Nothing personalizes an item quite like etching or engraving. Whether it's a gift or just something you want to add your own special touch to, lettering or artwork engraving really adds to a project.
This summer, I picked up a stainless steel cup. It's great for camping, outdoor events, and festivals, as it is so durable. No worries about using disposable plastic cups or breaking glassware. However, the cup is a little plain-looking.
In this Instructable, I'll show you how I used SANDBLASTING to engrave a design on my stainless steel beer pint!
For more of my DIY projects, check out my blog at: EcoProjecteer.net!
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Step 1: Tools and Materials
Step 2: Create Your Design
Modify - used Illustrator - convert fonts to outlines
Make real size
Print a paper version
CNC cutters usually make use of vector graphics. I wanted a sunburst, but didn't want to draw one from scratch. I'm not that good at designing from scratch, but pretty good at altering existing work. OpenClipArt.org is a great resource to get copyright-free vector graphics. I found a sunburst there that I liked and downloaded it. It wasn't exactly what I wanted, but it was a great start.
I have Adobe Illustrator on my computer, but any other vector drawing program like Corel Draw or Inkscape will work just as well.
I deleted out all colored sections of the art. For sandblasting, we are only making a template - a shape that will be masked off. No colors will be used, just shape, so a black and white image is fine.
Next, I deleted out the face in the image, and tweaked some of the points of the suns rays.
I then added the letters A and u in the middle using the text tool.
Once happy with the artwork, make sure to convert fonts to outlines. Not all fonts are the same on different machines. CREATE OUTLINES makes the font into just the shape of the letters.
It's also important to make sure that the artwork is the right size for the object. I measured the cup and decided that round artwork of three inches in diameter was the right size. I scaled the art to 3" square and printed it out on my inkjet printer. I then cut it out and taped it to the cup as a mockup to see how I liked the size and position.
The vinyl cutter uses .DXF files, so I saved my project and exported a file as .DXF.
Step 3: Cut the Vinyl Template
On the computer, open the software for the vinyl cutter and import the .DXF file.
Arrange the artwork on the cutting area. It might make sense to cut a number of stickers or templates all at once to make the best use of the materials.
Load the vinyl into the machine as per its directions and run the machine.
Once the vinyl is cut, cut out the particular piece of art, making sure to leave a good size border around it.
Step 4: Masking Off the Cup
The next step is to actually mask off an area on the cup.
This involves selectively removing parts of the vinyl to make a stencil, and applying it to the cup.
To start with, peel off the parts of the vinyl where you WANT the cup to be sandblasted. I found that it was helpful to pin the material down to the table with two pieces of masking tape. I then used detailed tools like an Xacto knife and a tweezers to carefully remove parts of the stencil.
Next, cut a piece of transfer paper just a little larger than the vinyl. Transfer paper is similar to sticker material or masking tape, except that it is in a big sheet. Peel the backer off the transfer paper and then press it down onto the vinyl. Rub it to make sure it sticks down well.
Flip over the transfer paper and vinyl.
Peel the backer paper off the vinyl. This needs to be done slow and careful to make sure the vinyl all sticks to the transfer paper.
You now have the vinyl image (in reverse) with exposed adhesive.
Apply the vinyl to the steel cup, making sure it is centered. The dark color of the vinyl shows through the transfer paper, making it easier to eyeball and align the artwork. Rub the transfer paper, making sure the vinyl is stuck down well to the cup.
Gently peel the transfer paper off.
You now have a nice vinyl stencil stuck on the cup.
Mask off the rest of the stainless steel cup with masking tape.
Step 5: Sandblast
The next step is to sandblast the cup.
Sandblasting isn't difficult, but it does require that you have a sandblaster, cabinet, and compressed air. I don't have any of those things, but am a member of the Milwaukee Makerspace. A makerspace, or hackerspace, is a shared workshop where individuals can pool their resources and share equipment for making cool projects. Try looking for one in your area. If you don't have one, maybe you and your friends can start one!
Sandblasting is sort of like spray-painting. You simply want to cover the area you are working on evenly. The stencil does all the hard work. Sorry, I don't have any good photos of me actually sandblasting, as it's hard for me to have both hands in the machine AND take a photo!
I did the blasting at 40 psi.
Afterwords, I removed the work, and peeled off the blue making tape, and rinsed it off in the work sink. I then peeled off only the OUTSIDE ring of the black vinyl template. That allows me to have three colors - brushed stainless, sandblasted stainless, and black vinyl all as part of the finished design. I really liked the contrast between the black and the stainless steel.
Step 6: Done!
After a little wash and dry, the project is complete.
I'm very happy with the results.
Sandblasting produces a really nice-looking, permanent finish. it's a great way to add your name, phone number, or other identifying marks to an item you would like returned if lost.
This is also a great way to make gifts for friends. Just pick up a stainless steel item (maybe recycle something from the thrift-store) create a design, and blast away! This same technique works great on glass as well!
Check out some of the other items I sandblasted at the same time. And of course, swing by my DIY blog to see what other projects I'm up to at Ecoprojecteer.net