Instructables
Picture of Easy glass engraving with the Cricut

Create your own engraved beer mug! (or give a great personalized present)

We'll be taking a dollar store beer mug and turning it into something much nicer - just in time to celebrate the New Year!

Although I'll be using a Cricut vinyl cutter to make a stencil for your name, you can do this without a Cricut by various other tracing methods, and cutting the vinyl with an exacto knife.  (So the choice is - use the right equipment, and it's an easy project; or do it the cheap way and it'll exercise your artistic talents a lot more!)  If you don't have a Cricut, either this Instructable or this one will show you how to skip that step.  And of course a lucky few with a laser engraver could use that instead.

Now let's get started...

 
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Step 1: Here's what you'll need

Picture of Here's what you'll need
Cricut or other vinyl cutter (and computer) - or x-acto knife and superlative skill!
Vinyl (eg Contact Paper(tm))
Scissors and/or paper trimmer
Armour Etch(tm) glass etching cream, and small paintbrush
Beer mug (smooth sided)
SAFETY GOGGLES and nitrile gloves
Outdoor work area and garden hose

The safety googles are essential. The etchant we'll be using is based on hydroflouric acid and will seriously mess you up if you get it in your eyes. You might also consider nitrile gloves. This is NOT A PROJECT FOR CHILDREN. Keep the etchant well out of reach.

Pick a beer mug with smooth sides. We'll be sticking your name on the side in vinyl so you can imagine how difficult that would be with a dimpled mug. My local dollar store does great mugs - which you can afford to trash if you mess them up. (Although I'm pleased to say my first attempt came out just great)

Remember that stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby often do a "one item at 40% off" coupon, so use it to buy the Armour Etch!

Finally, for what we're doing, run-of-the-mill contact paper is just as good as the expensive custom-sized flat sheets sold by Cricut.
Battlespeed5 months ago

It's worth noting a few things:

First, if you don't have a vinyl cutter there are other ways to create stencils yourself. For instance - UV activated stencil sheets: A bit of art from your computer (or elsewhere), some sunshine (or artificial UV source) - and voila! It's well worth it for almost any crafter/artisan to become familiar with all the various ways there are to make stencils!

Second, you can have a custom stencil made from your artwork. Companies exist that do this, but you could have it done on Fiverr quite easily and cheaply.

Third, do you need a custom stencil? The range of pre-made or "stock" stencils that can be purchased inexpensively is more amazing than you would believe unless you had spent some time researching what's available..

55fanatic2 years ago
Thank you so much for sharing!! The pics & descriptions are very easy to follow!!! :)
wmkcross2 years ago
Make The Cut' software is apparently no longer compatible with Cricut machines according to the Make The Cut' software web site
gtoal (author)  wmkcross2 years ago
Yep, that was the point I was making in the post below. Although if you did have an earlier copy of the software from before the lawsuit, and saved the loadable cricut driver module, I believe it can stil be made to work. Read the blogs for the details, I'm not going to repost them here.

The MakeTheCut software actually ships with the new KNK machines - that company is a lot more sympathetic to third-party developers.
gtoal (author) 2 years ago
With the New Year coming around and new readers finding this 'ible for the first time, I'ld like to add some news that has transpired in the last year. The Cricut company clamped down on the two independent software companies who created software to drive the Cricut as an X/Y plotter. With that software off the market, new Cricut users can only cut shapes from the Cricut library of cartridges. This has caused a lot of ill feeling in the arts & crafts world that the Cricut dominated, and peope have reported boycotting their products and switching to other vendors. I myself have dumped my Cricut in my garden shed and am now using a machine from a company called KNK, which not only is a better machine (larger cutting area, more pressure for deep cuts, and a universal attachment holder so you can use all sorts of third-party tools, pens, etc), but the company is also open to third-party software authors writing their own software tools and drivers.

