Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Using Ceramic to Drape


Before choosing a ceramic shape to use in draping of glass, you need to consider the characteristics of the two materials.  This is one circumstance where CoE is actually useful. 

The expansion of the two materials is different. Soda lime glass typically has an expansion rate - in the 0°C to 300°C range - of 81 to 104.  Ceramic has an expansion rate - in the 0°C to 400°C range - of 30 to 64.  This is important in the final cooling of the project.  As the glass expands more than the ceramic on the heat-up, so it also contracts more during the cool.  This means that the glass will shrink enough to trap the ceramic or even break if the stress on the glass is too much. 


The shape of the ceramic form will have a big effect on the usability of it as a mould.  Ceramics with right angles between the flat surface and the sides will not be suitable for draping without modifications or cushioning.  The forms suitable for draping need to have a significant draft to work well.

Ceramic forms such as rectangles, cubes, and cylinders do not have any draft in their form.  
A cube shape unsuitable for draping

Ceramic cylinders with straight sides

Although rounded at the base, the sides are too straight to be a draping mould

The glass will contract around these forms until they are stuck to the ceramic or break from the force of the contraction around the ceramic.

You can experience this trapping effect in a stack of drinking glasses.  Sometimes one glass sticks inside another even though there is a slope (i.e., a draft) on the sides of the glasses. This happens mostly when you put a cold glass inside a warm one.  On cooling the warm glass contracts to trap the cooler one. You can separate these by running hot water on the bottom glass, so that it expands and releases the inner, now cool, one. 

Effect of Shape

The ceramic contracts at about half the rate the glass contracts (on average), unlike steel which contracts faster than the glass. This means steel contracts away from the glass, while the glass contracts against the ceramic, on the cooling.

Because the glass is in its brittle or solid phase during the last 300°C to 400°C, this contraction tightens the glass against the ceramic, causing stress in the glass, even to the point of breaking.

However, if you choose ceramic forms with significant draft, you can drape over ceramic.  This is possible when the slope is great enough and the form is coated with enough separator, to allow the glass to slip upwards as it contracts more than the form. Experience with different draft forms will give you a feel for the degree of slope required. 
These pyramid shapes have sufficient draft to allow the glass to move up the mould during cooling.

Compensation for Lack of Draft

You can compensate for the insufficient draft of ceramic forms by increasing the thickness of the separators for the form.  The hot glass will conform to the hot ceramic, so there needs to be a means of keeping the glass from compressing the form while cooling.  This can most easily be done by wrapping the form that has little or no draft with 3mm ceramic fibre paper.  It is possible to get by with as little as 1mm fibre paper, but I like the assurance of the thicker material.

Kiln posts wrapped in 3mm fibre paper and secured with copper wire

The fibre paper can be held to the form by thin wire wrapped around the outside of the fibre paper. The advantage of the 3mm fibre paper is that the wire will sink below the surface of the paper.  You can tie off the wire with a couple of twists.  Cut off the ends and push the twist flat to the fibre paper to keep the glass from catching onto the wire.  If you want further assurance, you can put a bit of kiln wash onto the wire.


The choice of ceramic shapes to drape glass over is very important.  It needs to have sufficient draft and separator to allow the glass to slip upwards as it contracts more than the ceramic during the cooling.  You often can use items with no draft if you wrap fibre paper around the sides of the form.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Odd Schedules

Schedules appear on the internet which do not seem to have a logical sequence in the firing schedule.  Some have multiple soaks at intervals up to 540°C.  Others have kind of dance toward the top temperature – slow, quick, slow.  Some initially cool at a given rate and then slow to about half that initial rate.

Multiple soaks
These schedules have been referred to as catch-up schedules.  They tend to look something like this:
200°C to 150°C for 20 minutes
250°C to 300°C for 20 minutes
300°C to 590°C for 20 minutes
50°C   to 677°C for 30 minutes
330°C to 804°C for 10 minutes
AFAP   to 482°C for 60 minutes
60°C   to 370°C for  0 minutes

The justification for the first two soaks is given as allowing the glass to catch up to the air temperature.  It would be much safer for the glass to have a moderate steady advance in temperature rather than risking the heat shocking of the glass.  You could achieve the same work in the same amount of time by altering the rate of advance to a single one of 198°C to 590°C.  This achieves the same temperature in the same amount of time, but has less risk of heat shock, as there is a steady input of heat.  

