Friday, October 5, 2012

Aging Glass

Lisa Proud brings us this tutorial on aging glass jars. It's aimed at Martha Stewart-style crafters creating home decorations, but it's a good overview for prop use as well.

The one caveat I would give is the use of sandpaper. I'm sure it's perfectly safe for display-only static props, but I would be leery of using it on items that will be handled regularly. Admittedly, I'm being overly cautious. I had a distressed bottle like that shatter when I simply picked it up from a shelf and set it on a table. I still have numbness in the tip of my index finger from the deep cut that resulted.


Phil said...

Some great techniques here. I was always clueless about how to age and tint glass. I'm adding this link to my reference collection.

Pat G said...

Thanks again for some great tutorial links.

Have you tried any of the glass etching solutions? They should frost the glass without creating stress concentrating scratches and subsequent exploding jars.

Anonymous said...

Glass etching solution can be fun to work with. Diluted or straight up. Though one way I found to age a bottle with it was to dilute it by about 2/3 and then stipple it onto the bottle. Wait about 10 seconds and then scrub it with a cloth, working the runny cream around, and then rinse/dry. It gave the bottles a splotchy haze.

CoastConFan said...

It’s a good tutorial to make bottles look like they have been freshly excavated. I see bottles like this commonly, which have iron corrosion transfer stains and whitish leeching from the soil, typically found on glassware from trashpits and privies. It only takes a few decades of being buried, especially in association with refuse for bottles to look like this.

Beyond this superficial look, when I look at old glass items, I look at telltales to look for heavy usage. I look at the bottom of the item to see if there is wear on the base, where it contacts a table, shelf, etc. There should be minute to great wear on items meant to be used. On items that were meant to be used, there should be some wear on the lip such as microchipping or “flea bites”. Now there might be absolutely no wear on an item that has sat in a curio cabinet for a hundred years, so wear is no indicator. I have also seen plenty of 1840s bottles that have no transfer or deterioration, so wear or crud is no proof. A common ruse of counterfeiters is to put an item in a bucket of rusty water, or a repose in a dung pit might fool the novice. Never lick old bottles.

Classically, you can look at severe wear and glass breakdown in ancient glass such as Roman glass. Sheeting, where the glass is actually breaking down will appear but it takes a very long time for that to appear, depending on the soil. You can get a lustrous sheen or opalization when glass breaks down. So if you are simulating ancient glass, this kind of heavy decomposition might be just what you want for your prop.

The important thing about an aged prop is to ask the question, does this treatment aesthetically work for the item, given its supposed history? Does it have curb appeal? If so, then that is all the criteria you need. Below are a few sites that might be of interest for the scientifically or archaeologist in you, of if like myself, you just love overkill.
for those of you who really want to delve into ancient glass deterioration can download a pdf at

Rhissanna said...

For cheap and easy, put the bottle (I'm doing this with test tubes)in a container of strong tea and walk away.

It's not quick, but it leaves stains and dirt on the glass that look like contact with (nasty, arcane) chemicals. The tannins can be washed off, with effort and scrubbing, which does give you he option of re-using pieces.