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A local supplier of glass decided to get out of the glass selling business.  Unfortunately before he announced it to the public, he sold all of his fusible glass and supplies and hence all that was left was his copious amount of stained glass.  I wanted to take advantage of his great glass prices and knew that as long as I did not fuse two different pieces of glass together, that I could use the stained glass, so I bought some transparent iridescent pieces and also some opaque swirl pieces.

My first test was a clear iridescent glass which I cut into a circle and first fused to 1350 degrees F so I could soften the edges.  From past experience, if the iridescent is exposed, it sometimes burns off, so I put the iridescent side down.  Then I put the circle on a stainless steel floral vase former and slumped it taking the kiln to 1235 degrees F.  It came out great.

I then wanted to try a vase with a square blank and used a yellow/orange swirl glass for that vase.  The seller had told me his experience with heating the opalescent stained glass was that it needed more temperature, however I decided to keep the edge softening temperature the same.  It actually needed less temperature as at 1350 degrees F, I ended up with some needle points on the edges and needed to grind the edges some before slumping.  Similarly on the slump, I could have used less than 1235 degrees F.  The vase ended up touching the shelf, but still has a nice look to it.

I did two other tests each using a single sheet of the stained glass and fusing it to itself.  For the first test I cut a rectangle out of the 12″x12″ sheet of glass and then took the remaining pieces and cut them into smaller pieces and fused them around the outside of the plate so that it had a raised edge.  Worked great.  Since I took this piece to 1400 degrees, I ended up with a little devitrification on the glass, but overall it is nice for a candle plate.

The last test was cutting my 12″ x 12″ piece into strips and fusing them together looking like a basket weave except I left out the weave.  Took this piece to 1380 degrees F and then slumped it at 1170 degrees F.  Again it worked very well.    Still some devitrification, so I think the opal stained glass pieces are very similar to the opal fused glass pieces and temperature and firing schedules are important to consider.

Fused Glass Pieces Using Stained Glass

Fused Glass Pieces Using Stained Glass

The picture shows three of my four test pieces.  If you have access to stained glass, and want to create a piece that is basically one color or want your piece to be just a single piece of glass thick, try using stained glass!

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!

A couple of months ago, I received a custom order for cobalt blue dinner plates.  The customer was great and very patient as she had waited years to get these custom plates made exactly as she had dreamt.  The task for me was to figure out how to accomplish her dreams.

Cobalt Blue Ruffled Fused Glass Dinner Plate

Cobalt Blue Ruffled Fused Glass Dinner Plate

The first decision was color and it ended up being a decision of glass.  I am mostly a Bullseye fused glass person, but this time the Spectrum cobalt blue transparent color matched her ideal, so I went with Spectrum for his project.

The second challenge was how to make the ruffles.  Often when making a glass plate, you use two sheets of 1/8″ glass in order to get a nice even 1/4″ glass plate.  See my previous post on glass thickness, Do the Math – Fused Glass Likes 6mm or 1/4″.  And often one of the two glass sheets is clear as it helps fuse the other colors without changing their colors and let’s be honest, it is cheaper than other glass colors.   Typically to get a ruffle you do a contour fuse (1380 degrees F in my kiln).  However, if I used clear glass as the bottom layer and cobalt blue on top, you would see a clear gap between the blue ruffles not to mention a clear rectangle in the center.  So instead, I used blue for both layers of glass.

Ruffle Plate using Clear Glass as the Base

Ruffle Plate using Clear Glass as the Base

The last challenge was the shape of the final plate.  She chose a rectangular plate and wanted the outside ruffle to be 1.5″ deep and then the drop of the center of the plate to be .5″ deep.  I called/wrote every mold manufacturer I could find and no one had a mold that shape nor made custom molds.  I am quite sure there is a company out there that would make the custom mold, but I didn’t want to spend a fortune for one set of dinner plates.

