Design/Etch By Richard Smith
Questions and Answers Version 6
December 20, 1997

Back to recent Questions & Answers

Please Note:

If you could check through my previous Q&A pages before you email me with a question it would save me some time! Many of the questions that I have gotten lately I have already answered in previous versions.

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. 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.
I prefer to use your name, and city, for your questions, but will not include your email address.
I 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 6: Answers | Responses | Hint | Useful Links

Answers #6 from me:

From Lori in Wisconsin:

"When sandblasting a good size piece of glass how do I go about figuring a price by sq. foot?"

You never mentioned whether there will be a design that will be etched on the piece, if you mean just solid etching, it might be cheaper for you to have a sand blasting shop do it. Especially if you have a very small blasting gun, the time that you take to etch it will be considerable, and the results will not be the best. If though you DO decide to blast it yourself, try to hold the nozzle of the gun farther back than you would usually (about a foot) so that you don't get stroke marks from your different passes. If you take it to a blasting shop, they charge (around here anyway) by the hour, and it will have to be a VERY large piece that they couldn't get done in an hour. You may have to help the shop in determining the air pressure and the aggregate size that you want to be used.

If there is an image on the piece, you could etch the image yourself, and then have the shop solid etch the rest of the piece. The image could be etched with a different size aggregate and/or pressure (for depth) so that there is a difference between the two.

Now, how to figure a price:

If you are doing the blasting yourself (outside of image work) figure out how long it would take to etch a sq. ft. and multiple the size by that, then charge whatever you do per hour. If, this is too outrageous a figure, you will have to modify it so that you may not be making your usual rate (or do as I suggest above and take it to a shop).

If you take it to a blasting shop, and have them etch it, find out from them how long it will take, and how much they would charge for it, add to this figure your charge for taking it there, and being the contractor, and divide the total by the sq. footage of the project.

From Kathryn in Washington:

"I have a client that wants his logo on mirror and I would like to do something real special for him. I have his logo ready to cut. I have done a little etching on acrylic and it scratches so easy I am nervous to try plexiglass, does it scratch as bad?"

Interesting... Where to start? Firstly, can you not use glass mirror? This is sort of a mixed up answer, but I think it may answer some questions for you:

I have found that there is a slight trade off between having glass (which is relatively scratchless) and plexiglass (in order to avoid either the breakage concern with glass, or the weight of glass).

One advantage of pleximirror, is the range of sheet colours (there are 20, though not all of these are always available). Plexiglas is a trade name for an acrylic product. If you must use plexi/acrylic for weight or breakage concerns I would suggest that you should get Abrasion-Resistant Acrylic Mirror. This product while not completely scratch-proof, increases it by about 30% (it is though somewhat more expensive to purchase). Plexiglass comes in 4' x 8' sheets (and can be special ordered larger) with up to 7 thicknesses to .25 inch.

One reason for scratching plexi, is that mild detergents and a soft cloth are supposed to be used for cleaning, not Windex or ammonia products which in themselves will scratch the product. If you are using a hand cut or a computer cut resist, try to remove only enough of the plexiglass protective covering to allow the image portion of the resist to be on the plexiglass itself.

I get my acrylic products directly from Laird Plastics, a large supply house in Canada and US. You should be able to also purchase from them, as you will be reselling the product. They will sometimes just sell you the size piece that you require, rather than the full sheet (4' x 8').

From Suzy in Oregon:

"I am new to glass etching and I have been using Armour Etching Cream. I got a very sore throat the first time I used this product. Is it a fluke or is this a common side effect?"

Are you breathing in the fumes from the cream as it's etching? It should only be used it in a well ventilated area, and do not breath the fumes. I would expect that even though I have never gotten a sore throat from it, it is possible - it is a chemical reaction between the glass and the cream. I would suggest not using again before doing the following:

You may have a reaction to the chemicals in the etching cream. Try contacting Armour Etch about side effects. If my memory serves me correctly, Eastern Art Glass is a division of Armour Etch. You might try them for some help.

I would also suggest (strongly) that you should get a respirator that has replaceable filters rated for acid fumes. A respirator like this costs about $80 (Canadian) it can be purchased in safety supply shops. It is a cheap insurance against health problems. You have to get the correct fit in the mast, and as long as it fits snugly to your face, you should not be able to breath any of the fumes. (That is as long as one doesn't have a beard as I do!! I get around this by wetting my beard before placing the respirator on.)

From Kim at

"I have little if any knowledge about etching besides what I have read of your page and some others. Does it require a lot of talent and how expensive is it? Can you suggest how I might get started. What is the minimum that I need. I am interested in the sand blasting technique."

Does it require a lot of talent? Well, if you can draw it helps, but this is not a prerequisite.

I have some suggestions for starting glass etching in previous versions of my Q&A (#1 has some important precautions that SHOULD be followed, #2 has some suggestions on starting). Also, I found an article titled: Sandblasting, by Roger Smith that should answer many of your questions about how to start.

I would suggest anyone starting should try to cut some resists (stencils) on some glass (even window glass will do for this), and take the pieces to a sand blasting shop, (or an auto body shop might etch them for you) and have either the shop etch the pieces, or if they'll let you use the equipment, blast it yourself (in a cabinet only, unless you wear protective clothing and a respirator). This way you can try out the craft, with a very minimal expense see if you like the results, and if it is something that you wish to go farther in.

From C. Primeaux in Nevada:

"I am interested in obtaining information or sources for glass inks or paints that can be airbrushed onto glass surfaces."

The glass inks that I use, I came across a number of years ago, when I contacted an ink company in Canada who in turn sent me some information on their inks (including ones that can be used on glass). When I got the info, there were so many safety warnings, and precautions that it almost scared me to use the product (for instance: "repeated breathing of vapour may effect the central nervous system" "use of protective clothing is recommended" "skin contact - immediately wash well with soap and water"). These are not just another oil based paint, they are, by the manufacturers' suggestions VERY dangerous. I am sorry, but, I will not pass on the company name, or the product name because of this. I don't know of other inks or paints that are safer, but I wouldn't mind finding them.

If you are interested in finding more information on glass inks, contact an ink supplier in Nevada (for screen print items, or glass or plastic containers), tell them your application, and they can suggest a product that will best suit it.

I have no experience with an airbrush, but with the precautions that came with these inks, I would NOT try to spray them onto glass.

From B. Blomquist in ___________,

"I enjoyed your web site, and was wondering if you could tell me what to use as a resist for hydrofluoric acid, also what type of material is used as a mat in sandblasting? And where do you get these materials?"

The resists used for Hydrofluoric acid years ago would be wax, you would coat the glass with wax, and then scrape off the image that you wanted etched, and immerse the glass into a vat of acid - this acid is extremely dangerous, and I don't know if it is even obtainable now owing to that fact. If, you mean the acid paste that is currently sold for etching glass (a mixture of ammonium and sodium biflouride) you can either get pre-cut stencils from a variety of sources (see Q&A #1) or, you can cut your own from self-adhesive vinyl (also called contact paper, shelf liner, etc.). If you cut your own resists, you may have to try a number of different brands of vinyl, as some don't stick as well as others to the glass.

For sand etching, you can also use the self-adhesive vinyl (as above) or a variety of other products, in Q&A #5 I have a link to an article by Bob Pickard in the Useful Web Links section with a number of suggestions on the resists that can be used.

As far as where to get the materials, most department stores will carry the vinyl, photo resists can be purchased from either Rayzist or Photobrasives (both these are linked back in Q&A #2).

Back to the TOP

Responses #6 from you:

From L. Nagorny:

"I currently design graphics for a (just starting) company that etches personalized gift type items. I would be interested in other clients that need graphic work done. My services are very inexpensive. I have a scanner, and black and white laser printer. The printer works very nice on vellum paper, which is then used to develop on to photo positive paper."

Anyone wishing more information can send an email to:

From M Pongo:

"Every Monday night on America OnLine @ 6:00 Pacific Time, in a private room named "glasshouse" several glass etchers meet to discuss different etching techniques (we're into photofilms now) and discuss our current works in progress, offer advice on solving problems and talk about glass etching." CHAT - Glasshouse at 6 PM Monday (Pacific) (This link for AOL members only)

From Charlie Primeaux:

"I came across a possible source of glass epoxy while on the web this week. It may be a good source for the man looking to attach a piece of glass perpendicular to another. The web page address is as follows:"

Back to the TOP

Hint #6:

Continually view what others have etched, or are etching, NOT that you will copy them, but I find it broadens your view. At times one can become very focused, and tend to lose perspective on what can be done with etching.

If you have a hint that you would like to pass on to others, you know what to here.

Back to the TOP

Useful Links #6:

If you know of a link to a website or suppliers dealing with some aspect of glass etching, email me, and I will post it here next update.

Some interesting links I have found since the last update:

An article: Representational Glass by Joe Porcelli goes over a lot of uses for etching of glass.

Another supplier for etching creme Etch All in Sun City Arizona. They also have a Question and Answer page.

A very interesting article on Waterjet Cutting by Douglas J. Hallberg. I have come across some samples of this method of etching, and they are very impressive looking - the etch is extremely smooth, and rounded.

A list of suppliers in the US and Canada can be found it Art Glass World

Back to the TOP

Home ~ Quantity Custom Etched Glassware
Heraldry ~ Furniture ~ Partitions ~ Plates
About Me ~ Glass Etching Introduction ~ Quote/Order Information