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Increase Sandcarving Productivity on Glass Gifts

Find ways to gain sandcarving efficiency.

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If you offer customized glass gifts with sandcarving, analyze your production process and find ways where you can gain the most efficiency possible.

Start out by establishing a certain day (or days) per week when you do your glass production. If all the etching is done on the same day, you only have to set up for it once per ­­week rather than every time you have a small order.

In the process of creating the artwork, gang all the artwork together on one page of printout film. If you have a large number of items with the same image on them, you can just use the step-and-repeat function of your software. If they’re all different, place them on the page so that they have at least 1/2-inch between images (1/4-inch per image). Put them in boxes so that the box provides the registration line to lay the resist out on the glass correctly.

When you expose and wash out the photoresist images (if you are using a water-washout resist), you can process them a full page at a time.

After washing out and drying, place the images that you won’t use right away onto a sheet of silicone backing paper so they won’t over dry. Remove the images as you need, and apply them to each piece of glass. Apply all the images to glass in the same production sequence.

After applying the resists, tape off the exposed glass close to the images you’re going to sandcarve to keep overspray from accidentally etching the glass outside the image area. Many people waste time coating the entire piece of glass with tape. It is more efficient to just put one strip of tape (1 1/2 inches wide) around the photoresist image and learn to blast with a little care. Make sure you are pointing the nozzle at the image to be blasted before you step on the foot pedal. Move the nozzle all around on the image to be etched and take your foot off the pedal before moving the nozzle off the glass.

Soak all the glass in a plastic tub with warm water and a few drops of dish soap. Within five minutes, all the tape and resist will float off the glass. Remove each piece of glass one at a time to wash with dish soap then rinse and dry.

Always wash your hands before sandcarving. You can transfer enough oil from your skin to the glass after cleaning that you will have to clean it all over again. After cleaning, always handle the glass with a soft, lint-free paper towel or soft white cotton gloves to further reduce the chance of transferring oil or fingerprints to the glass. This also reduces the chances of scratching the finished glass.

When the glass is clean, go through the finishing steps all at the same time. Either replace the glass items into their original boxes or attach bases and package for your customer.

-Ruth Dobbins, Etch Master

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