Secondly, if the glass can survive the initial rate of heat up without breaking, there is no need to soak at an arbitrary temperature.  The first relevant point where a change in temperature makes sense is above the softening point, which for most fusing glasses is about 540°C. The equivalent softening point for float glass is about 700°C

Slow, quick, slow
This kind of schedule alters rates up and down with little justification as far as I can see.  This is an example:
139°C  to 560°C  for 30 minutes
222°C  to 621°C  for 30 minutes
139°C  to 786°C  for 15 minutes
9999 to  515°C  for 120 minutes  
60°C   to 427°C  for 10 minutes
115°C  to 350°C  for 10  minutes

The question for me is why the slow down to top temperature. There is a lot of heat work being put into the glass, so that the higher top temperature may not be required.  The slower rate from 621°C does allow a form of a bubble squeeze to occur, but is not the traditional one.  A 139°C rate from 621°C to 677°C with a soak would be faster than usual, but may be acceptable.  I would prefer 50°C per hour with a 30-minute soak at the end.  Then advancing at 300°C per hour to top temperature.  The anneal soak and cool of this schedule are acceptable, even though different than I would do it.

Erratic Slumping Schedule
The fusing schedule above was followed by this slumping schedule:
83°C to 148°C  15 minutes
167°C to 590°C  10 minutes
83°C to 720°C  10 minutes
222°C to 410°C  120 minutes
83°C to 427°C  10 minutes

This schedule seems to have a catch-up phase in that it goes at half speed for the first 148°C and then doubles the speed to 590°C (a little above the brittle phase of the glass).  It then slows the rate and continues that to a very high slump temperature.  It is, of course, necessary to have a slower rate of advance in the slumping than the fusing, as the piece is now thicker. Slowing the rate of advance as much as in this should be able to achieve the slump at around 620°C (100°C) less than the target temperature used by the schedule. 
Once the top temperature soak is finished, a very slow cool to the annealing soak is used in this schedule.  This is not ideal as it invites devitrification to form.  The kiln and its contents should be allowed to cool as quickly as possible to the temperature equalisation soak at the annealing point.
The schedule then uses an annealing soak temperature 100°C below that used for the fusing. This does not make sense. The annealing soak should be at the same temperature for both firings.  The length of the soak is not in question, but the early turn off the kiln at 427°C is questionable. The anneal cool of the fused piece extended down to 350°C.  The anneal cool on slumping should be almost the same as the fuse.  Almost all anneal cools extend to 370°C at least.

Anneal Cools
Some anneal cools have erratic rather than progressive cooling.  In this example the early part of the schedule is eliminated:
AFAP to 482°C 120 minutes
110°C to 427°C 0 minutes
55°C to 370°C 0 minutes
200°C to 100°C 0 minutes

Here the schedule is faster in the most critical part of the anneal cool than in the next, cooler part.  This will not provide as good an anneal as if the first two segments after the equalisation soak were reversed.  Start slowly in the anneal cool and then you can speed up (approximately twice the previous segment rate) on each of the following segments.

This critique of the schedules above is not to batter anyone.  It is to make clear that there needs to be a conscious rationale for each of the segments in relation to the others.  If you take a schedule from a source, it is a good idea to see if there is a reason for each segment and how it relates to the next. 

·        The scheduling must take account of the nature of the glass.  Glass is a poor conductor of heat and needs steady moderate input of heat.
·        Glass is brittle until approximately 55°C above the annealing temperature when you can accelerate the rate of advance.
·        Time is required to allow air out from between the layers of glass. This usually done in the range of 620°C to 675°C and is known as the bubble squeeze.
·        You need to go relatively quickly through the devitrification range of temperatures – approximately 700°C to 760°C - both up and down.
·        Glass needs a temperature equalisation soak at the annealing point (or nearby) related to its thickness.
·        The rate of cooling needs to be progressive.  The first 55°C below the annealing soak is the most important.
·        Cooling rates must be related to thickness.
·        The second cooling rate can be up to double the initial one.
·        The final cooling rate can be double the previous one.
·        The rate of firing will affect the required top temperature.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Factory Installed Firing Schedules

Factory installed schedules are a quick starting point for the novice kilnformer.  

Many kiln manufacturers install schedules in the controllers of entry level kilns.  Some install them in larger kilns too.  They will work for for gaining basic experience of kiln operations.

However, these schedules are not universal.  Each maker programmes schedules according to their understanding of a mid-range firing schedule for various processes. 

An example of some installed programmes from Scutt

This means that when referring to an installed programme on your controller, you need to give the full schedule so others can understand.


