Introduction: Make a Most Excellent Etched Mirror

About: I'm just another person out there trying to get the most out of life. I love to expole the world around me and try to have a good time doing so.

T his instructable will show you how to make a most excellent etched mirror. You don't even have to me an amazing artist! (Mediocrity will get you by in this case).

The process is pretty simple. Basically you draw and cut a stencil then use special paste to etch the glass. I read some of the other instructables on here and modified them a bit, so kudos to them.

Ready yet? Let's do this...

My parents retired this year and moved into a beautiful house they had built on some land the bought in Samaria , Idaho. This was a huge and momentus occation in our lives since we are very much a middle class family and this is the realization of one of my father's biggest dreams. Thus, to commemorate this, I am making them a etched mirror for my mom as a Christmas gift. 

Step 1: Tools and Materials Needed

-Glass MIrror
-Contact Paper
-Glass Etching Paste

-Black Marker
-Hobby Knife
-Computer with Inkscape  and a projector
-A transperancy and some tape
-A Large Sink (not shown)
-GooGone adhisive remover (not shown)
-Razor Blade (not shown)

Note: I'll cover how to complete this project both with and without a computer/projector. I'm always frustrated when I read an instructable that uses some neat tool that I don't have access to, so I won't do that to you here.

Step 2: Step 1 - Draw Your Stencil

For this type of etching we need a stencil. You can buy stencils, but my guess is if you wanted to go that route you wouldn't be on instructables to begin with, so let's talk about making stencils.

Plan Your Stencil
As far as glass etching goes you get two color options, etched and unetched. When planning your stencil keep this in mind. There is only so much detail you can get with two colors. Some designs will work great while others just won't. Don't fret too much though, this is not as hard as it would seem.

-Choose a subject - Pick the subject of your mirror. As mentioned in the intro I am making a mirror to commemorate my parents retiring to Idaho. So the subject of my mirror will be their new house

-Gather Photos - Unless you can draw your stencil from memory, get a photo to trace or to use for reference. If you can't take a photo yourself try searching flickr for what you want.

Draw Your Stencil
-Design Layout
- For this project I invisioned the mirror having our family name in the upper left hand corner and my parent's new home in the lower right. If you can't envision what you want try scetching it out.

-Trace and/or Transfer Design - You need to transfer your images to your stencil. If you are a gifted artist just grab your sharpie, measure out your contact paper and get to it. For the rest of us there are a couple other options.

If you have a computer, projector, and inkscape import your photo and design your stencil there. Inkscape is a great program that makes this editing designs like this easy, but if you've never used it before it can be confusing. There are plenty of resources online to help you learn to use it, if you so desire.

Once you have finished your design pin a piece of contact paper big enough to cover your mirror on the wall and project your design onto it. Then use your sharpie to trace the design onto the contact paper.

Things to remember when designing your stencil in inkscape are:
     -Make your document the same size as your mirror
     -When designing use a white fill on a grey background so you have an idea what it will look like etched. Then when you are ready to trace use a black fill on a white background.
     -Use different layers to seperate and edit/move different aspects of your design
     -Make a 1" by 1" square on the stencil. Then when you are setting up the projector to trace you can use a ruler on the square and make sure you are tracing your design the right size.

If you don't have a computer, a projector, or inkscape you'll need a transparency, some tape, and a bright window. First tape your transperancy over your picture and trace/draw the design you want for your mirror. Make sure your lines are good and dark.

Then tape your transperancy to a bright window and tape your contact paper over that. The light will show your design through the contact paper allowing you to trace it. Then trace away.

Note: This is art, not science. Art, like people, is imperfect. If the overall design is beautiful people will appreciate it inspite of it's defects, just like you still keep your friends around even though there are things about them you don't like. So, don't stress too much.

Step 3: Step 2 - Cut Your Stencil

This part is tedious, but take your time and you will be pleased with the end result.

Apply Your Stencil to the Mirror
First wash your mirror and dry it completely.

Then peel off the paper backing to the contact paper and carefully place it over your mirror. Line up your design with the mirror and smooth the contact paper from the center out. Easy as that.

Cut Out Your Design
Get your hobby knife of choice and cut out your design. The contact paper cuts pretty easy, so you don't have to use a lot of pressure. Once you have a shape cut out, use the tip of your hobby knife to lift up a corner and peel it off. Remember that you don't have to cut out huge pieces all at once, cut them into smaller pieces. Also, it is easier to cut into an opening than from an opening.

Step 4: Step 3 - Etch Your Mirror

Time to get caustic, that means there is some safety to consider. Armour etch contains hydrofloric acid , which is some nasty stuff. It eats glass, and skin, and eyes, and . . . so be smart and use protection. Gloves, apron, goggles, and a brush are great things to use during application. Now that you've been warned, we can get on with life.

Prep Your Area
Clean your mirror again, being careful not to remove the stencil. Any debris on the mirror may affect the etching process, so do a good job. Sometimes some adhesive gets left behind. It is a pain to get off but if you use a cloth , rubbing with your cutouts (rather than across them) and use some GooGone it will come off.

You want to clear out a workspace in a well ventalated area and cover it so if any glass etch goes somewhere it shouldn't it won't be a big deal.

Etch Away
Liberally apply a layer of glass etch to all the exposed areas. You want a good thick layer, but not so thick that you can't see through it. Let it set there for 5-10 mins.

After you patiently wait for the glass etch to do its thing, don your protective gear again and rinse the glass etch off with water. Rinse the sink down pretty good also.

Note: Don't freak when you rinse the glass etch off and it looks like it didn't do much. It will look great once the stencil is off, I promise.

Step 5: Step 4 - Remove Stencil and Enjoy

You are almost there.

Remove the Stencil
Use a razor blade to carefully remove the stencil. Not much more I can add to that . . .

Wash and Admire
Give your mirror one more good wash. Now admire your new, beautiful, work of art.

Display it with Pride