Making Fake Sea Glass at Home

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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 BookCrossing.com under the name Moem.

Intro: Making Fake Sea Glass at Home

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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    90 Discussions

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    VeldaL

    9 months ago

    For 7 years I've hunted seaglass.... and hunting it is... There are days that 14 hours rolls off right along with the waves... And the sea glass... And I'm still walking with my head down and usually on the water's edge...

    The beach that I live beside is an unmanned Beach... So it's not just see glass it's thousands of plastic water bottles and flip flops and TVs refrigerators both vehicles... And then there's trash. But in that trash... A beauty lies that makes my heart flutter... Likely flutter more than even a gentleman would bring about.

    Hobby Lobby is the name of the Arts and Crafts store that I found a tumbler. I'm sure someone has mentioned this but I did not have time to read all of the beautiful notes... As the hours go by you add a finer sand...

    I did see you mention that someone who knows seaglass would know a fake piece. .. and you're right. .. the knowledge is instantaneous... before even a touch...

    Red seaglass ...it alludes me still... Although I did conquer yellow... Yellow with bubbles... It took my breath away that beautiful sunny day.

    I'm on Arrowhead number 13 and messages in a bottle number 3. Number one Arrowhead was paleo and number one message in the bottle maybe sending a message but it's an odd way to send a message . Because it consisted only of identically folded dollar bills... That bottle has now been turned and turned it should look like seaglass itself from one's interested just looking on the bills to see if there's a note... because I've never broken the cork. I don't plan to until I find the one who threw it overboard and why.

    Well... I could probably write a book just for my experiences on that Beach... but for now... I'm sure my note has gotten quite long... so I'll close and bid you a good night and happy tumbling. I enjoyed your note.

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    glittergrump VeldaL

    Reply 7 months ago

    I am slightly envious of your proximity to the beach and would love to be able to search for treasures like this, too. Perhaps a clue to the author of the dollar bill message is inside where you can't see? I know you've probably examined it well but I'm dying to know... What if the dollars were some of the marked bills DB Cooper made off with? Maybe he decided to toss some in a bottle to flummox us further. :)

    Were the other messages interesting? I realize I was not the recipient and as such, the contents are none of my business so I respect if you do not want to share. :)

    At any rate, the yellow hand-blown sea glass sounds like a glass hunters equivalent to finding gold. Good luck and I hope you find your "white whale" of red sea glass one day. I would volunteer to throw some ruby glass in the ocean for you or others but I couldn't bring myself to litter, or throw away ruby glass. :)

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    PattyP17

    8 months ago

    Thanks for the instructable! I read it thinking, "Oh, I've spent so much on crafts, I don't think I want to spend money on a tumbler that I won't use much after making sea glass". Then I remembered my husband does have a cement mixer he bought used for about the same price as a new tabletop tumbler! He uses it for mixing large batches of chicken feed from a list of organic components, every few weeks for our laying hens. He had to chip a few layers of old concrete residue from the inside and clean well before using. I'd just have to make sure to thoroughly clean and dry it aftyer use. Cool!

    Uh, don't worry, I'll ask him before sullying his precious tool, LOL.

    I'm wondering where one can get thicker prices of glass, and if any stained glass would make a good source of uniquie colored pieces. I'm thinking I might use thick non-colored (therefore, non-safety or non- borosilicate that has a somewhat of a green tinge) clear glass and color it after tumbling with alcohol inks or glass paint (Pebeo Vitria) that you set in a home oven. Hmmm... so many possibilities. Thanks for firing up my imaginaion!

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    MoemPattyP17

    Reply 8 months ago

    Your husband will thank you... the glass will give his cement mixer a good cleaning! Rinse it with clean water after use and you'll leave it better than you found it.

    Thicker pieces of glass come from vases and ashtrays, and from bottles of fizzy wines like prosecco. Especially the bottoms are quite thick. Stained glass is usually on the thin side.

    Please upload a pic when you have anything to show us here... and above all, have fun!

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    tareko

    6 years ago on Step 4

    Thanks for sharing this clever instructable.

    If you need a hand getting empty bottles, just send me the full ones... especialy the Gatão Vinho Verde. You could also try, Casal Garcia another great portuguese wine. It comes in bottles of a beautiful light blue, aquamarine shade.

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    donnymarietareko

    Reply 1 year ago

    we have lots of "bottle empty-ers" LOL! good post

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    MandyC28Beyondblissbeads

    Reply 2 years ago

    You can! http://www.thecomfycrafter.com/2013/03/how-to-make-sea-glass-with-rock-tumbler.html?m=1

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    MoemBeyondblissbeads

    Reply 2 years ago

    If you read the rest of the comments, you will know as much as I do. I've never seen or used a glass tumbler. But I have a cement mixer. So that's what I used.

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    ooohlaa

    1 year ago

    wonderful, thorough and inspiring ... thanx

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    MandyC28Beyondblissbeads

    Reply 2 years ago

    You can! http://www.thecomfycrafter.com/2013/03/how-to-make-sea-glass-with-rock-tumbler.html?m=1

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    MoemJudyK34

    Reply 2 years ago

    I do think so, though. :-)

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    lacey6

    2 years ago

    Sounds interesting but I think I'll just go to the beach :)

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    Medicnewt17

    4 years ago on Step 5

    have you ever used a bottle or heavy glass cup to get same effect without breaking the bottle or cup?

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    Melissahp2Medicnewt17

    Reply 2 years ago on Introduction

    There is a pin that shows giving whole bottles a "Sea glass" look by painting them with watered down Elmers glue and a coloring. They look amazing. I would head over to Pinterest or even google and search it out.

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    MoemMedicnewt17

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    No. Worth a try, although I'm not sure how to keep the bottle or cup from breaking.