Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Large Shelves in Small Kilns

Sometimes you want to put a larger than usual piece in the kiln.  But your standard shelf is just too small.  There are some things you can do to allow the firing of the larger piece.

You can put a two part or multiple part shelf into the kiln. However, joining two or more small shelves to make a larger one will continue to show lines where they join.

You can put in a single larger shelf. If this is a mullite shelf, you need to be sure you can get your fingers into the gap to get enough purchase to lift the shelf back out.

You can put a large fibre or vermiculite board over the existing shelf and so extend the area.  You need to prepare these boards by firing and preparing them for firing with glass on top.

But, there may be problems with adding more shelf area. 

If you have a side firing kiln, the glass will be much closer to the elements, which will require baffles and certainly slower firing schedules.

The reason for the gap between the sides and the shelf are to allow air circulation underneath the shelf to get even heating and even cooling.  Restricting this air flow requires slower schedules. Some experts suggest cooling from one side – which this now will exhibit – requires annealing at half the rate of cooling from both sides, i.e., with air space along the sides of the shelf.  This means doubling the anneal soak, and a reduction by half of the annealing cool rate.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Kiln Washing Kiln Lids

It is frequently recommended that the bottom of the kiln should be kiln washed to prevent any spilled glass from sticking to the kiln brick.  You should remember that this is applicable to brick lined kilns.

This in itself is a little clue.  You do not need to kiln wash any insulation fibre in the kiln. If any glass were to stick to the fibre, it would come away easily.  In any case, most insulation fibre blanket will not stick to the glass.

The recommendation often goes on to advocate kiln washing the sides.  There is a caution that the side elements (if any) should not be kiln washed. The caution comes from the knowledge that water and electricity should not be mixed.  The kiln should not be on when applying kiln wash anyway.  If kiln wash is splashed onto the elements, it is simply a matter of letting the whole kiln dry naturally with the lid open before firing.

The extension to this series of recommendations is that the whole of the kiln should be kiln washed, including the lid.  This is not a good idea.  The wash on the lid will soon fail and drop dust and debris onto and into your work.  The glass should never touch the top of the kiln anyway.  If the elements are in contact with the glass, the glass will either stick to them or break.  You have to ensure you do not put glass nearer than about 20mm to the elements or lid. In any case, the glass will fall to the bottom of the kiln, not the top or sides – unless the kiln is not level.


The whole idea of kiln washing the interior of the kiln is suspect in some ways.  Anyone who has had glass drip off the shelf and onto the brick during an over-firing will know the glass eats into the brick through the kiln wash.  Kiln wash will only protect the brick at full fuse or less temperatures. But it is a good precaution to keep the pieces of frit that fall off the shelf from sticking to the brick. It does not do much more than that.

The application of kiln wash to the kiln creates another source of dust within the kiln.  Dust and general uncleanliness in the kiln is a main potential source of devitrification. Thus, the application of kiln wash should be the minimum necessary and does not need to go up the side beyond the elements or the lowest shelf height, whichever is less.

There is a strong argument to be made that laying a sheet of 0.5 mm fibre blanket on the floor of the kiln will provide better protection of the kiln than any amount of kiln wash.  It is less likely to fail, it is not a source of additional dust, it provides a better protection during any kiln runaway, and it is easily replaceable.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Thinking About Design

To think about design, you need a vocabulary to describe the object. This needs to be combined with a structure of principles. What follows is an outline to structure your thinking about design.  This is based on the writing of Burton Wasserman in Spark the Creative Flame, Making the Journey from Craft to Art, by Paul J Stankard, 2013.

