Design/Etch By Richard Smith
Questions and Answers Version 12
April 6th, 1999

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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 12: Answers | Questions | Responses | Hint | Useful Links

Answers #12 from me:

From TIA in Singapore:

"We do sandblasting on glass and leaded crystal and sometimes scratches occur. Could you advise on the most efficient way of removing or making these scratches less obvious?"

Actually I've never tried to remove a scratch - I imagine that it would not be very easy (I've never made a really big scratch ...yet).

I emailed Steve Carter (another etcher) to see if he had an suggestions - his reply follows:

"There is a process that car dealers use to remove scratches from windshields of used cars, but I've not had to try it! Process requires quite a bit of time, and several treatments of pumice. If they really need to get the scratch out, I would suggest trying a local car dealer, or possibly their glass supplier, or local janitorial supplier for referrals.
The big picture is not getting scratches to begin with! DO NOT etch items and stack together, or even allow to lie on the bottom of the cabinet while etching other items, especially lead crystal (It's soft). When I have alot of items, I place tissue between each one as I continue etching."

From D. Iacchelli, in Alberta:

"I have never done mirror etching, and I would like to know a few brand names of products that can be used for accomplishing this. Not so much in the area of sandblasting but with "hydrofluoric acid cream" or any other products that don't involve sandblasting."

The acid cream will only work on the face of the mirror (the glass), if you are wanting to etch the back, you'll have to try something else... read on:
I know of two different acid cream products, Armor Etch made in New Jersey, and Etchall, made in Arizona. These are available in many craft stores, I am sure that you could find it locally, or through mail order from their respective sites.
Both these work on the glass side of the mirror, if you are wanting to etch from the back (removing the silvering) Armor Etch sells a product, STRIP SLIVER, which is a 2-step mirror removing process, you can read more about it if you follow the link.

From G. Lalonde, in Ontario:

"I have been etching glass for about 5 years and sandblasting for about 12. I have had inquiries about doing mirrors for a local store and she wishes to add her money on top of my fee. Do you have any sugestions for setting prices, is there a standard fee schedule used?"

On a large scale job, I figure how long it will take me, material expenses, and charge accordingly. When I started to etch smaller items - glasses, plates etc. - one of the first stores I took samples, to see if they would be interested in carrying a custom etched product, told me that the customary markup is 50%. You could have knocked me over, I mean I was figuring maybe 25% the way I looked at it, I had done all the work...
Now what I do, is figure how much I can sell it to a store, and still have it worth my while. If they are interested, I don't care what they sell it for. If they aren't interested, I'll sell it elsewhere, or not sell it - I don't agree with some 'crafters' around here that sell craft items, and make probably 50c an hour. If that is all I can make, I'll find something else to do.

Another way of doing it I found on a message board for artists:

"You as the artist/artisan, craftperson or whatever you call yourself will receive nothing if nothing is sold. Determining a
commission is a give and take negotiation. What can be negotiated? Usually the artisan negotiates for a percent of the sale
price. One side or the other determines the sales price or the approximate sale price, the buyer will be the final say of the final
sale price. The retailer knows how much each sq.ft. of his/her shop is supposed to generate over "x" period of time.
Remember if the art does not get sold no one gets any money, however the retailer loses (in terms of costs spent for utilities,
advertising and space rental costs). The artist still has her/his work of art ( to be sold at a future date). One way which works to
the benefit of both the artist and retailer is for the artist to establish a minimum price on the art.(MAP) The retailer would be
allowed to set the minimum sales price (MSP). The difference would be the commission (whatever the percentage turns out to
be, who cares?? everybody's happy).
Additionally the retailer may want to start the sale with a higher asking price(HAP) than the MSP. If the item is sold at any price above the MSP the difference should be split between artist and retailer equally. If the item is sold at a price lower than the MSP (that decision is the retailer's) the artist still gets her/his MAP. It works!"
The above seems reasonable to me, I do agree that there should be give and take by both parties, I find many things can't be just done 'by the book'.

