In the July 2017 issue of Speed News magazine, we covered purchasing a vinyl die cutter machine to make our own decals for our racecar and T-shirt iron-ons for our crew uniforms. During the offseason this year, we found another use for our vinyl die cutter, a piece of equipment I swear has paid for itself 10 times over. By using a negative image of a sticker and some glass etching cream, we found a way to make custom wine glasses, beer mugs, and decorative mirrors for the race shop.
We love our die cutter and have become pretty adept at using it. After owning one for a number of years I don’t know what our race shop would do without it.
To move on from simple sticker making to glass etching, the only new item we needed was some glass etching cream. We have tried hobby-store cream made by Martha Stewart and a more industrial cream called Armor Etch, which works great, but isn’t easy to find at the store. Thanks to Amazon, this stuff hit our mailbox within 24 hours. I love the Internet!
The trick to making the transition from sticker making to glass etching is understanding the concept of a negative image sticker. Once we wrapped our heads around that idea, we were on our way to etching glass with ease. We decided to make a huge mirror with an etched image of the Double Nickel Nine Motorsports logo for our race shop.
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Besides some etching cream, our vinyl cutter and some leftover vinyl, we needed some transfer tape. We use this stuff on all of our stickers and get it from US Cutter.com. Transfer tape is something you use for about one minute and then throw away, but you can’t do a project without the stuff.
Here is a handy pro tip for placing stickers on anything, whether it is a racecar sticker or for a glass etching project: Only peel half of the backing off, fold it over, then take a razor and cut it away. This leaves half of the sticker with the adhesive ready to apply, and half the sticker with the waxy backing paper. This allows you to hold up the waxy backed portion of the sticker on your item and ensure it is straight, level, and positioned correctly before the sticky part of the decal hits the surface. Hold that part away until you are ready. Once the sticky part of the vinyl hits an object you are done. That is where it is going, period. If it is crooked, oh well. If I had known this trick five years ago I would have saved myself a lot of grief redoing stickers after mistakes and my cars decals would actually be straight.
Before we added any etching cream to our mirror project, we used some more vinyl to ensure the entirety of the mirror that we didn’t want etched was protected. The step allowed us to be sloppier with the application of the etching cream without worrying about damaging anything.
I learned how to use etching cream from just watching YouTube videos. It seems this is how most of us learn to do stuff these days — and it is awesome. Some people use plastic utensil knifes to spread the cream on glass. I have found that using a small art brush seems to work easier and ensures good coverage.
The cream doesn’t need to be left on the glass for any length of time. Just like the Karate Kid, wipe on, wipe off. It is pretty wild how quick this stuff works. It works so fast I choose to wear gloves. Once it is all wiped off then wash with water.
After all of the etching cream is removed, it is time to take off the sticker. Just like the transfer tape, the sticker in this project is only used temporarily. Remove it and see how the glass etching came out. If you follow these steps, it should come out great.
We liked the mirror so much we decided to make some beer mugs for the pit crew using the same process: negative image sticker, apply sticker to glass, spread the etching cream, wife off, wash off, peel the sticker and they were done.
Some people spent their offseason making their racecars faster. We didn’t do that. Instead, we just sat around and drank Tactical Ops Brewing Double Nickel Nine IPA beer out of our own custom beer mugs. Cheers!
Rob Krider is a NASA National Champion and author of the novel Cadet Blues, to read more, or to contact him, go to www.robkrider.com.