First there is the vocabulary to structure the conversation about design. The elements of this are “… point, line, plane, texture, colour, pattern, density, interval, … space, … light, mass, and volume”

There are then principles of good design.  They relate to:
Unity – all the elements form a whole
Balance – note, not only symmetry
Rhythm – this can be repetition with or without variation
Emphasis – or contrast between a main element and the rest
Harmony – all the elements work together

These five principles of design together with the vocabulary of elements form the language of design and assist your critical thinking about expressing your design and realising it in the best way you can.  This thinking can be applied usefully to the critical appreciation of others’ works.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Heavy Metals in Glass

Some concern has been expressed about the metals used in colouring glass.  This centres around the temperatures used in fusing and whether kiln workers may be of risk from these heavy metals vaporising.

First of all, let’s get some sense of perspective. This is from Greg Rawles, an acknowledged expert on the hazards of working with glass.

Understanding Exposure:

In reality, unless you are doing:
High-volume production work that exposes you to a health hazard all day long
You are exposing yourself to high levels of a health hazard for a brief time
You are working with a very toxic material
You are not working responsibly

You are not really at risk for an unacceptable exposure when working in a glass studio

Now, let’s think about how likely it is to have heavy metals vaporise at kiln forming temperatures. How stable would glass be if the metals that colour it vaporised when we fired it? the colour would vary with the heat and number of times we fired it.

Now, let’s think about how likely it is to have heavy metals vaporise at kiln forming temperatures. How stable would glass be if the metals that colour it vaporised when we fired it? the colour would vary with the heat and number of times we fired it.

Even if the metal were to evaporate, how much is in the glass. Apparently, Bullseye uses less than 3 pounds of cadmium for a pot of glass. We can tell from the sheet numbers that a pot of glass gives at least 2000 sheets of glass, so there is ca. 0.0015 lbs or .07 grams or less of metal in a sheet of 3mm glass. There is very little there to "vaporise", so even it were able to evaporate, it is in such small quantities as to be negligible, and the exposure so low as to be of extremely low risk. There is however, no risk in protecting yourself with dust masks. Just remember that the risks from vaporised heavy metals is much less than most of the other studio practices involving glass. If you need breathing protection for metals (and you may feel it is not worth the risk) then you need to be wearing a mask all the while you are doing glass work. It is about relative risk.

For complete information, the melting and boiling points of various metals relevant to glass colouring are given below.  The vaporisation will be somewhere above the melting point and toward the boiling point.  You will be able to see the relevant temperatures and take any precautions you feel are necessary.  Remember that the metals are not used in their pure forms, but as oxides.  These may have different melting and boiling temperatures.  In general, the oxides used in colouring glass have higher melting and boiling points than the pure metal.

Antimony -for whites
Melting point: 630C
Boiling point:  1635C

Antimony Oxide
Melting point:  380-930C
Boiling point:  1425C

Melting point: 321C
Boiling point:  767C

Cadmium sulphide - yellow
Melting point: 1650-1830C
Boiling point:  2838C

Melting point: 1907C
Boiling point:  2671C

Chromic Oxide – for emerald green
Melting point: 4415C
Boiling point:  7230C

Melting point: 1495C
Boiling point:  2927C

Cobalt Oxide- blue to violet
Melting point: 1900C

Melting point: 1084C
Boiling point:  2562

Copper Oxides - for blue, green, red
Melting point: 1232-1326C
Boiling point:  1800-2000C

Melting point: 1337C
Boiling point:  2970C

Gold Chloride - red
Melting point: 170-254C
Boiling point:  298C

Melting point: 1538C
Boiling point:  2862C

Iron Oxide – for greens and brown
Melting point: 1377-1539C
Boiling point:  3414C

Lead – for yellows
Melting point: 327C
Boiling point:  1749C

Melting point: 1246C
Boiling point:  2061C

Manganese Dioxide – purple and a clarifying agent
Melting point: 535-888C

Melting point: 1024C
Boiling point:  3074C

Melting point: 1455C
Boiling point:  2730C

Nickel Oxide – for violet
Melting point (II - for green): 1955C
Melting point (III - for black): 600C

