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Practical class: Glass engraving

Finally! I know!

I do take my time, don’t I?

Well I’ll tell you something. My father bought an engraver years and years ago with the idea of engraving his name, contact details etc, on his electronics at about the time he bought a very expensive Bang and Olufson stereo, (you know, in case they were all stolen and miraculously recovered), but he never actually ever used it. When he passed away and mom and I were sorting out the basement work room, she gave the engraver to me. I wasn’t sure how to use it, or even how it works, and I did try it once on a silver piece I made, but always wanted to learn how to do some quality engraving art.


So when a practical class in glass engraving came up I thought I’d really love to learn.

I signed up for the class and walked round the tents at Art in Action, till I came to a table with some beautiful glass work.


And met this lovely lady: Freddie Quartley

We had a little chat, and she showed me a little of her methods and some of her tools. It seems that there are about as many burrs for glass engraving as there might be coloured pencils, or paintbrushes for painting! Whew, I never imagined there was such a range. But there you go with the amazing thing about Art in Action. You get to see, touch, learn, explore, riffle thru sketchbooks…it’s an artist’s paradise.

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So I looked at the tools, got some tips, and watched her work on an engraving, and then….

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…headed off to the best of the best tent to look at some more.

Isn’t this amazing? It’s called “Introvert” by glass artist Nancy Sutcliffe.

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And so, energised and inspired to the max, I walked over to the practical classes and took my seat in front of a black felt pad an engraving tool, two burrs and a glass (the first glass, a practice glass).

The two burrs were a long pointed burr called a rat’s tail, and a round ball burr.

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The several instructors from the Glass Engraver’s guild of London, basically said, “right, off you go!”

So I tried to visualise a little robin and picked up the pointy rat’s tail burr and went to it. So much fun!

Oh ARG! No such thing as a straight line in glass engraving…lol…and to top it off, I was absolutely hopeless with the rat’s tail burr. As soon as I switched to the ball burr though, I started to get some better results.

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I turned the glass 1/4 turn, and my next design, a pheasant…er…of sorts…lol, ended up a bit better. Then another quarter turn and an owl, another quarter turn and then butterfly. I tried to practice straight lines, shading, circles, etc as was directed. I began to get the hang of it and it didn’t seem so hard in the end once I got my hold of the glass and tool comfortable enough, and once I learned how to use my little finger for purchase on the glass to steady the vibrating tool while I tried to make it engrave the lines and stop it from skipping.

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You know what? It’s really hard to photograph a glass with designs on it! 😀 But here’s the test glass.

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This turned out a little better, my four little designs with my camera lens cap behind them.
You might see that from the first, the robin, and then clockwise, it seems to look a bit better.

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And then, the lovely guild instructors handed us our final glass. Our masterpiece…now that we were all accomplished glass engravers. 😀

I chose to do two larger designs.

The first was this wild rose. I was getting on so well that one of the instructors let me use a larger, diamond ball burr, and I’ll tell you what, that made such a difference. If you go to try this, get yourself a set of diamond burrs. Such a much nicer tip to engrave with. I took maybe 35 minutes over this design and learned how to shade a bit better and also how to not be scared to press a bit harder for deeper marks. Apparently, the glass won’t shatter in your hand under the pressure of the engraver.

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And, with maybe 20 minutes of class left, I engraved this little blackbird standing on a twig.

By the time I finished this design, I found the process to be quite easy, very satisfying and actually was sorry that the class was over.

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I brought the glasses home at the end of the day and R said, “shut up! You did not make these.” and then he smiled.

I know it’s a bit of an investment in tools, but the process is rather lovely and I really loved my resulting glasses. I’m definitely going to give this art form more attention.

Oh, by the way, I found this on line from glass engraver Leslie Pyke:

Love this lady, her sense of humour and her generous spirit of sharing her process, and I can clearly see there’s so much for me to learn.

Comments: 4

  • August 4, 2015

    Oh wow! Your amazing drawings on glass; mine would be a little off the wall! Or off the glass lol… thank you for such inspiring stuff V. Walking around a store this morning l was looking in the craft areas longingly… I have packed all my things already!!! So frustrating! :-/

  • August 4, 2015

    Glass engraving! What an amazing ability. You rock! I can’t imagine even attempting this. :-))))

    But my husband would! Or would have been more inclined to do so, back when his eyesight had not deteriorated.

    Glass engraving… Just beautiful….. Amazing…


  • daryledelstein

    August 6, 2015

    i am so not surprised you took to this like a duck to water … can you add color to the designs?

  • August 6, 2015

    I love seeing glasses with decorations on them. These are great!

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