I continually read that it is essential for small businesses like my glass business to mine their statistics both on their blogs and their selling sites like Etsy. So I have recently begun keeping track of interesting searches which bring people to my sites. One that caught my eye this week was “how to make glass jewelry look matte.” I did a blog awhile ago talking about glossy versus matte finishes on glass, but only touched on one method to achieve this. So I thought I would delve more into this.
I am sure there are many more methods, but I employ two different methods for jewelry – firing face down on the kiln shelf or sanding with loose grit – for getting a matte finish on jewelry pieces depending on the look I want.
First, if I want a matte finish on dichroic glass, it is best to just fire the piece with the dichroic down on the kiln shelf. I tend to put the pieces on Bullseye thin fiber paper rather than directly on the shelf as I get a smoother finish.
Second, if I want a high lustre matte finish, this takes more work, but is well worth the effort. It is subtle and hard to see in the picture, but the piece on the left is glossy and the one on the right has a very smooth matte finish.
I get this finish using loose grit and then refiring the piece to smooth it out. Here is the process:
- You need to ensure the piece is completely flat on top. If you had previously fused the piece with the side you want to sand facing up, chances are the edges are slightly rounded and it may not be flat on top. To achieve this, you can use the loose grit, but this will be very time-consuming. So for this first step, I recommend using a disk sander. You need to be pretty careful here since the piece is very small and I find that I have to actually stop the disk sander before I can pick up the small piece from the sander but it makes this step so much faster doing it this way.
- Sometimes if there are any bubbles in the piece, sanding will open up these bubbles and expose the holes and unfortunately, my next steps will not fix this issue. So if you end up with a large hole, refire the piece to an almost full fuse to fill in the hole and start the sanding process over. If it is a pretty tiny hole, then proceed, but before fire polishing you will need to ensure that you use some air to blow out the hole to remove any loose grit that may have embedded itself in the hole.
- Now that you have a flat surface of glass, you are ready to move on to the loose grit. My set up a piece of glass recycled from some past project and a rubber mat to keep the glass from slipping. Since my glass is repurposed you can see some unwanted holes which I have to work around, but not an issue. I also use the one sheet of glass for both my 400 and 600 grit*. You really should use two separate pieces of glass to ensure you don’t accidentally mix the grits and if I were creating a larger masterpiece, I would do so. But for these jewelry pieces, just being careful using a single sheet of glass is fine.
- Start with 400 grit and then finish with 600 grit. You can actually keep going to higher grits and get a nice smooth finish just using the grit without fire polishing in the kiln, but I am too lazy and too impatient to do it this way.
- Put about a teaspoon of the 400 loose grit on your glass and slowly add water a drop at a time until you get a thick paste which I think the experts call a slurry. Then place the side of your jewelry piece that you want to sand down into the slurry. Using a figure eight pattern, move your piece through the slurry. You may need to add more water and/or more loose grit, and you may also need to keep moving the grit back into the center of your glass (feel free to use your jewelry piece to do this). Keep a container of clean water and towel nearby and periodically rinse your piece and dry it. Once the surface of your piece is dry you can see better how you are sanding. When you feel you have a smooth surface meaning you can’t see any grinding marks, then rinse and start the process again with the 600 grit. You can stop this process when your piece is not necessarily smooth like a finished product, but smooth of any grinding marks or any other inconsistencies.
- Now completely clean the piece not forgetting if there are any tiny holes to blow them out with air or you will end up with black dots in your finished piece. Put the piece back into the kiln with your sanded side facing up and refire only taking the kiln to about 1200 degrees F.
* For loose grit, I use Loose Graded Silicon Carbide grit from HIsGlassworks.
Last, if I don’t need high lustre or glossy, but want a smooth matte finish, then I just fire with this side down on the kiln shelf. As an example, I made a 2-sided pendant where one side is glossy (fired up) and the other side is matte (fired down).