November 19, 2013

Sandblasting vs High Speed Drill for Glass Engraving

TechniquesNo Comments

You Are Here:Sandblasting vs High Speed Drill for Glass Engraving

20121211_083426One of the things I battled with the most when I first began glass engraving was simple wording.  Images and artistic lines are a bit more forgiving when it comes to etching.  You can work over an area that perhaps isn’t perfect by switching between tips, depths, shading and polishing, but when it comes to lettering – Well you either need a surgeons hand or a stencil.

Most people are willing to overlook small differences when it’s a hand-made item, but text and fonts are unforgiving and can detract from an otherwise lovely project if the lines are not clean, level and finished.   If your client has paid for the item, they may question the price if the finished piece doesn’t look polished.  Truth, most “engraved,” products sold in stores today and across many platforms are laser cut.  It’s very difficult for a human hand to finish a project as sharp as a computer programmed laser.

The most terrifying engraving job I ever did was for an engaged couple’s toasting flutes.   Terrifying really doesn’t begin to describe the immense panic I felt every time I thought about the glasses before I began them.  The bride was marrying a marine and wanted their toasting flutes to reflect that which she was so proud of in his service.  So she wanted the heavy cut lead crystal, gold trimmed champagne flutes to have the Marine Corps emblem on one side and the other, their names:  “Sgt Bishop,” on his and “Mrs. Bishop,” on hers.   This was to be engraved on a single set of vintage crystal flutes.  No replacements, not something I kept in stock of simple plain glass, no – one of a kind crystal flutes.

When I had the flutes in hand I realized the scale I would have to do the Marine Corps emblem.  One and-a-half inches, square.  The flutes allowed for two-inches of engraving width.  In order for the emblem and words to be easily visible, one and-a-half inches was the max width.  I have a Cricut cutter for basic lettering, but at the size and font style necessary I was better off writing directly on the crystal and engraving over the markings.

I practiced over and over again, wishing desperately that I had already begun sandblasting and that the area was larger so the stencil would have been easy to use with it.  Using my eye protection shield with the highest magnifier lens in it, I went to work.  I was so concerned with it not being perfect that I chose to use the smallest diamond burr I could order, outline the script letters and then back fill with a larger diamond tip, then use a rat tail green stone to fine out the cut lines of the diamond tip.

The Marine Corps emblem was nerve racking.  I desperately wanted it to be perfect for the couple and with the deep respect I have for the military, I felt it had to be flawless.  Again, I did the entire piece with the two smallest diamond burrs I could find.  I generally order from www.widgetsupply.comwww.lopacki.com, or from www.turbocarver.com.   In the end the pieces turned out well and the couple was very happy with them, but it left me with the deep desire to learn sandblasting sooner and purchase a Black Cat Cutter ASAP.

Depending on your project, the steadiness of your hand and the equipment you’re working with, if you’re new to engraving and attempting to make clean lettering, try some sample work on practice glass with a stencil and a small sandblasting kit from your local hobby store or from Amazon.  Armour makes one that is easy to work with to get you started if you want to get a feel for it without buying a sandblasting kit. Armour Products Sand Etch Kit

If you’d prefer to try a sandblaster that doesn’t require a larger sum of  money, this product is a small investment to begin your foray into sandblast-etching. Air Sand Blaster Gun



About the author:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *