Design/Etch By Richard Smith
Questions and Answers Version 10
October 4th, 1998

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.

Quick links for Version 10: Answers | Questions | Responses | Hint | Useful Links

Answers #10 from me:

From C. Cook:

"I am wondering if it is possible to etch glass windows that are already installed. The windows are large and next to impossible to remove. The sandblasting method would pose a problem because of the mess involved. The acid method would cause a problem because it would run. Is there a chemical that is in paste form that would etch? Thanks."

I have etched large windows in place with sand etching, but, it takes a long time to make temporary "booths" to work in, so that the sand doesn't get everywhere. (If they can't be etched from the outside.)
The "acid" that most etchers use is called Armor Etch. It is in a paste form. I have found the results not very satisfactory, but it can be used (I have heard of it being used on vertical glass also). If you decide to use it, the smaller that you keep the sections that are being etched, the better the finished product will look (try to break up any large areas of etching with detail). If the Armor Etch is applied to large areas of glass, a blotchy appearance is obtained in the finish - which can't be removed (this is because there are slight differences in the glass surface).

From D. Frye, in Oxford, NY:

"I am working on some sandblasted mirror designs. I'm having good results with the etching, but I do not know the best way to finish the pieces off. I noticed that you mentioned using transparent glass inks to finish off the coat of arms, which, by the way, is beautiful!
I most likely will not do these designs for backlighting, so how would be the best way to finish off these pieces...just a white or grey glass ink? Would it then need to be backed by some other type of paint to match the back of the mirror? My time is short, & I do not have a clue as to where to order glass inks, or will some other type of ink or paint do as a substitute?"

Why don't you just leave the etching without colouring it? The etch will be white now (after etching), if you want the etch to match the colour of the back of the mirror, I would think that you would have to apply two colours - a light one first, and then a grey on top. I think otherwise the colouring on the etch (if grey) will be very difficult to distinguish from the mirror itself.
Some etchers use a sealer to seal the edges between the mirroring and the glass (where it has been etched off). I don't know what product they use, but I imagine that even a spray on clear would work. Most "oil based" paints will adhere to the back of a mirror, and also to the etched area. Some etchers use enamel paints. Both these suggestions would be much faster for you then ordering in transparent inks. I suggest that you get a small piece of mirror, and run some tests on it before you do one of your mirrors, and find that it isn't what you want. If you are interested in the transparent inks, contact a screen printing supplier, and see what they have available.

From M. Roewe in Guthrie, Oklahoma:

"I use industrial enamel signage paints, applied before removing my resists. Do you ever use gold leaf? I tried it, and found it too expensive and time consuming, and began suggesting the tarnish-free "18K" gold enamels. They stick well on glass, and look great on marble. What I *don't* know is how many years they will last in an interior setting, and I have not used them for anything planned in an exterior setting. Do you have any knowledge or suggestions on this?
Many questions, but I figure you might know. Keep up the good work!"

I usually colour after I remove my resists, at least on glass and glass mirror. On glass, it is easy to just carefully scrape off any that gets off the etch, and on mirror, I use the ink to seal the glass and the silvering so that the silver won't start lifting by colouring over the etch slightly on all sides.
I haven't used either the gold leaf, or the gold enamel. I just mix the inks to replicate a gold colour - but this sounds interesting, I may look into your "18K" gold enamels - do you get them from a craft store? Have you contacted the manufacturer of the enamels and asked them about the life expectancy? (Both inside and exterior?)

From John C.:

"I am looking for a supplier of liquid gold that I can use to paint glass. I think the type that glass blowers use would be good. Any help you can give me would be great. Thank you."

[See above, and Responses from M. Roewe]

From J. Muse, in San Francisco, California:

"Hi, I'd like to selectively remove the mirror backing from glass. Sand-etching removes the mirror but makes the glass opaque. Is there a solvent that will remove the silvering and the paint over it? I have a drawing I'd like to transfer to mirror.
Thanks for your help."

From D. Unitt, in Orillia Ontario:

"My daughter has asked me how to selectively remove the backing from a mirror. She wishes to use an acid type procedure rather than what I gather is the more common sand-blasting.
Are there any books etc which could help me solve my daughter's problem? Thanks."

