Introduction: Engraving Glass With a Dremel

About: Hi. I'm Ellen, PhD student by day and sewer/crafter/maker by night. I believe anyone can be a maker, so I post videos on YouTube about what I make and how I make it to offer some help. I believe that if you m…

I recently got my hands on a rotary tool, so I decided to try some glass engraving. It turned out to be easier than I expected and I’m very happy with the results.

Let me show you what you need and how to do it. You can watch the video or read the steps here, whatever you prefer.

What you’ll need:
- Rotary tool (like a Dremel)
- Diamond coated bits (at least a ball-shaped one)
- Poster tacks
- Printout of the design
- Tape
- Wet cloth and a bowl of water
- Towel
- Dust mask
- Safety glasses

Step 1: Getting Ready

I’m using a standard rotary tool with a flexible shaft extension. The extension makes it a bit easier to do more detailed work, but you can also make do without.

Since glass is very hard, I’m going to be using a set of diamond coated bits. There are a lot of different bits in this set, but a good place to start is with a ball shaped one.

The engraving will cause a lot of fine glass dust, so make sure to wear a dust mask and eye protection!

I’m using poster tacks to support the piece that I’m working on. This will keep it stable without me having to hold it.

Step 2: Getting a Feel for the Tool

I’ve never used this Dremel before, so to get a feel for how the engraving works I’m going to practice a bit on an old wine bottle. I set the Dremel at a medium speed and started engraving.

For now, I’m just freehanding a design. I quickly figured out that you don’t have to push down into the glass a lot, a light touch is all it takes. It’s all about letting the tool do the work.

One direction of engraving will work better than the other. This is because of the rotation direction of the tool. For me, it did the best cutting when pulling the tool towards me, so I drew lines onto the glass that way and lifted the tip up in between.

The engraving creates a reasonable amount of glass dust, which can make it difficult to see what you’re doing. Keep a wet cloth and a bowl of water nearby, so you can wipe away the dust regularly. This makes it look like your design is disappearing, but don’t worry, once you dry the glass it will reappear.

Step 3: Tracing a Design

Now that I have a feel for the tool, I can move on to making a more detailed design. I won’t be freehanding this one, so I printed the design, cut it out and taped it to the inside of the glass. This way, all I had to do was trace the design onto the glass.

I switched to a smaller ball shaped bit to allow for the finer detail. I changed the orientation of the glass several times along the way to make the engraving easier.

For the final details I switched to the thinnest bit I had, which allowed me to write the tiny letters on there.

Finally, I used the ball shaped bit again to add random stars all the way around the glass to make the Tardis look like it’s floating through space.

Step 4: Tracing an Outline

In some cases it won’t be possible to tape your design to the inside of the glass, like with this small carafe.

So I took some wide painter’s tape and covered the printout with it, making sure the pieces overlap. I then cut out the inside of the design, leaving me with a silhouette.

I carefully peeled the tape off the paper and placed it onto the glass.

I still had to freehand the branches and leaves, but being able to trace the outline definitely helped a lot.