Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Holding the Cutting Head

Many people hold their cutting head steady with a finger during the scoring process.  This is not necessary.

The axel of the cutting wheel is slightly forward of the centre line of the cutter.  In addition, the cutter is held slightly angled back toward the operator to be able to see the wheel and the cartoon (or marker) line.  Both of these act to ensure the wheel follows the movement of the arm or body in a forward motion. 

In cycling, the distance between the angle of the shaft of the cutter and the axel is called the “trail”.  The greater the amount of trail, the easier it is to keep the bicycle following a straight line. The same applies to the cutter. This trail is created by the extension of the angle of the cutter to the glass.  The axel of the wheel is behind that line. The cutting head has a sharper angle at the back than the front to accommodate this angle backwards. The resultant forward force is in front of the axel and so leads the wheel to follow the direction of the cutter without any need for stabilisation.

There is no need to have your finger on the cutting head. It swivels for a reason. It will follow the direction you are pushing without any angle, so there is a clean score.  If you attempt to stabilise the cutter head you risk the wheel running at a slight angle to the direction of the score.  I talk about this as a skidding score. The result of this is to give a score with forces directed not only straight down but sideways too.   This gives the glass many more ways to break.  And not always along the line you want.

Also when you want to score a tight curve, the slight movement of the head allows the curve to be slightly smoothed again without any skidding.  This means there will be fewer pressure lines sideways to the score line.

Manufacturers have put the play into the cutter heads for a reason.  The above attempts to explain it.  The manufacturers would not include a feature that costs time and effort, as well as cost if it had no purpose.  It seems perverse of us to try to run counter to that by holding the head or even fixing it solid, so it is unable to pivot at all.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Encapsulation of Fused Glass Panels

You can encapsulate both leaded and fused glass panels into double glazed units.

Leaded glass panels have the outer came built in “Y” shaped came.  The tail of the “Y” is held between the spacer bars at the edge of the double glazed unit. You normally need to leave 25mm space on each side.  It is calculated as the reduction from the glazing size of the opening.  This is required to accommodate the width of the heart of the came, the spacer bars and sealant of the double glazing assembly.

The same sizing guide is required for fused glass panels.  Usually the “Y” came is designed for 3 mm glass, as it has a 5mm high heart.  However, the “Y” is broad enough that the leaves can be opened to accept the thicker 6mm fused glass.  It is also possible to grind a bevel on the back of the fused glass to make it easier to slip into the came.

It is best to find the person or company which will be making the double glazing unit before starting.  Discussion with them at the start will enable you to determine how much allowance is needed for the spacer bars and the sealant. This will assure you in setting the dimensions for the panel you will make.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Making Your Own Schedules

Starting out with your own schedules is a bit frightening as you don’t yet know the capabilities of your kiln and the problems that might occur. This note attempts to give you some pointers on how to go about making your own schedules.

Start with the glass manufacturer’s recommendations.  Picking something from the internet or a discussion list may seem easy, but you cannot assess the quality of the posted schedules.  Many odd practices have crept into the kiln forming community. The manufacturers know their glass, so you should start there. They are the quality control standards for kiln forming.  Modifications will of course be required for your particular practice as it develops.

Enter the manufacturer’s schedule for the project you are working on and then watch while firing.  Watching does not mean staring into the kiln.  This would damage your sight after a while. This watching consists of quick peeks into the kiln to see what is happening.  These peeks will be at above 580C.  It is only then that there is enough light in the kiln to see what is happening.  At first the peeks will be at possibly only 30 minute intervals.  But as you near the target temperature, you will need to peek at possibly 5 minute intervals. The progress of the glass forming will be much quicker, so to know when the right temperature has been achieved, frequent peeks will be needed.

This observation will let you know if the glass is achieving what you want. If it is not, you can change the schedule while firing.  E.g., advancing to the next step in the schedule, extending the soak time, changing the working temperature to a higher point.  Be sure to read your controller manual to ensure you know how to do these changes during the firing.

If you have achieved the look you want before the target temperature has been achieved, advance the schedule to the next segment or ramp.  Record this temperature, as the next time you fire this set up you will want to be 5°C -10°C lower than this time.  You are aiming to achieve your look with a 10 minute soak.  So, depending on temperature, rate of advance and your kin, this lower temperature with a 10 minute soak should achieve your desired look.  Record this schedule. You will need to observe the next firing just to be sure the temperature and time combination you choose works. 

