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I wanted to make some simple ornaments to donate to a Holiday Bazaar and decided to try using a technique I learned in a Bullseye Glass class.  The technique involved using glass stringers to make a part sheet that was then turned into jewelry but can also be used in plates, bowls, etc.    For the first firing, take a piece of 2mm glass (I used clear) and completely cover the glass with a single layer of stringers.  I used 1mm ones, but you can do the same with 2mm stringers.  To keep the stringers from rolling, apply some Glastac or other glue perpendicular to the stringers.  You really only need them glued in one or two places; more is not better here as it may leave a haze.

Fire the glass and stringers to a low tack fuse.  For my kiln it was 1325 degrees F.  I didn’t worry about a bubble squeeze, but did anneal it for an hour at 900 degrees F.

Now, you can cut this part sheet up to use in other pieces.  I wanted to use them to make Christmas tree ornaments so cut them into triangles.  I put the non stringer side on the kiln shelf, added another sheet of 2mm clear to the top and then fired them to 1420 degrees F to fully fused the clear onto the stringers with a nice beautiful, slightly rounded edge.  I did have a little distortion of the stringers and so perhaps 1400 or 1410 degrees F would have been better.

The stringer part of my task was the easy part!  I saw on Pinterest and other places where people embedded wire into their jewelry, ornaments or wall hangings to get a wire bail and set out to do this for my ornaments as it is hard to drill a hole in the tip of a point nor do I have any glue on bails that work for points at the moment.  I didn’t realize that this would be a complete learning experience. 

I tried to find details on adding wire bails on the internet and while some websites explain it briefly, I couldn’t find good details about do’s and don’ts, so off to experiment.

I already had some high temperature wire, called Nichrome, on hand thanks to my husband.  On my first attempt, I was afraid if I just put a straight piece of wire between the part sheet and the clear glass it would pull out later, so I decided to make a loop and then twist the ends together.  This failed as I believe it was too thick and ended up cracking the glass (see two pictures below).

Tree Ornament with Crack at top due to Included Wire

Tree Ornament with Crack at top due to Included Wire

Other side of Cracked Tree Showing Twisted Wire (too much)

Other side of Cracked Tree Ornament Showing Twisted Wire (too much)

I then decided to do a quick test on small extra pieces and just add straight wire both just at the top and then all the way through the glass to see if this would really hold.  It actually did.

Sample Pieces with Successfully Added Wire

Sample Pieces with Successfully Added Wire

Of course, I never do things easy and since ornaments you can often see on both sides, I wanted it to look a little nicer and decided to put a simple loop in the wire.  This time I had 50% success (4 good, 4 bad).  In hindsight, I think this can be done with 100% success if you make sure the wire is completely encased within the glass and not near the edges as those of mine that didn’t work were very close to the edges.

Successful Tree Ornament with Included Wire Bail

Successful Tree Ornament with Included Wire Bail

Front and Back of Successful Tree Ornaments showing Included Wire Bail

Front and Back of Successful Tree Ornaments showing Included Wire Bail

I added a small square of 1/8″ fiber cloth underneath the wire not encased in glass.  I wasn’t sure if it would fall to the shelf at such high heat and wanted to prevent this from happening so the fiber cloth did the trick.

I had read on several sites people indicating that the wire would “tarnish” from the high heat.  I noticed after my first firing that the side of the wire against the fiber cloth did not “tarnish” so for my final set of trees, I put a piece of fiber cloth both beneath the wire and on top of the wire and it stayed the original wire color.  I didn’t want to get the fiber cloth too close to the glass, and hence I ended up with some tarnish on the wire very close to where it entered the glass, but this was okay as I planned to add a ribbon at its base.

