Acid Etching Questions

Answers to Etching Questions

Can etching be done at home?

We have been asked to restore eight Victorian stained glass panels from a house in Southport, Lancashire UK. The majority of the work is simple stained glass stuff. One of the panels has had some work done in the past and currently has a piece of red flash glass inserted where there should have been an acid etched piece with painted detail.The piece is coloured red slowly becoming paler through to clear. The piece then had flowers painted on. We are finding difficulty in replicating this piece as nobody in the business uses hydrofluoric acid anymore because the dangers associated with the product.

We can get etching cream but I am told this takes a long time to work and can have dubious results. Michael

Milly’s reply: Have you tried sandblasting glass? Although it gives a frosted effect, you would be able to achieve the colour variations in the red flash glass that you’re looking for. If it isn’t too big a piece, and a dark red, the opaqueness might not register too much. If you go down this route, make sure the abrading grit is a fine one to get a smooth finish.

You’re right about cream – not so much dubious as ineffective for flash glass. It works best for simply clouding the surface, rather than etching off layers, as you need to with flash glass.

I have used hydrofluoric acid, yes, and the results are without question the best. I wouldn’t recommend doing this at home, it is extremely dangerous and needs a dedicated fume cupboard.

Good luck with the commission, it’s good to hear people are still wanting to restore Victorian windows.

Making Glass Lantern Translucent

Slightly opaque glass

Slightly opaque glass

I’d like to know if there’s anyway to take a clear lantern globe and create the translucent effect like the one I’ve pictured. I’m new to this so I’m not sure if glass can be dyed or dipped in a thinned paint and left to air dry, kilned, etc.

Point me in a direction and thanks so much for your time and the great site!

Milly’s reply: Hi Tom, thanks for your question. I think your easiest solution would be to lightly sandblast the glass globe with a very fine sand. It will make it slightly translucent, but it will leave it vulnerable to fingerprint marks. Your local stained glass supplier may have a sandblaster and be able to help.

Alternatively, you could try finding a company that do acid-dipping, and get them to do it – but this is expensive and probably not worth it unless you had a job lot!

Hope that helps.

Glass stencil for helicopter

I make stained glass panels, and I’ve been asked to do a panel of a helicopter. I don’t think I can cut & foil a good copter but perhaps acid etch one on an 8 or 10 in. oval and border it in bevels & stained glass. Any ideas or suggestions? by Fred Thompson

Milly’s reply: Sounds like a good idea to me. You could either get an image of a helicopter – or draw one yourself – and send an electronic copy to a company that will make up a stencil for you, or you could make your own from sticky backed plastic (contact paper), which you can cut either with a craft knife or melt using one of those tiny soldering irons. This gives a really free line, but mind you don’t crack the glass.

With regard to the image itself, it will be very subtle, so it might be best to think about where it will hang – a darker background will show it off more.

Hope that helps.

Acid Disposal

Acid Fume Cupboard

Acid Fume Cupboard

I have not used HF since I was an apprentice glass painter at Daprato Studios in Chicago about 1962. We had a dedicated cement sink with a standpipe and contiunous running water, a small fan blowing the vapors somewhere! while I held each piece of glass and mopped the acid with a brush and rinsed. I no longer have access to the Chicago sewer system , I have a mound septic system. How do you handle your acid.

Working on a job that requires many etched pieces. Sandblasting is inadequate.

Milly’s reply: Yes, hydrofluoric acid is suitably lethal.

I only ever etch glass in a dedicated industrial fume cupboard, like the one pictured. It has running water and fume extraction. I wear all sorts of protective clothing, including two pairs of gloves, plastic apron, a mask if using strong acid – I look like I’m working with nuclear waste.

I have an agreement with the company that supplies me with the acid that they take it away and dispose of it safely. Here in the UK the council want to know if you have something this dangerous.

The acid gives some of the most fantastic results, it’s just a shame that it’s so dangerous. And sandblasting never gives you the glassiness that you want. I hope that helps – be careful – follow strict health and safety procedures, and I’d love to see your finished commission, and hear more about Daprato Chicago studio if you want to post some more on the site.


4 thoughts on “Acid Etching Questions”

  1. The concentration of acid in the paste is negligible, but practically absent in pairs. But this does not mean that you can spend hours inhaling an open jar of paste or liquid. You need to work in a ventilated area. When working with any pastes and glass matting liquids, safety precautions must be observed.
    Important to remember. Solutions and pastes for glass matting of all countries, times and peoples contain hydrofluoric acid!
    Without this component, it is impossible to etch glass, although sellers deny the presence of acid in order to increase their sales. This statement is specially formulated in an unscientific style, so that anyone who believes in false opposing statements about the absence of hydrofluoric acid in any matting pastes or solutions can understand it. This in itself is neither bad nor good. Acids are dangerous depending on the concentration. However, it should be remembered that hydrofluoric acid does not have a direct effect on human skin, but it is immediately absorbed and a gradual effect on the internal tissues of the body begins. All glass etching products contain fluoride acids. Therefore, it is necessary to work with any matting compounds in protective gloves and protect the skin in order to prevent the absorption of fluoride ions.

    • Thanks for your thorough safety message. It’s much appreciated and supports my thoughts on being hyper-alert and safety conscious when working with acid in any capacity.

  2. Hello
    I bought some acid etching cream from Kansa Craft about 35 years ago to do a small etching job and still have most of it left. It is in it’s original plastic container (125ml I think ). Will it still be dangerous after all this time and how is it best disposed of. When I bought it there were no COSHH sheets or safety advice.

    • Yes it will be dangerous. I’ve taken acid to the local recycling centre, making sure I told the people there what it was and they dealt with it.
      Thanks for asking before putting it down a sink!!! It must be disposed of safely.


Leave a Comment

Affiliate Disclosure

I get a small % from selected suppliers (not you!) if you purchase any shiny new tools after clicking through from my site. Thanks in advance for your support.
AMAZON – As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.