Melting point: 221C
Boiling point:  685C

Selenium Oxide – for reds
Melting point: 118-340C
Boiling point:  350C

Melting point: 961C
Boiling point:  2162C

Melting point:  370C
Boiling point:   882C

Sodium Nitrate – a clarifying agent
Melting point: 308C
Boiling point:  380C

Melting point: 115C
Boiling point:  444C

Sulphur oxide - for yellow to amber
Melting point:  17C
Boiling point:   45C

Melting point: 231C
Boiling point:  2602C

Tin Oxides – for whites
Melting point:  1080-1630C
Boiling point:  1800-1900C

Melting point: 1132C
Boiling point:  4131C

Uranium oxide – for fluorescent yellow, green
Melting point:  1150-2765C
Boiling point:  1300C

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Reducing Stress Points in Tack Fusing

Stress is greater in tack fused pieces than in full fused. Tack fused pieces to some greater or lesser extent behave independently from the base and surrounding pieces.  This means that more care must be taken in the anneal cooling of the glass.

Stress is dissipated more evenly in rounded tack fused pieces so the stress is not concentrated as individual points around the edge of the glass.

Stress is however, concentrated in corners of rectangles and in points of triangular and the ends of thin pieces.

By nipping the corners off these sharp angled pieces, the amount of stress concentrated there can be reduced.  Very little needs to be removed to have the effect. So the appearance of the angles is hardly affected.

Using your grozing pliers, you can take a small piece of the corner off.  It needs not be much more than a large grain of sand. This should be done at all corners and points.  It will not reduce the amount of annealing or the rate of cooling, but will assist in reducing the possible stress built up in the tack fused piece.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Filling Gaps in Fused Pieces

Often your cutting is not as accurate as you would like so there are small gaps between the pieces as you assemble the piece.

One solution that is often used is to grind the edge of the too large piece to get the fit desired.  The problem with this is that thorough cleaning is required to avoid devitrification lines appearing on the final piece.  Also, even with extensive grinding, the fit is not perfect.

The alternative is to fill the gaps with fine frit or powder.

Assemble the whole piece and assess the gaps.  If they are very large, you need to adjust the glass. If they are only millimetres wide, powder and frit can fill the gap to disguise the join.  I generally use powder for almost perfect joints, and fine frit for anything larger.

I first cover the gap with powder or frit and with a soft brush work at right angles to the line of the join.  This ensures that I have filled the gap to the height of the glass.  However, the frit and powder have air spaces, and so will fuse to a lower level than the height of the glass.  So, once gap is filled, I build a small ridge over the gap trying not to extend beyond the gap.  This mound compensates for the lack of density of the frits.

The frit and powder colour must match the glass exactly to become invisible.  It can be made from your scraps or purchased at the same time as the glass. I find it more successful to do these fills with the darker glass.  It provides a more distinct edge to the joint.  It also conceals the base glass better.

It can also be used to conceal the joint in a single colour where the piece cannot be cut as one and needs several pieces to make the whole.  This is more simple as any overspill will not be noticed when fused.

This method only works with full fusings.  At tack fuse temperatures the frit will not fully combine with the sheet glass to form a smooth invisible join surface.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Devitrification on Repeated Firing

 Devitrification is defined as the crystallisation of the glass, making it a non-vitreous substance.
Molecular level difference between vitreous and devitrified silica

You can see that there is not much difference between the the two states of the glass in structure, but mainly the arrangement of molecules.

The appearance of devitrification has a range of appearances from a mild smeary look through a dull surface to a crazed, crumbly aspect in severe cases. 

Mild devitrification

Medium level devitrification requiring abrasive cleaning

Causes of devitrification are related to slow changes of temperature (up or down) and most importantly nucleation points such as dust, oils, or cleaning residues. So, thorough cleaning is most important. 

