Sunday, 30 September 2012

Freeze and Fuse

The object of this technique is to make a shaped piece without use of a refractory mould. It is applicable to small items.

You can use jelly, soap, candle, etc. moulds. They can be rigid or flexible. They should be without undercuts and have a draft, which is why jelly, soap, and candle moulds are so suitable. Be careful of the size, as a large amount of frit can be required even for a small mould.

Some people use only powder for this process. I use a 50/50 combination of powder and fine frit. You can use clear frit with powder. If you do so, you need to measure out the appropriate amounts.  Then put the frit and some water into a container with a closure. Close and shake to wet the frit. Then add the powder and shake again to ensure the powder adheres to the frit. Once thoroughly mixed, add more water to make a thick slurry.

Pack the mould with the mixture. Then using absorbent paper towels firmly pat the contents of the mould as dry as you can. Place the mould in the freezer for at least a couple of hours, or for large ones overnight.

When frozen, remove from the mould and place on the kiln shelf. The shelf needs a separator which can be kiln wash or fibre paper. Some leave the piece to thaw out and some more of the water to evaporate.

Whether you fire immediately or let the piece thaw and evaporate, you need to fire slowly to 100C and soak there until no more moisture is evident to avoid creating pockets of steam that will blow the piece apart. After that you can fire as normal for an initial firing of a two layer piece.

The piece will shrink a bit during the firing, but it is safe to anneal for the original thickness of the frozen piece. If you have a large piece or one with lots of variation in thickness, you should use at least the next thickness up from the Bullseye tables for annealing thick pieces. Sometimes you should use two steps up.