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The demand for etched glass is much stronger today than it was just a few years ago. It is a beautiful art form used for decoration, advertisement and awards. When I began abrasive blasting in the 70’s, etching was considered a lost art. I personally had very little success in finding any information about or equipment for this type of art and actually started etching with a rotary tool. I then progressed to a very poor siphon unit using sifted river sand.
With the use of computers, the advancement of equipment and the availability of information, abrasive blasting is becoming more popular today than ever. It can increase sales in the awards and sign businesses. Etching can be used to give unusual effects in stained glass projects, glass art, glass painting, jewelry making, antique restoration and water garden decoration. In new homes it can make a statement for new owners when used to decorate kitchens, bathrooms, doors, transoms and windows. We are seeing more etched glass accent decoration in hotels, restaurants and corporate offices. Abrasive blasting isn’t used just for glass. Designs can be put on almost anything you can think of such as metal, rock, wood, tile and even jeans fabric.
Getting into the business of etching can cost less than two thousand dollars and take up very little shop space with the PAB set up. If you have a plotter you will be able to do most of your work in etching jobs easily. Small, one-of-a-kind etching jobs like wedding glasses are easier to do using the photo resist method. If you are working on a shoestring it will pay to learn to hand cut your stencils. Consumables such as glass are ordered from a local glass company (no storage) or brought in by the customer. The abrasive is used over and over. Once set up is complete, cost is very minimal. Adding to or starting a new business is a great adventure and if you enjoy etching, I think it is a great opportunity.
Unless you just want the pencil gun because it is smaller in the hand , the 1/8" gun would do well for you. You can write with the pencil gun but you can also pull the hose out of the 1/8" gun and write with it as well. Both use the 1/16" tip and the 1/32" tip and give the control you need to do shadow blasting.
The PAB guns are designed to work with pressure pot systems to allow for variable control. The variable trigger PAB gun can not be used with a siphon system. We do have the PAB washout gun which was originally modified to work with a syphon system. This gun also works to washout photo resist and can spray paint.
I usually recommend the ¼” with the tip adapter so you can use the small straight tips. We have a PAB Variable Trigger Pencil Gun and 1/8" and 1/4" PAB Variable Trigger Pistol Grip Guns. All three can be used for finely detailed work. The 1/4" variable trigger pistol grip gun can do frosting, carving and stage work.
The PAB Gun can only be used with a pressure pot. The PAB Pressure Blaster comes in three sizes. The PAB gun has a variable trigger which takes the place of a foot pedal. You can still use one and we have one or two customers who do for various reasons but it isn't necessary. For instance a customer will use a foot pedal because their hand gets tired when they blast a long time. You can use a foot pedal to replace the variable trigger on the gun by tying the handle of the gun in an open position. Then the foot pedal will control the amount of abrasive. To use the gun, the foot pedal would have to be in an open position.
If you get a PAB ¼” gun for your pressure pot you will have more control when blasting. The PAB Tee will allow a better feed of abrasive and also make the gun work more efficiently. Add the tip adapter w/ two straight carbide tips 1/32 and 1/16" for your smaller jobs and you will have a nice little set up that will work better than most.
The second option, which would be much better in the long run, is the PAB model D w/ the 1/4" gun. You will eliminate most, if not all of the daily blasting problems. The PAB Pressure Pots have been designed to be trouble free and easy to use. Many features have been added over the years and they all work together so you can enjoy doing any job you might need to do in your shop. If you choose the first option and decide later to get the PAB pressure pot, you won’t need the PAB gun because you already have one. You can buy the PAB Pressure system D or E, reduced by the price of your gun.
We use 120 grit silicon carbide for most of our jobs. It is a little more expensive, but is self sharpening and it can be used over and over because it stays sharp until you lose it as dust.. We also use 120 grit aluminum oxide which can be used over and over but it does break down faster. This grit gives a little smoother finish and is a little less expensive. Because of the aluminum, there is the problem of getting shocked if your booth is metal and you aren't grounded.
We use the older grit that has broken down for polishing and for the extra smooth look. The smaller grit is more difficult to keep moisture out of, which can cause problems. I put the grit in a flat pan and warm it in the oven at 175 degrees for several hours to get the moisture out. Drying the abrasive will eliminate 99% of your clogs. The other 1% is due to trash in your abrasive. We use a fine mesh splatter (cooking) screen to strain our abrasive. The PAB system has a moisture (modified) trap that really works well to keep moisture out of the pot, but if moisture is already in the abrasive a moisture trap will not remove it.