If the desired look has not been achieved by your top temperature and soak, you can raise the temperature 5°C -10°C, even if you have to interrupt the firing to change the temperature.  The controller will recognise which ramp is required to complete the ramp to the new top temperature without going through all the segments of the schedule.  Even if it does not, you can advance to the ramp you need.  The effect of these changes will be minimal in relation to the full and uninterrupted schedule and can be relied upon to work well on future firings.  Record the new schedule for future use.

An alternative to the change of the top temperature, is to extend the soak when the temperature has not achieved the effect.  You will need to keep peeking until the sought for profile is achieved.  Record this new soak time and the results for future firings.

As you can see it is important to record schedules, layup and results every time you fire.  This enables you to compare results and learn.  A log provides a good reference when you want to reproduce something that was successful.  It also records what did not go well and can remind you of what to avoid.

This process of observation, amendment on the fly, and recording actions and results helps you to get to your ideal schedule much quicker than by putting a schedule in and coming back the next day to see what has happened.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Diurnal Firing Practices

It is most common for people to fire overnight so they can see their piece(s) the next morning.   This is a poor practice for novices.  Not simply a lazy one. It is a practice that leads to use of others’ programs and practices, rather than building on one’s own experience and practice. Others’ programs are used because they were successful for them.  They may not be successful for you. The number of failed projects that are discovered when the kiln is opened, show that it is often not possible to transfer another’s schedule to your project.

The ability to fire while you are absent is a great advantage to kiln forming practices.  The widespread use of the controller has brought many advantages to kiln formers, not least that they can get some sleep and have a social life. They no longer need to be beside their kiln all the time it is firing.  The controller has also made it possible to set the ramp rates and soaks without calculations.  And without having to set periodic alarms to remind us to check the kiln to see if it is advancing at the correct rate.

Before controllers it was necessary to sit beside kiln to watch what was happening and adjust the ramps and soaks to conform to what was planned.  It was also necessary to observe how the glass was behaving and adjust the power input accordingly. Now we can set the controller to give what we hope will be a good result.  We find out when we open the kiln in the morning whether it is right or not.

I am not advocating returning to the days before controllers.  I enjoy my sleep and social life too much for that.

I am advocating the use of a feature almost all controllers have.  The Delay function.  On most controllers, it is the first thing that comes up on the display.  We mostly ignore that and proceed to the first ramp.  We set the controller to fire immediately, so that it will be done overnight and we can look in the morning or when we come back from work.  That way all the waiting for the piece to be finished can be eliminated.  We can go to work or to sleep knowing that the firing will be done when we can get back to the kiln.

This practice leads us to miss the real learning process that is available by observing the process of the firing.  Observing the firing can tell you when your slump is done, when it is slipping to the side, when it breaks, when more time is needed, when more heat is needed – almost everything that people ask questions about their slump – or in other instances, the fuse or melt.

People ask what temperature they should use for the kind of tack fuse they want.  Many suggestions can be made.  Trial and error will eventually tell which is the right combination of rate, temperature and time for the result you want. Observation during the firing will tell you immediately when the temperature is high enough, or the soak is long enough.  As you peek into the kiln through the observation ports you can advance to the next ramp when you have achieved the look you want. 

You do have an observation port, don’t you?  It is one of the essential features to be included in a kiln. If you don’t have one, you can open the lid or door momentarily to observe the state of the glass in the midst of the firing.  You could make an observation port by drilling through the casing and insulation.  You then place fibre blanket or a formed piece of kiln brick in the hole when not in use for peeking into the kiln.  You will not change the performance of the kiln by doing this.  Of course, if you have side elements, this retrofitting of an observation port is risky.

“I need a life.  I have to work.  I have to sleep.  I can’t be around my kiln all the time.” 

The legitimate responses to the idea that you should be around to observe the work at critical temperatures are that “I need a life.  I have to work.  I have to sleep.  I can’t be around my kiln all the time.” This is where the Delay function comes to your aid. You can use the Delay function to make sure the firing is at the critical point for observation at a time that is convenient for you.  This way, you do not disrupt your normal life.  Your social life can continue and you can get some sleep too.

