Instructables
Picture of Making fake sea glass at home
Sea glass or beach glass is the pretty, worn down, rounded, matted glass you can sometimes find at the beach. It is pretty rare, especially in other colours than green, brown or white. It's also beautiful. People love to use it for all kinds of decorative purposes: making jewelry, adorning vases or chandeliers, the possibilities are endless.
So, wouldn't it be nice if you could make it at home, or at least something that looks similar?

This Instructable shows you how to do that, using a cement mixer. It seems that some of us do not own one... maybe it's possible for you to borrow one, or rent one? If you rent one by the week for building purposes, and only need it for six days, well, now you know how to spend the remaining day.

What you'll need:
  • glass
  • dish soap
  • a rag and white spirit
  • a hammer
  • gloves and eye protection
  • cement mixer
  • water
  • salt
  • sand
  • time
Regarding comfort and safety:
  • Bear in mind that the cement mixer is noisy.
  • Always use gloves and eye protection when breaking glass.
  • Glass dust is a dangerous substance when breathed in, so please avoid that at all costs. Wear protection if you're going to break lots of bottles.
 
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pttrsna1cek2 months ago

We have been tumbling for 8 hours and have nothing. What type of sand are you using? We bought contractor's sand.

JosephineA3 months ago

Hi there i would like to ask you why is the water brown and dirty if there is just clean bottles sand and water in it?

flick6 months ago

I wonder if it would be a good idea to break up the glass initially under water in a tub, and then dump the whole thing into the mixer. Seems like that would safely keep the dust down and possibly reduce the risk of flying glass splinters.

Medicnewt176 months ago

have you ever used a bottle or heavy glass cup to get same effect without breaking the bottle or cup?

I'm wondering if I could use my car as the tumbler. Add the sand and glass to an old paint can or bucket, seal the lid tight, and put it in the trunk of my car. Leave it there for a week or so and let it roll around.

hmmm...
Well, I did this, and in a couple of days I got nice round edges, but no etching yet ... I'll leave it there more time to see what happens :)
Hack42Moem (author)  dde jongh1 year ago
Be sure to let us know, it's interesting!
I will try this, because I don't have a tumbler or cement mixer here :) I bet it will take a LONG time, but I'll try !!!
Hack42Moem (author)  dde jongh1 year ago
Have fun and let us know what happens!
I've read that this is also a good way to wash your clothes when you're on the move. Get a nappy/diaper bucket that's used for soaking cloth nappies/diapers; they have well-fitting lids so are less likely to spill. Tie them upright somewhere in your vehicle (or wedge them between the front and back seats in a sedan) and when you reach your destination - hey! presto! - clean clothes, or, in this case, tumbled glass!
Even better than wedging them in place - I believe it was Ernest Hemingway who used to do this - attach them to bungie cords. One on the bottom, one on the top. The bounces from the road will create extra agitation.
Hack42Moem (author)  bloomautomatic2 years ago
If the can or bucket rolling around in your trunk doesn't drive you crazy, and you drive around a lot...
Well, yes, it just might work. Let us know how it goes!
I threw about 100lbs of Lava Rock I had in my front garden bed through a cement mixer along with a few shovels of sand and some 1" Ball Bearings after reading about the sea glass/tumbled glass Instructables. It turned all of the rock into a paste that I tilled back into the garden. It has made planting and weeding a lot easier.
mailmam712 years ago
I did this with a little rock tumbler I got from Harbor Freight for about $40 and it works well. I wanted to do some mosaic and the only thing I would recommend is to make sure the pieces you break are flat. The bottles tend to have humps and that makes doing a table top difficult and things don't sit well!
Hack42Moem (author)  mailmam712 years ago
Bottles, on the other hand, are great for making mosaics on bent surfaces, like a cylindrical vase.

I've heard of rock tumblers... never seen one. They aren't common here at all, probably because we don't have rocks.
Rock tumblers are mainly for semi-precious stones like opals etc which I know I mentioned earlier by mistake.....these run for days at a time to get the gems!
That's amazing. Never seen this done before. :D
Hack42Moem (author)  jessyratfink2 years ago
Thanks! Well, I found some tutorials for doing it using a rock tumbler... but those aren't common here, probably because of a distinct lack of rocks. So I decided to work with what we do have :-)
Rock tumblers are mainly for semi-precious stones like opals etc that's why they are small and you run them for days at a time.
Yup, I grew up doing this with a small rock tumbler and broken wine bottles to decorate stepping stones. Depending on the grit you use with the rock tumbler, you can get various levels of smoothness, and use thinner glass. Quieter than a cement mixer, but still pretty noisy.

