Glass engraving is an art form that has been around for thousands of years, and one we’re pleased to say has become increasing popular ever since.
Anyone with a creative streak can have a go by using a small selection of diamond burrs in a pin vice or a rotary tool. What may start as a fun hobby can quickly turn into a dedicated skill, leading you into more advanced techniques and further tools.
There are several ways to engrave glass, lets take a look at them and the tools and techniques they involve. There's a glossary at the end too to help with any words you may not be familiar with.
This is by far the cheapest and simplest method of glass engraving and one which is great for the absolute beginner who may want to try out their skill before buying a rotary hand drill such as a Dremel with flexible shaft or a Micro Motor.
Teaching groups and classes will often use this technique as it is cost effective and no electricity is required. Similar tools can be used for stipple engraving which is mentioned further on, and any linear engraving can be done by using a pin vice with a diamond point burr.
This technique is the most popular and versatile, allowing you to use any number of different burrs, points, stones and polishers in either a Micro Motor or a drill with a flexible drive attachment
Beginners tend to use a hobby rotary tool such as a Dremel, then progress to adding a Flexible shaft, or flex-shaft attachment. This allows you to hold the handpiece as you would a large pen.
Finally, once you’ve really caught the glass engraving bug, move onto the more expensive and superior of tools, a Micromotor such as the Medi cool Pro Power - a professional dental drill that has no vibration, almost no noise and among many other attributes, a very light handpiece, so no more aching wrists!
Copper wheel engraving is a traditional technique often used for cut glass crystal designs. Differing sizes and profiles of copper wheels mounted onto spindles are driven by a belt on a lathe. The wheel is turned by use of a foot pedal and the wheel is fed with an abrasive compound such as carborundum. The glass is brought to the wheel to make the cut.
Nowadays, stone and diamond wheels are more commonly used and are driven by an electric motor instead of a foot pedal.
Sandblasting is sometimes known as sand carving or sand engraving. The areas of glass not to be engraved will be covered with a masking material then a fine grit abrasive medium is 'blasted' at high pressure onto the surface of the glass.
Skilled glass engravers will use hand-cut stencils and a mixture of techniques such as sandblasting with the drill technique to create some very interesting results.
Quite often the sandblasting technique is used on an industrial scale for mass productions of glass designs.
Stipple engraving is a technique that requires a lot of patience and skill. The pattern on the glass, lead crystal ideally, is made using repetitive tapping from a carbide point to creative small indentations or dots. The resulting picture leaves a misty look.
Carbide points are more commonly used as they can be re-sharpened and leave a clean cut, but a diamond burr or point can also be used for the beginner stipple engraver
The tungsten carbide point is held in a pin vice or stylus of some kind.
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