How to Use a Rotary Tool to Etch Glass

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Rotary tool
Diamond point grinding bits (various sizes)
Carbide grinding tips
Tungsten grinding tips
Silicone grinding tips
Terrycloth towel
Protective gloves
Protective glasses
Protective mask
Miniature vacuum
Masking tape

Learning how to etch glass can be a fun a hobby or a way to supplement your income. The easiest and most common way to etch glass is to use etching cream. The cream is painted onto the object with a foam brush and it eats away at the top layer of glass to leave a textured and frosted surface behind. If you wish to do a detailed glass etching, the cream may prove to be limited.

The other way to glass etch is to use some sort of rotary tool. These small tools are packed with high RPMs which can gouge the glass. If you have a good design, a powerful rotary tool, and a steady hand then you can etch glass yourself. Using a rotary tool to etch glass takes more skill than etching cream but this article will show you how to use a rotary tool to properly etch glass.

Step 1 - Prepare the Design

The design you choose for your etched glass can be as simple or as detailed as you would like. A design in color can be used but the colors and shading could cause confusion as you etch glass. The simple solution is to get a color design and make it grayscale. This can be accomplished by making a black and white copy or scanning the image into your computer and loading it into a graphics program and changing its mode.

If the image was acquired from the Internet then you load it into the graphics programs, change the mode and then print it out to use. Grayscale is a better choice than black and white as it is a clearer picture.

Step 2 - Prepare the Glass

Wipe the glass down on both sides. Place your design on the glass and tape it in place with the masking tape. Make sure the design is where you want it to be. Tape the design to the part of the glass you will not be etching so when you turn it over you can see the design. This essentially makes the design a template.

Step 3 - Etch Glass

Using a rotary tool to etch glass is not easy. The key to using a rotary tool is understanding which bits are used for what circumstances. This is also determined by the design. Large tips are used for thicker lines and smaller tips are used for thinner lines. Diamond-tipped cutters will give you a fine and detailed line. Cutters made from tungsten create a more aggressive but sharper line while silicone cutters provide a full and soft line.

Always start with the outline then the inner lines. From here you can do shading with the carbide tip. Utilize all the tips to create a perfect glass etching. Set the rotary tool between 16,000 and 20,000 RPMs and use soft to medium pressure.