How to make a Ground Glass
Making Ground Glass can be a somewhat dirty process. Make sure you complete this process somewhere you don’t mind making a mess.
Gather the following materials:
- At least two pieces of ∼1/8″ thick glass, 4×5″ (slightly undersized is ok too – 3.9 x 4.9″)
- 600 Grit Silicon Carbide Powder
- Water in a cup
- An off-cut of wood. (I use a short piece of a 2x4)
- Super Glue
- 8×10″ piece of Cardboard
- Double sided Tape
- Emery Cloth or Sandpaper (bonus)
- A tray bigger than your cardboard (if you want to contain the mess)
Your local hardware store will likely stock glass. Some places will even cut it down to size for you. If not, you will need to cut the glass yourself. Be careful when cutting and handling glass, the edges are very sharp. Once you have the two pieces, it helps to carefully sand down all the edges using wet Emery Cloth or Sandpaper. If you have already 3D printed the camera parts, this is a good time to double check that your glass fits in the “RS_groundglassframe.stl” before proceeding.
Take one of the pieces of glass and the off-cut of wood. Apply a liberal amount of super glue to the wood, and fix it to the center of the glass. Let the glue set and properly fix the two together. Make sure the glue you have is suitable for wood and glass. This is what you will use to grind the glass.
Take another piece of the glass and the double sided tape. Apply the tape to one side of the glass, and fix the glass to the piece of cardboard. This piece will become the ground glass. On top of the glass, place a small amount of the 600 grit Silicon Carbide Powder and spread it over the whole glass surface. Then, pour approximately an equal amount of water and mix them into a slurry.
Take the makeshift tool you made. In small circular motions, grind the two pieces of glass together. Make sure you move around the entire surface of the glass. Continue to grind using moderate pressure for at least 5 minutes.
Set the tool aside and remove the glass from the cardboard. Carefully dispose of the cardboard, remove the tape, and thoroughly rinse both sides of the glass. Set it aside to dry.
Once it has dried, examine the surface of the glass. If there are any spots on the ground side that are still transparent you will need to repeat the procedure. Use new tape and a new piece of cardboard each time. You can repeat this process as many times as it takes to achieve an even surface finish.
Now, you can add a grid or any custom marks you would like with a ruler and a sharp pencil.
*This ground glass was professionally made, and the clipped corners were achieved with a waterjet cutting tool.
More effort than you want to put in? We sell ready-to-go Ground Glass for The Standard 4×5 here:
There are many online resources about grinding glass. Like most things in photography, you can find plenty of competing opinions on how to do something. Here are a few tutorials with varying perspectives that you might find useful:
Making a Ground Glass for a View Camera – Tony Santo
- Skip to 2:25 to get to the tutorial
How To Ground Your Own Glass – Dokas Photos
- A very thorough and technical explanation of the process.
How to Make a Focus Ground Glass – Stenopeika
- For our Italian friends (and anyone willing to read subtitles)