Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Single Layer Slumping

Almost all glass can be slumped as a single layer, whether produced for kiln working or not.  A few are extra sensitive at even slumping temperature and change character at around 630C-650°C, but all others can be slumped.  This posts concentrates on slumping of single layers of non-fusing compatible glass, but most of these elements can be applied to fusing compatible glass too.

The things you need to take care about are:
  • Temperature
  • Soak Times
  • Edges
  • Devitrification
  • Annealing
  • Testing
It certainly is possible to slump single layers. The resulting glass will be slightly less robust than two or more layers of glass, but simply because it is thinner.

The temperature that you use needs to be high enough to allow the glass to take the shape of the mould, but low enough that the glass does not distort or stretch and thin.  This is a balance that you can achieve through observation of the firing. 

It most often is best to use the lowest practical forming temperature that you can.  Practicality here is about how long you want to wait for the glass to conform to the mould.  It is possible to take the glass to about 580°C and soak for multiple hours, but not very practical.  It does depend on the glass as to the temperature to be used for the slump.  There are two sources here that can help: the slump point test  and this table of glass characteristics

Soak times
A practical soak time will be 30 – 90 minutes, which will avoid marking the underside of the glass.  This means that the temperature will need to be lower than the softening (or slump) point of the glass. Your slump point test will tell you the temperature at which the glass begins to deform.  That is the best temperature to use.  If it is taking too long, advance the temperature by about 10°C.  If you used the table of glass characteristics to find a softening point, reduce that temperature by about 30°C as a starting point.

The temperature that you will choose to use is not high enough to allow the edges to change as they would in a fuse.   This means that you need to have the edges exactly as you want them in the finished project.  This will require cold working by hand or machine.  Neither will take a long time, but require the correct tools. This post gives you the comparison of fused and cold working methods.

While most glass can be slumped you need to be careful with opalescent glass, as it can devitrify easily.  Most wispy glasses are fine, but the more opalescent wisps they have, the more difficult there may be.  Streaky and single colour glasses are usually fine. 

Another element in slumping glass not formulated for kiln working is the annealing of the glass after the slumping.  The annealing temperature can be estimated as 40C below a low temperature slump of a 280mm span of glass. The slump point test mentioned earlier will help determine the annealing point. You need to soak for a time - maybe 30 minutes - at the estimated annealing temperature and then cool slowly in case you have miscalculated on the annealing temperature.  In any case, a long slow anneal cool will pay dividends in a more robust glass.

You will find some manufacturers’ glasses are less adaptable to kiln forming than others.  So, it is best to run tests on the glass before committing to larger projects.

Remember TADSET - temperature, annealing, devitrification, soak, edges, test.