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).
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.
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.
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!