Design/Etch By Richard Smith
Questions and Answers Version 11
January 12th, 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 11: Answers | Questions | Responses | Hint | Useful Links

Answers #11 from me:

From A. Montpetit in Cornwall, Ontario:

"I would like to know what type of equipment you are using and the type of material you use to handcut in both your small and large pieces. When it comes to your abrasive what are you using? I prefer to use white silica sand for it's texture when creating various surface etchings. The abrasive I use all the time is aluminum oxide 180 grit. It is fairly expensive and this depends on your geographic location. Curiosity leads me to ask whether or not any pre cut stencils are being used to create your images."

All my large pieces, I handcut the resist using a self adhesive vinyl, and an exacto knife - have tried those swivel craft knives, and find them difficult to keep accurate. I use photo resist for some small detail - like mugs etc. What abrasive I use depends what it is that I am etching - most glassware I use 100 to 200 Aluminium or Magnesium Oxide (the MO is MUCH cheaper). Any large projects, I use silica sand ($8 for a 40kg bag) - aught to triple aught depending on the finish that I want to create.

The nearest city has a large drydock, so there are a few sand blasting suppliers here. I think I get the AO for about $50 a 60lb bag, and the MO for $15 a 60lb bag, so I prefer using the MO where possible.

I used to hand cut everything, then when a few people asked me to do some glasses and mugs, I started using photo resist for them - as it gives a much faster turn around time, and it keeps the price down to something that they are willing to pay for. I would rather just concentrate on hand cut pieces, as I get more satisfaction from the work, but it all pays the bills. I have never tried pre-cut stencils though, personally I think it takes away all the art from etching.

From F. Vasek:

"Do you know where I can get stencils that have alpha numeric characters approximately 1/4" high? I would like to use them to etch VIN numbers in vehicle glass using an etching cream."

Why don't you get a signage company to cut them for you (out of self adhesive vinyl) most will do this for a nominal charge.

From Jun Sta. Maria in Manila, the Philippines:

"I am looking for a supplier of Glass Etching Cream. If you are a supplier of the said product, please give me your best quotation."

I don't supply glass etching cream, but here is information on two companies that manufacture and sell etching cream:

Etchall - URL: - E-mail address:

Armor Etch - URL: - E-mail address:

From K. Earl in Fairmont Hot Springs, B.C.

"We have a new glass shop and specialize in etched glass. We are having some problems finding a wholesaler to purchase our glassware from. I was wondering if you would give me the address of your glassware wholesaler. I viewed your web page, and thought your work was remarkable."

I just use local wholesalers, although the largest one (Cassidy's) has offices (I believe) across Canada. I am sure that you could find a wholesaler in Vancouver, which would be much cheaper than paying the shipping from Toronto or the East coast.

I have found that because I am not in a large center (ie Toronto, Montreal etc.) it is cheaper for me to have the local wholesaler bring in the glassware (because they are getting many boxes in one shipment) rather than pay the shipping on a single box from a discount place.

From Roger in Ashland Oregon:

"I'm glad I found your web page today. I've been frustrated with the results obtained by Armour Etch (uneven and blotchy, I was extremely careful in following the directions, even applied a second coat, but results are still disappointing)

Reading about other's comments, I realize that it's just not me or my technique. I decided on this project after watching a Carol Duval episode on HGTV - got inspired with her kitchen cabinet glass door etching in a simple leaf motif. She claimed it was done with Armour Etch....the detail looked great....which makes me wonder if they really used Amour Etch?"

I am glad that you found some solace in my site. Anything I've ever done with Armor Etch, I haven't been really satisfied with - but then I'm a perfectionist. I have read different places where people have used it, and they say it works great. Armor Etch told me that because glass has different areas of varying hardnessess, the 'acid' won't etch large areas well - though I take it from your email that you were only doing small leaves.

If you still have the resist on the glass, you could try and take it to an auto body shop, or a monument manufacturer - they could sand blast it for you. A suggestion though if you do this: place a stencil on another piece of glass for them to test their equipment on. I could give you air pressures and the like, but depending on their equipment it might be totally wrong. If you want a fine etch - like acid you should get them to use about a 180 grit or finer aggregate. They can start at a low air pressure (try under 40 psi first), and keep adding until the best pressure is found (one that will etch the glass without blowing off the resist).

From K. Gaines in Detroit Michigan:

"Your site was interesting and informative. I was hoping you might be able to advise me on how to start doing etching. I am considering a career change.

I have only worked with the cream etchers I usually cut my own stencils. Any information or direction you can pass along would be very helpful."

From D. Dawson in Sunbury, PA:

"I am looking to start my own business how should I go about this? I have been etching for friends and family for the past 3 years and its time to start making some money! Any wisdom will help!!"

