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Case Smithing: Personalized Acrylic Etching and Engraving

By: John Williamson | Guides | Posted: Apr 15, 2013 2:05 pm

Tools and Preparation

 

To get underway with our engraving we need a few tools and materials. Let's begin with the acrylic sheet itself.

 

Probably the most obvious starting point would be with the acrylic panel. For my etching I am using a clear 3mm thick sheet, which is perfect for window panels, although colour and thickness is completely up to your own personal needs. Prices can vary massively from store to store so I suggest shopping around, as I have found sheet prices in my area can vary from $10 up to around $35 for the exact same size and quality piece.

 

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The other vital component for this project is a rotary tool. If you don't already have one, they can be purchased for as little as $30 from most hardware stores and really are a great investment. I can guarantee you will use it over and over again - they are a very versatile little tool. At the moment I am using a mid-range Ozito rotary tool, which is a lot better than the more expensive "brand" name one I was using.

 

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If you have a rotary tool flex shaft attachment I would also recommend using it especially when doing more complicated or larger etching projects. These extensions are a lot lighter and easier to manoeuvre than the rotary tool itself, saving you a serious case of dead wrist, after a few hours of engraving.

 

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Next up we need some engraving bits. Fortunately when I bought my last rotary tool it had a full accessory kit, including the bits used for engraving. The main engraving bits that I use are the small round head type, specifically the "Dremel" branded engraving/cutter bits #105, #106, #107 and #109.

 

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The last few items on the list are usually easily found around the house. Find some soft clean cloth to place over your working area to save your acrylic from scratches and another to clean away debris. It is also very important to have an extremely well lit area. I like to use one of my sheds work lamps as it floods the whole area with nice clean white halogen light.

 

Again keeping in mind how easily acrylic scratches, remove any jewellery or abrasive clothing (buttons mess acrylic up real good). Finally don't forget your safety glasses, the last thing anyone needs is a hot piece of sharp acrylic flicking into your eye!

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