I was pleasantly surprised how easily the wire fused into the glass and I didn’t end up with large bubbles around the wire.  For a quick recap, here are my lessons learned:

  • Use high temperature wire, Nichrome
  • Keep your wire to a single layer meaning don’t twist it (at least not if you intend to put it close to an edge)
  • You can use it both slightly embedded, straight through, or complete embedded in the glass
  • It is best, in general, if not too much of the wire is close to the edges as it seemed that even though it fused around the wire, if I pulled too hard on the wire loop near the tip of the tree, I could crack the glass.
  • I actually hammered the wire a little to get it flatter, although I don’t think this is required as for my test pieces I didn’t do this and they worked fine.
  • If you don’t want the tarnished look, try covering the exposed wire with some fiber cloth
  • One quick lesson on using the stringers.  Opaque stringers maintain their straightness better than transparent.  Not a big deal, but you can see that my all green tree is more wavy and has more bubbles than the opaque red and green tree.

True confessions.  While this was a great experiment, I have more to learn with regard to adding the wire and I am just not comfortable giving these ornaments to others in case they crack later.  So I will use them myself and test the results and know more for making future ornaments, jewelry, or hangars.

Would love to know if you have had success with wire and what lessons you learned!

Can you bury your passions for a while?  I believe only on the outside as I sit here in the wee hours of the morning dreaming of glass projects I desperately want to create –  and lamenting that I don’t have any new fusing experiments about which to blog.

Life has been busy.  We embarked this last year on changes – moving to a new state and building a house, actually our dream house.  While I expected us to be busy as we built the house, I didn’t expect it to be all-consuming such that I would not even be able to find 30 minutes each day to sneak into the glass shop and create something small.  But alas, I am relegated to dreaming of new projects and jotting down my ideas down on paper so I can still remember them when I do have time.

On the positive side, in our new house, the glass shop will be front and center with a beautiful view to inspire my creativity!   And the shop is already wired for my eventual bigger and better kiln!

So wonderful readers, I ask you to please stand by for a little while and I promise some new and interesting glass fusing experiments and tips hopefully before the end of the year.

In the meantime as I watch the leaves begin to change colors, Happy Fall!

Autumn Fused Glass Bowl (available in my Etsy shop)

Autumn Fused Glass Bowl (available in my Etsy shop)

Glass fusers are taught from the very beginning to keep precise records of each firing recording the type of glass, the fusing schedule and notes on what happened.  Then, once you get to know your kiln well, you will learn which pieces require which schedules.  What I didn’t realize is that this learning never really stops.  I have been using a full fuse schedule of 1460 degrees F for most of my plates, bowls, coasters, night lights, jewelry, and so forth for the last several years.  Basically, if I wanted a 6mm piece at full fuse, I took my kiln to 1460 degrees F.

Recently I was on a roll with coasters and started to notice a difference in the resulting coasters.  The first set of coasters to catch my eye was a set of Bullseye special glass coasters which mixed opaque glass with transparent glass.  I noticed that even though I started with a perfect square, I ended up with not a perfect square – basically lopsided.  So I decided to do some more testing and made a single coaster with aqua blue transparent and another with aqua blue opaque taking them 1460 degrees F.  This time, the result was consistent in that the general shape was a consistent square, but I noticed that I was getting a little pull in on the sides especially with the transparent aqua blue glass.  Hmm.  Perhaps this had been happening for a while and I just hadn’t noticed.

Often, glass pulling in on the sides is a sign of firing too hot.  So the next set of coasters I decided to try fusing them at 1425 degrees F.  I had always thought that 1425 degrees F was more for an aggressive tack fuse and have used it successfully this way for large platters.  But with 4 inch coasters, 1425 degrees F was enough to fully fuse the coasters and instead of their pulling in on the sides, they remained perfectly square with nicely rounded corners. Hence, I am now using less heat for my smaller pieces with better success.