From K. Koller, in Colorado:

"I'm looking to remove coating on back of mirror after being scraped. Can you pass any leads."

Armor Products in NJ has a product that may be what you are looking for. I have never used it, but you might want to give it a try. (If you do try it, could you let me know how it works?)
They have a homepage (
You can get some information from their Yahoo store:
The URL for the Mirror removing product is:
The following is an excerpt from their page: "STRIP SLIVER is a 2-step mirror removing process that enables you to remove selected areas of mirror actually creating clear "see-thru windows" in which you can display photographs, pictures, or create mirrored designs. NO rubbing or abrasive compounds are needed."
Armor Products has a distributing store called: EASTERN ART GLASS P.O. BOX 341 WYCKOFF, NJ 07481
201-847-0001 Toll Free: 800-872-3458

From R. Sablon, in Florida :

"I was wondering if there is a reusable resist. We are starting to produce sandblasted designs and some of our customers are ordering in lots of 50 to 100 pcs of each design. Is there a reusable stencil and if so where can I find it?"

Tombstone manufacturers use a rubber sheet for sandblasting the stones - this is reusable many times. I can't give you a name of the product, as I have never used it, but I imagine if you called a local stone manufacturer, they could lead you in the right direction - they might even have a small piece that you could try out.
One problem with a reusable stencil, is that your design has to be created so that the stencil can be taken off and still be in one piece - there can't be any elements of the design that aren't fastened to the whole.

From Lynne:

"Hope you know this technique. We etch and carve glass but occasionally large customers have copyrights we have to put on the bottom of the vessel. I have heard there is a way to acid etch with a stamp - this would alleviate blasting the bottom of the glass just to put a circle c."

I'm sorry, I haven't heard of the technique that you describe. It does seem a lot of work to make a resist up just to put a copyright mark on.
Just a thought - it might be faster for you to use a diamond wheel, and just place the mark by hand, than making up resists and sand blasting.

From M.Neer:

"I have 1.5" polished stones, round and flat in size , I need to engrave or use decals or sandblast nice looking whales, dinos, sharks, dolphins etc on these stones for commercial gift shop sales. It must be done very inexpensive, do you have any ideas?"

If your major criteria is inexpensive, I don't think I'd go the etching route. Also something that small is going to be difficult to sand blast easily - you would have to use photo resist, and in order to do this, you would need the equipment to make the stencils (to buy this would be about $250 US; to make the unit would cost about $50) then you've got the stencil cost (upwards to 12c a sq. inch). Then, if you are going to sand blast yourself, you need all the blasting equipment.
Certainly if you could find decals that are just rubbed on, or transferred, I think it would be much less of an investment.

From MonColonel:

"I'm interested in setting myself up to begin etching. Can you tell me whether there is a computer-based etching capability readily available and whether it might be of high quality?"

I assume that you are looking for the actual etching to be done by computer?
I don't know of one, but there may be. I know there are computer based etchers for signs (like on metal or plastics) but they would be classed more as an engraver. They use a engraving tip, sort of like a plotter printer, or plotter cutter (for vinyl) works. I understand though that these don't come cheap - into the 5 figures - that's expensive to me!!

LATER: "I found one -- costs $21,000 for the basic machine!!! Ouch! puts it a bit above the hobby category, doesn't it?"

From Brice:

"I understand that Ammonium Biflouride is a chemical used in diluted form to etch glass. Do you know of a wholesale source? Would greatly appreciate your help."

Ammonium Biflouride, is one of the active ingredients in the glass etching cream Armor Etch. They use a mixture of 23% Ammonium Biflouride & 13% Sodium Biflouride, plus water and thickeners according to their material safety data sheet.
To get to your question, of a wholesale source, I'm sorry but I don't know of one.

From L. Garbarini:

"I'm looking for a supplier of the vinyl transfer material and supplies that is applied to glass that looks as if the glass has been sandblasted or etched. I have seen this done, but would like to endeavor to try myself as it seems it can get quite expensive to have someone else do. Can you help me?"

