Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Craft(y) Project: Etched Glasses

I've been planning on doing a gigantic backlog post about the gifts I've made people over the past year - during which I've tried with mild success to get back into the swing of being creative - but decided to separate this particular project because everyone can do it.


One of my best friends recently moved into her first house and started her first full-time job as a teacher, so I wanted to put together a housewarming gift. After browsing Etsy and Pinterest for ideas, I remembered I had a Dremel I'd never used and deleted everything I bookmarked. My friend's a bit of a red wine enthusiast and one of her family crests is a hummingbird, which is interesting because people have always told her that she herself is very reminiscent of one. Hummingbirds on wine glasses it was.




Dremel rotary tools can be used for all sorts of things; mine is a 4.8 volt, cordless two-speeder that came with either two or three different heads. It was a gift a few years back, and I'm pretty sure it came from Wal-Mart. They're also used to carve pumpkins and trim pets' nails. You should be able to get a nice set sufficient for your crafting needs for about 20 bucks.


The head I used (pictured on the Dremel I have to the right)  is a little tapered one called the 84922 3/16" silicone carbide grinding point.


I browsed a few Goodwills over the course of a few weeks until I found glasses I liked. I had trouble finding a set of 4 or 6, and ended up with four smaller and two much larger brandy (I think) glasses, as my friend prefers the short rotund type. Unless you live in a fabulous neighbourhood, I wouldn't expect to find something like a set of tumblers, but high-quality crystal is a very real possibility. I didn't wait until half off day, and paid $1.99/ea.


Having never used a Dremel on anything ever before, I tried it on a light bulb first. Trust me, you're not going to break the glass unless you try to stab it repeatedly or have freakish circus man strength.

Some people use a special chemical cream that's supposed to make the etching more even, applying it to the glass before the power tool. And, someone else told me about a similar product that you leave on, and it simply produces an etched effect, apparently, by virtue of its powerful corrosive properties. I don't know about you, but toward that I direct a resounding "Nay!". I'm not buying and handling a chemical that can partially erode glass when I've got something that doubles as a pedicure tool that can get the job done just fine.


I'd recommend wearing cheap chem lab safety goggles and disposable gloves for this, but honestly, I got annoyed with the glasses pictured almost immediately and used no protection whatsoever. My eyeballs aren't melting and I'm not drowning in my own blood from having aspirated super fine glass dust, but it's probably better to err on the side of caution. I also sat in the bathtub so I could just rinse away said dust.


The tool will want to gain traction on the surface of the glass and run away from your hand, so get a feel for applying steady, even pressure.

As I mentioned, this was my first attempt and the designs are obviously freehand. I'm pleased with the result. With practice I could definitely do some quality and very salable work. 

Speaking of freehand, do keep in mind that letters, numbers and geometric designs will be very difficult to do that way, so if you're a stickler for straight lines, you'd better bust out the painters' tape or some stick-on stencils.
The little ones are my favourite; I didn't make even the remotest attempt to keep them uniform.