March 4, 2009

How To Etch Glass


For reasons really too gross to go into, I needed air-tight jars for my pantry, and fast. A bad situation was bringing me one step closer to my fantasy life — an Ikea-like, label and clutter-free pantry — and maybe, come to think of it, that’s just what life does sometimes. You never thought your mom’s cancer would bring a sense of serenity to your life, but then, strangely, it does. Who knew the grim realities of city living would make my cupboard look so good?

I’ve been a fan of diy glass etching for a while, but never know what the right project is. In general, I’m not crazy about writing on things — t-shirts, dishes, glasses — but in the case of kitchen canisters, it works. The second I saw this craft in an issue of Martha Stewart, I knew it was the etching project I was looking for.

I went to Michael’s to get the letters and came face to face with the new Martha craft line for the first time. Now, I know it sounds like I’m shilling for the domestic doyenne, but there are no perks for my saying this: If you’ve ever looked at the crafts in Living and thought that you didn’t have the paper/stencils/stamps/skill to make your version look as clean and lovely, this line bridges the gap. I looked at everything, and was particularly taken with the acrylic stamps. As a girl planning a wedding (or at least trying), my mind was percolating like crazy and suddenly filled with diy confidence.

I used a roll of Martha’s adhesive letters for this project, and after nearly having to turn my brain inside out to think in reverse (this always confuses me about glass-etching and stenciling), I am really pleased with the way these turned out. I got the surprisingly affordable jars ($3-$4) at the Container Store, but Target has a bunch of options, too.

Etched-Glass Jars

Do this in a well-ventilated area. No, seriously: I got cold after a little while and closed the window, and sure enough, a half hour later I nearly threw up during my sun salutations. And while we’re at it, wear the gloves. This is very caustic stuff.

What You’ll Need:
etching cream
glass jars
paintbrush you don’t mind throwing away
adhesive letters
rubber gloves
scissors (to cut the tape)
a drop cloth or newspaper to cover work area

Wash and dry your glass jars. Cover your work area with drop cloth or newspaper. Stick your adhesive letters on your jar and tape off the area around the word. Smooth down edges of tape and letters to make sure everything is properly adhered. Everything not covered by a sticker or tape will be etched and end up cloudy.

Put gloves on and in a well-ventilated area, brush a thick layer of etching cream on your taped off area, covering the adhesive letters. Let sit for manufacturer’s recommended time (full disclosure: I had the best luck leaving mine on twice as long, but I am foolish; see above), then wash off all etching cream and let dry.

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  • Sara Rose: Oh good lord. You just come do this for me. There’s no way I am doing this myself, but I love the idea. Although now that I’ve read this and liked it, I could add it to the list of insano projects I want Nolan to accomplish when I’m in the final stages of pregnancy and am a crazy, nesting freak. Poor guy. You are far more ambitious than me, I mean, I just recently went and bought glass canisters for everything last weekend and after everything was in them and restored to their proper spots I thought “Good enough.”

    Cancer does have a weird ability to bring serenity. I had spinal cancer when I was two. My mom said that in the year and a half of surgeries and chemotherapy, she never cooked, baked, embroidered, knitted, or organized so much in her life. She felt like it was important that every part of our world be calm and clean and easy to deal with.

    She came up with a recipe for Hot Milk Cake during that time period. She would feed it to me when I was too sick to eat other things. To this day it’s probably still one of my top five all time favorite cakes EVER.9 years ago

  • Alicia Kachmar: Which Michael’s did you go to??? I was just at the one in Woodside on Sunday!9 years ago

  • Kristina: Those are gorgeous! You’ve inspired me to doll up my own air-tight pantry jars. (Btw, mine are air-tight for the same reason yours are air-tight. Damn vermin.)

    I had the exact same reaction the first time I saw Martha’s line, too! When I was planning my wedding, I systematically avoided that aisle in Michael’s, lest my basket magically fill up with all the embossed paper trims, scallop-edged labels, and adoreable little favor boxes it could hold. A dangerous, and delightful place.9 years ago

  • Sara Rose, Hot milk cake??!? That sounds like a winter comfort if I ever heard one. And man, what a resilient two year old you must have been!