Not only because a tack fuse schedule may be to a different temperature, but also a "fast" schedule as programmed into one kiln might be quite different to one in another.

This matters, because how fast you get to the top temperature affects what temperature you need to use. You will probably experience the difference in final effect between a fast and a slow fuse to the same temperature.  If you haven’t seen it yet, try both schedules on the same layup of glass.

You will see that a fast rate of advance to a tack fuse will give a much more angular appearance, while a slow rate of advance will give a much more rounded appearance.  This is the effect of heat workwhich is essentially the effect of the combination of temperature and time.

The longer it takes the glass to reach a given temperature, the greater the heat work.  Longer times to the top allow the use of lower temperatures. 

The consequence of accounting for heat work is that a simple top temperature cannot be given.  It is not just that kilns are different, but that the amount of heat work put into the glass will change the top temperature required for a given look.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

The Purpose of Flux

The primary purpose of flux is to prevent oxidation of the base and filler materials in the short time between cleaning and soldering. Tin-lead solder, for example, attaches very well to copper, but poorly to the various oxides of copper that form quickly at soldering temperatures. This applies to lead and brass too.

Flux is a substance that is nearly inert at room temperature, but it becomes strongly reducing at elevated temperatures, preventing the formation of metal oxides. Secondarily, flux acts as a wetting agent in soldering processes for lead, copper and brass.

Without flux the solder does not firmly attach to the lead or copper foil and often forms sharp peaks.

See also
Flux, an introduction
Fluxes, a description
The Purpose of flux
The action of fluxes

Soldering fluxes

The Action of Fluxes

All common untreated metals and metal alloys (including solders) are subject to an environmental attack in which their bare surfaces become covered with a non-metallic film, commonly referred to as tarnish. This tarnish layer consists of oxides, sulfides, carbonates, or other corrosion products and is an effective insulating barrier that will prevent any direct contact with the clean metal surface which lies beneath. When metal parts are joined together by soldering, a metallic continuity is established as a result of the interface between the solder and the surfaces of the two metals. As long as the tarnish layer remains, the solder and metal interface cannot take place, because without being able to make direct contact it is impossible to effectively wet the metals surface with solder.

The surface tarnishes that form on metal are generally not soluble in (and cannot be removed by) most conventional cleaning solvents. They must, therefore be acted upon chemically [or mechanically] in order to be removed. The required chemical reaction is most often accomplished by the use of soldering fluxes. These soldering fluxes will displace the atmospheric gas layer on the metal’s surface and upon heating will chemically react to remove the tarnish layer from the fluxed metals and maintain the clean metal surface throughout the soldering process.

Chemical reactions

The chemical reaction that is required will usually be one of two basic types. It can be a reaction where the tarnish and flux combine forming a third compound that is soluble in either the flux or its carrier.

An example of this type of reaction takes place between water-white rosin and copper oxides. Water-white rosin, when used as a flux is usually in an isopropyl alcohol carrier and consists mainly of abietic acid and other isomeric diterpene acids that are soluble in several organic solvents. When applied to an oxidized copper surface and heated, the copper oxides will combine with the abietic acid forming a copper abiet (which mixes easily with the un-reacted rosin) leaving a clean metallic surface for solder wetting. The hot molten solder displaces the rosin flux and the copper abiet, which can then be removed by conventional cleaning methods.

Another type of reaction is one that causes the tarnish film, or oxidized layer to return to its original metallic state restoring the metals clean surface.

An example of this type of reaction takes place when soldering under a blanket of heated hydrogen. At elevated temperatures (the temperature that is required for the intended reaction to take place is unique to each type of base metal) the hydrogen removes the oxides from the surface, forming water and restoring the metallic surface, which the solder will then wet. There are several other variations and combinations that are based on these two types of reactions.

Acids commonly in fluxes

Flux as a temporary protective coating

Once the desired chemical reaction has taken place (lifting or dissolving the tarnish layer) the fluxing agent must provide a protective coating on the cleaned metal surface until it is displaced by the molten solder. This is due to the elevated temperatures required for soldering causing the increased likelihood that the metal’s surface may rapidly re-oxidize if not properly coated. Any compound that can be used to create one of the required types of chemical reactions, under the operating conditions necessary for soldering, might be considered for use as a fluxing material. However, most organic and inorganic compounds will not hold up under the high temperature conditions that are required for proper soldering. That is why one of the more important considerations is a compound's thermal stability, or its ability to withstand the high temperatures that are required for soldering without burning, breaking down, or evaporating.

