

I have also used small Christmas tree bulbs to light behind a mirror - they work fairly well, but the general room lighting must be rather subdued. These can be positioned in strategic places behind the image, and you can even use different coloured bulbs on the same image (although if the colour is critical, and you don't want spill from one to another, you will have to place small cardboard dividers between the bulbs on the areas of the mirror that you have not etched (of course far enough away so that it won't overheat).

For edge lighting on clear glass, I again use fluorescent bulbs (the single bulb variety). This has a disadvantage of requiring the frame to be large enough to cover the bulb and fixture, but an ingenious design of the frame can make it look like it's not just covering something up! I create a cut where the mirror/glass is sitting, and place acrylic strips across the cut to support the glass (these can be placed where they will not interfere with the light coming from the source to the etched image. If you are going to light on more that one side, the glass will have to be supported on each side by these strips so that the glass will not shift in the frame.

From J. Quick:

"How do you etch on mirrors from the rear? I have heard many times that this is the best way to do it, but I do not know how to remove the paint and silver."

There is a product made by Armour Etch that is sold to remove the silvering from mirrors. I don't know how this works, as I have never used it, but use sand etching instead.

With sand etching, you have to create a vinyl (or equivalent) stencil so that the areas that you do not want to have the mirroring removed from will be protected from the flying sand. (Remember that you are working from the rear of the mirror - when you have the image etched, and look at it from the front, it will be in reverse to how you are viewing it from the rear - in other words, any text or a mirror sensitive image must be etched "backwards".)

Once the resist is created, you can etch off the mirroring by using the sand blast technique. If you have many small areas of resist to leave mirrored, you will have to be careful not to use to high an air pressure (this will remove the resist along with the mirroring - not a happy result!)

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Questions #4 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 Gmole -

"Does anyone know the method of mirror re-silvering? I need mainly to re-silver small mirrors, from microscopes and other optical equipment. If anyone could help I would be much obliged."

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Hint #4:

When sandblasting, you should always use an air line filter for filtering out the moisture in compressed air. This avoids the aggravation of the blasting compound clogging up the gun (which as some of you know can be very annoying!).

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Useful Links #4:

If you know a supplier who shouldhave their link listed here, send me an email, and I'll list them so that everyone can take advantage!

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