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What is a Tumbler Cup?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated Dec 06, 2021
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A tumbler is the most generic of the serving glasses for liquids. It may come in a range of sizes, usually between 12 oz. and 20 oz. (0.35 to 0.95 liters). There is no "right" shape for these glasses, but the most common features a flat circular base and a conical wall rising up to the rim. Though not specifically intended for alcoholic drinks, many bars use them as a substitute for both the Collins glass and the highball glass.

What is a Tumbler Cup?

Different sources give different accounts of the origins of the word tumbler. The most common etymology holds that the original glasses give this name had bases that either rounded out or came to a point, making them impossible to put down because they would fall over. This limitation is explained either as a result of glass-making practices of the day, or as an intentional design flaw to inspire patrons to imbibe more alcohol by requiring them to finish their drink before they could put it down. An alternate etymology of the term cites the 17th century use of the phrase "Venice glass tumblers" to describe glass-makers who made these types of glasses.

How Tumblers Were Made

The earliest glasses that could be given this name were made in Rome during the pre-Christian era. These glasses were blown, not pressed, which gave them a rounded appearance, almost of a ball. Their bases were most likely flattened, however, so that they would not in fact "tumble" over.

In the 19th century, the first pressed-glass tumbler was manufactured. The story goes that a carpenter came to a glass maker, Deming Jarves, and requested a glass of certain dimensions and shape. Jarves informed the man that such a glass couldn't possibly be blown, and the man suggested a machine could be made to press it into the correct shape. He made the machine and produced the first of these containers, a rough proxy of today's modern version.

Types of Tumblers

These days, a tumbler may come in many different shapes. Because of its wide-spread popularity, most glass makers have at least one, if not many, different varieties for sale. The glass may be simple, with a flat base and basic outward-arcing body, or may be wavy and artistic, pointed with no flat base, rounded and nested on a stem to a flat base, or any number of other designs. They come in all sorts of colors and patterns and may not even be made of glass — some are constructed of stainless steel or plastics.

How to Personalize a Tumbler

Tumblers are often bought and customized for personal use or thoughtful gifts. Plastic and stainless steel tumblers are usually customized with decals or epoxy, and you can customize glass tumblers with etching. Whether you are using decals for plastic or stainless steel tumblers or etching on glass tumblers, these different methods can both employ the use of a Cricut.

How to Make a Tumbler with a Cricut

You can easily customize different types of tumblers with the help of a Cricut or another vinyl cutting machine. To customize a glass tumbler, you will need your Cricut, etching cream, removable vinyl, and transfer tape. Use your Cricut to create a design for your tumbler. Remove the design from the removable vinyl and fill the spots with etching cream. Then, you can carefully place the design on your glass tumbler. Let this sit for thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, wash off the etching cream and peel off the vinyl or painter's tape to reveal your etched glass tumbler.

You can also use a Cricut to create decals for plastic or stainless steel tumblers. First, wash your tumbler to ensure that the decal sticks without any issue. Then, create or purchase the design you would like for your tumbler. Once you create and cut your design using your Cricut, simply stick the decal to a plastic or stainless steel tumbler. Take your time to remove any air bubbles that could lead to future peeling. Alternatively, you can also consider a glitter coating to personalize your stainless steel tumblers.

How to Make a Glitter Tumbler

To personalize your stainless steel tumbler using glitter, you will need several items. You will need glitter, epoxy, gloves, a heat gun, and spray paint. You will need to start by spray painting your tumbler and allowing plenty of time for it to dry. You will start with your painted tumbler and place it on a cup turner. Apply the mixed epoxy resin to the spray-painted surface of the tumbler. This epoxy should be a thin layer to only serve as an adhesive for the glitter. You can then use the heat gun to even out any streaks in the epoxy. If there are streaks in the epoxy, these streaks will interfere with the design of the glitter.

Then, you can slowly shake the glitter onto the epoxy-covered tumbler. The spinning action of the turner will allow excess glitter to fall while evenly coating the tumbler in glitter. Gently tap the arm of the cup turner to remove loose glitter from the tumbler. For complete coverage, you can repeat the process of pouring glitter and tapping the turner to remove excess glitter. Allow the tumbler to continue spinning on the cup turner for two hours. Use a gloved hand to smooth out the glitter and epoxy on the bottom of the tumbler to ensure your tumbler has an even and flat bottom.