When evaluating all of the requirements necessary for a compound to be considered as a fluxing agent, it is important to consider the various soldering methods, techniques and processes available and the wide range of materials and temperatures they may require. A certain flux may perform well on a specific surface using one method of soldering and yet not be at all suitable for that same surface using a different soldering method. When in doubt it never hurts to check with the flux, or solder manufacturer for recommendations.

Courtesy of American Beauty Tools

See also:
Flux, an introduction
Fluxes, a description
The Purpose of flux
The action of fluxes
Soldering fluxes


Flux is a material that provides a “wetting” action between the metal (lead or copper in our case) and the solder.

There are various types of flux. Some are of more use in some circumstances than others. Among them are:


This normally comes in a candle-like stick. It is made from rendered animal fat. Although this may put some vegetarians off, it is one of the best fluxes for leaded glass work and will work for copper foil, but is not generally preferred.  It is relatively natural, does not contain chemicals, and does not require re-application if left for a while. Over generous application does not produce any problems during the soldering. It just leaves more solidified tallow to clean after soldering. The cleaning normally requires a mild abrasive such as a brass or fibreglass brush to get the cooled tallow off the piece.


Oleic acid and other safety fluxes

Many of the safety fluxes are made of oleic acid (sometimes called stearin oil). These fluxes do not produce chemical fumes in the soldering process. They are easy to clean up with detergents and warm water. Safety fluxes require re-application if left to dry, as they are only effective while wet. Putting too much on leads to boiling off the liquid, making holes in the solder joint or line.

An example only.  There are many water soluble paste fluxes available

Chemical Paste fluxes

These fluxes come in a variety of compositions. You need to be careful about choosing, as some are very difficult to clean off the glass or solder line or joint. They do produce chemical fumes, so a fume mask is advisable while using this kind of flux. The paste does not require re-application if left, so the whole piece can be fluxed at once.

Acid fluxes

Acid fluxes such as the kind that is in the core of plumbers solder are intended to clean the joint at the same time as acting as the wetting agent. These are not recommended for stained glass work as they can affect the glass surfaces, especially irridised glass. They do produce fumes that require the user to have on a fume mask while soldering. The ease of cleaning relates to the particular composition of the flux, so testing samples is required before application.

See also:
Flux, an introduction
Fluxes, a description
The Purpose of flux
The action of fluxes
Soldering fluxes

Flux, an Introduction

Flux is a key contributor to most soldering applications. It is a compound that is used to lift tarnish films from a metals surface, keep the surface clean during the soldering process, and aid in the wetting and spreading action of the solder. There are many different types and brands of flux available on the market; check with the manufacturer or reseller of your flux to ensure that it is appropriate for your application, taking into consideration both the solder being used and the two metals involved in the process. Although there are many types of flux available, each will include two basic parts, chemicals and solvents.

an example of paste flux

The chemical part includes the active portion, while the solvent is the carrying agent. The flux does not become a part of the soldered joint, but retains the captured oxides and lies inert on the joints finished surface until properly removed. It is usually the solvent that determines the cleaning method required to remove the remaining residue after the soldering is completed. 

It should be noted that while flux is used to remove the tarnish film from a metal's surface, it will not (and should not be expected to) remove paint, grease, varnish, dirt or other types of inert matter. A thorough cleaning of the metal's surface is necessary to remove these types of contaminates. This will greatly improve the fluxing efficiency and also aid in the soldering methods and techniques being used.

Courtesy of American Beauty Tools

See also:
Flux, an introduction
Fluxes, a description
The Purpose of flux
The action of fluxes
Soldering fluxes

Snugging the Came to the Glass

It is important to have the came fit snugly to the glass (assuming the glass to be the right size and shape). If it does not, the panel is likely to grow beyond the intended dimensions.

To ensure the came is tucked snugly against the glass, you use a fid of firm material (wood or plastic, for example) to press against the heart of the lead. You can press directly toward the glass, or make multiple passes along the length of the came to ensure the heart is touching the glass all along its length.

You should avoid steel tools, because you may cut the lead, and if the blade is long you will not find it easy to fit along all of the curves.

Fitting the Glass to the Cartoon

Often you find that the next piece of glass does not fit properly. Possibly it rocks a bit in the came’s channel. Possibly it is simply just a little too big.  Wait! Don't adjust the piece just yet. It may not be the problem.

