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Glass Etching

It's cheap, fast, and easy.

You Will Need :
1. a hobby or Exacto knife with a new blade
2. vinyl contact paper
3. masking tape
4. scissors
5. a stencil (can be made from simple photocopies or stamps)
6. glass etching cream
7. a cream applicator (I used wooden craft sticks)
8. chemical resistant gloves and goggles
9. glass cleaner (i.e. Windex)
10. transfer paper and a pencil
Glass etching can be done by sand-blasting, by using an acid etching bath, or by making a stencil and using glass etching cream. The latter is my method of choice, and works perfectly well for household and decorative items.
Begin by raiding the recycling bin for glass surfaces on which to practice.
Decide on a design. For inspiration, think about what you would love to have on your glass but have never seen. Use something simple for your first projects. Look at rubber stamp selections in stores for ideas, and if you see something you like, with bold, clear lines, buy it. Youll be able to use the stamp for other things when youre done.
Print out your design, or photocopy it, using the zoom features to get the proper size
Clean the surface of the glass really well with glass cleaner. Any dust, lint, etc. will reduce the quality of your etching.
Cover the area to be etched with contact paper. Its fairly cheap, so dont worry about using too much and make sure you have a wide border outside where your stencil will be. I used a wood colored paper instead of clear so I could see what I was cutting. Smooth the paper out perfectly. The medium adhesive paper can be moved, so make sure there are absolutely no bubbles or wrinkles in the paper. If you try to cut the stencil out before attaching it to the glass, it wont adhere properly and your design will not be etched clearly.
Tape your design over the contact paper. Instructional booklets will usually tell you to use transfer paper in between the stencil and the contact paper, trace your design, then pull both the carbon paper and the design off before cutting out your stencil. I dont bother with transfer paper, and I just cut through both layers: the design I printed and the contact paper. For people nervous about the cutting part, using transfer paper and a pencil to place your design directly on to the contact paper is a good idea. It is critical that your knife is extremely sharp. It will make a big difference in the quality of your etching.
Cutting the stencil is actually the hardest part of the whole process. Your glass will only be as good as your stencil is. The relatively complex Celtic guard dog that I did took me an hour and a half to cut out. Work slowly and carefully. Wear goggles when you cut the stencil, just in case you get over-excited and break the glass youre working on. Its not likely to happen, but its better to be safe than sorry.
Peel away the parts that you have cut out, exposing sections of the glass. These are the parts that will be etched.
Now read the instructions on your glass etching cream. It will say how long to leave it on the glass for, and if you need to shake it, etc. Put on your gloves and make sure youre wearing long pants and long sleeves. Also, cover your workspace with newspaper. Make sure there is a large border of contact paper around your stencil. The cream moves around a little, and anything not covered will be etched. Add some masking tape if youre not sure.
Apply the cream following the instructions on the jar. I had to stir mine up quite a bit, as shaking it didnt really mix up the contents. I also left mine on slightly longer than the jar advised. After the specified time, usually about fifteen minutes, rinse the cream off and check your stencil by peeling away the contact paper. Wash the glass well, and you are done!
Dont be afraid of this project because of the toxic level of the etching cream. Use common sense and you will be fine. Unless you love most of the stencils that come with a particular kit, dont bother buying the expensive packages in craft stores. Just get the cream and make a stencil yourself. When searching for designs to make into stencils, keep in mind that you will be cutting out each piece.
When you are comfortable with the process, stop practicing and make something fabulous.
Glass etching makes a really wonderful gift. A set of grocery store glasses can be made into a cool housewarming present, beer bottles can become works of art the applications are endless. You can also remove labels from wine bottles and etch designs on them--paired with a set of etched flutes and youve got a great bridal shower or wedding gift. Cheap candles or votive candle-holders can be quickly etched for party favors or hostess gifts.