Engraving Glass With a Dremel




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...

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.



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    23 Discussions

    Many years ago (at my age, that could be 10-25 years) I took a course sponsored by Dremel "Etching on Glass with a Dremel." The teacher was fabulous, the 2-day course was awesome and according to what we were told, the teacher became seriously ill and never taught it again. All these years I have kept my beveled glass pieces and thought about that class. I now have a beautifully equipped studio and a friend who would love to teach this class. At the time, safety wasn't a BIG issue so we wore the standard hospital masks and safety glasses. In your comments I saw that our students (this is several months away) should have better masks. Can you give me more details about what should be used.


    11 months ago

    sweet I just bought the engraving tips for my Dremel a few months back as they were going cheap at the time but was too worried to work on glass yet lol but I have a heap of old bottles that I can do test run on before working on the vase that I have had for years but have never gotten around to,do,the chemical etching on it :-D

    Thanks for the instructable I know now that I can do it after watching you :-)

    2 replies

    Yeah, old bottles are great for practice, nice thick glass and no worries of messing it up. Hope you get around to working on that vase!

    thank you Ellen :-) I have been hoarding bottles lol as you say they are the best to ptactice on harder to brake them :-) I have been checking out the Dremel and noticed I will have to get a few more etching bits always like to make sure I have more on hand than I need special after running out of some bits once :-/

    WARNING... The face mask being used in this instructable is NOT the proper protection for airborne glass dust. It is not face-tight like a proper respirator and will therefore allow some dust past the so-called seal around the nose and cheek bones, plus under the chin. A warning should also be posted for users of ALL face masks that they are pretty-much useless for people with facial hair or rough skin.

    In the fire department, we were ineligible to wear any breathing apparatus if we had facial hair.

    You will not like what happens next if you breathe in glass dust!

    nice.Not too much different than wood burning. Practice practice and more practice. Thanks for sharing. You did a nice concise presintation.

    Very cool, and a way to make an expensive looking personalized gift for a wedding or anniversary party. Heck, it would have worked well at my daughter's Princess Party for her eighth birthday. I bought el cheapo water goblets and tied ribbons around the stem, leaving a 6" to 8" dangle. I then tied beads and tiny silk flowers on the ends of the ribbons. Now I would add some engraving, just like you showed, to personalize the goblets.

    As an aside, I LOVE the shirt you're wearing in the Instructable. I've been to Koln many times, but have never seen a shirt like that.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful instructable!

    1 reply

    Thanks! The shirt is from Laura Kampf, an amazing YouTuber that makes all sorts of cool stuff. The goblets sound pretty cool, even without any engraving :)

    Very clever and nice work!

    Great tutorial! I must try this. Thank you!

    I've always wanted to try this but was skeptical of the quality of the diamond coated Dremel bits. Also, I needed an excuse to go ahead and get the flexible shaft for the Dremel tool. Using poster tack to hold the work is ingenious! Thanks for that tip! I ordered all of these things after a quick search on Amazon found all of them. I got two each of the bits and the poster tack and the entire bill was still less than a hundred dollars US.

    1 reply

    Haha, an excuse to buy cool tools is always good! And the poster tacks work like a charm, so glad I figured that one out!

    Very nice work. I am glad you stressed using glasses and a mask. Glass dust is VERY dangerous and can cause permanent lung and membrane damage. In addition to these things it is essential to have a dust-collector nearby, use in a dust cabinet, or in a well-ventilated area where the dust is cast outdoors (not the best option, but an option). Glass dust should be treated as an extreme carcinogen.

    For those who find Dremel tools heavy, there are glass engraving tools that are much smaller. Don't buy the cheap $15 ones. Spend a bit more and you'll be very glad you did. This is a wonderful hobby that results in beautiful work-- and if one has any artistic talent at all isn't difficult to do. Good instructable. : )

    2 replies

    Thanks for weighing in. It's easy to forget the safety precautions but they are so important. Also, good tip on the dedicated engraving tools. I intend to use my Dremel for all sorts of things, which is why I got a bigger one, but if you only want to do engraving you'll be better off with a smaller, lighter tool.

    Correction... not as a carcinogen... extreme hazard. Causes silicosis. Nasty stuff.


    11 months ago

    thank you. I have one of those tools but afraid of using it for that purpose. I will try, your work is beautiful.

    1 reply

    Those engravings look amazing! I love how the stars on the TARDIS glass go all the way around the back to give it a 3D space effect. This is definitely something that I am adding to my list of things to try out.

    Also, I like the Laura Kampf shirt!!

    1 reply

    Thanks! I'm pretty excited with how the Tardis came out as well, the angle and the stars made it look even better than I expected.
    And Laura Kampf is awesome :D