Causes in repeated firings of the same piece relate to:

It is important to thoroughly clean the piece before each subsequent firing.  Many times abrasive cleaning such as sandblasting is important to clean out impurities from the previous firing.  The resulting surface from any abrasive cleaning requires further cleaning with lots of clean water and a thorough drying with clean cloths or paper.

        Slow cooling or heating
Devitrification normally occurs in the range of 670⁰C to 750⁰C. This is the reason for the rapid rates of advance in this temperature range rather than other factors.  It can form both on the rise and on the fall in temperature. Slower rates in the devitrification range allow enough time for the crystallisation to begin.

        High temperatures.
Both high temperatures and long soaks can promote devitrification.  It is not just the slow rise or fall in temperature, but long periods at high temperature can lead to devitrification even though other precautions have been taken.

Changes in the composition
High temperatures and many repeated firings of the piece can lead to changes in the glass.  Some metals and fluxes are more likely than others to change composition or oxidise at extended soaks at high temperatures.  This can reduce the ability of the glass to resist devitrification.


Prevention relates to thorough a) cleaning and b) firing rates.

All correction of devitrification relates to the modification of the surface.  If the problem is only at the surface, you can use either abrasive cleaning or the addition of fluxes to the surface, or a combination of the two. 

Where you have a mild dulling of the surface due to devitrification you can apply a flux.  This softens the surface by reducing the melting temperature of the glass and so reverses the crystallisation at the surface. The devitrification solution can be a proprietary spray such as Super Spray. Be aware that some sprays use lead particles as the flux, so are inappropriate for pieces intended to be food bearing. You can make your own devitrification solution by dissolving borax in distilled water.  When the devitrification is wide spread or deep, abrasive cleaning is required.

Abrasive cleaning can be by hand with sandpapers or diamond pads.  Be sure to keep them damp.  This keeps dust from rising, and the sanding surfaces clean for better working.  Sandblasting can be quicker, especially on uneven surfaces or where there are deep imperfections.  The surfaces resulting from abrasive cleaning need to be scrubbed clean with sufficient water, and then polished dry as for a finished piece.

It is possible to combine both these methods to be more certain of a shiny finish.  When combining, you need to do the abrasive cleaning first, then the wet cleaning and finally add the devitrification solution.

A fourth possibility is to sprinkle a fine but consistently thick layer of clear fine frit or powder over the piece.  This, when fused, provides the new surface concealing the devitrification below.  Again, this must be done at a full fuse, so it is not applicable to items you wish to remain tack fused.

However, if the devitrification has progressed to a crazed appearance, it is so deep as to be almost impossible to reverse.  The piece will also probably have developed incompatibilities. So the only real option in crazed pieces is to dispose of them.  They will not be useable in combination with any other glass. They will make any glass with which they are combined subject to devitrification and possible breakage.  These are pieces which truly cannot be cut up and re-used.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Annealing Multiple Levels of Tack Fusing

A question was asked of me about schedules for tack fusing multiple pieces – three layers thick in places – as a single unit, then placing on a 6mm fused base and tack fusing.  Special interest was in how the different thicknesses and the tack fusing would affect the scheduling of the annealing.

My response – edited – was as follows.

This is going to be a long reply.  I have written a general guide to tack fusing that will be useful, but this response will try to be more specific to your project.

First, tack fusing of pointed things is more sensitive to annealing than rounded things.  For up to 3 layers of triangles, I would be thinking of annealing for at least 12mm (four layers). This means a 2hour soak at 482⁰C, followed by a cooling rate of 55⁰C for the first 55⁰C degrees and then 99⁰C for the next 55⁰C. After this 110⁰C degrees of cooling the rate can be as fast as 330⁰C/hr.  This will apply whether Bullseye or System 96 is involved.

Second, from the description I take it that a 6mm clear under a 3mm layer of two colours side by side is being fused as a base.  [This was confirmed], so you could fire at 200⁰C/hr to a bubble squeeze of 30mins and then 300⁰C/hr to top temperature.  Anneal at 482⁰C for 60-90mins and cool for first 55⁰C at 65⁰C/hr and the next 55⁰C at 150⁰C/hr, followed by 300⁰C/hr to room temperature.