I investigated Duraboard and decided that this was perhaps my best option but it was very expensive and I was nervous about spending the money on something about which I didn’t know that much. In addition, in order to get the .5″ drop, I would need to get a deeper board and then carve the bottom and make sure it was level.  I called D&L Art Glass and talked with my favorite sales person, Beverly, and while she said Duraboard would work for my application, why not try several layers of fiber cloth which I already had and with which I could experiment. She was absolutely right!

I stacked three layers of 1/8″ fiber, cut the inside rectangle out and slumped the first plate.  It was perfect for my goal and gave me the exact shape I wanted.  However, I had forgotten about making sure to burn off the fiber and it left a haze on the plate.  The next couple of plates I vented the kiln until it reached about 1000 degrees, but then stopped on subsequent plates and they were fine.  So I believe you really only have to do it until you completely burn off the fiber.  Since I was using it for slumping to 1235 degrees, it took me several firings to completely burn things off.   It would have been better if I had just burned it off on its own by taking it to a higher temperature.  Hindsight!

Three Layers of Fiber for Custom Mold with .5" Drop

Three Layers of Fiber for Custom Mold with .5″ Drop

Plate After Slumping on Custom Fiber Mold

Plate After Slumping on Custom Fiber Mold

I was a great project with many challenges and wonderful lessons learned.  And I ended up with a very happy customer who saw her dreams come true!

Here are my key lessons learned:

1) Make sure you burn off fiber before you use it or vent the kiln if it has not been allowed to burn off.

2) I was only able to get three firings on the Spectrum Cobalt blue glass.  If I did a fourth firing to correct issues, I ended up with lots of small holes in the bottom.  In my experience with Bullseye, I can get more like 5 firings before weird things happen with the glass.

Have you ever needed to make a custom mold? What material did you use?  I would be very curious to learn more for my next project.  Thanks!

We are slowly getting some order back to our lives after moving.    As I sit here in the early morning gazing out the windows, enjoying the sun and colors shouting Springtime, my thoughts turn to glass and sharing some new insights with you.

While we still have boxes everywhere, I have one kiln set up in my workshop area and enjoy each day stepping away from the boxes and getting lost among the glass.

When choosing our kitchen cabinets, we added a plate rack and my husband winked and smiled as he asked for a set of dinner plates.  The first challenge was to pick colors.  We painted the steel beams in our house Fireball Orange which hints at burnt orange rather than a vibrant orange.  Shopping through Bullseye glass, the color that matched best was carnelian transparent.  But I also needed a complementary color.  My husband and I both love the adventurine colors and holding the adventurine blue up to the carnelian became a winning combination.

As many of you know from reading my other posts, I also love to make “crackle” glass, although I will add my disclaimer here again.  I have not been able to take the official class on the real crackle glass taught by its creator, Bob Leatherbarrow, and hence, I explored my own substitute but can honestly not say whether my way is the real way to make crackle.  I like what I have figured out and so am happy to share with you my method, but please do not construe that this is the real way to make crackle glass.

Okay, now back to my dinner plates.  I decided to go with round plates and marry a combination of solid and crackle carnelian and adventurine blue and make each plate a slightly different design.  To make my life easier, I made my crackle carnelian pieces into 10″ circles as well as cutting 10″ circles out of the other colors and then I could just cut the circles and combine the pieces but not have to worry about getting the circles round since they started off that way.

I put a second clear sheet of glass on top rather than the bottom as I wanted to keep the lines between the different glass colors crisp which is best done when those sheets are against the kiln shelf. 

The crackle part sheet is first fused on fiber cloth which imparts a somewhat rough surface to the glass, and by putting the clear on top, the bottom of the plate now has the bottom of the crackle part sheet and is not as smooth as I would like.  I accidentally came upon the solution when I needed to sandblast one of the plates to get rid of some guck and decided to sandblast both the top and bottom surfaces.  This was a winner as now the bottom of the plate feels great and I don’t have to worry about any scratches to the surfaces on which the plates will sit.  You can either sandblast your part sheet ahead of time or sandblast it after the plate has been fired the first time.  Either way works.

Shown here is a picture of two of the plates.

Fused Glass Dinner Plates

Fused Glass Dinner Plates

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)

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