These I find the hardest questions to answer... One has to start getting some contacts in the glass/giftware/awards industry (whichever branch you are going to try) - I would start locally, even showing at fairs, craft shows, Christmas shows, etc., and start to get clients that way.

A hint though, glass etching is not a get rich quick scheme, it will require a while to get known, and start your sales - plus there are a lot of us out there already, so your product has to be good, and different in some way. You have to sell a lot of $30 items to make a living at it. If you are looking at larger projects, then contact architects contractors etc. - only you have to be able to do what it is that they are looking for.

Best of luck to you both.

From R. Mellow in Comber Ontario:

"I have recently started using photo resist to blast glass and it is working wonderfully... do you know of a supplier for this here in Canada ??? Your web page is incredible!"

There is a company: Aicello North America which has it's NA head office in Vancouver. (Their photoresist is manufactured in Japan, and sold throughout the world.) Their mailing address is: Aicello North America, #206 - 277 Mountain Hwy, North Vancouver, BC V7J 3T6 / 1 800 825-9885. Their email address is:

I have used their resist, and found it good, except that I couldn't use my spray nozzle to wash it out with. I had to do as their info says, and use a sponge - you only have about 30 seconds from the time you start to wash out to get it completely done before the total resist starts to 'decompose' - though I found it plenty of time to work in, just don't start daydreaming in the middle.


"I did find a Canadian supplier for Rayzist in Ontario Prestige Glass "

From O. Jelovcan in Argentina:

"I am pretty new in the etching business. It was really helpful to find your page in the Internet. I have a couple of questions,as follows:

Have you ever used UltraPro self adhesive photo resist or SBX Liquid Resist Emulsion from Photobrasive?

Have you ever used The Turbo Carver from UltraSpeed? That is a modified dental high speed tool, used to engrave glass and other surfaces. If you are interested in knowing about this tool, their email address is:"

No, I haven't used either of the resists that you mention, I mostly hand cut my resists, the photoresist that I do use is the Photobrasive ImagePro - the one that is glued onto the glass. If they work anything like the ImagePro, they should be excellent products.

I have used a dremel tool - it's like a dentist's drill, that is sold for carving materials, like glass, wood, plastics etc. It has interchangable bits (carbide/diamond/stone) for different cutting speeds/materials.

From D. Erjavec in Kentucky:

"Going over your web site, which is very informative, I was noticing that no one etches the way I do. Using tools instead of acids and sand blasting. My question is: What type of material do you use to make the patterns for etching?"

There are glass artists that use diamond points and dremels, for engraving, but I use (and my site deals with) etching, which uses a material like sand or acid to create the etch.

To answer your question, I assume you are talking about the resists (stencils)? There are a number of ways I create them, mostly I use a self-adhesive vinyl, and draw the image, cut it out with an exacto knife, remove the pieces that I want to etch, and sand blast it. I also sometimes use a photo resist, which makes the stencil 'photographically'.

There are also commercially available stencils that are pre-cut to a pattern, but these I have never tried, as I don't like working from somebody else's design!!

From Nelson Stone Centre:

"Ran across your info & thought I would add my 2cents worth!

Our company makes cemetery memorials & other granite products. If anyone has a winter project requiring sandblasting at this time of year..check out your local monument manufacturer.

We also are using photo resist products from PhotoBrasive to sandblast images onto granite. It is however difficult to prejudge what the finished results will be like on granite. We have seen masks that looked perfect on the stencil turn into something that looked absolutely horrific! and vice versa! It is an expensive proposition to repolish a piece of granite...but it is something we have to do in roughly 40 % of cases."

Just a thought, and maybe it wouldn't work, but could you test etch first on a piece of glass (or plexiglass - as it is colourless and comes in thicknessess as thin as .030"), hold it against the granite, and see what the finished etch would look like?


Thanks for the idea about testing on glass. That is a good idea & I shall give it a try. I saw some mention of reusable stencils elsewhere on your site. In fact monument companies do not reuse their stencils. Every stone is cut with a brand new stencil that is usually prepared & cut using (a very expensive) CAD system.

From G. McDonald in Ontario:

"Just started working with a computer.. What software would you suggest to help me with graphics,clip-art, (relating to glass etching)?
Currently I etch with 100 grit oxide and hand-cut everything...have 200 grit on order, what do you use?"

I would suggest that you download a trial copy of Paint Shop Pro - it is similar to Photoshop, without costing $800 (I think the registration cost on Paint Shop Pro is about $100 US, though you can use it for 30 days as a trial for free.)
As for clipart, I personally hate the stuff, most of it you can see a mile away it says "I'm CLIPART"!! I generally will scan an image -whether I draw it or from another source - and then change it to fit my application. The computer, I find helpful in flipping the image, copying and pasting etc. much faster than drawing everything over.
It depends what it is that I am etching - most glassware I use 100 or 200 Aluminium or Magnesium Oxide (the MO is MUCH cheaper). Any large projects, I generally use silica sand ($8 for a 40kg bag) - aught to triple aught depending on the finish that I want.

