Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Make Your Own Beach Glass in Your Rotary Rock Tumbler

Beach Glass 101

Beach glass is the frosted glass you find along a beach or sea shore. It is caused by glass, usually from broken bottles, that rolls around in the sand as waves move it back and forth. The frosted effect is caused by the sand acting as a sandblaster on it. If left long enough in the sand, the glass would completely disappear.

This glass is often used to make jewelry, stained glass, and a number of other projects because it is very attractive. Because of recycling and responsible beach goers, these days you find very little beach glass. However, it is still in high demand.

Here is how to make your own beach glass:

Some people like their beach glass heavily frosted, some like it very lightly frosted, and more even like it somewhere in between. So here are the steps to produce beach glass, but you will have to determine how long to let it go to get the effect you want.

1. Choose a tumbler (see bottom) and fill the barrel 3/4ths full with your broken glass. The size of glass and the amount of finished product will be determined by the size of tumbler.

2. Add enough water to see it just under the top layer of the glass.

3. Start with a coarse grit like 60/90 silicon carbide. The amount you will use is determined by your tumbler size. This step is not so much to frost the glass but to shape it. This step will do all the rounding for you.

4. Close up the barrel and start the tumbling. Rock takes 7-10 days per step. Glass is not nearly as hard so it will take a lot less time. For your first few experiments I would recommend checking the glass every day to see if it is round enough for you. Once it is round enough for you, then move to the next stage.

5. You must wash the glass, barrel, lid, and your hands before the glass is ready for the next stage. Do NOT put the sludge in your drain as it WILL clog your pipes!

6. Start the whole process over again with step 2 or 120/220 grit silicon carbide. Let it go until it is frosted enough for you or very close to frosted enough for you. It should take about as long as step 1 did.

7. If you want a more refined frosting then do a step 3 or 500 or finer grit silicon carbide for 1 to 5 days. The longer you go the finer the frosting will be.

8. If you want to polish the glass then you can do a step 4 or cerium oxide polish (chrome oxide also works well) for 3-7 days with plastic pellets added to the barrel to bring it up to 3/4ths full again.

This last step will create a gloss shine on your glass which is not beach glass but still looks great!

How to choose the right tumbler....

The size of tumbler you will want will depend on the size and the amount of glass you want at the end.

The smallest tumblers will do glass up to 1 inch in diameter and you will get about 2 cups of finished glass.

The 6 pound tumblers will do golf ball size chunks of glass and you will finish with about 4-5 cups. This size machine will do smaller ones as well but no larger than a golf ball.

The 12 pound tumblers will do up to 2 inch glass chunks and you will finish with about 10 cups of glass.

The 40 pound tumblers will do up to 3 inch pieces (you might be able to do slightly larger but not a lot of them at once) and you will finish with about 20+ pounds of glass.

The amounts you finish with are all approximate. You can do smaller pieces of glass in the larger tumblers but you can't do larger ones in the smaller tumblers. If you are doing a lot of glass on a continuous basis then you may want to get a larger tumbler.

Good luck!

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