How can I stress-test my hand-painted glassware?
August 21, 2016 11:38 AM   Subscribe

I hand-paint glassware with alcohol inks for sale on Etsy and hopefully in local places. While I had just been doing things like candle holders, I'm now making items that would see more daily use, like mugs and teacups. I'm looking for some ways to make sure the ink will stay intact during normal use. More inside.

First I tried looking for a good varnish or sealant. I tried about six of seven different ones, all of which had big problems. Some took the ink off, some left the surface foggy, and some left the surface sticky. Finally I happened upon an article about baking inked glassware (at 400 degrees for 30 minutes) to set the ink, so I have been doing that.

Now I have a batch of drink glasses and vases and such that are ready for me to post for sale. However, I don't want to post them if they're going to get damaged by normal use. I can run them through the dishwasher a few times and microwave water in them a few times, but I don't know the best ways to actually mimic human use. If I can do that, and also if there are ideas for making my products stronger, I'd love to hear.

Does anyone here have any ideas? Thank you.
posted by mermaidcafe to Grab Bag (7 answers total)
Could you give a few samples to friends with the request that they put them through daily use and report back their results to you?
posted by vers at 11:43 AM on August 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

Amongst other things, you need to handwash them with various types of scrubbies to see if those will take the ink off.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:58 AM on August 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I used to work for a large art materials manufacturer as technical manager and I will tell you that getting paint to adhere to glass, even paint that is specifically made to adhere to glass is one of the most difficult problems our company faced. Glass has a very tight crystal structure that does not allow attachment to the surface as a substrate. As a glass surface is heated and cooled, it flexes, so it separates from the paint film. Once that separation from beneath begins, there's no top sealant that will prevent or protect your paint film. Whole separate issue with inks and alcohol that I won't get into because it would turn this post into a novella. Also, people will take your beauty and stick it right into the dishwasher and call you for a refund when they broke it. Just sayin' and trying to save you some grief.
posted by effluvia at 12:27 PM on August 21, 2016 [11 favorites]

I've never met glassware with paint/ink that lasted more than a year or two of actual use. I buy such objects in order to have a pretty thing in my kitchen, rather than to drink out of.
posted by SMPA at 12:42 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

The commercial mug and wineglass printers kiln fire ceramic designs onto their wares, according to a quick googling.

I don't think they'd do that unless they had to.

I'd experiment with tintable epoxies from West system or smooth-on. Email first, customer reps there can tell you if they recommend doing that or not.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:25 PM on August 21, 2016

I'd also recommend a clear disclaimer as to expected wear patterns of the paint in your online channels and conditions of sale - as others have said longevity of the designs will be very challenging and not everybody has reasonable expectations like SMPA.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:31 PM on August 21, 2016

A dishwasher is probably the best "home" tool for testing the durability of the inks. Try several cycles through the dishwasher, if you see any significant degradation of the art then I really wouldn't sell the pieces as usable, just as art pieces with a disclaimer and warning.
posted by Long Way To Go at 1:47 PM on August 21, 2016

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