Find them via Google. I'm not embedding a link because I want to be clear that this is a genuine endorsement and not someone looking for a referral fee.
Hey I just wanted to share a pic from my own project. I used Armour Etch, A dollar store mug just like yours and Avery self adhesive laminating sheets(for the stencil). Thanks for the instructable, I've been having a lot of fun making custom mugs!
022811193533cropped.jpg
gtoal (author)  seabeepirate3 years ago
Nice work! Do you have any trick for handling the non-contiguous parts of the design (the suits and values) or was it just careful manual positioning?

I've since seen that the crafting folks use a mildly tacky 'transfer paper' to keep all parts of their designs in alignment, but I haven't tried that yet myself - not too clear on the details...

G
pmowers gtoal3 years ago
I had not thought of using contact paper, it seems that it is a lot cheaper, and may mold to the shapes better- Thanks for the tip.

Regarding the transfer paper, you might be able to get a couple of pieces from a local sign maker- as scrap or partial roll.

The transfer paper is very similar to a very wide masking tape, the adhesive is not nearly as strong as the vinyl adhesive. you basically cut out your design on vinyl, remove the portions that you want to etch, this is referred to as "weeding", then smooth a piece of transfer tape over the image. When you gently peel off the transfer tape, the vinyl will come off with it, holding all of the little pieces in place.

You then just position the transfer where you want it, rub it down with either a stiff squeegee or a tongue depressor to adhere the vinyl, then gently peel off the transfer tape, leaving the stencil on the glass, ready to etch.
cj8675 pmowers2 years ago
i run a sign shop and can mail scrap to u.
gtoal (author)  cj86752 years ago
That's kind of you to offer, but I've moved on to a new project that doesn't need transfer tape (or vinyl for that matter) - will post about it here when it's a bit more advanced. (This new project uses a much bigger and more powerful cutter and is doing something genuinely original...)
cj8675 gtoal2 years ago
i have a 40 inch graphtec vinyl plotter
The suits and values were actually the easy part, it was the shapes of the cards that I actually had trouble with. I understand what you're asking though. I actually made a stencil that I taped over my laminating sheets, then I was able to stick the laminating sheets onto the mug with the stencil on the outside where I could still work with it. I cut out the shapes of the cards and then peeled away the design.

It wasn't a perfect method though because as I cut out one card the others would become loose. If you look carefully you can see that my lines aren't all very straight. Because I was manually holding the stencil in place as the edges got loose sometimes the stencil would slide a little bit. I was able to trim up the crooked lines for the most part after I pulled the stencil away, but it still wasn't perfect.

For smaller designs I suppose I could have used printable labels, but those don't help much on a larger project. I'm still trying to figure out a way, if you think of something be sure to post it, and I'll do the same :)
Einarjon3 years ago
Just a thought:
How would it work to leave some gaps in the letters that have a hole (1 mm "spacers") to keep the cutouts in place and then cut them off with an x-acto knife before applying the etchant?
gtoal (author)  Einarjon3 years ago
That's not a bad idea, I'll try that the next time, thanks!
labratmikey3 years ago
Theres a software called Sure Cuts A Lot 2 and it completely eliminates the need for any other cartridges. You only need the one it came with. So because of that, I jacked my girlfriends new cricut.lol
artsman233 years ago
Hey, great tutorial. I thought about giving the cricut a try but then decent to just get a larger vinyl cutter. You can see it in the new video I made on here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Glass-Etching-with-Sandblasting-and-Acid-Cream/

Please check it out and leave me a comment. Thanks -Eric
recrisp3 years ago
Good instructable! :) I just wanted to point out that with a Cricut, a machine designed to also take your money in a LOT of ways, you can help remedy that too... On YouTube you can watch this video that shows how to avoid the high prices of the font cartridges, (I don't have a Cricut, but I do have a CraftRobo Pro, which does all of the above, I just happened across this one day) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QH2flUV2s2Q
I hope the link works out, if not, just type in 'cricut cartridge', it'll be on the first page.
gtoal (author)  recrisp3 years ago
Thanks - I use "Make The Cut" software myself for that exact purpose and don't have anything other than the Basic cartridge - which is an interesting one too, because it doesn't actually have any data in it - the data is in the Cricut itself and the basic cartridge is just a looped around piece of wire between two pins, used to detect if it is inserted. I didn't bother mentioning that anywhere because most people who buy a Cricut get the basic cartridge included along with it, although the hack using a piece of wire would be useful to know if you bought one used!