An example will help understanding how you can make use of the Delay function. 

If you have time before you go to work, you can set it so that the firing comes to the critical point about an hour before you have to leave for work.  Or if it is better for you, you can set it so that time for observation is after you get home from work, or after dinner, etc.  Even if you don’t have a day job, you can use the Delay function to make sure you will be able to give the kiln the attention it needs at a convenient time for you.

How do I do this?  It is a setting of the amount of time to elapse before the kiln starts to fire on the first ramp.  Most programmes have firing times for each ramp.  You select the cumulative times up to the end of the ramp for the observation to begin.

This does not need to be difficult

This sounds complicated?  Not really.  It is a bit of arithmetic, though.  Add the times for each ramp together to get the time the kiln will take to get to the observation temperature and soak. 

200C/hour to 630C for 30 mins   =3.15 hours plus the 0.5 hour soak.  (divide the target temperature by the ramp rate, in this example 630/200=3.15 hours or 3 hours and 9 minutes).   Don’t include the soak time in this calculation as that is the part of the observation that is or may be variable.

Assume it is 10:00pm and you want to look at it at 7:00am.  This is 9 hours. The kiln needs 3 hours and 9 minutes to get to the temperature you want to observe the slump.  Subtract 3 hours and 9 minutes from the 9 hours you have and this gives you 5 hours and 51 minutes to set in the Delay function. 

Some controllers do not allow hours and minutes, but require only minutes.  In this case, multiply the hours by 60 and add the minutes.  In the example, there are 300 minutes in 5 hours plus 51 minutes gives 351 minutes to be put into the delay function. 

In this example, this will have the kiln at 630C at 7:00 am. Ready for you to observe the progress of the slump.  When the slump is finished, you can advance to the next segment and head off to work, allowing the cool and annealing to proceed, and knowing the slump was successful.  The same applies to other times of the day.  You could, for example load the kiln and schedule the delay to be at the critical temperature for when you come home from work.

Setting the delay function for an exact tack fuse is a little more complicated.

If you are looking to get an exact tack fuse profile, the schedule will be a little more complicated.  Say you want a rounded tack fuse that you think will be achieved at 750C in 10 minutes.  The schedule might look something like:
Ramp 1: 200C/hour to 650C for 30 minutes =3.15+0.5 hours =3.65 hours
Ramp 2: 300C/hour to 750 for 10 minutes =0.33 hours (750-650/300) + 0.167 hours soak.

Adding these two ramps together gives you 3.95 hours.  Here you include the soak at bubble squeeze temperature in the first ramp, but not in the second, because that is what you are checking on. If it is 7:00am now and you won’t be back until 6:00, that is 11hours until you will be looking in at the progress of your piece.  So you subtract 3.95 from 11 and you set the Delay as 7 hours, 57 minutes (or as 477 minutes).  Then it will be ready for observation when you come home.

Won't I loose firing time by using the delay function?

You may feel that you are going to lose a firing by using the Delay function.  You often can peek into the kiln in the morning to see how things have turned out by using the overnight firing.  But there normally is still more cooling down time required. 

If you delay the top temperature until the morning to see what is happening, you still have the rest of the day for the kiln to cool and be ready for re-loading in the afternoon or evening.  During that time, you can be preparing the next firing.  So you have not lost any kiln time, but you have gained the knowledge that the firing is OK through any adjustments you made at the critical temperatures.

If you were to fire during the day to be able to open the kiln in the evening as your normal practice, you will lose one firing at the start of this kind of practice.  As you progress with the new practice, you will find that you do not lose the number of firings you are able to complete in a week.  Again, you are preparing the next kiln load while the kiln is cooling.

Yes, it does require doing things a little differently.  But essentially it moves the kiln preparation on by 12 hours.  That’s why I call it diurnal firing.  You are just changing by 12 hours your daily practice. You make things ready for the kiln to fire overnight, and prepare the new piece(s) during the day.  Or prepare the pieces in the evening to fire during the next day.  You still are preparing the next kiln load as the kiln cools off from the previous firing.

The extra planning effort is rewarded by more rapid learning

This little extra planning is rewarded by the ability to see what is happening in the kiln, so that you can adjust during the firing, rather than having to do a firing again, or in the worst case, completely re-make a piece after a disaster. 

