Tools are a luxury. Tools save you time. Tools make your life easier. Over the last few years, I have slowly acquired these tools as I learn more about glass fusing and which could really help me and I thought I would share.
Wet Disk Grinder The tool I use most is my 6″ Wet Disk Grinder. It has a flat surface which can accommodate sanding the edges of most glass pieces flat. I works especially well for jewelry pieces.
At some point when I have a real studio and am willing to hand over the big bucks, I will buy like a 12″ or larger one, but for now, this is my first go-to tool and therefore gets used almost every day.
Glass Grinder My second most used tool is my glass grinder. It was actually my first purchase and I bought it used. It can be used to shape edges, as an example, if I wanted to make a flower petal, I would first do a rough cut just using my hand tool glass cutter and then finish the shaping on the grinder. It is also nice for sanding inside curves since the grinder itself is curved and comes in different sizes which I can easily change.
Ring Saw Hmm, I guess I will say the ring saw is my next pick. I primarily use this for cutting intricate shapes. You can use a stencil to draw on your glass the shape and since the blade on the ring saw has 360 degrees of cutting, you can fairly easily cut the shape out. My blade has a wide kerf meaning it takes quite a large cut, so I don’t get real tight corners yet, but I think this also has a small learning curve and I am still learning for the intricate ones. If you don’t need to cut shapes, you could easily do without this one, but yet it is such a nice luxury when needed.
Wet Belt Sander My table top wet belt sander was a wonderful addition last year. As I move into larger pieces, the belt sander is better for sanding the flat edges of a piece than the disk grinder. It can also be used to shape things. When I took a class in using Coldworking* tools, many students were using this tool to shape vases, flatten surfaces, and like me sand edges. A very versatile tool.
All three of the above tools have their own water reservoir, but this one required a constant feed of water, so my husband crafted an input feed using a pressure sprayer, and then we have the output going into a large plastic tube which dumps into a bucket. Perfect for my needs.
Tile Saw For our never-ending home improvement projects, we had bought a tile saw which now gets used mostly for my glass work. Since I didn’t buy it specifically with glass in mind, it probably is not the best for fine glass cuts. But it has been great if I didn’t like a glass piece I made and wanted to cut it into smaller pieces to use in a new and different way. I have also used the tile saw to cut up old kiln shelves to make my own damns for pot melts or thicker pieces.
I have read that perhaps the key element of a tile saw is the blade and all you really need to do is buy a better blade to reduce the jitter (meaning the movement of the blade which makes it hard to cut finer slices of the glass). So perhaps a future purchase will make this an invaluable tool as am I am anxious to try pattern bars and I believe a good tile saw is essential for this endeavor.
Sandblaster My most recent purchase was my sandblaster. I am using this tool for 2 key purposes: 1) to blast away any scum that I accidentally get on a piece and then refire to a nice finish or 2) to give my piece a nice matte finish. Because I am not yet trying to etch the glass, the blast gun that came with my cabinet is perfect for my use. This tool does require an air compressor so keep that in mind when you factor in costs. This tool has allowed me to resurrect many pieces from my “glass grave” container as before I didn’t have a good way to fix pieces that had visible flaws on them. What a nice benefit!
Tools come with one disadvantage though – you have to take care of them. Sometimes I feel like I do more tool cleaning than glass designing. Well worth the price of the benefits they provide me.
I could easily survive with just the disk grinder and the glass grinder which is how I started out. It is a pure luxury to have my other tools, and I value them all.
* I’ll borrow the definition of Coldworking from Jackie Beckman as posted in the WarmGlass Forums, “I’ll define coldwork as a term that includes any process we do to the glass to ‘finish’ it in a manner that does not include heat.”
Specific Tool Information:
- Glastar 6″ Diamond Disk Grinder, http://www.glastar.com/catalog/grinding/discgrinder.cfm
- Glastar Glass Grinder, http://www.glastar.com/manuals/starlet.cfm (very old model and no longer available, but there are many great new ones)
- Gryphon Zephyr Ring Saw, http://www.gryphoncorp.com/index.php?p=ringsaw
- Covington Table Top Commercial Wet Belt Sander, Model 761WBS, http://www.covington-engineering.com/belt_sanders.htm
- Harbor Freight Tools 7″ Portable Wet Cutting Tile Saw, http://www.harborfreight.com/7-inch-portable-wet-cutting-tile-saw-40315.html
- Harbor Freight Tools Sandblasting Abrasive Blast Cabinet, http://www.harborfreight.com/abrasive-blast-cabinet-42202.html