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What Is Glass Engraving?

Jennifer Long
Jennifer Long

Glass engraving is a process that uses special tools to etch designs into the surface of a glass piece. There are several techniques that can be used on glass for engraving. Each technique uses different types of engraving tools. Most engravers use hand tools. Common techniques used by engravers include point, stipple, drill, and sandblasting.

Engraving patterns and designs onto glass surfaces is a decorative process that has been used for many years. It can be used to turn plain pieces of glass, such as a paperweight or champagne flute, into an heirloom or personalized to be a reminder of a special occasion. Many engravers utilize more than one glass engraving technique to help give more depth or dimension. Hand-held tools can be used for fine detailing, while machine-aided tools can be used for larger areas.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Point glass engraving, also known as line engraving, uses a hand tool with a diamond tip or tungsten carbide point. This process involves scratching lines into the glass surface to create the desired image. By scratching the surface, a line is created that contrasts the glass. If clear glass is used, the lines appear white, but if colored glass is used, the lines are substantially lighter shades.

Stipple engraving is another glass engraving technique that uses a hand tool. The same tool that is used for point engraving can be used for stippling. This technique involves using the tip of the tool to gently create small dots in the glass surface. Carefully tapping the sharp tip along the glass puts small holes in it, which can be used to accent a design or create the entire design.

Using an electric drill for glass engraving is a technique called drill engraving. In this technique, an electric drill and special rotary tips are used. These tips are called rotary burs. Different burs provide different results. Diamond and stone burs will create more defined results, while rubber burs create more texture.

Copperwheel glass engraving uses a machine called a lathe. Multiple-sized copper wheels attach to the lathe and spin. The glass sits against the wheel as it is spinning. This technique can be used for both large areas and intricate designs by changing the size of the wheel.

Sandblasting is a type of etching, not actually a type of glass engraving. Many engravers use sandblasting to add more contrast to a design. In this process, an area can be taped off with vinyl tape. Air compressors are used to spray untapped areas with sand. The result is an opaque look. On clear glass, a sandblasted area is almost cloudy.

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