From Joey G.:

"I have heard of glass etching and glass frosting. Are these terms the same? Since they are used interchangeably.

What is the most economical abrasive media I can use for surface sandblasting thin glass (as thin as wine glasses)?

I have read your Q&A that there aren't much books that teach sandblasting. Are there any videos that do?"

They are one and the same thing, but I would say that glass etching is the more correct term to use. Frosting also is more to do with the finished product than the method of decoration.

This will depend on your geographic location. I have not found aggregate size to be a problem even on thin glasses - to me the determing factor is the finished look that you want, and the resist that you will be using. I would think that you would be best to try Magnesium or Aluminium Oxide to start with. The AO here is about 4x the price of the MO, but lasts longer reusing it.

I have heard or seen on the web someplace about a sand blasting video, but have never actually viewed one.

From Mak in Kuiwat:

"Can you recommend suppliers and products for sand blasting equipment. We own a sign shop and we would like to take on sand blasting. Any suggestion what size of a sand blaster we should buy. Thank you."

Alot depends on the size setup that you are wanting, or how much you are going to use it. If I were you, I would start small, use the setup, then get bigger if or as you need it.
For instance, if you are going to do small signs, say 3-4' or so in size, a 2-5 hp compressor should be plenty for you. Over here we use sand blasters to clean up metal parts from rust - like cars and trucks before they are painted. I don't know if you would have such uses over there, but many garages here have sand blasters.
I would start with the sand blast unit - I have used a siphon system, you could start with one, and then get a pressurized blaster if you find that it works out for you. Once you decide on the size of the blaster, you can get an air compressor to fit your needs. I suggest that you see what is available locally for equipment, as I imagine to order a single piece from Europe or the US the cost of shipping would be very high.


"Thanks a bunch for your input on the sandblaster. You mentioned a syphon system, is it the same kind advertised on this site:"

The second blaster on the above URL (s-100) is a syphon system, for most work - unless you are going into this in a REALLY big way - either this one or the Portable Pressure Sand Blaster (p-100) below would work well for etching glass.

From B. Fink in Los Angeles, California:

"I would like to know if there is a book you could recommend on acid etching glass. Are there any acid etching studios you could tell me about in the Los Angeles, CA area? Will acid etching give finer results than sandblasting?"

The Techniques of Glass Engraving by J. Matcham & P. Dreiser (1982 Larousse Art Craft Series) has a chapter on acid etching glass. As I have said to everyone else though, hydrofluoric acid is an extremely dangerous acid - if you can even get it. At full strength, it gives off highly toxic fumes. There are some links back on my Q&A #9 to some info on the web about the dangers of this acid. A better way to go is try some of the 'acid' cream that is on the market - se above answer to Jun Sta. Maria in Manila, the Philippines.
I don't know of any studios, but I am on the other side of the continent - check for glass etching in your phone book, or check with some stores that carry etched ware.
I have used 220 grit Aluminium Oxide as an aggregate, and I don't think that there is anybody alive that could tell the difference between it and acid etched.

Back to the TOP

Questions #11 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 Rob :

"I am interested in obtaining a glass blown star for my Christmas tree. I really want an eight point elongated star. Does anybody do custom glass pieces or do you know anyone who does?"

Back to the TOP

Responses #11:

From G. Seytel:

"I have read some of your Q&A, very informative. However, regarding silicosis you suggest masks or extraction to atmosphere - this would be illegal in Europe, why not use silica free abrasives? Available from Vapormatt Inc. P.O. Box 1514, Smithtown, NY 11787 or E-Mail"

Ah! Good point! And good suggestion, but remember that one is blasting glass after all, which is... silica. So you can use silica free abrasive (Aluminium Oxide or Magnesium Oxide are two that I use, and can get easily locally) and still get silicosis.

I have a number of filters that the air passes through before it is expelled to the outside - I have heard that some US states also have restrictions on sand blasting and where/how it is done.

From A. Stockman:

"I know of a really neat web site - Etchall. I have used their product before and really like my results. Their etching cream is reuseable and has no hydrofloric acid. They also sell many different types of stencils and etching tools."

From E. Jensen:

"I've noticed a lot of people that have written you commenting on their use of photo resist and cut vinyl for their etching. I've also noticed a lot of people asking about pricing saying that they have had comments about their prices being too high. I have a very sound solution. A vinyl cutter.

If you have a computer and software products like Adobe Photoshop, Streamline, and Illustrator a vinyl cutter is THE WAY to move your business from the small variety into a major glass etching slot.

