Sand Carving vs. Laser Etching Glass

Etching on glass and rock material is popular in both the laser etching and sand carving world. But which is better, or possibly more suited for the needs of your project? With glass being a delicate and sensitive surface where a single rouge scratch could harm the non-design area of your project material, accuracy and precision are important.

Sandcarving (referred to as “sandblasting” by some), is basically an abrasive process using forced pressure that etches away at the material such as glass, rock, etc, leaving behind a three-dimensional feel to the design. Pressure used can vary depending on the project. Surface etching is typically done in a sandblasting cabinet with fairly low pressure, while the more 3-D type projects with deeper layers are done using pressure pots under much higher PSI’s.

check out this video of the process:

With this process of sandcarving, designs are implemented on the surface material using a sandmask that protects the non-design area of your project material and focuses the pressurized abrasive towards the intended design space. Various thicknesses of the masking are used depending on the specific pressure being used.

There are a lot more details that go into the complex process of sand carving. Various types of equipment, abrasives, masking, etc. But for the purposes of this post, we’ve given a quick glimpse into the world of sandcarving as a means for glass etching.

Would A Laser Machine Be Better?

We certainly wouldn’t want to misrepresent the process of sandcarving, and most definitely believe that it has its place in various industries and projects. Yet, since our expertise and focus is on high-quality laser etching machines, let’s explore some of the advantages that a laser machine might have over the traditional sandcarving process.

With sandcarving, you have the process of masking (a.k.a stenciling) which requires a very time-consuming process of printing out the stencil on expensive vinyl film, through yet another piece of equipment, and then removing all of the vinyl cut-outs before applying to the project surface. This can be quite a tedious process and makes for a “one-shot wonder” in getting your project right.

Using a laser machine, you remove the need for masking materials, print outs, or other equipment. A simple computer to machine connection allows you to pass the design file directly to the laser etching machine where it receives precise design details and goes straight to work on the material situated in the laser machine bed.

With laser etching, you don’t have to worry about messy abrasives or significant project cleanup. The enclosed laser machines perform the intricate etchings with extreme minimal cleanup and allow you to move right on into your next project. We discuss the full process of using a laser machine for glass projects in our complete guide to laser etching glass.

In the case where you have multiple sheets of material needing the same etched design, if you were to use the sandcarving process, you’d need to re-apply a new vinyl film (using more material), making it a very difficult process to duplicate. With a laser machine, it’s as simple as sliding in your next sheet of material and re-running the design. 

Versatility of the Laser Machine

Aside from ease of use that we’ve discussed above, the laser machine is additionally an incredibly versatile piece of equipment for any hobbyist, shop, or industrial business. Not only are they capable of etching breakable and delicate materials, they can also be used for laser cutting and engraving on a wide variety of materials. The investment in a laser machine truly opens the windows of opportunity when it comes to what is possible for your next project.

check out our entry-level laser etching machine here

Choosing the right machine can be a tedious process with so many different brands, price points, and features on the market. Here at Thunder Laser USA, we’ve worked hard to simplify that process by providing a cost-saving laser machine that rivals our competitors in speed, versatility, and quality. We are available for a no-obligation consultation to discuss your needs with you and help answer any questions you have.