Thursday, 20 May 2010

Schedules for Steep Drapes

I have been asked for a schedule for draping in the context of a tip on steep straight sided drapes.

What you are trying to do with a steep drape is two things. One is to compensate for the heat sink that the glass is supported by, and the second is to compensate for the relative lack of weight at the outer edge of the glass.


The supported glass transmits its heat to the support, leaving it colder than the unsupported glass. This often leads to breakage due to heat shock at much lower temperatures and slower rates of increase than glass supported at its edges. My experience has shown that - contrary to what I recommend for other kinds of firings - a slow rise with short soaks at intervals up to the working temperature works best. The reason for these slow rises and soaks is to try to get the support and the glass to be as nearly as possible at the same temperature throughout the rise in temperature. The soaks help ensure the mould is gaining heat without taking it from the glass.

The other problem with steep drapes is that the edges of the glass begin to drop more quickly than the area between the support and the edge. This leads to the development of an arc that touches the mould side near the bottom before the glass between the edge and the and the support. Extended soak times are required to allow the glass to stretch out and flatten. If this is done at high temperatures, the glass will thin - possibly to the extent of separating.

So the requirements for a firing schedule on this kind of drape are slow increases in temperature with soaks to avoid thermal shock, and an extended soak at the forming temperature.

Whether using steel or ceramic moulds, I use a slow rise in temperature to 100C with a soak of 15 minutes. I then increase the rate of rise by 50% for the next 100C and give a 15 minute soak there. For the next 200C I raise the temperature at twice the original temperature rise, again with a 15 minute soak. The glass and mould should now be at 400C. This is still at the point where the glass could be heat shocked, so I only increase to 2.5 times the original rise rate but this time all the way to forming temperature.

Each kiln has its own characteristics, so giving schedules is problematic. A side fired kiln will need slower heat rises than a top fired one. The closer the glass is to the elements, the slower the rate of increase needs to be. The kind of energy input - electric or gas - has an effect. The thickness of the glass is also a factor in considering what rate to use. The size of the glass in relation to the size of the support is important - the greater the differential, the slower the heat rise should be. So in making a suggestion on heat rises, it is only a starting point to think about what you are doing and why you are doing in this way.

I have usually done this kind of draping in top fired electric kilns where the elements are about 250mm above the shelf, and about 120mm apart. In the case of a 6mm thick piece about three times the size of the support area, I use 50C/hr as my starting point. This is one third of my usual rate of temperature rise. However you must watch to see what is happening, so that you can make adjustments. You should observe at each of the soaks, so you know how the glass is behaving. It will also help you to pinpoint the temperature range or rate of advance that may be leading to any breakages.

On steep slumps, the temptation is to use a high temperature to complete the drape. This is a mistake as the glass will be more heavily marked and tends toward excessive stretching and thinning. What you really need is a slow rate of advance to a relatively low temperature. If you normally slump at about 677C, then you want to do this steep, straight sided drape at 630C or less. It will need a long soak - maybe 5 - 7 hours. It will also need frequent observation to determine how the drape is progressing. So plan the time to make yourself available during this forming soak.

Annealing is done as normal, since the mould and glass are more closely together and will cool at the same rate.

The original tip on the set up of a steep straight sided slump is here.