Sandblasting Glasses


set of glasses
One of my favorite projects of last year was sandblasting the letter "R" (my new initial!) on all the barware that we received as wedding presents. We even made a little movie about it... take a look!

Click to start the movie or download it here.

Sandblasting is quite easy to do... if you have the right equipment. I am extremely fortunate to have a mother-in-law, Carol Davidson, who is a glass artist and has a whole sandblasting rig at her home in Connecticut. With her equipment and guidance, I've been able to etch a number of my designs onto glass. It's really addictive! The following are the basic steps for sandblasting.

Step 1: Design
I usually do my design work in Freehand and then print it out. As a testament to my life as a graphic designer, each R is in a different font (click pic to see a larger view in a new window).

R layout sheet

Step 2: Order sandblasting masks
The trick to sandblasting is that you stick a little stencil on the glass that protects parts of the glass and leaves your design exposed to the abrasive sand. I found a company called Rayzist that will make custom sandblasting masks from my electronic files.


Step 3: Apply the masks
Applying the masks to the glasses is the most labor-intensive part of the process. Not only do you have to measure, place, and burnish on each mask, but you also need to completely cover the remainder of the glass in heavy paper. Any exposed areas (even inside) will get scratched by the flying sand, so it has to be a good seal. The only part of the glass that should be visible is the part that I want frosted. You can see the covered glasses lined up in the movie.

Step 4: BLAST OFF!
This is the fun part! I take my prepared glassware to my in-laws' house for blasting. Often, sandblasting is done in an enclosed box that catches all the sand and recycles it. Because Carol does large-scale pieces, she sets up her blasting rig in the open air of her backyard. A blue tarp catches (most) of the sand for recycling. I need to wear a respirator and all manner of protective gear, but the sand still goes everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE!).

Pulling the trigger releases a steady stream of sand which I aim at the glass until I can see that the glass is frosting white. It only takes about 30 seconds per glass.

Step 5: Clean up
After the blasting, the protective paper and the resist masks needs to be removed from the glasses. A cycle in the dishwasher finishes the job.