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.
- 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
- Place an Ivy leaf on top of the copper foil
Place the copper hanger on the glass with
the loop protruding from the top of the pendant
- Check that you are happy with your design.
Place the second piece of glass on the top
to form a ‘sandwich.’
Carefully place in the kiln and adjust as
Insert the correct ‘mini
bar’ to heat up to 850deg c.
Leave the kiln lid ajar and then fully close
the lid after about 15 minutes.
When the mini bar has reached the required
temperature (about 1 hour) it will melt and the kiln will switch off.
Open the lid as wide as it will go and allow
the heat to escape.
- After 2 minutes close the lid.
Do not open the kiln again until fully
cooled – overnight at least.
When the kiln is cold, remove the fused
Wash the piece in warm water to remove any
ashy deposits from the copper wire hanger
Polish with very fine sandpaper to remove
any bead release and also to smooth off any rough edges.
Hang the pendant on a chain or ribbon.
Glass fusing is a big subject. Here I can only write about my own rather limited experiences. However, a few good tips for anyone wanting to fuse glass are Planning, Patience, Perseverance and you must keep detailed records of your ‘experiments’
Your first attempt at fusing glass will probably prove to be a great disappointment. But don’t be too downhearted and be prepared to persevere. At first I did lots of experiments, using small pieces of glass and just one type of inclusion sandwiched between the glass. I made detailed notes of what I had used, precise details about ‘inclusions’ – were the flattened bead caps gold or silver, very important as you may well find out, and so on. Once the pieces were removed from the kiln I completed my notes with detailed conclusions, both good and bad. (Nail varnish produced some very interesting results indeed).
Never to place glass directly onto the floor of the kiln or the shelves. If you need to, then place fibre paper underneath the glass first. This will prevent the glass from sticking to the shelves but at around £5 a sheet, I find this a rather expensive past time. I now paint my shelves with bead release (kiln/bat wash) and each coat lasts me approximately 3 fusings, a lot cheaper than the fibre paper!
Successful items to fuse with.
Bead caps, copper wire, copper foil, nail varnish, gold & silver outliner (used in glass painting), leaves, (I thought Ivy leaves were best) cardboard, foiled card and fibre paper shapes.
If you would like some more information you could visit my web site www.jazzylily.com or e mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone 01296 437406.