Introduction: How to Make Custom Etched Glasses
The other day I learned how to use a sand blaster and you know how when you learn a new skill your mind explodes with possible uses. That happens to me and sometimes I get so many random ideas bouncing around in my head I wake up in the middle of the night. This is the project that woke me up at 3:00AM and would not let me go back to bed.
I was tired of having boring old glasses in my cupboard, on my table, and holding my juice. If I know one thing it is that drinks taste better when consumed from awesome containers. If you doubt this fact just look at the curly straw! I rest my case. Now on to how I went about customizing my glassware just in time for the holiday season.
Step 1: Tools and Materials Needed
What follows is the list of materials and tools I used to make these awesome glasses.
7.5 oz(221.80ml) Rocks Glass
Orcal 651 5 year sign vinyl***
80 grit sand blasting medium**
Tools(I made it at the techshop which had all the tools on hand)
Cnc vinyl cutter*
Teflon scissors(you can use normal scissors it can just get a bit sticky)
Trusty Project notepad
Shopper discount card* or similar semi stiff piece of plastic. CD coasters work well too.
Dish Towel(not provided by tech shop)*
Inkscape (or other vector art program)*
*Not shown in the picture
**Materials provided by the Techshop
***Can be purchased in small amounts at the Techshop for a reasonable price.
Step 2: Acquire Glasses and Plan
There are many ways to acquire glasses. Though we have been having a rash of broken glasses at my house lately.(Curse you tile counter!) This smash spree has left my cupboard pretty devoid of glasses. So I hopped on my bike and headed over to my local restaurant supply store.(Restaurants always have the toughest glassware.) When I was there I settled on some "Rocks Glasses" I wanted pint glasses but there was no way I was carrying a case of those in my bag on my bike ride home. The cool thing about the glasses was they were inexpensive and made in the U.S.A. so there was less freight involved in getting them to me.
Now that I had the glasses it was time to plan out my doodles I was going to use to customize the glasses. I used a measuring tape to get the width and height of my glasses. They were 3"(7.26cm) wide and 3.5"(8.89cm) tall. With this info I decided a good sized graphic would be about 2"(5.08cm) By 2"(5.08cm). That size was completely arbitrary and could be made bigger or smaller to your preference. Once I knew what size my graphic would be I set about modifying some of my existing vector artwork to fit the specs. I used Inkscape an open-source vector art program but you could use any vector art program you want. Once I had my graphic the way I wanted I saved it as a .PDF. I did this because it is the format you need your file to be in to import it into the sign cutting software which is used to cut it out on the vinyl cutter. With the files done I loaded up my messenger bag with the glasses, my thumb drive with my .PDF files and headed to the Tech Shop SF.
Step 3: Using the CNC Vinyl Cutter and Weeding
I loaded my vinyl material into the vinyl cutter and a few clicks latter it was singing the song only CNC machines can sing. Taking a safety and basic usage class is required to use the vinyl cutter so I am not going to go into detail on how to use it. (You could also take your image to a sign shop. Since the file is already made and it could fit on a piece of scrap they have kicking around I bet they would give you a deal if you asked nicely. Or you could say "CNC... Bah! I'll just cut my vinyl by hand.") Once the sirens call of the vinyl cutter stops it is time to use the dental pick to pick out the pieces of sticker mask we don't want. This process is called weeding in the vinyl sign business. It is important to note since we are making a mask we only want to peel up the bits of vinyl where we want the glass to be frosted.
Step 4: Stickerizing
Now that I had the parts of my mask removed that I did not want to be in the final mask it was time to stickerize my mask. To do this I first cut out my mask from the larger sheet of vinyl. Then after that was done I took a piece of the transfer tape and smoothed it onto my cut out mask using my shoppers card. I started from the center working out to get rid of any air bubbles that may have gotten trapped when I first laid down the transfer tape. Once the air bubbles were out I cut off the excess transfer tape. The stickerizing was complete.
Step 5: Applying the Stickerized Mask
Now that my vinyl mask was a sticker I peeled it free from the white backing and laid it sticky side up on the table. With the mask on the table I placed my glass down on the mask where I wanted the image to end up being on the glass. Once that was done I picked up the glass and using my shopper card I smoothed the sticker mask onto the glass working again from the center out making sure to remove any air bubbles. Next I carefully removed the transfer tape leaving only my vinyl mask behind on the glass. There was still a whole lot of glass exposed so I grabbed the scrap vinyl box at the tech shop and used scrap pieces of vinyl to mask off the rest of my glass. I did not use transfer tape for the masking scraps as there were no detailed images to be moved. When the masking was fully applied I repeated steps 2 through 5 11 more times as I had 12 glasses. If you are just doing one glass it is time to head to the sand blaster.
Step 6: Sand Blasting!
With my box of glasses ready to go I walked downstairs donned, my safety glasses, and headed over to the sand blaster. Once at the sand blaster I turned the timer on top to get the fans going and the lights on. I set the time for 30 minutes which I hoped would be enough tome to finish sand blasting. Once the sand blasting cabinet was fired up I hooked up the air hose and adjusted the regulator so the air pressure was 70psi. I opened the side of the cabinet, placed my glass in, and then closed the side back up.
As you can see from my second to last picture in this step it is a bit hard to take photos through the blasting cabinet window. Also sand blasting the glasses was a two handed job and not having a photography assistant I don't have any pictures of the sand blasting while it was happening. I will do my best to describe the process in the following paragraph and if you have any questions let me know. I will answer them as best I can.
I held the base of the glass in my left hand with my image facing me. Then pointing the sand blaster at the glass at a 30° to 45° angle to the face of the glass I depressed the foot leaver. With the sand flowing I quickly and smoothly moved the gun up and down while moving from right to left to ensure an even frost. This does not take long at all. I was able to do all 12 glasses in 20 minutes. You can blast all the way through the glasses if you linger to long. If you need clarification on any part of this description don't hesitate to ask.
Step 7: Removing the Mask and Washing
With the sand blasting complete I was supper excited for how the glasses looked. So excited I felt like a kid opening presents while peeling all the vinyl masking off. Once the masking was removed I headed over to the sink and rinsed all of the dust off the glasses. Then I towel dried them. Finally I snapped a picture and packed the glasses away for my trip home.
Step 8: Use Your Awesome Glass
Once I was finally home I made up an Arnold Palmer(the best mocktail ever in my opinion) and garnished it with a wedge of key lime.
The sand blasting method of etching produced images that were crisp and well defined in the glasses. I am super happy with how the glasses turned out.
Hope you enjoyed this instructable as much as I enjoyed making these glasses. If you have any questions feel free to ask.
If you would like your own glasses like the ones I made in this instructable please check out my Etsy store.
If you want to lean more about the Tech Shop you can swing by techshop.ws.