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Label-Etch a Glass Bottle

Use the label as a built-in resist!

Label-Etch a Glass Bottle

Here’s a simple trick I discovered for etching designs on glass bottles using the bottle’s label as a built-in resist.

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Steps

Step #1: Select and prepare bottle

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  • I've been holding onto this bottle of 2006 Coppola Encyclopedia Tempranillo for a couple of years. The wine itself was really only suitable for cooking, but I love the bottle because it has a representation of the resveratrol molecule molded into the side.
  • This process probably requires a bottle with an adhesive plastic label. A sure sign that the label is suitable is is that parts of it are transparent.
  • If you're going to cut your bottle, do so before attempting to etch a design on it, as the cutting process is considerably more failure-prone than etching.

Step #2: Draw design on label

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  • Use a permanent marker or whatever you can find that will stick to the label.
  • Try to choose a design that complements your bottle. I chose a ball-and-stick model of the ethanol molecule to complement the resveratrol molecule molded into this bottle.

Step #3: Cut out positive areas of design

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  • Using your hobby knife or razor, carefully cut around the edges of your design.
  • Lift the edges of the cut-out areas using the blade of your knife or razor.
  • Finish peeling off each positive cut using a pair of tweezers.

Step #4: Clean up stencil

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  • Wipe down the cut stencil with a paper towel generously soaked with rubbing alcohol. This will remove any residual ink and, most importantly, clean any remaining adhesive from the cut-out areas.
  • To make sure the remaining stencil is firmly adhered to the bottle everywhere, wrap a scrap of paper around the bottle, over the label, and rub it briskly with the side of your marker.

Step #5: Apply etching cream

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  • Generously daub etching cream over the exposed positive areas of your design using a brush.
  • Leave the etching cream in place 5 minutes, or whatever the label says, and then wash away all traces of the cream with plenty of warm water in the sink.
  • Glass etchants are toxic and should be handled with care. Wear gloves and goggles and follow the label directions closely.

Step #6: Remove remaining label and clean

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  • Using your hobby knife, or just your fingernail, lift one corner of the label and peel it off.
  • Give the etched design one final cleaning with rubbing alcohol and a paper towel to remove any leftover adhesive.

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


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