Maybe I should raid my Dad's shed and see if he still has it around...
I was going to ask about rock tumblers. It would be a much smaller scale but might be nice to get some of those rare colors like red.
Hack42Moem (author)  sherrycayheyhey2 years ago
It's totally possible, apparently... just pop the appropriate words into a search engine of your choice and you should be on your way.
tareko2 years ago
Thanks for sharing this clever instructable.

If you need a hand getting empty bottles, just send me the full ones... especialy the Gatão Vinho Verde. You could also try, Casal Garcia another great portuguese wine. It comes in bottles of a beautiful light blue, aquamarine shade.
Hack42Moem (author)  tareko2 years ago
Thanks, I'll keep an eye out for Casal Garcia!
Since not everyone has a cement mixer lying around, do you think this might work on a smaller scale with a stone tumbler?
I have done this on a smaller scale with a rock tumbler. It takes significantly longer though. I remember it taking about 5 days when i did it. I used beer bottles.
Hack42Moem (author)  savagehart372 years ago
According to the comments, it sounds like it would... but I've not tried that because I don't have a stone tumbler lying around.
zacker2 years ago
Is the speed of the tumbler important? like, if its spinning really, really fast, say 1340 RPM, would it be ok or would it turn the glass into powder? Im thinking, use an empty paint can, attach it to a turn table of some sort, maybe welded to a shaft on a bearing with a pully, then use a 1/3 or 1/2 HP motor like on a drill press or table saw... just run a belt from the motor to the table's pulley and let er rip! lol
srilyk zacker2 years ago
If you add some different sized pullys you can change the speed (think bicycle gearing). A much lower RPM motor would be better - think < 100. You also want a motor that's designed to be run constantly for long periods of time (like maybe a fan?).
Hack42Moem (author)  zacker2 years ago
If it's spinning too fast, the glass would probably be pressed to the wall all the time, and not get any decent tumbling action. So I suspect not a lot would happen to it.

I'm actually thinking of building a glass tumbler using an engine from an old sewing machine.
Steelsmith12 years ago
If you break glass bottles wear a fine particle protection mask. Glass dust will give you silicosis. It does not get better. Ask potters who wear masks when they mix clay. The dust that will hurt you floats for a long time, is invisible to the naked eye. A couple bottles, no problem. If you decide to break hundreds as a friend plans to do, use protection.
Hack42Moem (author)  Steelsmith12 years ago
Good point, I have added a warning about glass dust.
Different kinds of sand will give you different finishes. Try either buying different kinds or buy some various sizes of screen and sift dirt to separate larger from smaller pebbles.
Hack42Moem (author)  chestersgarage2 years ago
Oh, that is quite an interesting idea, thank you!
killbox2 years ago
Steel wire brush will take off alot of the stubborn soaked labels.
Hack42Moem (author)  killbox2 years ago
Good tip, thanks!
skylane2 years ago
What ever means you might decide upon to tumble glass... just make sure you don't end up breathing any "glass dust". I know there's a technical name for it like silicosis or something... but it's something you really don't want to breath.

Great instructable idea. The HarborFreightTools tumbler mentioned above would work. Cheaper than renting a concrete mixer, albiet smaller.
Hack42Moem (author)  skylane2 years ago
Good point about breathing glass dust. I will add it.

Yeah, Ive heard of tumblers. But they aren't a Thing here. So I decided to go with what I happened to have: a cement mixer.
slysimon2 years ago
Thank you.
I now know what I can do with all those wine bottles!
artdreams2 years ago
Nicely done instructable, very clear. And a nice way for people who don't have access to a beach to enjoy the treasures.

If I could add to your caveat, not to try passing it off as "real sea glass," that's very important. As a collector of beach glass, a quick search will show you that there is a market for the real thing and some pieces are considered nearly gem quality so it's much more than being fair. Perhaps labeling your result as "tumbled glass" might be more accurate?

A collector will see the difference right away (the sea makes for a smoother result) but you are getting some very nice pieces. Tumble on :-D
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