I hesitated using the word tutorial up there for a few reasons some of which are :
- It was the first time I did it, so not sure I classify as qualified to explain
- There are quite a few tutorials for doing the same thing, that do quite an adequate and in some case more than adequate job of showing how it’s done
- I’m scared to tell you how to do something that could go wrong and hurt you!
So to start off with – Acid Etching Cream is dangerous it has more warnings and safety instructions on the bottle than it does logo and or company details. It states quite clearly that you could get extremely hurt or die using the product and in some cases not even be aware that you are injuring yourself or have been injured. I used gloves to handle the jar and a plastic knife for application (this acid does not etch plastic) and I used the kitchen sink in front of an open window and also the laundry sink for rinsing.
- Acid Etching Cream (the brand I used was Armor Etch) * Note below on purchasing in Australia
- Something to Etch – Glass Tiles, Glass Glasses – no not spectacles!, Vases, Plates, Candle Holders etc. [Some glass products do not etch because the production process has added something to the glass that protects it from the acid - This is true for older Pyrex dishes as well as glass with lead in it and probably for others too]
- A design
- Some type of Adhesive Paper/Vinyl that will be easily removed from the glass after application, but that will also adhere enough to not loosen or leak during application.
*Obtaining Acid Etching Cream in Australia. Because the Cream has been declared a dangerous substance in relation to transporting and importing, only a company licensed to import dangerous substances into Australia is allowed to import it. This blocks a lot of small or niche hobbyists shops from getting any at all – (I tried 4 or 5 Glass Art/ Stained Glass Art stores in South Australia). If you are purchasing it online or via mail or telephone, the shop can not send it to you via Australia Post, so it has to be sent via courier which is generally more expensive and can make the cost of the cream much more expensive than you would expect. I got mine from a supplier who also had other items in stock that I wanted to buy, so I added other items that would not increase the base courier rate, so it would decrease the postage cost of the cream on its own.
Step 1 - Design – You can chose to create your own design, as I did, because I like that sort of stuff. You could use a design available online for free (respecting the owner of the design’s right); purchase an online design, or copy one from anything that inspires you. In the case of using a copyrighted design, if you are making something to give as a gift and not making money from it, it’s ok. If you intend selling it or gifting it to someone who you know will sell it, it’s not ok.
Here I have created some word art using a friend’s surname (Fortune). If you don’t have a lot of design experience a few simple tips can help. Keep things simple (sometimes too much is just too much, I wouldn’t attempt maximalist styles unless you were very confident with your design medium). Pay attention to white space – general rule is don’t have too little space and don’t totally enclose a space so that there isn’t room for an imaginary sized person to escape into the larger white space. Odd Numbers are ‘prettier’ when repeating elements than even ones. If you have different elements in the design try to unify all the elements with something in common – eg The Same Font, The Same Colour,etc. There are also plenty of design primers online that would be very useful.
Fortune’s Place Design, drawn by my test pen, in the cutter
In my design above all of the fonts are from the Haettenschweiler font family, which unifies the design. When choosing to vary sizes or angles of things, make sure it is clearly obvious that you meant to do it. Eg. Change the size by 1 point, could just look like you did it by accident whereas shrinking or increasing the size dramatically shows you knew what you were doing and made a conscious decision to do so. Because I was playing on the sound of the Four matching the For in Fortune that is the emphasis of the design. The apostrophe-s is only showng ownership and not adding something new to the name so is less important and therefore has been shrunk. Because all of the letters in tunes sit flat on the line but in the word place the p dangles below, adding an underline to the lace letters, makes it look as if they are also all ligned up despite the dangle of the p. If I had he place word large enough to sit in the entire gap under tunes the size difference between tunes and place would have looked like it was notdone deliberately. Because I decreased the size of ‘place’ if I aligned the right hand side of tunes with place, I would have left a gap between 4 and place which could have looked like trapped whitespace. Eg If you put a little mad the height of the p in the space where the chevrons are now, he would not be able to walk forwad or backward,
Hopefully those tips and that explanation of why I did what I did help you understand a little about some ‘general’ rules of thumb when it comes to design. [Obviously if you don't like my design, do not pay any attention to my tips..., taste is of course objective and you may see it as hideous]
Step 2 Prepare a Stencil. For my Method I used adhesive Vinyl and a Cutting Machine (KNK Zing) and some contact paper. You can use other adhesice items if they are available and easily removed from and/or applied to glass.
I plugged in my design, created a negative and cut that out with my cutter. Then you need something to stick onto the vinyl (over the top) to transfer it to your surface. If your stencil is in one piece, you don’t need this. But in my design the hole in the centre of the 4 and in the centre of the p, a and e’s would not be left behind if I just peeled it off in one piece.
If you don’t have a cutter, you will need to cut out the vinly with a scissors (if possible) or a craft knife or whatever else you can re-purpose to assist you with cutting (be safe!).
Step 3 Adhering the Stencil to your Working Surface. There are two tips here that helped me a great deal. One of them was watching a youtube video on how to adhere Vinyl to a curved surface (since I was working with an orb shaped glass). You can view the video here (it is titled Vinyl How to by Casey Grzelak). The other is about removing the bits of the stencil that you don’t need. This process is referred to as weeding – usually you would remove all the bits that you don’t need first, but it is actually easier to weed after you have attached the vinyl to your surface. I picked that up from a very valuable member of the Make The Cut Software Forum.
Stencil Adhered to Glasses
In addition to adhering the vinyl it is a good idea to then add masking tape around your stencil to protect your surface from overflow and give you a bit of breathing room for slippage. I didn’t do that and did have a couple of overflow issues despite the thickness of the cream.
Step 4 Apply the Acid Etching Cream. This involved (with me) shaking up the container of acid cream, stirring the contents after opening it (all with gloves on, as an added protection you can also get a face or mouth guard.) I then ‘buttered’ the surface with the cream as if it were a cracker or a piece of bread. The cream is quite stiff but a bit runnier than toothpaste, so if your item is slanted or sloped try to put it down so that run-off will be minimised.
According to the instructions leave the cream on for 1 minute before rinsing. According to everything else I have read most do not have any adverse effects if the cream is left on longer, but I have seen some people express a concern about whether or not the stencil itself would be eroded if the acid cream is left on for too long.
I ran the glasses under a tap until it looked clean – unfortunately for me, while the vinyl was still attached, it also looked as if it didn’t work at all! – BUT that was just an illusion and when I did peel off the vinyl the etching was clearly evident.
Close up View of Completed Etching
After rinsing, wash with warm soapy water and that’s as simple (albeit dangerous if you don’t do it the right way) as it gets.
Now I just have to find 5.5 million other glass items to etch!
Full View of Completed Glass Etching
Good Night, Whereever you are!