Plexiglass Etching Part 1




About: i have engineering syndrome; even if something is working perfectly well, i gotta mod it. and for those of you wondering, oscar is my lab coat. i had a lot of respect for him (he resists powerful acids, is f...

we all love pictures of something, be it cars or the instructables robot. in this three or 4 part series, i will show you how to make spectacular etchings of those pictures using very few tools. here, i will be using linux's penguin as an example

dremel rotary tool
several diamond tipped bits (shown in picture)
soldering iron, solder etc
small brush or compressed air
patience (or is that a supply?)

plexiglass (have it cut to size. do not cut it with the dremel. do sand the edges smooth)
picture of what you want to etch. all text must be reversed for this to work
good luck (i used good luck chipmunks)

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Step 1: Preparation

lock in the fine carving bit into your dremel. place the picture under the plexiglass and CLAMP the entire assembly down to your desk. turn on as many lights as possible. sit down, and make sure you will not be distracted. don any protective gear you need, such as ear defenders (not really needed) and safety glasses ( a good idea)


set your dremel to about half top speed. double check the clamps, then gently touch the tool to the plexiglass, holding it perpendicular to the glass. DO NOT force the tool. gently pull it toward you over the contour of the drawing. take your time. do not attempt to shade anything in yet. take about 2 passes, one to carve the groves, and one to deepen them. take a break every ten minutes. the tool and your eyes will thank you.

Step 3: Eyes

sorry i dont have any pic of this. the eyes are a bit harder to make than most other parts of the etch. start by holding the tool perpendicular to the piece. slowly lower the tool, cutting holes for the eyes. stop about half way through the piece. you may need to raise and lower the tool to keep it from stalling. next, switch to the small diamond tipped ball cuter. just touch it down over the hole for several seconds. spectacular results.

Step 4: Filling In.

decide now what you want to shade in. using the small and large ball bits, shade in those areas using a back and forth motion. do not force the tool. leave the cuts fairly shallow.

Step 5: Finish Up

remove the piece from the desk, and hold it up to the light. touch up any bad joints or were its too shallow. make sure to hold it cut side away from you. dust the piece with the brush or compressed air. try to remove as much plexiglass powder as possible.
thats it for part one. stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.

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    32 Discussions


    10 years ago on Introduction

    this is not etching. etching is the use of acid and a resist to form an image on a surface.

    4 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    this is mechanical etching. i could also have used a laser to burn on the image and it would have been called etching


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    the best way is score-n-snap. that failling a scroll saw. that failing a jigsaw or tablesaw. that failing, a hacksaw. but go slow. all failling use a dremel, but go slow. if you think, jeez this is slow, your going at the right speed. otherwise you melt the plexi and disfigure the edges too much.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    That's freaking awesome! And you did LinuxH4x0r (No! Not in that way!)! Nice job! +1 rating.
    I just might do the Instructables Robot.
    (added to favorites)

    3 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    "I just might do the Instructables Robot."
    No, not in that way, either! :P


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    UPDATE: because i just got stitches in my foot, parts 2 and 3 will probably be delayed an extra week. stay tuned please.


    Stop yer whining, I still had to go to my new school when I got my eyebrow split open the night before first day. same with when i got my arm impaled...


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    may i hear a story of why you have stitches in your foot? and part 2 or 3 better have something involving downlights or uplights on the etch.