Wonder what kinds of projects are possible at the Roswell Firelabs Makerspace? The possibilities are endless! To illustrate that point, and to help get those creative juices flowing, the Firelabs blog will be taking an occasional glimpse at what projects the space’s members are working on. This post’s focus: member Mary Hannaford and her superhero etched tumblers.
When Mary first joined the Roswell Firelabs, she had no experience with etching glass by any method. On a whim, and because she had seen some of the projects other members were doing, she signed up for and joined one of the Firelabs’s Glass Etching classes that are run on a regular basis. In the class, participants learn the software that accompanies the space’s Cameo vinyl cutters, create their own designs, and then etch them onto two pieces of provided glassware - usually mugs or drinking glasses.
After the class, Mary became interested in learning more and got together with the area’s SIG (special interest group) leader and other members who were familiar with the equipment to work on a series of projects. William Strika, another prominent member who can often be found organizing and optimizing spaces within the Roswell Firelabs, helped train her on the blasting cabinet equipment which is essential to the glass etching process. With the help of her fellow members, Mary has now created a set of custom etched glass tumblers.
Here’s How She Did It
The Cameo vinyl cutter syncs with a software program called Silhouette Studio. Designs can be pulled from photographs, images downloaded from the internet, or clipart and uploaded into the program. By using the trace feature, users are able to render a silhouette image (hence the name) that the vinyl cutter is able to carve into whatever vinyl is fed into the machine. Tools are then used to ‘weed’ the vinyl, or pull out whichever pieces you want to be etched into the glass.
Using transfer tape, the vinyl is stuck to the glass and all exposed portions are covered with blue painter’s tape to protect it during the etching process. The only glass that should be left exposed is what you want to end up being that lovely frosted color. At this point, the glass is ready to be taken to the blasting cabinet.
The Roswell Firelabs Makerspace has two blasting cabinets - those big red boxes in the bay area. There is a door on one side of each cabinet that can be opened to place the glass inside and then clipped shut. It’s very important that the door be shut while the cabinet is in use! Members should also always where a safety mask and glasses while using the machine, as there are quite a few inhalable particles being thrown about. Then you just stick your hands into the glove arms and pick the glass up in one hand and the compressed air gun in the other.
The gun shoots out aluminum oxide, projected by the compressed air. It’s basically aluminum sand or dust, very fine bits that scratch the exposed surface of the glass to create the etched effect. The gun nozzle should be held about six inches away from the surface of the glass and moved in a back-and-forth motion to make sure every part of the design gets covered. Most designs only take about thirty seconds in the blasting cabinet to complete. Just thirty seconds!
Once the etching is done, all that’s left is to remove the tape and wash the glass. That’s all it takes to get a beautiful, custom piece of glassware! Mary’s original set of twelve tumblers were bought at a garage sale for ten cents a piece, which custom etched glassware can easily run from $15 - $20 a glass. Now that’s a bargain!
So, are you feeling the ‘etch’ to make something of your own?