The third stage is to combine them.  Think about how thick this is physically – ca.18mm.  Then think about the differences in thickness – 9mm.  My rule of thumb is to add the difference between thicknesses to the thickest part – in this case to 18 plus 9 equals 27mm.  This is the “scheduling thickness” for this variation with rounded elements.  As your piece has lots of triangles, you need more care.  It is an additional level of difficulty.  So I add another 3mm to my “scheduling thickness” to accommodate the angular aspect of the piece, making a total of 30mm for putting the two fused pieces together. 

This thickness leads me to propose a relatively complicated schedule.  I suggest 70⁰C/hr to 250⁰C, 100⁰C/hr to 540, 120⁰C/hr to 620 and then 150⁰C/hr to top temperature.  The top temperature will be lower than your normal tack fuse temperature because this is a much slower rate of advance than normal.  This in turn, means that you will want to be checking at intervals on the tack fuse progress from at least 720⁰C.

The annealing will be long and slow. About 5 hours at 482⁰C, 11⁰C/hr to 427⁰C, 20⁰C /hr to 370⁰C and 65⁰C /hr to 30⁰C. This will be a schedule of about 35+ hours.

The two sources mentioned earlier give the rationale for this kind of schedule.  Think about the considerations I have listed, and then decide whether I am being too cautious or not.  The principle remains - as you increase the risk factors, you
·         slow down rates of advance and cooling rates, and
·         extend soak times.

You should note that I have used Graham Stone’s Firing Schedules for Glass, the Kiln Companion and the Bullseye chart for Annealing Thick Slabs in preparing the proposed schedule, although you will not find this exact schedule in either of them.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Carved Fibre Moulds

The question of whether you can use carved moulds more than once will arise.

This refers to moulds made from refractory boards or materials.  Once fired, refractory boards and materials become more fragile as they have lost their binders.  If the carving is simple with lots of support, and the mould is kept supported in a container of some sort, rigidising is not essential.  The life of the mould may be short though.

To make a longer lasting mould, you can rigidise the refractory material using this method.  This can apply to board as well as blanket.  The process will make a much longer lasting mould that is light weight, and is not affected by rapid changes in temperature.

Do the fibre moulds need kiln wash?

This depends on both the nature of the material and whether hardened or not.  Refractory fibre boards – often called ceramic fibre – do not need kiln wash to separate the glass from the mould.  However, putting powdered kiln wash and smoothing it with a piece of glass or plaster’s float can give a less grainy finish.  If applied wet, the dried kiln wash can be gently sanded to give a very smooth surface.

Other refractory boards such as calcium silicate or vermiculite do need kiln wash to separate the glass from the mould.

Any refractory mould which has been hardened with colloidal silica will need to be coated with kiln wash to keep the glass from sticking.  The kiln wash needs to be re-applied each time the mould is used above tack fusing temperatures.  Otherwise it does not need renewal until or unless the kiln wash is chipped, scratched or in other ways damaged. 

Another popular separator is boron nitride.  It is sold under various brand names.  This must be applied each time the mould is used.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Rounded Bottom on Drapes

Sometimes drapes, such as the handkerchief drape over a cocktail shaker, finish with a rounded base.

The base is rounded because not enough time or heat was allowed to get it flat. The glass will benefit from a moderate, but steady advance in temperature all the way to the top temperature.  This rate will be around 100°C to 150°C per hour.  There is no need to speed the rate of advance at any time during the process of the drape.  Too rapid an increase in temperature may even give uneven drapes if there are differences in thickness or colour.  There is no need for a soak at the strain point on the way to the top temperature. Any thermal stress from the rate of advance - that some suggest may occur - will already have taken place by this temperature.