You also learn much faster about the desired programmes required to get specific results.  Instead of doing multiple firings to find the exact temperature needed for the desired result, you can do it in only one or two firings.  This saves you lots of time, glass and electricity. 

Observation is really necessary for free drops – aperture drops, screen melts, pot melts, etc.  These require observation to get the desired results, as their progress is so variable from one firing set up to another. Using the Delay function will enable you to have the firing at the stage where observation is important when you are best able to be there to watch.

The alteration to your working practices to make use of the Delay function will be amply rewarded by the rapid learning that observation of the firing promotes.  This essential tool to aid in designing appropriate firing programs is too often ignored in teaching and using firing schedules.

Finally, it allows you to set up programs that are pre-set for your kiln and kind of work.  You will have learned the exact rates and temperatures and soaks to put into your programs.  These become your saved schedules that are tailored to your practice.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Edge Treatment in Cold Working

Frequently people who are grinding the edges of bowls, aperture drops and other vessels that need to have a smooth rim find that they are getting small chips of glass coming from the edge of the ground part of the glass.

There is a way to prevent theses unwanted chips  

The long established practice of glass workers has been to give the glass an arris at the end of each grinding stage before they change to a finer grit.  This small area of angled glass, allows the continued smoothing of the glass without creating such a sharp edge that the glass there is not strong enough to resist the grinding action.  

You will notice on a bowl or other rounded vessel, that the chips are almost always on the outside. The inside of the rim normally has an oblique angle to the rim, and the outside an acute angle.  The explanation is held in the angle.  As the rim is ground down, the outer acute angle becomes very thin as well as sharp.  At some point the glass is thinner than the grit used to grind the surface.  This causes little chips of glass to break off the edge.

By creating an oblique angle at the edge of the grinding surface, the glass will remain thicker than the grit being used to grind the glass.  If you feel you are taking off a lot of glass, it is advisable to check that the arris is still in place.  If not, give it a light grind to maintain the arris while using that grit. 

At the end of each stage of grinding, you need to add an arris for the next stage.  The reason for doing it with the coarser grit rather than the one you are about to proceed to, is that it maintains all the grinding at the same stage, enabling the whole piece to be finished to the same level of polish.

Wipe the surface dry and add marks with a paint marker.  Allow this to dry while you change grits.  The purpose of the marker is to assist you in determining when you have ground out all the previous marks, by the elimination of the paint.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Low Slumping Temperatures.

It is possible to have glass overhanging slumping moulds if you use low temperatures. The glass has the appearance of behaving differently at these low temperatures than at fusing temperatures.

Glass at low temperatures is affected largely by weight.  

At low temperatures it cannot quickly form exactly to the mould. It falls first in the middle.  Because the glass is not very plastic, the edges rise up from the mould at first, because the weight there is not great enough to allow the unsupported glass to bend.  The edges stay in line with the beginning of the bend in the middle. (apologies for the quick and dirty drawings)

If you have a mould with a rim, you will be able to observe this effect.  As the glass in the middle begins to slump, the glass at the edge rises from the rim.  This allows the central portion of the glass to settle and draw the excess glass into the mould.  

It only settles back to the rim with the heat work of the slump as the slumping soak continues.

It is useful to record the temperatures and times of these effects for different moulds.  It tells you when the slump begins, the intermediate stage(s) and completion of the slump.

Using the lowest practical slumping temperature gives the best results.
·         It allows glass with small overhangs of the mould to be successfully slumped. 
·         Low temperature reduces the mould marks on the back of the glass.
·         Fewer stretch marks are in evidence. 
·         Low slumping temperatures with long soaks reduce the uneven slump that is sometimes in evidence with deeper moulds.
·         Low temperatures allow different colours to heat more evenly.
·         Low temperatures reduce the thinning effect of a high temperature slump.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Large Shelves in Small Kilns

Sometimes you want to put a larger than usual piece in the kiln.  But your standard shelf is just too small.  There are some things you can do to allow the firing of the larger piece.

You can put a two part or multiple part shelf into the kiln. However, joining two or more small shelves to make a larger one will continue to show lines where they join.