The first thing to do is to take the too-large piece of glass out and remove the came it fits into, to ensure the previous piece of glass is not too large. The glass should not overlap the cut line. If you have drawn your cut lines to 1.2mm (1/16”) you should see only the faintest line of paper between the glass and the dark cut line. 

If the glass seems too large, check that it is firmly in the channel of the previous came, as sometimes the glass catches on the edge of the came and does not go into the channel.

If that piece seems too large, the next check is to determine whether the apparently too large piece of glass really fits the cartoon cut lines. Place the glass inside the cut lines. You should see a faint line of paper between the glass and the cut line.

When you are sure both pieces of glass are the correct size, put the came back between them and check again. If the glass is still too large, check the length of the came. Make sure the came butting onto the came separating the glass is not too long. This is a common reason for lead panels to grow beyond their initial dimensions.

If the glass is the correct size and the butting cames are correct, replace the came. Put the too large piece of glass into the came and position it so it has the best fit to the next cut line. 

Do not be tempted to start reducing the glass at the visible portion.  After all, you cut it to the right size. It may be that the fit under the came is not very good.

To check use a felt tipped pen (Sharpie) to run along the edge of the came, marking the too-large piece of glass. Take it out and check on where the line is farthest from the edge of the glass. That is where you need to reduce the piece.

The nail points to the area that needs adjustment

When you have reduced the "high" spots on the glass so it fits under the came evenly along its length, you can begin to adjust the outer edge, if necessary.

Leading Tight Curves

Sometimes it can be difficult to get the lead came to conform to the curves of the glass, especially on compound curves.  This is a method to make the leading more accurate.

When leading tight inside curves, bend the came into a tighter curve than is needed for the glass. Then roll it into the glass. Finally, run your fid or stopping knife along the heart of the came to ensure it is firmly against the glass. All this helps the came to fit snugly into the curve.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019


One of the fundamental elements in kiln forming is gravity. When glass is hot it moves according to the effects of gravity and you have to remember that gravity has a big effect on all your firings.

The effects mainly cause:
  • Uneven thickness on shelves that are not level.
  • Uneven slumps into moulds which are not level or the glass is not levelled.
  • Uneven forming due to varying viscosities. Gravity acts on the softest parts of the glass first.
  • Faster or slower forming due to span width. With greater span, gravity pulls the glass into the mould more quickly than with a small span.
  • Gravity acts on things of greater thickness more quickly than those of lighter weight. So a thick piece will form more quickly than the same sized thin piece.
  • Surface tension (affected by viscosity and heat) is affected by gravity also. The glass will attempt to draw up or spread out to about 7 mm if there is enough heat, time, and low viscosity.
  • The effect of gravity causes upper pieces to thin lower ones, as it presses down while the glass is plastic. This has the effect of making the colour of the lower piece less strong.

More information on each of these effects can be found throughout this blog.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Cutting Opalescent Glass

People often find cutting opalescent glass more difficult than transparent. My observation is that people exert too much pressure in scoring opalescent glass by listening for the creaking/scratching sound. 

Not all glass is made the same, even by the same manufacturer.  But all the same rules apply in scoring opalescent as transparent glass.  However, they sound different.

No more pressure should be put on opalescent glass than transparent.  Only about two kilograms (5 to 7 pounds) of pressure is required to score glass sufficiently to create the weakness that we exploit when running the score.

If you concentrate on keeping the pressure on both types of glass the same, you will hear different things.  On transparent glass you normally hear a creaking or light scratching sound and you do not get a whiteness along the score line.  If you hear same sound on opalescent glass, too much pressure is being applied. 

The same pressure (2 kilograms) on opalescent glass gives only a rumble of sound. No creaking or scratching is heard.  You can test this by placing a piece of glass on kitchen scales. Zero the scales with the transparent glass on it and score. Note the pressure you used.  Now zero the scales with a piece of opalescent glass on it. Ensure you score to the same pressure as on the transparent glass by looking at the readout on the scales.

Just as excessive pressure on transparent glass leads to erratic breaking of the glass, so it does on opalescent glass.  You will need some practice to stop listening for a sound and begin to feel the pressure you are applying to the glass. Once you do apply the same pressure to opalescent as to transparent glass, your success in scoring and breaking opalescent glass will increase greatly.

Scoring and breaking opalescent glass successfully is the same for both transparent and opalescent glass.  Use moderate pressure and don’t listen for the sound.

Feel the pressure. Ignore the sound.