Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Glass etching: mixing shiny and frosted glass

I mentioned, when I reveiled my bead soup, that I'd partially etched the glass buttons Joanna gave me. And I also said I'd write a bit more about that later. Well, this is later. And I'll try my best to explain, though I'm not sure how clear it's end up being.

You can see one of the buttons above, but it's probably difficult to see what the etching did to it. Especially since I etched them all. So I found some glass mosiac I've etched earlier, which will illustrate this post. Unfortunately, I didn't have any transparent glass that was fully etched on one side and left unaltered on the other. The pics are 500-600 pixels wide so you can click on them to see full scale, making the details more visible.

Above you see two clear glass tiles that's been etched using ethcing cream. With clear glass, the difference between the untouched glass and the etched glass is very visible. Clear glass looks like frost (hence why etched glass is referred to as frosted), a transparent white. Light doesn't just shine right through it when the surface, on one or more sides, is matte. Some of it is reflected in a different way, which our eyes see as a colour. If you look closely, you'll actually see the pattern on the paper, not just the colour through the glass. So it's not heavy and opaque, frosted beads still feel light compared to opaque beads, matte or shiny.

Seeing it from the side might help showing the depth. See the shadow? It's the etched parts of the glass that hinders some of the light, unlike the areas left unetched. The grooves and dimples are not a result of the etching, the mosaic tiles came with those marks of air bubbles on the back: in fact, if you etch the glass deeply they'd be removed. Though grinding them down would probably be faster.

Now, with the buttons I figured that etching them would bring out some of the colours, seeing that they were so pale. But I didn't want to take away the shiny surface as the other beads were shiny. So I only etched the backs. As you can see above, etching the flipside gives you the benefit of an etched surface as well as keeping the surface closest to you nice and shiny. Like a glass carving or one of those cast glass stones with relief motifs that are etched afterwards.

When you etch a motif like I've done with the tile seen here, you can choose to use it with the motif on the front or on the back. Flipping it so the motif is on the back gives a feeling of it being encapsulated rather than floating on top of the etched glass. The matte surface above it acts like a haze, softening it (and making it hard for the camera to focus on it).

So there you have it: I etched one side to get more of a colours as the frosted surface reflects more light, while the unaltered surface on the other side still adds a nice shine. I like shiny glass. I like frosty glass. Sometimes mixing the two gives even better results.

If you want to see more glass and stone I've etched -- some of them with motifs, some without -- check out the label Etched stone/glass on this blog. (There's also some tumbled glass under that label: it gives a similar finish on glass as etching does, but there are differences.)

How to etch glass
To add a frosted finish to glass, you either use an etching product or sandblast. I use the former; more precisely Etchall Etching Cream. They do both creams and the much more fluid dips. The latter is perfect for items you want to etch all over -- like beads -- as you just dip them into the liquid, which is as fluid as water. The former is thicker and especially useful when etching motifs onto a surface, e.g. when making pendants, but a bit messier. I've only used cream as it's the product that I've found easiest to obtain in Sweden. Here, you can find it in online craft/scrapbooking shops. Otherwise, you'll find various etching fluids and etching creams from sellers specialising in glasswork (e.g. lampwork suppliers). Some bead shops also sell it. Two common brans are Etchall and Armour Etch.

To make a motif, you cover some of the glass with a protective film, a resist. That can be a sticker, white glue, paint, melted embossing powder, special products from the etch manufacturers (e.g. vinyl, resist gel) etc. After you've etched the glass, the resist is removed. Stickers and glue easily fall off when you wash and clean the glass to remove the etching cream. Etchall mentions some of the options here.

Note: While you can use this etching cream successfully on most glass beads and many (semi-precious) stones like agate, you can't etch borosilicate glass (aka pyrex, boro) as it's too hard.

I've written more about etching (in Swedish) on my other blog.

1 comment:

  1. Actually this could be a good idea if etched glass deal with some bling bling like necklace and bracelet but its very authentic. Keep on posting!


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