From Sunil in Dubai, United Arab Emirates:

"We have lots of complaints about the finger stains on the sandblasted area.
Is there any solution to apply on sandblasted area to avoid stains. I tried to use clear/mat finish lacquer for this purpose. But it is peeling off after sometime. Could you suggest any idea for this problem?"

From Sherry in Mississippi:

"I'm looking for a product and info on an invisible shield which is applied to an etched piece of glass to render it non smudgeable. Have you heard of this product, if so, please email me with where I can purchase it."

By non smudgeable, do you mean that fingerprints won't show on it? I haven't tried it for this purpose, but Etchall, is supposed to make an etching 'fingerprint proof'. Etchall is a paste etching compound (some people call it acid - but it isn't) which the company says can be applied after the glass is sandblasted before the resist is removed to make it 'fingerprint proof'.

From John in Canada:

"I'm looking at a blaster for a startup fine detail lead crystal stemware application, and like the look of the Pressure Pot PhotoBrasives Sandcarver System. My understanding is that it would offer superior control vs. a siphon system, especially in light of the expense of the crystal. Any thoughts? Also, what would you reckon to be the best abrasive material and grit size for this material?"

I am not familiar with the PhotoBrasives Sandcarver System, so can't really comment on it - but, I have found a siphon system to work well for all applications - the only time the pressure system is superior, is when you are trying to etch fast and deep (also the pressure system will not use as much abrasive to do the same amount of etching). One big advantage with a syphon system, is the ease in which aggregate can be changed from one size to another - most pressure systems are more complicated.
A couple of things to remember about etching crystal:
It is a much softer material than glass - hence care must be taken or it will etch too deeply. Try an air pressure much less than you would use for regular glass, and keep upping it until you find a good range for your equipment and particular job. It will also scratch much easier even with stray pieces of aggregate.
I presume that you are going to be using a photoresist for your stencil? You should use either Aluminium Oxide or Magnesium Oxide for aggregate, I have used both with good results, the AO is supposed to stay sharper longer, but also costs twice - 3x as much. The finer the grit size the finer the finished etch will be - I would suggest using a size between 120 and 220 - though some of this will be determined by your resist: for instance, if you use APM photoresist, and their glue, in order to remove the glue, you have to use a larger grit size (120) then if you are using PhotoBrasive's glue (which will be easily removed using 220 grit AO).

From Jeff in Regina, Saskatchewan:

"I am just starting out sandblasting and am looking for Canadian suppliers of glass and ceramic mugs. Do you know of any Canadian suppliers."

I usually use local suppliers as there is no shipping charged on the glassware - check in your phone book under Restaurant Suppliers. You should be able to buy wholesale from them as you will be reselling the product. If you are looking for awards, try Prestige Glass out of Ontario

From I. Poland in Windsor, Vermont:

"I am also looking to sandblast freestanding partitions (3'x6') approx.. I do not want to use glass because of the weight and danger of breaking if someone runs into it. I noticed that you had experience in acrylics, you mentioned a product called abrasion resistant acrylic mirror. Could you point me in the right direction of what I should use. i.e. company;product#'s;most cost effective;etc..... Thank you again for all your helpful advice and support!!!!!"

The company that I get acrylic from, is Laird Plastic. they have operations throughout Canada and US. The closest location to you would be in Hartford Conn. 1 800-873-8410. Or check their website at
Their product is called abrasion-resistant Acrylic Mirror it only comes clear (no colours). In thickness from .08" to .25". It is though rather pricey (my catalogue is a couple of years old) it lists the price for 1-3 sheets (4'x8') of the .08" for $137.60 US per sheet. Even if you were to use a frame around it, this would be very thin for a partition. The .25" sheet price is $230.40 per sheet. Regular acrylic mirror runs $76.80 for the .08", and $169.60 for the .25". As I say though these prices are old, but will give you an idea of the difference. If you are looking for clear acrylic (not mirror) try the Lucite SAR (it is used for road grader windows etc) it comes in thickness to 1.25", but is also pricey: the .236" thickness runs $7.13 per sq. ft.

From C. McCartney, in Glasgow Scotland:

"My 3 main problems are, What resist to use for hydrofluoric acid etching? How accurate this type of glass etching is? Where this is done in the Glasgow - Ayrshire area?"