Fused Glass Coaster Experiments

Fused Glass Coaster Experiments

Here is what I believe I have learned:

  • Smaller objects require less heat to fully fuse.  While a large 6mm platter may need 1460 degrees F in my kiln for a full fuse, smaller coasters and other small objects can be fully fused at 1425 degrees F.
  • Most transparent glass is softer and hence spreads the most and requires less heat to fuse.
  • Black fused glass is the stiffest and requires hotter temperatures to melt and fuse with opaque glasses somewhere between transparent glasses and black glass.
  • If you are using a streaky glass that includes both transparent and opaque colors, accept the fact that it won’t end up square at high temperatures and if it stresses you out, grind it square again and then just fire polish the edges.
Fused Glass Coasters Fired at 1425 degrees F (available in my Etsy Store)

Fused Glass Coasters Fired at 1425 degrees F (available in my Etsy Store)

NOTE: I learn much of what I know from reading other websites, classes and blogs and hence, I haven’t really invented anything new here.  But I am sharing what I found to work and not work.  If you have found other ways to do something similar to this, please share.  Thanks!

Life has been so busy lately that I don’t get much time in the shop.  However, these fused glass circles are so enticing to figure out the right solution for various components like the bookmarks, and it is fairly easy to get something in the kiln to test.  Very sorry I keep talking about circles; this will be the last post on these, I promise!

Trying to grind such small circles, keeping them round and not losing your fingernails is quite the challenge.  So after attempting to grind dichroic glass circles to get them the right size, I remembered a Round Gem Pod Mold I had bought from Slumpys.  It creates deeper and smaller circles than I wanted on the bookmarks, but if I used the same logic as stacking 9mm thick glass together and fusing it above 1500 degrees F to get a smoother 6mm circle, why couldn’t I do the same thing with these.

To fill each gem pod, I first added about 1/4 tsp of a fine deep color frit for a good base.  Then I added cut up pieces of dichroic glass making sure they were all facing up or down so I didn’t end up with dichroic glass facing itself (a no-no with dichroic glass as it won’t fuse together).  Last I filled the rest of the cavity with medium clear frit to have a nice shiny top.

Filling the Round Gem Pod Mold with Frit

Filling the Round Gem Pod Mold with Frit

In the picture below along the top row you can see what the circles look like after firing and right out of the mold.  After cleaning them, I put them back into the kiln on a shelf and fused to 1525 degrees F allowing them to get to 6mm thickness and filling out to a larger circle.  Lo and behold, the size ended up being the perfect size for my bookmarks.

Circles from Gem Pod Mold and Finished Circles after Refiring at 1525 degrees F

Circles from Gem Pod Mold and Finished Circles after Refiring at 1525 degrees F

Since I filled the gem pods, I am guessing it would be hard to get larger circles for say a jewelry base that wanted a 1″ circle, but for my 11/16″ circles, this worked great.  If I wanted smaller ones, I could play with this technique using different amounts of frit in the gem pods and as an example, weighing the frit to get me the size circle I wanted.

Finished Dichroic Fused Glass Bookmarks

Finished Dichroic Fused Glass Bookmarks (available on my Etsy Store)

I wanted to do an addendum to last week’s post about fusing small circles.  This past week I made several attempts to follow the same process with dichroic glass for the glass bookmarks as I did with clear glass.   With one exception, I did not end up with the perfect size circle after my first firing and instead I needed to grind the edges to make the circles the right size.   Here are my assumptions on why this is the case:

  1. Most of my smooth dichroic pieces are 2mm rather than 3mm thick.  And a stack of 3mm, 2mm, 3mm was just not enough to become a circle.
  2. I then tried to compensate for the too small stacks of 8mm and added a 2mm clear piece so now I had 10mm, but then it was hard to get an exact gauge at sizing to get the exact right size circle.
  3. Many of my rippled dichroic pieces are probably sold as 3mm, but they sure seem thicker to me and hence, I also couldn’t get an exact gauge on the square size needed to get my end result the right circle size.

One last input is that often times, when I used the thin 2mm dichroic glass on a black base it would not spread out for the full circle.  To compensate for this, make sure to add a 3mm piece of black under your dichroic piece so that you don’t end up with a square of black inside the clear.

Of course, the end result of small circles even with the added steps of grinding and then fire polishing is still possible and makes for wonderful additions to things like bookmarks and wine stoppers!

