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Sand-etching on clear glass can be varied by using different sand sizes, aggregates and changing the air pressure to etch in two or three stages. Also, each side of the glass can be etched, to give depth to an image. An extremely fine, light etch is possible on glass because it can't get lost in a mirror's reflection of it's surroundings.

The ability to create truly outstanding pieces of etched glass arises from two skills. The first is mastery of the blasting techniques to be used. The second is being able to create or obtain excellent artwork to be used as a design. It is not necessary for one person to have both of these skills. It is common in glass etching studios to have a collaboration between the designer and the sandblaster.

Even though the basic physical effect of sandblast etching on glass is simple, the techniques used to create specific visual effects can be quite complex. Mastering the most complicated of these techniques can take a very long time.

The positive etch is one in which the image itself is etched on the medium (see the Flower Design on the Top, while the negative etch is the reverse - the background is etched to reveal the image as clear glass . This can be confined to an area around the image, or encompass the entire piece of glass (used sometimes to enhance privacy when placed in a window or door).

Etchings used as etched art can be framed with wood.
By edge lighting the glass panel, the etched image (if deep enough) will pick up the slight tint of color inherent in glass and the etch will "come alive" (edge lighting requires the use of special frames to enclose the lighting, usually florescent).

Glass comes in a variety of descriptions:
Thickness ranging from .125" to .75" (3 mm to 19 mm).

Tempered, a process of hardening - used as door glass (as is used on vehicle windows).
Tinted glass includes bronze and gray.
Laminated, a safety glass - used for door glass, shower panels (as is used on car windshield)

Sandblasting is new to the world of glass - and it goes beyond the random bombardment of a surface to clean buildings. By striking the surface of glass with abrasive particles at controlled speeds a permanent frosted finish is achieved. In the artist's skilled hands this results in an image which seems to float in the glass, offering a three dimensional impression to the eye.

Sandblasting can also be used on brightly polished steel, removing the sheen all over to produce the desired image. In the same way, clear plastic can be frosted to a design, and any timber can be deep etched with logos or lettering - giving the surface a grained driftwood effect.

Most people think of sandblast glass etching as only one of several techniques to create decorative glass art, like stained glass, glass blowing, fusing, slumping, and others. However, it is actually much more than that. Sandblast etching is unique among glassworking techniques. It is the only one that can be used to enhance products made by each of the other techniques or to create complete works of art by itself. It can be used on glass of any size, from tiny crystal pendants to architectural plate glass. It can be used on glass of any shape or thickness, from flat glass to pieces with convoluted, complex curves. It can also be used on any type of glass, from commercially made plate glass to lead crystal to borosilicate (Pyrex) glass.
Sandblast etching can do two simple things to the glass. It can change the character of the glass surface from clear to translucent. In addition, it can alter the shape, or contour of the glass surface. Once you under stand the possibilities of these simple manipulations, though, you begin to realize how powerful they can be in the hands of a knowledgeable practitioner of sand blast etching .

Most forms of glassmaking yield a shiny, smooth, polished piece of finished glass. A large proportion of finished pieces are also transparent. Sandblasting the surface of one of these pieces changes the character of the surface from smooth to rough. Although the degree of roughness can vary with the size of the particles used to do the blasting, the change is very obvious, not only because of the change in texture, but also because of the change in transparence.

The basic principle of sandblast etching is this: When a high pressure stream of abrasive particles is directed at the surface of a piece of glass, the particles cause tiny chips of glass to be removed from the surface, leaving a roughened surface that allows the passage of light, but not of clear visual images.

Utilizing this basic principle of changing the character of the entire glass surface makes sandblast etching valuable for visually obscuring large areas of glass while still allowing the passage of light for illumination. Products benefiting from this use of etching include light boxes, some commercially produced lampshades, shower and bath enclosures, waiting room windows, office partitions, etc.

When the artist selectively masks the glass, a much wider variety of products is possible, enjoying a higher demand. Selective masking protects certain areas of the glass during the sandblasting process in order to produce a design when the protective masking is removed. The clear, smooth, transparent areas of glass protected by the masking tend to appear dark, and the rough, transparent areas of glass sandblasted appear light or white in comparison. Selective masking can be used to produce very simple or highly complex designs with all of the blasting techniques. With selective masking, the list of potential products is vastly expanded, including any type of glass that is enhanced by the addition of a design or by shaping of the surface. Products include decorative entryway glass (or other architectural glass) in residential and commercial installations, glass table tops, fireplace screens, room dividers, booth dividers (in restaurants), glassware, blown glass, glass gift items, glass trophies, awards and sculptures.