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A Complete Guide to Etching Glass by Sandblasting

Whether etching glass for privacy or decorative purposes sandblasting is a fast and efficient way to create an etched appearance quickly and effectively. This guide will cover how you can etch glass with a sandblast cabinet, or sandblast machine, important things to remember, and general tips

 Using a Sandblast Cabinet to Etch Glass

The key things you will want to consider is how much glass you will etch and how fast you want to be able to etch glass. These two factors will influence the blast media you select and the blast cabinet that would make sense. 

Choosing a Blast Media for Glass Etching

The two most common blast medias you use in a blast cabinet for glass etching include glass beads and aluminum oxide. You typically want to select a higher grit number (120 or higher blast media which is a finer particle) as this will allow more control and better results etching. Aluminum oxide will be better for high production but may be a bit stronger etch than a glass bead media. 

Choosing a Blast Cabinet Style for Glass Etching

The type of cabinet will be the second big determinant of how fast you can etch glass. Pressure blast cabinets provide higher production compared to suction blast cabinets but will cost more. If you need high production the pressure cabinet will be better suited to meet your needs. If you will be using aluminum oxide you will often want to consider a protective lining kit for the blast cabinet to prevent the cabinet from being prematurely warn due to the aggressiveness of aluminum oxide.

Using a sandblast pot for glass etching

If you will be doing parts that are too large for a sandblast cabinet you can also use a sandblast pot which is important to include all pertinent safety gear. The bigger the cubic feet the blast pot the longer you will be able to blast before running out of media. The bigger the nozzle the more compressed air you need and more blast media you will use, which for etching projects it can often make sense to have a small blast nozzle to limit blast media waste. A final tip is to not mix to much blast media in the blast air stream, you want to open the blast media valve only far enough to slightly discolor the blast media air stream or slightly past the point you hear a whistling sound.

General Tips for Etching Glass by Sandblasting

The depth of etching you will achieve will be determined by the type of media, the amount of pressure, and how long you blast a given area. Higher pressures and longer blast times will result in a stronger and deeper etch. Start low with pressure and go slow as you can always increase the depth of etching but cannot reverse your glass etch once it has been done. It can take time to learn the right pressure and times for your particular project needs. Ultimately etching glass creates a beautiful effect and sandblasting is a fast efficient way to create etched glass by following the tips in this guide you will be better able to get the results you set out to achieve.

Photo courtesy of JMV

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