A Beginner’s Guide To Glass Engraving
Glass engraving can seem a little bit intimidating, but it is such a fun hobby! In this beginner’s guide, I’m going to share with you the glass engraving tools and materials I use, and offering a few tips and tricks to get you started on this glass engraving journey.
Tools and Materials for Glass Engraving:
Safety precaution items
- Face mask (highly recommend)
- Eye goggles (recommend)
- A micro motor rotary machine
- Diamond drill bits
- Stabilo aquarellable pencil
- Little brush and dish to collect dust
- Damp paper towel
- Rub n Buff
- Little paint brush
- Dry paper towel
When it comes to engraving, one of the most important things is safety. When I am doing on-site work, I will wear a face mask. This is important because engraving produces a lot of fine dust, and you don’t want to breathe in the dust particles. I had tried engraving once without a mask and I felt super lightheaded afterwards, so I did not attempt that again.
When I am not doing on-site work, I will also wear my glasses to protect my eyes. So if you don’t wear glasses, it is a good investment to get a pair of non-prescription glasses or a pair of goggles. It usually does not fly into the eyes, unless you’re leaning very close to the item while engraving, but it is better to protect them.
Also, make sure that you do not bring your hand piece close to your face while it is running just in case it catches your hair. Always turn your machine off and put the hand piece down before you do anything else!
The micro motor rotary machine that I use has a 30,000 RPM speed. This is the minimum speed required for engraving glass. There are many different machines you can find on Amazon. Just make sure you find one that has 30,000 RPM. If you feel you want to get a better machine, the Thumb micromotor machine is an excellent choice. All of these machines are lightweight and portable, which make them great machines to do on-site work.
The next item on the list is the diamond drill bits. There are many different kinds. Some people like the ball shaped drill bit, others like the cylindrical shaped. I like both, but if I do finer work, I usually choose the smaller sized ball shaped drill bit. You can get a variety pack from Amazon so you can try them out and see which one you like best.
Before I start engraving, I usually like to mark on the surface so I know exactly what I am engraving. The tool that I use is the Stabilo aquarellable pencil. This is a great pencil for most surfaces, once you draw with it, you can wipe it off with a damp paper towel. It also comes in different colours.
I have a little brush and a dish so I can collect brush off as much dust as possible before wiping off with a damp paper towel.
Glass Engraving Method
When it comes to engraving, it really is trial and error. But I do have a few tips and tricks to share with you.
- Try ghosting first before you put your drill on the surface
In calligraphy there is a term called Ghosting. What that is, is the act of moving your hand or arm over what you want to write before you put your pen to paper. That means you’re actively tracing your hand over what you want to engrave, so that you know how your hand will move once you touch the drill bit onto the surface. This is extremely important for curved or bumpy surfaces, like wine glasses, liquor bottles, perfume bottles, etc. You want to ensure you anticipate any interfering point(s) that can potentially disrupt your flow of engraving, so you can make necessary adjustments based on how you feel. Because once the mark is made, then it’s too late!
- You don’t need to dig very deep or press very hard for the engraving
You do need to have a firmer hold on the hand piece while you’re engraving, because your drill may end up going against the grain of the glass while you’re making a turn. But you shouldn’t be holding the hand piece so tight that it hurts your hand. Also, you don’t need to dig too deep into the glass, just let the drill work its magic.
- Be mindful of where your drill bit lands
Depending on the shape of your drill bit, a ball shaped diamond drill bit can land very differently than a cylindrical shaped drill bit, so it’s trial and error to figure out where to put your connection points, to prevent landing in the incorrect spots for touch up.
- Rest your hand from time to time
This is especially true when you’re doing a large amount of engraving. After holding onto the hand piece of some time, the vibration can be felt in the hand. So rest your hand constantly!
You can add a metallic inlay for fragrance bottles or glass to make the engraving stand out.
Here is a video of me applying Rub n Buff onto an engraved Johnnie Walker Bottle
Rub n Buff is a metallic paste you can use. You can pick up a little bit of Rub n Buff with a small paint brush, apply it onto the surface, and then quickly wipe off with a dry paper towel.
Caution: Only apply this on clear glass. Do not apply on frosted glass, metal, and glassware that are meant for eating and drinking, such as wine or liquor glasses.
That is all I have to share with you on how I do glass engraving.
If you have any questions or would like me to share something else with you, leave a comment below or send me an email!
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Until next time!