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Home > Craft Topics > Craft Introductions > Glass Engraving

The Craft of Glass Engraving

The Craft of Glass EngravingIntroduction to Glass Engraving

The skill of engraving pictures and lettering on glass is a richly satisfying art as well as an accomplished craft. The results can range from highly intricate and delicate styles of more traditional designs to the striking simplicity of modern images.

Origins of Glass Engraving

The profession of glass engraving is one that has been traditionally revered and esteemed. The oldest surviving piece of glass are Egyptian; the Roman Portland vase, to be seen in the British museum, is the most spectacular piece of engraved glass from the ancient world in existence.

As glass was regarded as a luxury, it was natural that it should be carefully decorated and used at ceremonial occasions, for commemorative items and, indeed, for anything that required a beautiful ornament. As a result of the value attached to the work of the glass engraver and the flexibility of design and style, many different glass objects have been decorated with engraving: glasses, decanters, jugs, bowls, plates, vases, candleholders, trophies, bottles, paperweights, flasks, sculptures, figurines and mirrors.

The earliest engraving was done by the copper wheel method, in which a large wheel was brought to bear on fairly sturdy glass. The Portland vase was engraved using this technique. However, this method is not suitable for engraving fine glass (lead crystal) and these days is used mainly by commercial manufacturers and a few professional hand engravers.

It was not until the Venetians developed cristallo, a thin delicate glass, that glass engraving was recognized as a craft. From the sixteenth century, glass engravers were regarded as master craftsmen.

Basic Techniques of Glass Engraving

The engraver needs only a few basic items to get started: 
Blanks, which are any glass object that can be used for engraving, such as vases, goblets or mirror glass, and the engraving instruments. 
A hand held diamond or tungsten carbide tool is used for the delicate work of diamond point engraving; a flexible drill drive or dental drill and dental burrs are needed for the bolder work of drill engraving; a burgess engraver, an electric non-rotary vibrating tool, is capable of producing both diamond point and drill engraving. Some professionals still engrave deeply incised designs with the traditional copper wheel.

Before starting to work, the engraver prepares a steady, well lit work surface. In order to see work clearly, a backdrop, ideally a piece of black cloth, is placed in or behind the item to be engraved. Most important is the need for some sort of protection for the eyes, as tiny particles of glass are thrown up by the engraving tool. When a drill is used water is dribbled over the object to stop the particles from obscuring the work, and to aid the grip of drill on glass.

All sorts of effects can be achieved when engraving glass from fine work to bolder outlines and from large areas of frosted glass to the fine stippling work characteristic of diamond point engraving. Once you start engraving glass you will find it utterly absorbing and. eventually, very rewarding.

Glass engraving causes glass splinters - allows ensure surroundings and face are protected

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