Whether it is a small or large project, the PAB pressure pot makes it fast and easy to do jobs without the ordinary problems you get with most other systems.... you can do most of your jobs between 10-35 psi, airbrush at 4psi and carve at 40 to 60 psi. The lower pressure saves on tip replacement ($$$) and is easy on stencils so they can be used over and over.
The Model E is your best bet unless you have a problem with space. It will do any job large or small and the price difference isn't very big from the next size down which is the Model D (middle size). The (small size) Model B is the one my wife uses for almost all her jobs. I do the large projects but Lou does most of the awards, glasses and other small jobs.
The model B uses the PAB Variable Trigger (finger controlled) Pencil Gun or the 1/8" PAB Variable Trigger Gun. For really delicate airbrushing we use the pencil gun and for regular jobs we use the 1/8" gun. The Model B holds about 8# of grit and will do the same jobs that the Model D or E will do, but would have to be filled much more often. I don’t carve with it, but I do blast a little deeper around the edges of letters because it really looks nice and doesn’t take much time. Refilling the tank isn't a problem for me because I just release the pressure, put in a funnel and fill, turn the pressure back on and blast.
If you think you will want to carve glass, we recommend the model D or E.
A larger volume of air is required for blasting using the 1/4" gun giving less control than with the 1/8" gun. The ¼” gun uses a cone tip and is slightly beveled on the inside causing the abrasive to come out with more power at the smaller end.
The 1/8” gun uses a straight tip that is the same size on the inside allowing more control. This also determines the size of compressor that is needed. It is harder for a small compressor to keep up with a higher volume demand with the ¼” hose.
The model B is used mostly for small jobs like wedding glasses, cups, and surface etching. It takes up less room, is lightweight, has the smaller PAB Variable Trigger Pencil Gun or 1/8" PAB Variable Trigger Gun, works on a 2 HP or larger compressor and holds about 8 lb of abrasive.
For most jobs, especially airbrush techniques, it is really nice. Because you can control the amount of abrasive to air, the model B will do a lot of small items before it runs out of abrasive. When it does, you just strain the abrasive and put it back into the tank. This takes just a couple of minutes.
Used with the PAB system, the media starts flowing as the trigger is pulled. The abrasive can even be turned off and only air (0 to 60 psi set by the regulator) will flow. Using the adjustment valve allows either a small amount or a large amount of abrasive to flow.
The PAB Gun comes with the cone carbide tip of your choice and the 1/8" gun comes with two tips- the 1/32" and the 1/16" the hose ¼” and a 3/8' connector, ready to connect and use on systems other than PAB. Used with systems other than PAB, the variable trigger lets you control only the amount of air and abrasive (together) by squeezing the trigger.
Our tanks only hold 40 or 50 lb depending on the abrasive. Some abrasives weigh more than others. Our PAB blasting system uses about half as much abrasive that another system would use for the same job. This is because of the control of both the amount of air and the amount of abrasive. For example: If you want to cut faster you will increase the air and decrease the abrasive.
You more or less play with the controls until the blaster does just what you want. After you do a few projects this becomes second nature. Holding the tip close to the work also is a measure of control by putting the abrasive exactly at the spot you want. For a smoother finish to cover more area you will decrease the psi and add more abrasive. You will have less dust to deal with (as seen on the video), and you will be able see what you are blasting and you won’t need to tape off around your pattern.
We have found buttercut to be a great resist on uneven surfaces and it has a good sticking power. We have also used 3 or 4 four thicknesses of plain old box tape being careful not to overlap in the same place so you don’t have more than 4 layers. Hope this helps.
Yes a plotter can be used for stencils. For large repeat jobs such as stem ware, weeding would be very time consuming so we suggest using a permanent stencil. These can be cut by hand or with a laser. With the laser there are some restrictions on the type of stencil material that can be used. Check out the PAB Stencil Cutting Kit
Both the model D and E have a handle and all the systems are portable.
When we first started etching glass in the 70's we used a siphon system. I definitely wouldn't go back to one although some people do like them. If they used both I think they might feel differently especially if the pressure pot were the PAB blaster.
It doesn't look like it on the tape but Bob is blasting in a cabinet (with a great filtering system). He should be wearing a mask anyway but very little if any dust escapes his setup. Any one who blasts should take safety precautions.