Yes there is such a material, I am always disappointed to see it as it's not the real thing :-) (although if one gets tired of the design, you can always peel it off, and replace it!). I have seen it used by vinyl sign graphics companies (they cut vinyl material by computer plotter).
You could check a local sign company, and see if they could sell you a piece of the vinyl. I don't know where one could buy it off the shelf, but you might want to try a local craft store and see if they can get it for you. Unless you are buying a lot of material, I usually find it cheaper to buy locally.

From Lu:

"I just reverse etched my entry-way door. A majority of the window had the etching cream applied. All went smoothly except I have a two-tone look to the etched portion. Some looks the way it should and some looks darker. I did everything according to instructions I even reapplied the Armour etching cream a second time to the glass I thought needed it. What did I do wrong??????"

Not necessarily did you do anything wrong. Sometimes glass has sections that etch with the acid cream differently than others. I once etched a coat of arms with cream, and the same thing happened. It is very frustrating let me tell you - but, I guess you know. I am surprised that you could reapply the cream, I found that the resist started to come off after I had used the cream only once.
Any suggestions or solutions - I could be wrong, but I don't think that it will change by using the acid. If you still have the resist on, (what kind of resist is it?) and it will take sand blasting, you could have the door taken somewhere that they sand blast. Only, a fine abrasive (aught size or finer) should be used and the etch should not be more than just a surface etch. I assume that the glass is tempered being in a door, so whoever would do it should NOT etch very deep - just stay on the surface. If they aren't used to etching glass, they should try first on a separate piece of glass to get the feel of it.
I could be wrong again, but going on my experiences, either leave as it is, or the above is the only fix.

If you want, Etch World is a division of Armor Etch, they have a questionnaire that you can fill it if you want.
Just checked their site, and the following is from their FAQ page:

A: The Armour etch glass etching cream is not recommended for an overall etch as you may see variations, blotches, and an overall uneven effect. The best way to frost a large area is by the use of sandblasting equipment.

I hope I have been of some consolation to you.

From S. Quittem:

"Have you found any good books on sandblasting glass?/ How about a good source for equipment??"

Unfortunately, I don't know of any 'good' books on sand etching. Early on I got a couple of books that I had expected from the titles would be good, but they turned out to have less in them than I already knew.
As I suggested in one of my earlier Q&A, if you know what you what for equipment, check first with local suppliers (not necessarily glass suppliers) but industrial suppliers - most are quite willing to make a buck from anybody, and some have a pretty good price compared to specialty shops.

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Questions #10 for you:

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

From J. Guinn, in Nowhere, USA, AKA Nebraska:

"I have been fascinated for years with glass sculpture, and would like to find out how to get started in it as a hobby, but am experiencing difficulty finding the wherewithal on the Net. Perhaps I just don't know where to look.
I'd appreciate any help and/or suggestions you might be willing to provide in terms of equipment/supply/technique, etc., resources that could be accessed via the is my only window on the world."

From Lynne:

"Hope you know this technique. We etch and carve glass but occasionally large customers have copyrights we have to put on the bottom of the vessel. I have heard there is a way to acid etch with a stamp - this would alleviate blasting the bottom of the glass just to put a circle c."

From Pookatoo, in Los Angeles California:

"Hi, wonder if you could help me locate some flashed glass and animal glue for chipping, I am having a difficult time finding at this time."

I don't do chipping, so don't really know of any sources for the supplies. I would suggest that you check out the International Guild of Glass Artists website. They have a list of suppliers for the glass industry, I'm sure if you emailed some of them, you would find what you are looking for.

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Responses #10:

From Brian Mirsch (PhotoBrasives):

"Maybe the 3D question [in Q&A #9 from "Malucan"] was on multi-level or stage carving. That can be accomplished by peeling away sections of photo resist film. Our new UltraPro is very easily peeled."

