Monday, 20 September 2010

Tumbled glass -- first experiment

Ok, now for something more fun today -- I got a lovely gift with the mail this afternoon so I'm in a better mood now. Thank you so much, Dave and the rest of you at Rings & Things!

So what will I share today? I thought I'd show you my share of the first glass tumbling me and my sis experimented with this weekend. Tumbled glass is similar to sea glass in appearance and it's got the same soft surface as etched glass but with the difference that tumbling also smoothed the edges. Unfortunatly I forgot to get any "before" pics, though... I've washed the grit and glass particles off, but as you can see from the photos they still need to be cleaned a bit more.

We did read tuts online, but the problem was that there were many different suggestions. We did add somewhat coarser grit than the fine to medium that was suggested by most (apart from just tumbling with sand) and on a few pieces I think the finish is a bit too rough. But it's just one of those things you do because you want instant satisfaction -- and it's the kind of things you learn from.

The first pic show a handful of glass pebbles. The kind you find in the flower or home décor section in your supermarket or at the florist's. I sometimes use clear pebbles instead of more expensive clear glass domes/cabochons, but I also had a few with an ugly AB finish that I couldn't use so I tumbled them, which removes the finish. You can't use these to "encase" pictures and patterned papers, but you can add foil to the back for a lovely soft shine and a pinch of colour.

Remember the crackling experiements? The pebble above is one of the glass pebbles I put in the oven and then in ice water to acheive the crackled effect. Tumbling it shows off the crackles in a different way.

You've probably heard of sea glass, well, this is field glass: pieces of glass I've found in the fields when picking potatoes this summer. Thick dark glass with sharp edges that just had to be ground down for use in jewellery.

This is irregular glass mosaic, originally with a transparent, shiny surface. Mostly added these as we needed more glass to fill the drum. Like the new frosted finish, though.

Here you can see an interesting difference between etching and tumbling: on the heart, the thick garish AB finish I disliked has just been removed from the raised areas: it's still there in the crevices and recesses. Like when you oxidize metal and then polish it. If you etch instead, the liquid will pour into these crevices and remove the finish there as well.

The butterfly button is one I thought was nice, but way too crude. It hade hard edges, like the "seams" you often see on Indian lampwork beads. Tumbling it, the butterfly is now much softer. Much more in tune with the motif.

Dare I show this one (knowing the person who fused this cab and gave it to me sometimes reads the blog)? I'm not fully pleased with it. I believe I probably should give it a polish for a softer finish. Frosted but smoother. This cab was previously etched, but I didn't feel the result was even enough and also feared that etching it again might add to injury. So I wanted to see if tumbling it instead would give it a more even frosted finish. It is even now, much better than after I etched it, but it needs a finishing touch.

This is more mosaic. Italian glass mosaic with aventurine. I bought it to use in my jewellery, but the corners were so sharp I ended up barely using the pieces. Tumbling them not only smoothed the corners and edges, but also gave it a nicer frosted finish.

More mosaic? Yes, this is clear glass mosaic, which is often used onto of a picture of some kind. You can also use it as a less clear alternative to small glass tiles for making pendants. As with the pebbles above you can really see a pic through the frosted glass (it's all blurry), but you can add metal or foil for a slight change in colour and added glow.

We used what glass we had. My sis is "fortunate" enough to have dropped many coloured glass bottles, vases and such -- and she's saved the shards so she had a lot of glass she could recycle. Some have the perfect shape for bracelet focalpieces, following the curve of the wrist. She also had a piece of more unusual "field glass", a green shard from a Coca Cola glass, which added pattern to it.

Did we learn anything for the future? Apart from not getting impatient and add coarser grit than recommended, I think it was to drill holes before tumbling so the holes too will be smooth and rounded. We will try that next time. Because there will be a next time.


  1. Great piece on etching. I have done it a few times with liquid etch all, but would love a tumbler..I thought I read somewhere if you etch with liquid/ cream you cannot put silver right next to these pieces. Have you come across this issue?

  2. Thanks! Yes, tumblers can be a lot of fun (though tumbling stones involves a lot of waiting and patience...). And it can be used for so many different materials. It has one advantage over etching liquids: you can get different effect by choosing coarser or finer grit of the tumbling medium you use. With EtchAll, I can just etch little or much, i.e. change how deep the etch will go. I can't change the actual texture. (But with a tumbler I can't use resist techniques, like I do with the cream.)

    But back to your question. I can't recall if I've heard about it and so far it's not been an issue for me (mostly because I've not used that much metal with my etched pieces, especially not silver which is too expensive for me).


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