Introduction: Making Fake Sea Glass at Home

About: I like to tinker. I'm a co-founder and active participant of my local hackerspace: Hack42 in Arnhem, the Netherlands. You can also find me on under the name Moem.
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.

Step 1: Collect Your Glass

First of all,start collecting glass. Bottles come to mind, but remember: the thicker the glass is, the more tumbling it can stand, and the more rounded and matted it will turn out.
Good bottles are:
- whisky bottles
- champagne bottles
- any bottle, in fact, meant for fizzy wine, as they are usually thick

Other sources of glass:
- (coloured) window glass. May be on the thin side
- vases, ash trays, clown figurines or other glass objects you're not interested in keeping. Try the local charity shops or garage sales
- wine bottles are easy to come by, but they, too, are on the thin side.

Coloured glass is obviously very nice. Make sure, though, that the colour is through-and-through, not painted on. Oh well, you will find out soon enough.
Blue is a very nice colour for fake sea glass; try looking for grappa or prosecco bottles, as some of them are deep blue. Also, some fancy waters come in light blue bottles. Perrier bottles are a nice pale green.

Step 2: Clean It Up

First, remove all labels and other non-glass materials from the bottles.

Most labels can be removed with warm water and dish soap; you will find that some will not be that easy to remove.
Unfortunately, there are many different kinds of glue being used for labels on bottles. But anything that doesn't respond to water and soap will most likely respond to a rag and some white spirit or similar.

Step 3: Break It Up

Now break the bottles into pieces.

Break your bottles or sheets in a safe way! Wear gloves and eye protection, because shards will fly.
It's easiest to break them inside a plastic or metal box so you can tip the shards into the cement mixer. I used a hammer.
Large leftover pieces will break by themselves during the process.

Step 4: Mix It Up

Put inside the cement mixer:
  • glass (one or two kilos is a good amount but more is fine too)
  • water (I used about 5 liters)
  • salt (not sure it does anything, but we're imitating the sea, right? I used a pound of road salt)
  • sand (coarse and sharp is best. A pound will do)
Now let it tumble for an hour, and then stop the machine. Take some pieces out and rinse and dry them. You should see broken edges and some light etching of surfaces.

After another hour, your glass will start to look more rounded.

After about four  to five hours, it will probably start looking very nice. For thin glass, you may be approaching the limit now, as the pieces may start breaking up; thicker glass can be tumbled for some more hours. I'd advise you to stop and look every hour or two, though.

It's interesting that the glass doesn't really get much thinner during the process,except at the edges. But it does break into smaller bits.
The good thing about the water is that it is a great way of making sure you don't breathe any glass dust, which could be dangerous to your health.

Generally, for thicker glass, six to eight hours should do the job, but you can always keep going and see what happens.

When you like what you see, tip the contents out of your cement mixer, rinse it  with water (not over a sink, as the sand will clog your pipes) and behold your newly made  treasure.

Step 5: Results

What results: a batch of lovely matted glass, in soft rounded shapes and different hues. What can you use it for? Some ideas:
  • drill holes in it (not easy, look up how before you start) and make pendants or earrings
  • wrap it in silver wire and make jewelry that way
  • glue it onto a sheet of glass and make a mosaic that you can hang in a window
  • make a mosaic on a table leaf or a vase, fill the joints with grout and wash off
  • use it inside a glass vase with flowers, or a fish bowl
Whatever you do with it, though, don't ever try to pass it off as real beach glass. It wouldn't be fair. I'm sure your mama taught you better than to mislead people.
Experts will see the difference anyway.
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