Volume 36, Issue 2, February 2001

Blast Off!

Expand Your Market Share with Sandblasting Glass

by Jane Skeeter

SAND1 The current shift in design and architecture is not just about glass, but rather all building materials and how they are being used. With emphasis on the quality, uniqueness and artisanship of the materials, the entire structure and its finish becomes a well-orchestrated symphony. We have seen the increased use of an array of materials, such as stone with flamed or polished surfaces, beautiful hardwoods, metal, concrete and especially glass.

In all of its many forms, glass is one of the most exciting, versatile and surprisingly durable decorative and architectural products available. Customers are increasingly aware of how glass enhances almost any environment, and also want to use it in their own homes and offices. Instead of simple, clear glass, we have an endless variety of glass products to offer our customers. These include a fairly broad selection of standard colors, a myriad of laminated colors and designs and even electrified laminated which changes from translucent to clear glass when activated. By offering any of these products you immediately increase your value to your customer and thus value to your business.

It is easy to expand your product and service offerings, and as a result, your profit. The most effortless way is to ease into it. Enhancing your current products by adding decorative glass is a good first step. Sandblasting showers, doors, windows, tables, screens and mirrors takes them from ordinary to a custom work of art.

The surge in the popularity of sandblasting is probably reflected in the number of glass shops offering this service. Probably 75 percent of glass shops are now offering sandblasting in some form, but only about 10 percent do the work in house. This is probably twice the number of shops that offered sandblasting ten or 12 years ago. The inclusion of sandblasting in standard manufactured products such as showers, tables, windows and doors has helped to cultivate customers’ imaginations, in turn, driving the custom market for glass shops as well.

Sandblasting or sand etching is a simple process of abrading annealed glass. Resist, a resilient material, is applied and adheres to the clean glass surface, protecting the portion of the glass that is to remain untreated from abrasion and scratching. The abrasive (sand, glass bead, aluminum oxide, etc.) bounces off of the mask while it pocks the glass surface.

To this prepared surface, the full-size design to which spray adhesive has been applied is smoothed in place. It is then cut through both the mask and design with an exacto knife. If an even, flat-frost is desired for the design, or if the design is to remain clear and the background frosted, the area to be blasted is removed. This leaves the mask to protect the clear areas and the exposed areas will be frosted. If greater detail and depth is desired, then the sand carving is done in stages.

The mask from the area to be carved with the most depth is removed first and that area of glass is blasted. The mask from the next deepest area is then removed and the glass is carved but not as deeply. This process continues until the carving is complete. The balance of the mask is removed and glass is cleaned carefully.

There is definitely money to be made from sandblasted glass. The easiest way to ease into this market and add value to your work is by collaborating with a local sandblasting or general glass artist. He or she will either work directly with your client or under your guidance. To take it a step further, such a person could be hired on staff to set up the equipment and produce the work. To help increase sales, your customers could be treated to innovative displays with awesome glass. It is difficult for most people to envision the transformation that can occur in their own space.

There is a need for decorative glass and with a little nurturing, your business can capitalize on it and broaden its market share. With the economy getting tighter, it makes sense to be able to offer a broader range of products and services to satisfy your customers’ needs.

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