You can then prepare another epoxy mixture to pour onto the glittered tumbler. Evenly coat the tumbler with the epoxy mixture using a gloved hand or brush. Now, you can use the heat gun to even out the epoxy and allow any bubbles to come to the surface. Your tumbler will need to spin for four to six hours and then air dry for another six hours. You can also epoxy your stainless steel tumbler without glitter.

How to Epoxy a Tumbler

To epoxy a tumbler, you will need to begin by preparing the surface of the stainless steel tumbler. Spray paint or use paint to create a design to decorate and personalize your tumbler. Then, you will start by mixing the two primary activating agents to make your epoxy resin. With your tumbler on a cup turner, you will need to use a gloved hand to smooth out the epoxy as you slowly pour the epoxy resin on the tumbler. Allow the tumbler to continue spinning while the epoxy sets for twelve hours. If you have epoxied a stainless steel tumbler and decide you no longer like the design, there is a way to remove epoxy from a stainless steel tumbler.

How to Remove Epoxy from Tumbler

First, you will need a workspace with a lot of ventilation, or preferably a workspace outside. If you decide to use acetone to remove epoxy from a tumbler, make sure there are no open flames near you while you are working with the acetone. You will also need to work with a full-face respirator. You need to work using gloves, acetone, foil, and plenty of paper towels to wrap the tumbler. Once the tumbler is wrapped in the paper towels, you will then place the tumbler onto the foil. Then you can pour the acetone onto the paper towels and wrap the tumbler with the foil. Place the wrapped tumbler into a plastic bag that will zip or snap shut.

You will need to allow the cup to sit in the acetone for twenty-four hours. Keep the tumbler in a safe place so that children and pets do not have access to it. Remove the tumbler from the bag and carefully unwrap the foil. You can then use the acetone-soaked paper towels to wipe down the tumbler of the epoxy or paint. Then you can use fresh paper towels with acetone to wipe down the tumbler until all of the epoxy or paint has been removed from the surface of the tumbler. You can also use rubbing alcohol to aid you in removing any remaining residue. If you rather not work with an epoxy seal at all, there is an alternative.

How to Seal a Tumbler Without Epoxy

Decals and paint can be sealed on tumblers using modge podge, or a similar adhesive like Extreme Protection polyurethane. You will need modge podge or a similar adhesive, spray adhesive, a spray-painted tumbler, crystal clear acrylic coating or gloss glaze to seal, and glitter if you would like to add glitter.

Clean the painted surface of your tumbler and place the tumbler on the cup turner. Use a brush to evenly apply the adhesive to the surface of the tumbler. If you would like to add glitter, lightly sprinkle the glitter onto the surface of the coated tumbler as it spins on the cup turner.

Let the surface dry for one to two hours. Use a spray adhesive to help you apply another coat of glitter. Once your tumbler is fully coated, use the crystal clear acrylic sealer or gloss glaze to seal the glitter. Let the sealer and adhesive fully dry for an hour. After the sealer dries, you can add another layer of sealer to be sure the glitter and paint are sealed. Whether you use modge podge, epoxy, or another method to personalize your stainless steel tumbler, the possibilities for creativity are endless.

As glasses go, the tumbler is a must-have for any bar and for most kitchens. Larger than an 8 oz. (0.23 l) cup, they generally offer a good marriage of simplicity and usefulness, at an affordable price.

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Discussion Comments
By anon982936 — On Dec 25, 2014

Don't fill it up all the way then. Teach them less is more. And why are they drinking juice in the first place? Juice is more or less sugar, water all the way!

By geronimo8 — On Feb 04, 2011

I had no idea that the origin of the tumbler was so interesting! Granted, there is the debate about what the word actually originated from, but I think it's hilarious that it could have been that these glasses were designed to fall over so that you couldn't put them down until you finished your drink. That's very clever, if you ask me!

By hyrax53 — On Jan 29, 2011

The problem with tumblers is that they are far larger than people need for most beverages. This means that, especially for children, they can get used to drinking tumbler-sized amounts of things like sugary juice or fattening milk, making them not only consume more than they need, but think that they need more than they do.

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