You can put in a single larger shelf. If this is a mullite shelf, you need to be sure you can get your fingers into the gap to get enough purchase to lift the shelf back out.

You can put a large fibre or vermiculite board over the existing shelf and so extend the area.  You need to prepare these boards by firing and preparing them for firing with glass on top.

But, there may be problems with adding more shelf area. 

If you have a side firing kiln, the glass will be much closer to the elements, which will require baffles and certainly slower firing schedules.

The reason for the gap between the sides and the shelf are to allow air circulation underneath the shelf to get even heating and even cooling.  Restricting this air flow requires slower schedules. Some experts suggest cooling from one side – which this now will exhibit – requires annealing at half the rate of cooling from both sides, i.e., with air space along the sides of the shelf.  This means doubling the anneal soak, and a reduction by half of the annealing cool rate.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Kiln Washing Kiln Lids

It is frequently recommended that the bottom of the kiln should be kiln washed to prevent any spilled glass from sticking to the kiln brick.  You should remember that this is applicable to brick lined kilns.

This in itself is a little clue.  You do not need to kiln wash any insulation fibre in the kiln. If any glass were to stick to the fibre, it would come away easily.  In any case, most insulation fibre blanket will not stick to the glass.

The recommendation often goes on to advocate kiln washing the sides.  There is a caution that the side elements (if any) should not be kiln washed. The caution comes from the knowledge that water and electricity should not be mixed.  The kiln should not be on when applying kiln wash anyway.  If kiln wash is splashed onto the elements, it is simply a matter of letting the whole kiln dry naturally with the lid open before firing.

The extension to this series of recommendations is that the whole of the kiln should be kiln washed, including the lid.  This is not a good idea.  The wash on the lid will soon fail and drop dust and debris onto and into your work.  The glass should never touch the top of the kiln anyway.  If the elements are in contact with the glass, the glass will either stick to them or break.  You have to ensure you do not put glass nearer than about 20mm to the elements or lid. In any case, the glass will fall to the bottom of the kiln, not the top or sides – unless the kiln is not level.


The whole idea of kiln washing the interior of the kiln is suspect in some ways.  Anyone who has had glass drip off the shelf and onto the brick during an over-firing will know the glass eats into the brick through the kiln wash.  Kiln wash will only protect the brick at full fuse or less temperatures. But it is a good precaution to keep the pieces of frit that fall off the shelf from sticking to the brick. It does not do much more than that.

The application of kiln wash to the kiln creates another source of dust within the kiln.  Dust and general uncleanliness in the kiln is a main potential source of devitrification. Thus, the application of kiln wash should be the minimum necessary and does not need to go up the side beyond the elements or the lowest shelf height, whichever is less.

There is a strong argument to be made that laying a sheet of 0.5 mm fibre blanket on the floor of the kiln will provide better protection of the kiln than any amount of kiln wash.  It is less likely to fail, it is not a source of additional dust, it provides a better protection during any kiln runaway, and it is easily replaceable.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Thinking About Design

To think about design, you need a vocabulary to describe the object. This needs to be combined with a structure of principles. What follows is an outline to structure your thinking about design.  This is based on the writing of Burton Wasserman in Spark the Creative Flame, Making the Journey from Craft to Art, by Paul J Stankard, 2013.

First there is the vocabulary to structure the conversation about design. The elements of this are “… point, line, plane, texture, colour, pattern, density, interval, … space, … light, mass, and volume”

There are then principles of good design.  They relate to:
Unity – all the elements form a whole
Balance – note, not only symmetry
Rhythm – this can be repetition with or without variation
Emphasis – or contrast between a main element and the rest
Harmony – all the elements work together

These five principles of design together with the vocabulary of elements form the language of design and assist your critical thinking about expressing your design and realising it in the best way you can.  This thinking can be applied usefully to the critical appreciation of others’ works.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Heavy Metals in Glass

Some concern has been expressed about the metals used in colouring glass.  This centres around the temperatures used in fusing and whether kiln workers may be of risk from these heavy metals vaporising.

First of all, let’s get some sense of perspective. This is from Greg Rawles, an acknowledged expert on the hazards of working with glass.