Anybody that asks me questions about hydrofluoric acid, I try to talk them out of it, because of the extreme toxicity, and danger with using this acid - some of my previous Q&A's have some info on it. I don't use hydrofluoric acid but I have heard that a wax resist, or also a lead foil resist is used. The 'acid' paste that is sold for glass etching (see above for 2 different companies - it's not hydrofluoric acid) can use self adhesive vinyl resists, or pre-cut and bought ones.
How accurate this type of glass etching is dependent on how accurate the resist is - the acid will etch any and all exposed glass (even under the resist if the acid gets there).
Where this is done in the Glasgow - Ayrshire area is a question I can't give an answer to. I would suggest that you contact some upscale craft shops, and see if there are any crafts persons in the area that etch with the acid.
Sand etching in my opinion is much safer (as long as safety precautions are followed for working with glass dust). If a fine enough grit size is used (200 grit or smaller) the finished product is unable to be told from acid etched ones.

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Questions #12 for you:

From V. Carwile in Brandenburg, Kentucky:

"All of my etching is done by hand with a Dremel engraver and diamond point. The problem that I have is that my engravers don't last very long. Some begin to "wiggle" after awhile, and others have been known to cut too deep. I don't know if it is actually the engraver or the diamond point which is causing this problem."

I did some engraving with a dremel, but not enough to be able to call myself an expert in it's use. Just a couple of thoughts on your wiggle - are you pressing too hard on the bits? You know that some glass (particularly lead crystal, but also some other) can be quite soft compared to window or jar glass - it MIGHT explain the reason for cutting too fast. Are you using the dremel that has a shaft and a chuck (you have much more control or this one than if you have to hold the engraver itself).

From Louden:

"I would like to obtain a small quantity (about 6 pieces) of red glass tubes (transparent or translucent) measuring 2-3 inches in diameter and 6-8 inches in length."

From B. Edwards, Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

"I am looking for a wine glass decoration about 8 foot high. Not a flat picture but an actual shape either plastic or blow up. Would you use something like that for advertising or do you know where I could purchase some. I am in need of 4 of these."

From J Steele in USA:

"Running out of places to look. Have a galle stick vase apx 14" high that the frosting is coming off of the inside. It appears the color needs to be removed and be re-frosted sort of a peach or pink color any help would be appreciated thanks."

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Responses #12:

From Rick Kayter in Toronto, Ontario:

"My wife and I got into the business back in the early 90's,and ran the business for approximately 2-1/2 years. I found it extremely interesting and of course, limitless as to where one could go with it..It's nice to hear that someone else is keeping up the good work.."

From John in Canada :

"I've been enjoying your web site work for many months, and take my hat off to your work, beliefs and philosophy. Enjoying what you are doing seems a pretty smart way to spend your life. You are clearly helping a lot of people on the way too."

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Hint #12:

This update I decided that I'd give a hint for computers - as all you etcher's must use one to read this :-)

Back in February, I was sent an email attachment by the name of Happy99.exe - happily someone else had emailed me a month before, and told me that this file was a computer worm (a little different than a virus).
The first time the Happy99.exe file is executed, it displays fireworks. While doing this, it is infecting your system so that any outgoing Internet mail is infected with Happy99.exe.
If you have already viewed it, do NOT send any more e-mail or post messages to a newsgroup until it is removed from your system.
If you have any questions about this, go to: Happy99.exe Worm Virus doesn't make for Happy Computing.

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 #12:

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 suppliers for glass etching:

From Doug Coleman:
Please consider adding a link to my glass blanks site... Images Glass Studio Thanks.

From Gary McDonald:
Sterling Glass Foundry, in British Columbia: Specializing in Unique Glass Designer Dinnerware, Gift Items, Trophies, Desk Accessories, and Custom Work.

From Jefferson Gilliam:
A new Discovery, the most innovated, comprehensive product of its time to enhance and revolutionize the resist industry. Last-A-Film - Imagine for one moment, a product [resist] so revolutionized that it will allow you to not only use it once or twice but 10, 20, 50, 200, and even 500 to possibly 700 applications.

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