We ought to get a group started here in instructables for people with these vinyl cutters (of whichever brand, not just the Cricut)! Anyone know how to do that?
W00T!!!
Thank you for the awesome walk-through.
I didn't think there was a way to accomplish etching w/out having access to some far more expensive equipment.
gtoal (author) 3 years ago
I just now noticed that this instructable: http://www.instructables.com/id/freehand-glass-etching/ uses Armour Etch and vinyl in a similar manner, applied manually. It's worth reading for the comments re safety and Armour Etch. In particular one correspondent recommends "Etch All" as a more effective and safer alternative. Looks like there's a free trial available too (at the time of writing): http://etchall.com/riskfree.htm - I'll be sending off for a trial myself.
gtoal (author)  gtoal3 years ago
Here are the safety sheets for both Armour Etch and Etch All. Neither one is very forthcoming and there's not enough here to conclude that one is to be preferred over the other for safety reasons.
jnifrwebb3 years ago
Great idea, I got a cricut for Christmas and have been looking for things to do with it. And I have everything I need already!
adrian093 years ago
is it still poisonous after washing?
gtoal (author)  adrian093 years ago
If you wash it off the glass completely, the glass is safe to use; but you have to be careful with the discarded washing water containing the run-off chemicals, which is still potentially dangerous - that's why I use a garden hose and *lots* of water, and do it outside. I wouldn't be comfortable doing this in the kitchen sink or other indoor plumbing.

Like one of the other posters, I err on the side of paranoia about this stuff because my chemistry teacher put the fear of God into me about what HF would do if you spilled it on yourself, and I am not comfortable passing on any lesser level of warning to others as I would hate to be responsible for someone else messing their life up by having an unnecessary accident.

I don't know how the ladies that do crafts who use this stuff handle it, but I treat it as working with a dangerous industrial chemical. Being very dilute and it a gum-like base does mitigate a lot of the risk but doesn't remove it entirely - the compound does still need to be treated with respect,

Research it for yourself and find out what the recommended handling techniques are, and frankly if you have any doubt, don't do this one. Unless you're confident you can handle it safely, and do so with care, it's not worth the risk.
Ronyon3 years ago
Love this, I will try it on the backs of plates, everyone in the family will get one with their name...If yours isn't clean, you don't eat!
gtoal (author)  Ronyon3 years ago
Do me a favor and research whether this kind of etchant is safe on the kind of plates you plan to use. I'm worried it may soak into ceramics rather than wash off cleanly. Personally I wouldn't risk it. Maybe trying the same stencilling method with paint would be a safer bet? Lots of stuff on the net for painting plates with enamel paints...
richarno3 years ago
Nice trick!
DuhDuhDave3 years ago
This is great work. The cricut looks like a great product to me, and I have always been sorry it was so cartridge based. And this is brilliant.

HF is nasty stuff. It is pricey, but you might consider keeping a tube of calcium gluconate gel around. Fluoride ion can go right for the Ca in your bones, and deposit it in your bloodstream as crystals. Painful, and often fatal. I don't think small quantities like this are likely to kill you, but who needs to worry- the gluconate gel calcium binds the fluoride. When I worked in an analytical lab digesting rocks (!) with HF, we had a tube handy. I was sufficiently paranoid that I never had a mishap, but I was glad it was there.
Blardo3 years ago
My roommates and I did this with drawer contact paper instead of vinyl. I think you chose better.
sonicdrive3 years ago
good work dude very nice
yokozuna3 years ago
Excellent instructable, you should also enter this into the Holiday Gifts contest.
gtoal (author) 3 years ago
The first time I did this I used nitrile gloves to protect my hands in case of etchant drips. I really should not have skipped them on the second attempt when I was feeling more confident. So Goggles *and* Gloves, folks.
lemonie gtoal3 years ago

Yes very sensible.

L