Understanding Exposure:

In reality, unless you are doing:
High-volume production work that exposes you to a health hazard all day long
You are exposing yourself to high levels of a health hazard for a brief time
You are working with a very toxic material
You are not working responsibly

You are not really at risk for an unacceptable exposure when working in a glass studio

Now, let’s think about how likely it is to have heavy metals vaporise at kiln forming temperatures. How stable would glass be if the metals that colour it vaporised when we fired it? the colour would vary with the heat and number of times we fired it.

Now, let’s think about how likely it is to have heavy metals vaporise at kiln forming temperatures. How stable would glass be if the metals that colour it vaporised when we fired it? the colour would vary with the heat and number of times we fired it.

Even if the metal were to evaporate, how much is in the glass. Apparently, Bullseye uses less than 3 pounds of cadmium for a pot of glass. We can tell from the sheet numbers that a pot of glass gives at least 2000 sheets of glass, so there is ca. 0.0015 lbs or .07 grams or less of metal in a sheet of 3mm glass. There is very little there to "vaporise", so even it were able to evaporate, it is in such small quantities as to be negligible, and the exposure so low as to be of extremely low risk. There is however, no risk in protecting yourself with dust masks. Just remember that the risks from vaporised heavy metals is much less than most of the other studio practices involving glass. If you need breathing protection for metals (and you may feel it is not worth the risk) then you need to be wearing a mask all the while you are doing glass work. It is about relative risk.

For complete information, the melting and boiling points of various metals relevant to glass colouring are given below.  The vaporisation will be somewhere above the melting point and toward the boiling point.  You will be able to see the relevant temperatures and take any precautions you feel are necessary.  Remember that the metals are not used in their pure forms, but as oxides.  These may have different melting and boiling temperatures.  In general, the oxides used in colouring glass have higher melting and boiling points than the pure metal.

Antimony -for whites
Melting point: 630C
Boiling point:  1635C

Antimony Oxide
Melting point:  380-930C
Boiling point:  1425C

Melting point: 321C
Boiling point:  767C

Cadmium sulphide - yellow
Melting point: 1650-1830C
Boiling point:  2838C

Melting point: 1907C
Boiling point:  2671C

Chromic Oxide – for emerald green
Melting point: 4415C
Boiling point:  7230C

Melting point: 1495C
Boiling point:  2927C

Cobalt Oxide- blue to violet
Melting point: 1900C

Melting point: 1084C
Boiling point:  2562

Copper Oxides - for blue, green, red
Melting point: 1232-1326C
Boiling point:  1800-2000C

Melting point: 1337C
Boiling point:  2970C

Gold Chloride - red
Melting point: 170-254C
Boiling point:  298C

Melting point: 1538C
Boiling point:  2862C

Iron Oxide – for greens and brown
Melting point: 1377-1539C
Boiling point:  3414C

Lead – for yellows
Melting point: 327C
Boiling point:  1749C

Melting point: 1246C
Boiling point:  2061C

Manganese Dioxide – purple and a clarifying agent
Melting point: 535-888C

Melting point: 1024C
Boiling point:  3074C

Melting point: 1455C
Boiling point:  2730C

Nickel Oxide – for violet
Melting point (II - for green): 1955C
Melting point (III - for black): 600C

Melting point: 221C
Boiling point:  685C

Selenium Oxide – for reds
Melting point: 118-340C
Boiling point:  350C

Melting point: 961C
Boiling point:  2162C

Melting point:  370C
Boiling point:   882C

Sodium Nitrate – a clarifying agent
Melting point: 308C
Boiling point:  380C

Melting point: 115C
Boiling point:  444C

Sulphur oxide - for yellow to amber
Melting point:  17C
Boiling point:   45C

Melting point: 231C
Boiling point:  2602C

Tin Oxides – for whites
Melting point:  1080-1630C
Boiling point:  1800-1900C

Melting point: 1132C
Boiling point:  4131C

Uranium oxide – for fluorescent yellow, green
Melting point:  1150-2765C
Boiling point:  1300C

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Reducing Stress Points in Tack Fusing

Stress is greater in tack fused pieces than in full fused. Tack fused pieces to some greater or lesser extent behave independently from the base and surrounding pieces.  This means that more care must be taken in the anneal cooling of the glass.

Stress is dissipated more evenly in rounded tack fused pieces so the stress is not concentrated as individual points around the edge of the glass.