From C. Haney, in Clearwater Florida.:

"To Charlie Primeaux in Nevada regarding airbrushing color on etched glass I have tried a lot of products with a lot of responses (good & BAD). I found "Color Magic" stains for glass at the Glass show at the Houston Convention Center last July. Can be purchased through Houston Stained Glass. It comes in a good selection of colors and works very well in an airbrush. It does require the use of a respirator but so do most paints you would airbrush. Also auto paints work well after you apply an adhesion promoter. I have many good and bad experiences with this technique and would be happy to share my trials and tribulations if you would like me to continue. A helpful hint when adding color with an airbrush is to leave the resist on the glass after carving, this leaves a much smaller area to mask when painting. Another hint is to practice with water based paints they wash of with soap & water which allows you to use the same project over & over until you determine the effect you want. Hope this helps can't wait to come back and read more great ideas. Also, I am not familiar with your technique of adding color can you elaborate a little."[See this month's hint]

From M. Roewe in Guthrie, Oklahoma:

"I purchased the "18K" tarnish free gold enamel from a home remodeling center, the place where wallpaper, fake frosted glass (silkscreened) fancy wallboard, crackle-finish glazes, etc. are found. It actually says for use on metal, wood, and stone, but I figured, hey, metal is "smooth", sometimes, and etched glass is "rough", like wood or stone, so it should work, and besides, deep etched lines, etc. allow the paint to pool, etc and so forth. Anyway, it has worked well."

From J. Muse, in San Francisco, California:

"I used a method cobbled together from a few antique dealers I talked to. I etched the perimeter of the area to be removed. Removed the paint over the silvering with paint stripper and a razor blade, and then removed the silver with a dilute solution of muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid) and a cotton swab... It took a bit of time."

From I. Comstock, in Woodinville, Washington:

Here are some answers for your readers:

"I am looking for a glue for glass. I want to glue a 6x8 in. bevel oval onto a smaller square, oval upright so that the smaller square will be the stand. Do you have any help along that line?"
Clear glass pieces can be glued in upright positions with a product made by the Loctite Corporation., Newinton, CT 06111. It is called Tough U.V. Adhesive, Item No. 35241. I have found this product works best if both edges are clear polished for better adhesion.

Several have asked about lighting of glass edges. I suggest contacting a local lighting supplier or electrical contractors and asked for a list of companies that manufacture LOW VOLTAGE LIGHTING extrusions/strips. (IE> Lighting along carpeting in movie theatre, or in stairways.) These strips come in a variety of sizes that can be incorporated into frames for lighting etched glass.
For example, a 1/2"H x 1/2" W strip can be custom ordered to desired length with custom bulb spacing/wattage. Bulbs are 12 volt, (transformer required) ranging from .33 to 1.82 watts. I recommend these for smaller etched window frames (less than 4 sq ft) or wooden stands.

Some one asked: "I was looking for crushed glass to be used for ceramic applications. My supplier no longer carries this product and I am looking for another supplier. Do you have such products available?"
I suggest you contact a local stained glass supplier for glass chips. Spectrum Glass Company, Woodinville, WA apparently sells "tons" of glass chips....people actually use them on their driveways! Very colorful community....purple, yellow, blue opalescent glass driveways! The edges look as if they are tumbled to remove sharp edges.
Local craft stores may carry supplies too. Another alternative would be glass nuggets. Northwest Art Glass, Woodinville, Wa sells a variety of colors and sizes. Concrete stepping stones with inlayed glass designs are also popular alternative to mosaics.

I would be interested in reading how others "market" their etched glass products. Perhaps your readers could share their strategies in an upcoming issue."

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Hint #10:

When I use transparent inks, I just paint them onto the rear surface of the mirror after the etching, and the resist has been removed (on glass, I do the same, and any that goes onto the clear glass, I just carefully scrape off with a razor blade). The inks are formulated for glass, the reason that I remove the resist, is that there is no possibility of the ink being lifted before it is securely fastened to the glass/mirror, when the resist is removed (also, when I am finished painting on the ink, the article is done - I don't have to go back and remove the resist at a later time). On mirror, I always leave a small strip of mirroring between the colours (sort of like a line drawing) to separate each colour.

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

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Useful Links #10:

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.

Sorry, too busy this month for any links!
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