Etching Glass

This project was probably one of the most enjoyable that we did this past Christmas.  Hazardous, yes, because you are dealing with a caustic liquid and its attendant dangers, but fun nonetheless.  This is NOT a project you can do with children.  You need to work in a well-ventilated area and you need to wear rubber or latex gloves as well as safety goggles while you are doing it.For etching glass I used Armour Etch, a glass etching cream that I picked up from Lee Valley.  You can get it at Michael’s as well, if you are prepared to pay about three times the price for it.  It’s good stuff.  Keep in mind it does not work on plastic and most Pyrex.

First, however, you need to create your stencils.  I printed out some images from the internet and then traced them onto clear vinyl masking (also from Lee Valley).The tracing and cutting out is really the hard part in all of this.Next, carefully peel the backing form the mask and apply it firmly to your clean and dry glass.  Make sure there are no bubbles or gaps.You can also use masking tape to outline certain areas.Next, very (very) carefully paint on the etching cream in a thick layer in the area you wish to be etched.  If you accidentally get cream anywhere else than you intended, it will leave a permanent mark.The instructions say to leave the cream on for 5 to 10 minutes, but I found it worked better if I left it on for 20.  In some cases you may also find that a second application is in order.When your time is up, rinse the glass object thoroughly in warm water.  I found the cream came off best if I brushed it with the paint brush.  As a side note, do not rinse off the etching cream in an enamel sink — only rinse in a metal or plastic sink or you will find yourself without an enamel sink …Peel off your masking and throw it away.  You may have to rinse the glass again if there was any cream caught in the crevices of the stencil.  Dry the glass thoroughly and you’re all done.  This is a jar for my brother-in-law Rusty to keep his keys and phone in so he doesn’t lose them.  If you don’t recognize it, that’s the Rebel Alliance insignia from Star Wars.I also used the cream on a vase for my sister-in-law Meg:Some cups and saucers for the Mtree Duo:An AT-AT jar for my brother Ando (in keeping with the Star Wars theme):And a coffee jar for the ever-caffeinated Cait, among other things:This was so much fun the Pie and I agreed we would try to think of new glass objects to give people for Christmas next year.  You can pick up glass items from pretty much anywhere for relatively little: IKEA (where I got the jars), Winners/Home Sense (where Rusty’s and Meg’s vases came from), and let’s not forget second-hand shops (Mtree duo’s cups and saucers came from there).  Get creative!

 

So … ap.

My sister-in-law, back before she was my sister-in-law, gave me a wee soap-making kit for Christmas a few years ago.  Love ya Teedz.

I’ve always wanted to learn to make soap from scratch.  I even have a book on it. It’s a pretty complicated process, and I’m not sure where I would get the raw materials here in St. John’s.  Maybe it will be a project for the future.

This wee kit is a good start, of course.  You make it in the microwave!  I really don’t use my microwave enough.  Mostly for heating tea and magic bags.

The kit is from Life of the Party and it contains a block of white unscented soap, a mold with three spaces for pouring, some decorative hand-made paper, a bundle of raffia twine, two tiny pots of metallic colour powder (one pink, one green), a small bottle of scent (half-empty – I think some of it transpirated over time, though the scent is just as overpowering as it as before), and two rubber stamps.  And a sheet of instructions.

Being rather uber-scent-sensitive, I quickly discovered an allergy to the perfume in the bottle (upper lip numb and swollen, that’s a new one).  I think if I make soap again I’ll use natural extracts.  This scent makes my brain feel a little itchy so I think I’ll be using it sparingly – and probably giving away the results.  Better make them good in that case.

This is how we do it.

Each bar of soap uses about four cubes from the big-ass block.  I hacked these off with the aid of one of my stupid sharp knives and some adult supervision (because, let’s face it, I really can’t be left alone).  Actually, it was much easier than I had thought.  The soap has a soft and oily quality that is slightly disturbing to touch but which makes it relatively easy to cut. I had three spaces to fill (but only two stamps, hmm).  I decided to do the bars two at a time, then.

Eight cubes went into a microwave-safe measuring cup (I love Pyrex for so, so many reasons).

Microwave the soap on high for 40 seconds, then stir.  Nuke for a further 10 seconds.  Stir again. Repeat 10-second intervals until the soap is all melted.  It looks like coconut milk when it’s done but smells like soap.

The instructions want me to caution you that melted soap is hot.  No kidding.  It does, however, cool quickly, and will cake on your measuring cup and whatever you use to stir it.

Add fragrance, drop by drop, until the desired level of potency is reached.  Due to my allergy I decided to forgo the perfume and use lemon extract instead.

Add the colour powder in a similar fashion until you get what you want.  I had a hard time mixing in the powder, and in the end much of it ended up clumped in the bottom of the measuring cup.

Put a drop of soap into the centre of your “mold cavity” (that sounds gross) and use it to stick down your embossing stamp.

Fill the rest of the mold with melted soap.  I noticed that a lot of my soap still went under the stamp, despite my sticking.

Allow the soap to harden and remove from the mold by applying steady and even pressure to the back of the mold.  This took a lot more swearing and bending of plastic than I had anticipated.

To remove the stamp from the bar, simply peel it away like a sticker.  Ha.  On both of them I had to cut them out with a knife before peeling them away. 

Also, I noticed that some of the colour from the stamp was left on the soap itself.  The soap still felt oily and left a residue on my fingers.

Plus it was weirdly bendy.

In addition, there was scary stringy soap stuck on my measuring cup and spatula. 

Fortunately, due to the oily nature of the stuff it was pretty easy to scrape off in huge peels.

I decided not to use the rest of the soap, and chucked the lot, keeping the stamps, raffia, and handmade paper for a future DIY.

This was an epic fail (though does not in any way reflect on the giver of the gift).  On the plus side my garbage smells nice.