Moon Mirror

These mirrors were made by etching glass to reveal the surface of the near and far sides of the Moon. The etching stencil was created using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, allowing the mirrors to literally reflect our actual observations. The mirrors also reflect our own faces, placing ourselves within the myriad of myths told of figures on the Moon throughout history and across cultures.

I love these Moon Mirrors! I was gifted some glass etching cream a while back and thought it would be fun to put my own face in the Moon. The glass etching is surprisingly easy to do- all you really need is a stencil, cream, a rag, and protective gloves and goggles.

I already have code developed for making these types of stencils because of my paper planets, so for me that part of it was fairly quick. I modeled the entire LOLA dataset projected onto a sphere, oriented it so I could see the side of the Moon I desired, snapped a picture and processed it into a stencil using my existing code. I down-sampled the data a bit since the mirror is somewhat small and I didn’t need the full data resolution. I cut my stencil out of vinyl sticker material. Silhouette sells special “stencil material” that is just clear vinyl, only I think it’s less sticky. But really any color or type of regular vinyl will work for the stencil. Vinyl does work particular well for this kind of thing in general because you can cut fine detail without it tearing like paper does. When you first cut out the pattern, you can barely see the cuts at all. I use the Silhouette hook tool or a razor blade to pull out the pieces of the stencil I don’t want, leaving the rest on the paper backing.

Now, to transfer this to the mirror I do use clear vinyl. It would be a nightmare to hand place all the little pieces of the sticker, so I place clear vinyl over the top and pull the paper backing off. Then I can place the stickers onto the mirror, and pull the clear layer off the top. (This is where the clear vinyl being less sticky may come into play- as it easily leaves the pink behind but easily peels off the glass. I haven’t tested it with a different clear product than their official “stencil material.”) Once the stencil is in place, I put a little bit of tape on one edge where I hadn’t lined it up quite perfectly.

Then came the glass etching – get out your safety goggles and gloves, boys, girls, and NBs! Safety first! I mean that! (I love safety, this is a thing for me. Honestly, I don’t understand how more people don’t also love safety. But I digress.) The only gloves I had on hand were my hair dying gloves, which is why they are purple. Do this in a well ventilated area, and lay something down so you don’t accidentally etch part of your bathroom counter like I did!


The cream is simple to use, just take a rag and wipe a layer over the glass and stencil. The etching cream instructions will tell you how long to leave it on, it was something like 30 seconds or so. Then, just rinse it off under the tap, wipe over the surface with a rag, and peel the stencil off. Voila!

Taking pictures of the mirror is kind of tricky because a) its a mirror, b) photography is not pne of my artistic skills, and c) there’s a trippy double layer effect where you see the etched surface at the top of the glass and reflected below that makes it look blurry but it isn’t. Check out the video below to see. Next up, I’m working on making one of the far side of the Moon too, so I’ll get pictures up when I finish that!

I marked this post as D&D related, though I realize I haven’t gotten there yet. This mirror was originally inspired by a story idea involving portals to the two moons that orbit the planet in my D&D world. The mirrors are to act as gateways to these minor worlds, which the players will use within a larger campaign storyline. I haven’t actually developed the Moon dungeons yet, but I’ll update this post when I do. In general, this is an example of a craft object that isn’t really functional to the players (it doesn’t “do” anything), but does add richness to the gameplay as a special, magical item they will find.