A beer bottle was turned into frit and fired into tile and face molds. The two pieces were then fused together. Art by Shelia Collins.
Eight Ways to Fuse Glass on a Budget
Reader Response: Kaizen events
Recent Q&As: Recommended thermocouple distance inside kiln
EIGHT WAYS TO FUSE GLASS ON A BUDGET
Glass fusing, a 3,000-year-old art form, is the process of heating layers of glass until they are soft enough to stick together and become one. If you own a kiln, you can try glass fusing with a minimal investment. The following eight ideas are for beginning and advanced fusers.
1) Make frit (powdered glass) from colored glass bottles. Blue bottles are especially beautiful. Use bottles of only one brand and color to assure that the frit will have the same coefficient of expansion. Fuse the frit into molds. The face shown above was made from a crushed beer bottle. (Note: Please use extreme care with frit. Wear safety glasses and gloves. To avoid cuts, cleanliness of the work area is essential.)
2) Slump wine bottles into a mold to make cheese trays.
3) In spite of your disappointment, don’t throw away fused pieces that have cracks or bubbles. Slice them up or turn them into frit or stringers and recycle the glass. Then learn what caused the defects so you don’t repeat them. Fusing is as much science as it is art; every mistake has a reason. (Note: Stringers are strands of glass about the thickness of a pencil lead.)
4) Dichroic glass helped to create today’s glass fusing movement. Dichroic glass, which comes in many styles, can glitter like diamonds or add a soft glow to your art. Dichroic glass is expensive, but you don’t need much. Sometimes the tiniest sliver on a dark background is more dramatic than large areas of dichroic.
5) Cut dichroic glass on a sheet of paper. After you have finished cutting the glass, fold the paper in half and pour the dichroic shards into a jar. Never waste even the smallest dichroic shaving.
6) Jewelry uses very little glass. You can make dozens of pendants from several scraps of glass. When you are on a budget, make pendants.
7) Years ago in Hawaii, my brother-in-law Chip and I learned to cut glass by practicing on scrap float glass that a window company had given him. (Float glass is common window glass.) Before Bullseye developed fusing-compatible stained glass, artists painted and fired float glass. For ideas, read the 1970 classic “Kiln-Fired Glass,” by Harriette Anderson. You can find her book on Amazon.
8) You don’t need a digital kiln or even a pyrometer to fuse glass. You can start out firing visually in a switch-operated kiln. Check the progress of the glass through a peephole, and turn the kiln off when the glass is done. (Always wear firing safety glasses when firing glass visually.)
Fuse glass on a budget, but don’t scrimp on a glasscutter. Buy the best you can afford. I prefer the Toyo. My first one had a brass barrel and cut glass like butter.
I would enjoy hearing your ideas on this topic.
In a recent Kiln Pointer I described Paragon’s first kaizen event. Jim Ewins wrote, “Thanks for sharing your experience on your Kaizen Event. In one of my lives, I was a warehouse manager . . . with my biggest problem fighting . . . ‘That's the way we've always done it.’”
Q. Since a thermocouple insertion depth for accuracy is 10 times the diameter, shouldn't this also mean a large mass like kiln posts should be kept away from the tip of the thermocouple by a like amount?
A. As a general rule, thermocouple manufacturers recommend inserting the thermocouple into the kiln by 4 times the diameter of the thermocouple. The diameter is considered the width of the thermocouple bead or sheath. The thermal mass (kiln posts and shelves) should be kept from the thermocouple by at least the same distance.
“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal. Not to people or things.” --Albert Einstein
I have been listening to carols on my phone--modern ones by the Glee cast, and classics by Doris Day and Bing Crosby. The 1940s carols were recorded for shivering soldiers who longed to be home.
May your kiln’s blinking red controller add to your holiday warmth. Your kiln, and a good book or movie, will help you to enjoy the weather as the snow swirls in the wind outside your window this weekend.
With best holiday wishes,
Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. – Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd., Mesquite, Texas 75149-1122 Voice: 972-288-7557 & 800-876-4328 / Fax: 972-222-0646 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.paragonweb.com / www.facebook.com/paragonkilns
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