Essentially, the cutter cuts pre-defined lines into the self adhesive vinyl quickly and as many times as you want. You then remove the areas to be etched and TA-DA! a resist! You then cover the resist with masking tape - large widths can be obtained up to 4" and prepare a good clean surface to apply it to.

Now it is essential you pay attention to this step! Take a water spray bottle like what you would use for doing your ironing and fill it full of water with 2 or 3 DROPS of dish washing detergent in it. Remove your resist from its brotective backing by useing the masking tape layer wou've plasted on top of it. Spray your water solution on the back of your resist and masking tape.

What you're doing is this - the 2 or 3 drops of dish washing detergent break the surface tension of the water and allow it to spread evenly on the adhesive side of the resist. This film allows you to position the resistfar more easily without the vinyl "grabbing". When it is position you carefully squeegy the water out untill you are sure you have a very smooth application of the resist. Spray the masking tape backing with this same solution and after a couple of minutes the tape will peel very neatly off leaving a very tidy resist. Take a couple of swipes with your sand blaster and you've etched your piece!

The reason I'm including a description of this process is that, although cutters can be very expensive - a couple thousand dollars - THEY WILL PAY FOR THEMSELVES!!! The amount a time spent preparing an even relatively simple resist is plodding compared to the time it takes to design your template and have the cutter turn out a resist for you. The upside is that once you've created your design you can create HUNDREDS of resists, apply them to your blanks, and etch them IN A DAY!

The level of complexity in your etchings you would usually attempt will sky-rocket and the cost of you normal work will plummet. If you are serious about etching or carving glass as a business GET A CUTTER!!!

Of course, this is just my experience."

The plotter cutter that you mention, is what sign companies around here use for vinyl signage - I didn't know that one could obtain one for a couple of thousand $ (I was told they were into the five figures). I have heard about the trick with the water from a friend that ran a sign business.

Do you have a company name/contact information/website of a plotter cutter that you use I could include for anybody interested?


"Go to GBC Sign Warehouse You're looking for a cutter called Vinyl Express. Currently they have a 20" cutter that runs $1595. With an upgrade to a higher knife pressure and the software to run it it goes for about $2500. The knife pressure upgrade isn't totally necessary but is good if you are using HEAVY vinyl.

Another suggestion is using a product called Hartco for your resists. It's thin enough that you can cut it on a cutter but it does the same job as buttercut. Their phone number is 1 800 543-1340 and if you ask really nice they will send you a sample of their product so you can try it on glass."

From D. Coleman:

"In response to Richard Scott, looking for glass blanks or icebergs... When my supplier, Dalzell Viking, went out of business I purchased a large number of these during their close-out sale. I have a good variety available at a reasonable price."

Contact Doug Coleman at Images Glass Studio.

Back to the TOP

Hint #11:

This month's hints are from the AtoHaas website (the maker of Plexiglas brand products) if you are using arylics, it's a good place to spend awhile:

Cleaning Directions for Plexiglas

Washing - Wash Plexiglas sheet with a mild soap or detergent and lukewarm water solution. Use a clean soft cloth or sponge and as much solution as possible. Rinse well. Dry by blotting with a damp cloth or chamois.

Do not use: Window cleaning fluids, scouring compounds, gritty cloths, leaded or ethyl gasolines or solvents such as alcohol, acetone, carbon tetrachloride, etc.

To remove tar, grease, paint, etc., use a good grade of naphtha or kerosene. Users of these solvents should become familiar with their properties to handle them safely.

Polishing - Apply a thin, even coat of a good grade of automobile paste wax (not a cleaner-wax combination) with a soft clean cloth to protect the surface of the Plexiglas sheet and maintain its luster. Buff lightly with a clean cotton flannel or jersey cloth. After polishing, wipe with a clean damp cloth to ground any electro-static charges which may attract dust particles.

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 #11:

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:

Back at the Awards & Engraving Magazine Online there's another article by Bob Pickard, this one on: Permanent Resist Stencils

Also at the Awards & Engraving Magazine Online there's an article by Leah A. Smith: What a Blast! - The Whys and How-To's of Buying Sandblasting Equipment

The Glass Links has many links to websites that deal with glass.

Some suppliers for glass etching.

I got an email from Alnasir Ramji telling me about the Mirror Etch Craft Kit He says: "It comes with step by step instructions. It's a complete kit- contains everything one needs to create a beautiful etched mirror. Approx. 7-8 5x7 mirrors are easily done. Price: $15.00/kit If anyone is interested please contact us at:"
Easy Etching Ltd., P.O. Box 49053, 9647-41 Ave., Edmonton, Alberta Canada T6E 6H4

Back to the TOP

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