    Alicia, Ah, I went to a Michaels where my mom lives in NJ. Never been to the one in Queen, actually.

    Kristina, Oh man, I’m still mad at those jerks (aka my reason for airtight jars). Most of our dry goods are still in the fridge. πŸ™9 years ago

  • michaela: i saw this in the magazine and agree it looks like a great idea. nothing like neatly organized things. πŸ™‚9 years ago

  • Andrea: “For reasons really too gross to go into”…..

    Been.There. Recently. (see post on my sister’s blog Apartment living really stinks sometimes. Your jars are so much classier than our solution of relocating all the foodstuffs to an enormous plastic storage bin.9 years ago

  • Angelique: This is a lovely project…I feel like the sense of organization it would give would be so soothing when things are chaotic.
    And good health wishes to your Mom!9 years ago

  • Sara Rose: Sarah- I’ll either blog the recipe or send it to you. It’s amazing any time of the year. I don’t know that I’d call it resilience on my part, just a sort of stroke of luck that I came through cancer. I think my parents were the ones with real resilience.9 years ago

  • EB: Martha whore! πŸ™‚ Not really… sheesh. But really… only you (besides Martha) would tackle this! Very very cool.9 years ago

  • Tiffany: These turned out adorable! Glass etching has been on my to-do list for quite a while. Thanks for showing me that it can really be done!9 years ago

  • Hillary: agreed on both the solution and the martha stewart line at michaels. my solution to the same issue was quart-size mason jars – I may have to etch them this summer. that would look so much better than the current black-on-white from my label maker.9 years ago

  • renΓ©e: these look great. nice job! i like that it’s reversed and the letters are regular glass. what a great font!9 years ago

  • cate: sarah, i hear you on the airtight jars. boy, do i. hurrah, city living! anyway, i love this project. and i’m sure you know about this, but — have you checked out the loveliest wedding things, and so much DIY stuff. i’m not even getting married, and i still can’t resist a peek every now and then, just to see what they’re up to.9 years ago

  • cate, I know Style Me Pretty but haven’t looked at it in a long, long time. Gotta get my butt back over there.9 years ago

  • erin: As a fellow city dweller, I have recently had similar problems. So frustrating. I bought glass containers, and now would love to etch them (after grad school, perhaps??!)9 years ago

  • Melissa: This looks great! I can’t wait to make a set of these for my best friend’s Christmas present. And one for me,too!7 years ago

  • Robin: I’m so trying this! Getting married myself and going country chic…this is going to blend in nicely!

    Thanks for sharing…

    R7 years ago

  • Eliza: what kind of adhesive letters did you use? looks amazing7 years ago

  • Hey Eliza, I just used regular alphabet stickers from the craft store. Easy peasy.7 years ago

  • Christi: Ok, So my dad and bonus mom are getting ready to finish their basement bar and my SIL and I are wanting to get all 6 of us kids together and get them some special glasses for Christmas. We were wanting to personalize them for their basement bar. Well we were talking about going to the dollar store and purchasing as many different types of plain drink glasses they have and etching on all of them (ex. margarita, wine, beer mug….etc). This etching cream sounds like a dream come true. So if I am understanding this right you just rub the cream on there and wait the allotted amount of time and viola, clean it off and it’s etched? If that is the case are they dishwasher safe? This just sounds to easy, like the hardest part is making sure the design is on there properly. Oh, I know Christmas is 7 months away but we always have such hard time buying for these two that we always start early… and if we are going to be etching glasses we will have to start now.6 years ago

  • That’s really it, I swear! All the instructions are on the side of the etching cream, but you have to be careful with that stuff. It’s obviously very caustic!6 years ago

  • Trina: I can make you custom stencils for glass etching. It is so fun. Contact me at: years ago

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