Stress is however, concentrated in corners of rectangles and in points of triangular and the ends of thin pieces.

By nipping the corners off these sharp angled pieces, the amount of stress concentrated there can be reduced.  Very little needs to be removed to have the effect. So the appearance of the angles is hardly affected.

Using your grozing pliers, you can take a small piece of the corner off.  It needs not be much more than a large grain of sand. This should be done at all corners and points.  It will not reduce the amount of annealing or the rate of cooling, but will assist in reducing the possible stress built up in the tack fused piece.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Filling Gaps in Fused Pieces

Often your cutting is not as accurate as you would like so there are small gaps between the pieces as you assemble the piece.

One solution that is often used is to grind the edge of the too large piece to get the fit desired.  The problem with this is that thorough cleaning is required to avoid devitrification lines appearing on the final piece.  Also, even with extensive grinding, the fit is not perfect.

The alternative is to fill the gaps with fine frit or powder.

Assemble the whole piece and assess the gaps.  If they are very large, you need to adjust the glass. If they are only millimetres wide, powder and frit can fill the gap to disguise the join.  I generally use powder for almost perfect joints, and fine frit for anything larger.

I first cover the gap with powder or frit and with a soft brush work at right angles to the line of the join.  This ensures that I have filled the gap to the height of the glass.  However, the frit and powder have air spaces, and so will fuse to a lower level than the height of the glass.  So, once gap is filled, I build a small ridge over the gap trying not to extend beyond the gap.  This mound compensates for the lack of density of the frits.

The frit and powder colour must match the glass exactly to become invisible.  It can be made from your scraps or purchased at the same time as the glass. I find it more successful to do these fills with the darker glass.  It provides a more distinct edge to the joint.  It also conceals the base glass better.

It can also be used to conceal the joint in a single colour where the piece cannot be cut as one and needs several pieces to make the whole.  This is more simple as any overspill will not be noticed when fused.

This method only works with full fusings.  At tack fuse temperatures the frit will not fully combine with the sheet glass to form a smooth invisible join surface.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Devitrification on Repeated Firing

 Devitrification is defined as the crystallisation of the glass, making it a non-vitreous substance.
Molecular level difference between vitreous and devitrified silica

You can see that there is not much difference between the the two states of the glass in structure, but mainly the arrangement of molecules.

The appearance of devitrification has a range of appearances from a mild smeary look through a dull surface to a crazed, crumbly aspect in severe cases. 

Mild devitrification

Medium level devitrification requiring abrasive cleaning

Causes of devitrification are related to slow changes of temperature (up or down) and most importantly nucleation points such as dust, oils, or cleaning residues. So, thorough cleaning is most important. 

Causes in repeated firings of the same piece relate to:

It is important to thoroughly clean the piece before each subsequent firing.  Many times abrasive cleaning such as sandblasting is important to clean out impurities from the previous firing.  The resulting surface from any abrasive cleaning requires further cleaning with lots of clean water and a thorough drying with clean cloths or paper.

        Slow cooling or heating
Devitrification normally occurs in the range of 670⁰C to 750⁰C. This is the reason for the rapid rates of advance in this temperature range rather than other factors.  It can form both on the rise and on the fall in temperature. Slower rates in the devitrification range allow enough time for the crystallisation to begin.

        High temperatures.
Both high temperatures and long soaks can promote devitrification.  It is not just the slow rise or fall in temperature, but long periods at high temperature can lead to devitrification even though other precautions have been taken.

Changes in the composition
High temperatures and many repeated firings of the piece can lead to changes in the glass.  Some metals and fluxes are more likely than others to change composition or oxidise at extended soaks at high temperatures.  This can reduce the ability of the glass to resist devitrification.


Prevention relates to thorough a) cleaning and b) firing rates.

All correction of devitrification relates to the modification of the surface.  If the problem is only at the surface, you can use either abrasive cleaning or the addition of fluxes to the surface, or a combination of the two. 

Where you have a mild dulling of the surface due to devitrification you can apply a flux.  This softens the surface by reducing the melting temperature of the glass and so reverses the crystallisation at the surface. The devitrification solution can be a proprietary spray such as Super Spray. Be aware that some sprays use lead particles as the flux, so are inappropriate for pieces intended to be food bearing. You can make your own devitrification solution by dissolving borax in distilled water.  When the devitrification is wide spread or deep, abrasive cleaning is required.

