Saturday, 19 July 2014

Diagnosis of Breaks in Kiln Formed Glass

Often more can be learned from failures than a number of successes. A common failure in kiln forming is broken glass. The appearance of the break will tell you a lot about the problem so that you know where to look for the solution.

Cracks and breaks can occur at various times in the kiln. These will have occurred by the time you open the kiln:
  • Curved cracks and breaks are usually caused by inadequate annealing. Often the break will have a hook or sharp curve near the edge of the glass. The edges will be sharp.
  • Cracks and breaks occurring where two pieces of glass meet is usually an indication of incompatibility between the two glasses. This means that you need to perform a compatibility test with the two glasses. Sometimes it is caused by a large difference in the thickness of the glass, especially when light and dark glasses are side by side. This is normally an annealing problem.
  • Breaks in the piece (often more than one) with rounded edges indicate a thermal shock break caused by raising the temperature too quickly for the size or thickness of the piece.
  • Breaks that cross the piece in a reasonably straight line, going across and through pieces of glass are an indication of thermal shock.  The line will be rounded or the pieces even formed together again if it was shocked on the rise in temperature.  If the piece was cooled too quickly, the edges will be sharp.
  • Multiple breaks into small pieces - normally sharp - are an indication that the glass has stuck to the shelf or kiln furniture. This is caused by inadequate batt wash on the shelf and kiln furniture. It tends to happen with high temperature firings more than lower temperature firings.
Other cracks and breaks occur after the piece has cooled.
Breakage occurring long after a piece has been completed are an indication that the stress within the glass has overcome the strength of the piece. There are several possible individual and combined factors:
· improper annealing,
· thermal shock,
· incompatible glass,
· wear and tear.

But the most likely problem is inadequate annealing. Unless you have access to your firing records and can determine how the piece was fired and the materials used, you will need to accept it as experience and extend future annealing times.

The best cure for these is prevention.

First is to do a compatibility test to determine if the glasses fit together in the combination you plan for your piece.
Second, if you check the stresses of the flat piece between polarizing filters, you will be able to see if there are stresses within the piece before you do any further kiln forming with this glass or setup. If the stress is from incompatibility - where you see the stress halos around specific pieces of glass - you will need to destroy the piece. If the stress is more generalized, you can put the piece back in the kiln, reheat slowly and soak at the annealing point for a longer time and use a slower annealing cool.