Monday, August 9, 2010

DIY: Etched Glass

I want to share my new favorite craft, Etched Glass, that is great for transforming thrift-store finds into handcrafted, personalized gifts. Using glass-etching cream, it is easy to create this frosted-glass look. My first introduction to glass-etching was via Martha Stewart’s website when I was looking for Christmas gift ideas. Building from the ideas on her site, I have come up with endless etching projects, my latest being a bridal shower gift for a friend.

Read on if you want to learn how to make similar gifts with a handmade touch.

You need:

  • Glass - Drinking glasses, glass mugs, candle holders, Ball jars, mirrors - there are many options. I often go to thrift stores to get my glass pieces. Note: Some creams will not etch Pyrex.
  • Glass Etching Cream* - I use Armour Etch. It's a bit pricy, but a little goes a long way so get the smallest size. I have done many projects and barely scraped the surface of my 3 oz. bottle.
  • An old or cheap Paintbrush - One with a finer point is better than one for, say, house-painting.
  • Clear Contact Paper, Masking Tape, Loose Leaf Paper Hole-Reinforcers - Depending on what you want to etch into the glass, you may use one or more of these "stencils" per project.
  • X-acto Knife
  • Rubber Gloves
  • A Sink with Running Water - For rinsing the cream off your glass at the end and for any accidental spills to your skin

How to:

Clean the glass you will be etching in the dishwasher or with soap and warm water. Make sure it is thoroughly dry before you begin.

Decide on your design. Take into account the curve of the glass; if it takes on a sphere-like shape, it will be harder to lay a large stencil flat. For example, if you want to etch a phrase that wraps around a votive candle holder, you may be better-off cutting out each word as a separate stencil rather than making one long stencil of the full phrase.

Make and apply your stencil. If you want polka dots, evenly space hole reinforcers on your glass. If you want stripes, place masking tape (cut into thin strips for closer stripes) on the glass at even or varying distances apart - either horizontally or vertically. If you want something more complex, like a monogram or simple image, use contact paper, and follow these steps:
  1. Use a permanent marker to draw the design onto the contact paper. You can also print something from the computer and trace it onto the contact paper (make sure you are drawing on the clear side, not the backing.)
  2. Peel the backing from the contact paper, and position its sticky side against the glass where you want the design to appear. Make sure it is well pressed against the glass and there are no air bubbles. The cream will find its way into any opening.
  3. Using the X-acto knife, carefully cut away the design and peel those pieces of contact paper away. You want to expose the glass only where you want it etched. Don't lose the loose bits you still need, like the inner part of an e,a, or o. Make sure you have left plenty of extra contact paper around your design so that when you apply the cream it does not touch the glass outside your stencil.
Apply the etching cream. Gather your etching cream and paintbrush, make sure a sink is nearby, head outside or to a well-ventilated area, and don your rubber or plastic gloves. Shake the bottle of etching-cream, get some cream on your paintbrush, and dab it onto the areas of the glass that you want to be etched. Double-check that you have covered everything you meant to, especially if you're making polka-dotted glass.

Wait. The back of my bottle says to wait 5 minutes. I usually wait closer to 15 minutes for good measure because it's a pain to reapply the stencils in the right spot if the etching hasn't shown up yet. If the weather is really cold, you may want to wait longer or bring your project inside.

Rinse then remove stencils. Put your gloves back on if you took them off. Using cool water, rinse the cream off of the glass. You may need to rub it to completely get it off. Once all of the cream is rinsed away, remove the stencils. Then wash the glass again with soap and cool water. Dry it completely, as the etching may not look as intense when it's wet.

Voilà! You have a customized, handcrafted project to keep or give to a friend!

Clean up. Make sure you rinse the brush well while you are wearing your gloves. I would now designate this as the etching-cream brush. Make sure the lid is closed tightly on your bottle of cream and store it somewhere room-temperature.

*A note about glass-etching creams: These creams normally have one of two active ingredients that slowly "eat" through the glass to create the etching: Hydrofluoric Acid or Ammonium/Sodium Bifluorides. These chemicals should not come in contact with your skin or eyes. Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area or, if possible, outside. Always wear rubber or plastic gloves when applying and rinsing off the cream. If any does get on your skin, immediately wash thoroughly with soap and water. Always read the warnings on the bottle before beginning any project.

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