The answer to a problem often comes when you least expect it. Photo by Chance Agrella
Solving Firing Problems
Recent Q&As: Cutting Curved Glass Lines
A Kiln Story: The Melted Cat
SOLVING FIRING PROBLEMS
Years ago while waiting for a car repair, I chatted with a mechanic. He said that when he faced a vexing mechanical problem, he would take a coffee break, think about something else, and then return to the problem. The answer usually came to him after his break.
Use the mechanic’s idea when you are pondering a firing problem such as cracked glass, crazed glaze, or brittle silver clay. The following checklist may also help.
1) Examine kiln firing records.
2) Analyze materials. Are you using a new batch? Some materials, such as clay, can change from batch to batch. Consult your materials supplier. They may have had similar problems with other customers.
3) Sometimes you can solve a problem by redesigning the piece. Glass bubbles can be eliminated by removing areas in the design that trap air between glass layers.
4) The failed piece may reveal clues that will help you solve the problem. For example, are the edges of broken glass or clay sharp, or rounded? Sharp edges mean the piece broke during cooling.
5) Analyze the way you loaded the kiln. Does the defect occur only in certain areas of the firing chamber?
Keep detailed notes of your analysis and the solution. Those notes may help you to solve similar problems later. And above all, don’t get discouraged.
The last Kiln Pointer was on glass cutting. Judy Gregg of Little Hocking, Ohio wrote, “Your advice on cutting straight lines is very helpful. What I have a lot of trouble with is cutting curved lines and circles. I've been wasting a lot of glass.”
After cutting a circle, make cut lines that radiate out from the circle to the edge of the glass. Then break off the excess pieces that surround the circle. Use them in another project.
To cut curved lines, you will need running pliers. Center the glass score line in the pliers and squeeze the handles.
Do not press too hard with the glass cutter, which is a common error. It also helps to use a high quality cutter such as the Toyo. One time an employee was cutting sheets of dichroic glass here at Paragon. She used a fairly good reservoir cutter, but the glass kept breaking erratically. I went home to get my brass-handled Toyo cutter, which sliced through the dichroic like butter. That’s when I realized the importance of a quality glass cutter.
A KILN STORY: THE MELTED CAT
Trula Haynie of Mobile, Alabama wrote, “One time I had a meltdown in one of my kilns. I had filled the kiln with glazed items and put a Christmas tree by the Kiln Sitter on the top shelf. The Christmas tree fell over and hit the Kiln Sitter, preventing it from cutting off. I went out to check on the kiln and thought it had fired over the time limit, so I cut it off manually.
“When I opened the kiln the next morning,” Trula continued, “I found that the tree, which had fallen against the Kiln Sitter, had melted down to about 6" tall. The only thing I was worried about was a large, glazed cat about 12” - 15" long. I took out the top shelf, tree attached, and there was that cat . . . staring back at me. It had melted down, too, and was completely flat. BUT the eyes that I had underglazed were perfect. I couldn't help but laugh, because those eyes were gorgeous.
“Other than that, I have had pretty good success with my firings. When you mess up, it helps to laugh at yourself. As you can tell, I laugh a lot!”
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