Introduction: Acid-Etched Glass

Acid etching is a fantastic way to make beautiful, long lasting gifts. I used it to create two sets of custom anniversary wine glasses for under $10. Armour Etch cream is available at most craft stores or on Amazon for about $20 in a standalone bottle.

Be warned! Armour Etch is a very potent acid and can cause nasty chemical burns. Make sure to read each step thoroughly before starting!

Materials:

  • Armour Etch Glass Engraving cream
  • Glass Cleaner
  • Paper Towels
  • Gloves
  • Large Basin
  • Sink
  • Newspaper
  • X-acto knife
  • Masking Tape
  • Popsicle Sticks

Step 1: Make a Stencil

To use Armour Etch, you'll need to make a stencil either by hand or with a machine.

If you're creating a stencil with a machine, Inkscape is a great program for creating .svg files to cut out. For my file, I converted text to a path and used SCaL to cut the vinyl. When making an image, keep in mind the negative is what's going to be peeled, and having lots of small pieces will be a pain to handle.

To make a stencil by hand, use an X-Acto knife and adhesive-backed vinyl to carefully trace the negative of your image.

Once you have your stencil, remove the positive image. In my case, the positive would be the black lettering. Transfer tape isn't absolutely necessary, but is useful for alignment and preventing an image from getting warped.

Step 2: Prep the Workspace

Before any acid comes out of the bottle, ensure that the entire workspace that's going to be used is covered in newspaper and clear of debris. Make sure engraving is in a well-ventilated area and has a source of flowing water close by. Gloves are a must, and chemical goggles or some other form of eye protection is recommended.

Step 3: Clean the Glass and Apply Stencils

First, use glass cleaner to remove oils and fingerprints from the area. This will increase the effectiveness of the engraving cream.

If the engraving surface is flat, simply apply the stencil evenly, and remove the transfer tape. Add masking tape around the edges to ensure only desired areas get engraved.

If the engraving surface is curved, such as the wine glasses pictured, ensure that the vinyl makes contact with the center of the desired area first, then smooth it down starting at the center moving outward. The vinyl will inevitably crease. Remove the transfer tape carefully Find points in your image where an overlap would be unnoticeable, and slide the X-acto knife from the outside of the stencil to where the image has a gap. This takes a bit of practice to get right, and having duplicate stencils is always recommended. After finishing this process, let the stencil "settle" for a minute or two to see if any more bubbles appear, and take care of those in the same fashion. Afterward, add masking tape around the edge to cover any new gaps.

Step 4: Apply Etching Cream

Next, make sure your engraving surface is relatively stable, horizontal and won't roll. The cream is relatively viscous but will drip during the time it's left to engrave, so be mindful of the areas it may drip to. For the wine glasses pictured, bunched up paper towels and newspaper served to prevent motion.

Make sure all PPE is in place before opening the cream. Chemical burns are no joke! Any skin contact should be put under running water. Using the popsicle sticks, apply a consistent coat of cream to all the exposed areas of glass. A small amount of cream goes a long way, as long as every area is covered. Allow the engraving to settle for ten minutes, then dunk the surface into a basin of water. Using gloved hands, remove as much white residue as possible, then use running water to remove the rest of the cream. The engraving will look very faint, this is normal.

Step 5: Clean Up

Once your surface has been rinsed, remove the masking tape and stencil, and rinse again to remove any residue. Congratulations! Once the glass is dry, the engraving will show up much clearer.

DO NOT dump the rinse basin directly down the drain or outside! Using a sink, add water to the bin and let it slowly spill over the edge. Other methods of dilution can be substituted, but don't forgo caution for convenience!

Comments

author
alan.e.james (author)2017-08-02

Interesting,

as a boy I was given a book "Eagle Book of Hobbies", published in 1958 which I read avidly. It had, amongst other things etching glass using hydrofluoric acid, which you made in a lead bath heated using a small spirit lamp, and if I remember correctly, placed the (waxed) stencilled glass over the fumes. I have since been told that hydrofluoric acid is volatile enough to penetrate skin and etch through bone. Ouch!

Part of me thinks that we are over cautious sometimes, but this one was probably a step too far!

I didn't actually do this one myself, instead I made the one transistor radio to listen to in bed using headphones because the domestic wireless set never worked, unfortunately I had difficulty tuning it and seemed only to be able to get "Radio Sofia Bulgaria" propaganda broadcasts.

author
pgs070947 (author)2017-08-01

Not many chemicals will etch or dissolve glass.
The only one I'm aware of is Hydrofluoric Acid. This is a fearsome acid.
Years ago, chemists were encouraged to go to the local dentist and ask for some teeth. These were stewed up with concentrated sulphuric acid to give off HF fumes. A sheet of glass with a pattern drawn into wax was placed over the fuming acid to etch the glass.
If what you are working with here is HF acid, then beware. Sulphuric, Oleum, Nitric, Hydrochloric, Aqua Regia are all dangerous acids, but the one I fear the most is Hydrofluoric. It causes long-term ulceration and is particularly dangerous if it gets under finger-nails.I wouldn't touch this with a bargepole, literally.
In the lab I worked in handling HF, the first aid kit carried a vial of Calcium Gluconate for injection which was the treatment of choice at the time. The only other first aid item used at this level was amyl nitrite for cyanide poisoning.
I may be wrong, and there may be safer methods to etch glass than HF, but until you are certain what you are working with, I would tread warily.

author
emily0 (author)pgs0709472017-08-01

Hey! This is made with a dedicated etching cream that's marketed for this purpose. Even still, I was super safe with it, using multiple pairs of gloves, eye protection, and dilution before any of it was disposed. I'm not 100% sure what chemical this is, but it's certainly not as dangerous as HF fumes. That's interesting that the best way to get it was teeth!

author
bizbojoe (author)2017-08-01

Nice instructable, I knew a guy years ago whom etched glass and mirrors commercially but I never ask him the method. As far as I know there was never any injurys.

There can never be enough good said about safety, with that in mind, further investigation of the chemical compound, precautions, and first aid requirements should be understood.

Just because something is sold locally, without restrictions, we should not assume it's safe. Many substances have hazards, but if we have knowledge of these dangers and through safe handling practices we can harness their power to our benefit.

I do like the instructable and plan to do some etching of my own.

Keep moving

About This Instructable

7,208views

112favorites

License:

More by emily0:Mobile Chicken and WafflesOrigami Crane MobileTen Second Origami Box
Add instructable to: