Sunday, 10 March 2013

Glues in Kiln Forming

Glues have two major uses in fusing. One is to stick things together after being fused (cold fusing). The other is to hold things together before fusing.

Holding things together while preparing the piece to be transferred to the kiln is a major use of low tack adhesives and glues. All of these burn off a lot lower than the temperature at which the glass begins to stick together. So, if you are gluing overhanging pieces, for example, they can move after the glue has burned off.  If you are assembling pieces that will not stay in place while you are putting it together, glue will not help get the final result you want.  If you are gluing to keep things stable while you move it to the kiln, you may find everything is ok.

However, glue tends to boil off if the temperature is raised too fast. During this process, the effect of the boiling will move the glass pieces that are most unstable. This also occurs if you use too much glue. You should only use as much as will stick the pieces together. Also too much glue leads to black spots and sometimes bubbles between the layers of glass.

The adhesives commonly used are the Bullseye product “Glastac”, Elmer’s glue, diluted PVA - or school - glue. All of these take varying times to dry and hold the glass pieces in place. So, a popular alternative is hair spray. This is a lacquer which dries almost instantly. It provides a thin film of adhesive and burns off in the kiln with no residue. You should use the varieties with no additives.

Glue most often leads to problems or unexpected results, so several ways have been used to achieve the desired results.

One way to deal with unstable components on small pieces is to make a large piece with a repetition of the design and cut it up after fusing in to the sizes you want.  Clean the pieces very well, and then fire them again to at least fire polish to remove any cutting or grinding marks.

An alternative to using glue, especially at the edges where the pieces are likely to move, is to use dams. My practice is to make the dams slightly taller than the unfired piece and line with fibre paper. I put 3 mm fibre paper against the dam, and thinfire against the glass. Both of these should be 3 mm narrower than the final height of the fused piece will be. This is to allow the glass to make a rounded edge as it will not be able to stick to the fibre as it sinks down to its final height.

Bullseye hot dams as an example of damming

Another alternative to using glue is to fire the piece upside down, so that the pieces do not have to be supported. This does require some planning and forethought. You can draw the design in reverse on thinfire, using different coloured pencils for the various layers to help in building the piece up in reverse. You then cap the assembled pieces with the piece that will become the bottom. Take the whole to a tack fuse. Then clean very well to remove any residues from the shelf. It is possible to sandblast and then clean to make sure there are no residues left. Of course this is not possible if you are using dichroic or iridised glass. Also note that iridised surfaces and thinfire do not get on well – there is extreme pitting in the iridised surface. 

Example of pieces glued and ready for the flip

 Once the piece is cleaned, fire again to get the desired surface texture.

Cleaning a piece after first firing