One of the oldest methods of working with glass is called fusing. Fusing glass is something that can be done in the home, all you need is a kiln and some raw materials, which I will come onto later. As far as the kiln is concerned, all it needs to be capable of doing is heating up to 850 degrees centigrade. I have been fusing glass at home now for a little more than a year using nothing more than a ‘Hobbytech 40 Kiln’ with no automatic temperature controller or even a timer.
But, to begin at the beginning – my first experiences fusing glass were at the ‘Bring your Burner’’’ week (August 98) at Plowden & Thompson Limited in Stourbridge, in the heart of England’s glass making region I remember being fascinated watching a few bits of metal sandwiched between two pieces of clear glass being fused together to become a rather attractive and very tactile piece of jewellery. A vivid memory I try to recall as I attempt my own version of Glass Fusing nowadays.
After the course had ended I could not wait to get home and try out all sorts of things for myself. My first task was to collect together all the items which I thought would look good embedded in glass – jewellery findings proved to be a good source – filigree bead caps which had been flattened, bits of wire and other interesting shapes were set aside for experimentation.
I also had to purchase some special items, such as fibre paper, fusers glue and some ‘mini bars’ to control the temperature of my kiln. My kiln is either on or off, and will heat up to about 1200 deg c and stay at that temperature until switched off manually. There is a sort of timing device, which can be set so that the kiln does not remain on forever, but by using the ‘mini bars,’ which melt at a given temperature, the kiln switches off the moment they melt.
I made a visit to my local glass merchant who was more than happy to provide me with scrap glass off-cuts free of charge. When making jewellery I use 4mm-window glass with no particular concern for its COE (coefficient of expansion). The COE becomes relevant when one is fusing different types of glass together. It then becomes vital that both pieces of glass have the same COE.
To make the pendant in the Photo:
- Prepare the kiln shelves – paint with bead
release or kiln/bat wash. Leave to dry overnight
Cut two pieces of 4mm window glass approx.
2″ x 1″
- Make a copper wire
‘hanger’ (I used a ‘wire
wizard’ and 0.5mm copper wire)
Cut a rectangle of self adhesive copper foil
and stick it to one piece of glass
Paint the glass & copper foil with
In this tutorial Nathalie Nicolini describes the way she makes small hollow vessels. She says “This is not the only way, but the way I like to make them. I hope you will like making these vessels as much as I do!”
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Here are some twisties I made earlier!
On a rod
Take one rod, paint stripes of other colours on it, melt it all in, then either attach another rod to the end to let you pull and twist, or use a pair of pliers or hefty tweezers. You want to pull out and twist at the same time – either rotate both hands in opposite directions, or just spin one rod and pull with the other. (The second way is easier if using pliers!)
Pull slowly until you see what kind of diameter that gives you, as going too fast makes a very thin twistie. You don’t need to make a massively long twistie and it doesn’t need to be uniform: about 5 inches long is a useful length. It spreads out when melted in and differences in diameter can be a good look. If the twist isn’t as tight as you like, you can twist it more as you apply it.
This first way will make a smallish twistie because your base is a single rod thickness. To have a larger starting base you can fold the rod back on itself, or melt and form it into a plug shape before adding lines.
The downside to making twisties on the rod is that you can thermal shock the rod just past the section you are using for your twistie. This isn’t much fun. You can also heat a bit too far along the rod and end up with your mass on a bendy stick that you’re losing control of.
The alternative is to make your twistie on a metal base – use a mandrel or stainless steel chopstick. (For a mandrel, a thicker one is better – 2.4 or 3mm is fine, but 1.6mm is a little wimpy and prone to bending). Heat the end of the mandrel so it is only just glowing red, and your glass will stick to it. You now have a more stable base to build up your twistie on. At the end, you can heat up the bit of glass left on the metal and stick it into your water pot – it’ll shock off with a hissing and popping noise. It’s better to have a dedicated mandrel for making twisties, so you don’t end up putting bead release over one that might still have a little glass on the end and cause your beads to stick.
In a lollypop shape
You can do this on either the rod or on steel. Start by making a ball, then flatten it into a lollypop shape. You can then add your other stripes of colours to this. It changes the proportions of where the colours show up once you have heated it back up and twisted it all. Because you have more surface area, your colour sections can be bigger, or […]