Smoothing the Edge of a Glass Award

With over 35 years in the glass business, Ruth Dobbins offers experience in fused and cast glass, as well as in glass-etching techniques. Ruth holds a Master's Degree in Printmaking and Art History and has been a partner in a stained and fused glass wholesale supply company in Europe, which also placed great emphasis on a training program. For the past 20 years, she collaborated with her husband Norm Dobbins in commission work, writing books and creating videotapes on how-to techniques for glass etching. Ruth taught these techniques for 30 years in the U.S. and other countries. Ruth continues these venues by offering a complete training program at Aliento School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and by teaching at various trade shows, including The Awards & Engraving Show. One-on-one training and consulting services are also offered. You can reach Ruth by email at, by phone at 505-473-9203 and by fax at 505-473-9218. Check out the website at

If you have a couple of rough spots, they can be ground with sandpaper or diamond pads that are available and in many hardware stores. You can, of course, also use a belt sander if you have one. I have seen some people leave the glasses with a ground and therefore whitish-looking edge, but I prefer to take the finishing of the rims a step further. There are two options in trying to achieve a smooth and shiny edge. One is to use a kiln, the other is to use a propane torch. 

If you have a kiln, you can place your item in it and fire them to a low temperature, which heats the glass up just enough to do what we call fire polishing. The advantage of a kiln is that you can fire-polish quite a few items with one firing. 

Using a propane torch is a bit more exciting. You need to place the item half on a non-flammable surface and then, while wearing safety glasses and gloves, hold the flame about 10 inches away from the glass and slowly heat up the glass while moving the torch around. The best way is to have a lazy susan that the glass can be rotated on while heating it. Eventually, the glass will get hot enough to also fire-polish the edges. Make sure to let the glass cool off before attempting to move it in any way. 

—Ruth Dobbins, EtchMaster