Abrasive cleaning can be by hand with sandpapers or diamond pads.  Be sure to keep them damp.  This keeps dust from rising, and the sanding surfaces clean for better working.  Sandblasting can be quicker, especially on uneven surfaces or where there are deep imperfections.  The surfaces resulting from abrasive cleaning need to be scrubbed clean with sufficient water, and then polished dry as for a finished piece.

It is possible to combine both these methods to be more certain of a shiny finish.  When combining, you need to do the abrasive cleaning first, then the wet cleaning and finally add the devitrification solution.

A fourth possibility is to sprinkle a fine but consistently thick layer of clear fine frit or powder over the piece.  This, when fused, provides the new surface concealing the devitrification below.  Again, this must be done at a full fuse, so it is not applicable to items you wish to remain tack fused.

However, if the devitrification has progressed to a crazed appearance, it is so deep as to be almost impossible to reverse.  The piece will also probably have developed incompatibilities. So the only real option in crazed pieces is to dispose of them.  They will not be useable in combination with any other glass. They will make any glass with which they are combined subject to devitrification and possible breakage.  These are pieces which truly cannot be cut up and re-used.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Annealing Multiple Levels of Tack Fusing

A question was asked of me about schedules for tack fusing multiple pieces – three layers thick in places – as a single unit, then placing on a 6mm fused base and tack fusing.  Special interest was in how the different thicknesses and the tack fusing would affect the scheduling of the annealing.

My response – edited – was as follows.

This is going to be a long reply.  I have written a general guide to tack fusing that will be useful, but this response will try to be more specific to your project.

First, tack fusing of pointed things is more sensitive to annealing than rounded things.  For up to 3 layers of triangles, I would be thinking of annealing for at least 12mm (four layers). This means a 2hour soak at 482⁰C, followed by a cooling rate of 55⁰C for the first 55⁰C degrees and then 99⁰C for the next 55⁰C. After this 110⁰C degrees of cooling the rate can be as fast as 330⁰C/hr.  This will apply whether Bullseye or System 96 is involved.

Second, from the description I take it that a 6mm clear under a 3mm layer of two colours side by side is being fused as a base.  [This was confirmed], so you could fire at 200⁰C/hr to a bubble squeeze of 30mins and then 300⁰C/hr to top temperature.  Anneal at 482⁰C for 60-90mins and cool for first 55⁰C at 65⁰C/hr and the next 55⁰C at 150⁰C/hr, followed by 300⁰C/hr to room temperature.

The third stage is to combine them.  Think about how thick this is physically – ca.18mm.  Then think about the differences in thickness – 9mm.  My rule of thumb is to add the difference between thicknesses to the thickest part – in this case to 18 plus 9 equals 27mm.  This is the “scheduling thickness” for this variation with rounded elements.  As your piece has lots of triangles, you need more care.  It is an additional level of difficulty.  So I add another 3mm to my “scheduling thickness” to accommodate the angular aspect of the piece, making a total of 30mm for putting the two fused pieces together. 

This thickness leads me to propose a relatively complicated schedule.  I suggest 70⁰C/hr to 250⁰C, 100⁰C/hr to 540, 120⁰C/hr to 620 and then 150⁰C/hr to top temperature.  The top temperature will be lower than your normal tack fuse temperature because this is a much slower rate of advance than normal.  This in turn, means that you will want to be checking at intervals on the tack fuse progress from at least 720⁰C.

The annealing will be long and slow. About 5 hours at 482⁰C, 11⁰C/hr to 427⁰C, 20⁰C /hr to 370⁰C and 65⁰C /hr to 30⁰C. This will be a schedule of about 35+ hours.

The two sources mentioned earlier give the rationale for this kind of schedule.  Think about the considerations I have listed, and then decide whether I am being too cautious or not.  The principle remains - as you increase the risk factors, you
·         slow down rates of advance and cooling rates, and
·         extend soak times.

You should note that I have used Graham Stone’s Firing Schedules for Glass, the Kiln Companion and the Bullseye chart for Annealing Thick Slabs in preparing the proposed schedule, although you will not find this exact schedule in either of them.