Fused Glass Bookmarks

Fused Glass Bookmarks

Last week’s post still works well for the 3mm thick glass pieces, however, it doesn’t work so well when working with dichroic glass as a short cut for getting the perfect size circle in one firing.

I see many different people using small perfect circles in their fused glass jewelry and I kept wondering how to make them so round.  I usually would fuse two pieces of 3mm stacked glass then draw a circle on the back of the fused not-quite circular piece and start grinding until I felt I had gotten the glass to look like a perfect circle, but in reality, I knew it wasn’t quite perfect.

Then I remembered that during class I had taken at Bullseye Resource Center in Portland, we used excess part sheet small parts fusing three layers of 3mm square glass pieces to 1525 degrees F and voila, they had come out round.

I recently bought some bookmarks that have a small round spot for gluing glass cabochons (or wood as I bought these from a wood catalog) and decided to do some test glass circles in clear glass to see which size would work best before I started working with the more expensive dichroic glass.  I cut three squares of each size (3/8″, 1/2″, 5/8″ and 3/4″) and stacked these three squares lining them up (not sure it matters, but wanted you to know exactly what I had done).   I then fired to 1525 degrees F using a typical kiln cycle. See the top row of my picture below.

Fused Glass Small Circles using 3 layers of 3mm Glass

Fused Glass Small Circles using 3 layers of 3mm Glass

The end result is as follows:

  • Original Cut Square Size             Finished Circle Size
  •            3/8″                                         5/8″
  •            1/2″                                         3/4″
  •            5/8″                                           1″
  •            3/4″                                       1-1/8″

The finished circle size of 3/4″ is perfect for my bookmarks and so my next task will be to make these out of some dichroic scrap pieces and hopefully have some really cool bookmarks to add to my Etsy shop.

Bookmark with Small Fused Glass Circle

Bookmark with Small Fused Glass Circle

As a quick addition, I also wondered about using Bullseye rods to make small circles.  It is quite easy to just nip off a piece of the rid and fire it and get small circles or dots.  But I wasn’t sure how much effect the size of the rod nipped off would have on the dot.  So I did three pieces for this test.

For the rods, it seems that the length of the rod cut ends up being the size of the dot.  So for example, a 1/4″ length cut off the rod ended up in a dot of 1/4″ diameter and a 3/8″ length of rod cut ended up in a dot of 3/8″ diameter.  See the bottom row of the above picture.

I’ll let you know how my dichroic circles work.  Hope this helps you with your perfect small circles!

NOTE: I learn much of what I know from reading other websites, classes and blogs and hence, I haven’t really invented anything new here.  But I am sharing what I found to work and not work.  If you have found other ways to do something similar to this, please share! 

Some weeks are just slow and this week was one of them.  I didn’t get a lot done in the glass workshop, but I was able to do two additional tests this week with the small angular molds.  One test which I mentioned last week was to test opaque versus transparent as the 3mm clear glass had slumped nicely into the Four Squares mold at 1250 degrees F with a hold of 15 minutes.  Hence, this week I did a 3mm opaque piece of Bullseye special glass to which I added some frit poppies.  It slumped just as nicely at 1250 degrees F with a hold of 15 minutes.  I have not ruled out the viscosity of the glass being a factor, but I do not think just purely transparent or opaque makes a difference.

Four Square Fused Glass Dish - 3mm thick (available in my Etsy Store)

Four Square Fused Glass Dish – 3mm thick (available in my Etsy Store)

I also had another mold that I wanted to try.   The One-Square Dish from Bullseye.  So I prepped this mold and made a 6mm square base.  For this mold, 1250 degrees was not hot enough and I needed to refire it to 1265 degrees with a 15 minute hold which worked nicely.  I have not done any other tests on this mold as of yet, but plan to as I think this is a perfect little ring dish or condiment dish.

One Square Fused Glass Dish - 6mm thick (available in my Etsy Store)

One Square Fused Glass Dish – 6mm thick (available in my Etsy Store)

Have a great next week!  And happy fusing to all the fuser’s out there!

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