A Dremel tool can make etched glass work possible
Etched glass can be a beautiful thing, and if you own a Dremel tool, you can learn to make your own. This article will show you how to get started on a simple project.
What you’ll need:
A Dremel tool (having the Flex Shaft attachment will make things easier), a diamond etching bit, a flat piece of glass, a printout of the design you’d like to use, safety glasses, gloves, newspaper
Before you start working on your etched glass project, I strongly suggest taking some time to practice handling the Dremel tool. If you have the Flex Shaft attachment things will be a lot easier because you won’t have to hold the heavy tool in your hand, only the flexible shaft. Whichever you have, take some time to get used to holding it and working with it like a drawing tool. You can practice on wood or some small bits of scrap glass.
Once you have a good grip on how to use your Dremel, you need to choose and print out a design to work with. I suggest going with a simple line drawing to start. You don’t want anything that has color or elaborate shading. Maybe a simple outline of a flower or other simple design. Make sure the image is the size you want on your final piece, then print it out.
Next you will need to prepare your working area. Make sure you have a good table and a comfortable chair. You’ll be sitting for a while working on the project, so comfort is important. Cover your work area with newspaper. While etching you will be creating extremely fine glass dust. Having newspaper down will make cleanup easier. You may even want to put newspaper on the floor if you have carpet. Have your safety glasses and gloves nearby. (Latex or thin gardening gloves will protect your hands from the dust and if you remove them before touching your face, it will prevent transferring glass particulate into your eyes.) If you worry about inhaling the glass dust, you might also want to wear a mask or bandana around your face.
As for your glass, I suggest buying a picture frame that has glass in it. You can usually just pop the glass out of these, and pop it back in when you’re done to create a framed work of art. I suggest putting a colored paper backing in the frame when you reassemble, to help your design show more clearly. If it is a frame that comes with a stand, you can put nothing behind the glass and set the frame into the stand for display.
Lay your printed image down on your work space and place your glass over it so that the image is where you want it to be. If you’re afraid that the glass might move and throw off the design, you can either use small strips of non-skid material under the edges, or tape the glass down to your table. Once you have your glass settled, put on your safety glasses and gloves and turn on the Dremel tool.
I suggest starting with a fairly low speed, adding speed if you need it. Do not push the tool into the glass. You’re only trying to score the surface, not drill into the glass. Too much pressure can fracture the glass or damage the bit. Also, if the tool is spinning too fast it can cause you to lose control and scratch across the surface of the glass. Begin tracing the lines of the design. Go slowly, and work carefully, this is not a fast project. Take your time and go around all the lines of the design. If the design seems too faint, you can always go over the lines a second or third time to make them wider or deeper.
Once you have completed the design, turn off the Dremel tool and set it aside. Use a damp cloth to wipe all of the dust off the glass. You can now reassemble the frame as you see fit. Carefully pick up the newspaper, fold it up and place it in the trash. Sweep or vacuum your work area completely. Be sure to keep your glasses and gloves on throughout your work and cleanup.
You have now completed your first etched glass piece! Once you have completed a few pieces, you can try working on more detailed designs and designs that use shading. With a steady hand and patience you can create truly beautiful work. I recommend working on flat surfaces, but it is possible to work on curved surfaces.
Once you have some skill with using your Dremel for etching glass, you can tape your printout to the inside of things like glass vases and etch the outside. This takes a very steady hand, and the tool is much more likely to slip on a curved surface. Practice on some small items picked up from yard sales or flea markets before moving on to bigger pieces. Once you’ve become adept at the technique, the sky is the limit on what etched glass art you can create.