This slower rate of advance will mean that the glass will not dome so much on the drape.  It will have time both to conform to the top (which will become the bottom of the piece) of the mould support during the drape stage. 

You need to visualise what the glass is doing during the forming process. As the glass begins to drape, the glass on the support rises because it is not yet soft enough to stay flat on the supporting mould. It is only later at higher temperatures, that the glass on top of the support can conform to it.

If you watch the process – a really good practice - you will be able to tell when you have a good drape. And with this reduced rate of advance, you should have a flat bottom. And all of this may happen at a lower temperature than you expected.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Bubbles in Casting Mould Firings

There seems to be an increasing popularity for re-useable ceramic casting moulds.  One of the common problems with these moulds is bubbles.  

Frit size 
It rather depends on the sizes of the frit and cullet used as to how many and what kind of bubbles are created. The converse of expectations is what happens.  You get more small bubbles with powders and fine frits than with coarser frits.  The small bubbles rise and coalesce to form larger bubbles which rise more slowly as they have to push through a greater mass of material (just as in a liquid). Since glass is viscous, these little bubbles usually do not have time to push their way through the glass at fusing temperatures.  But at casting temperatures, there is less resistance from the glass, as it is less viscous, and so the bubbles can clump together and form the larger bubbles that burst through the surface.

Temperature range and rate of advance
The amount and kind of bubble also depends on the speed of the ramp and the bubble squeeze you give it. If you proceed rapidly to top temperature, you will have to go to a higher temperature, allowing the surface to become more plastic and be pushed out of the way by the expanding air that almost certainly is in the mix. A slow rise will allow all the glass to become the same temperature throughout without using a high top temperature, so reducing the risk of the bubbles pushing through the more viscous glass to the surface.

All these problems would be reduced by having a vent or sprue to allow the air out from the bottom. Almost all purpose made casting moulds have these things. Sometimes they are as thin as a few hairs (from somebody with long hair) to as thick as a toothpick. As you have to do some cold work on the results from these moulds anyway, a few little strands of glass should be no problem to clean up. If the manufacturers won't do it, it is possible to take your Dremel or similar drilling tool and with a fine drill bit and make these tiny holes in appropriate places.  

I do not understand why these casting moulds do not have tiny air vents at the bottom of the depressions. Yes, there would be a tiny pimple on the surface of the final piece, but this can be cleaned away easily. The holes could be really small diameter ones. They just need to be opened after each coating of separator with a fine wire. I'd be sending the ones without vents back to the manufacturer as not fit for purpose. If these moulds had vent holes, they would be a lot less bubble prone. 

Master moulds
If the mould continues to give trouble with bubbles, it might be best to take a negative of the mould that you can keep as a master.  Then make one-use investment moulds from this master positive as you need. Investment moulds usually allow air to move through the material pretty well, but you can add sprues if you want.

A further possibility is to drip the glass into the mould.  To do this you need to place a ceramic pot, supported by kiln furniture, above the mould with the glass for the casting in it.  Take to a temperature between 850°C and 900°C, depending on how long you wish to wait for the glass to flow out of the pot and into the casting mould.  The action of the glass forming in the pot eliminates many of the bubbles caused by frits and powders.  A further advantage is that this forming in the pot eliminates the possibility of the edges of the original glass pieces being seen. It would also allow you to add a different colour causing swirls or wisps of colour to move through the main colour.

The main effort is to eliminate the bubble formation.  This can be done with vents, adjusting the schedule, modifying the method by melting the glass into the mould, or making a master and individual investment moulds.  You can also combine several of these methods in one firing if you wish.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Firing Rates

Top temperature is, to a small extent, variable between kilns, even from the same manufacturer.  But it is a small part of variations in top temperature required to get the same results in differing kilns.

An example of a firing schedule

It is, more importantly, a function of how the heat is put into the glass. Firing as fast as possible to the top temperature does not allow all the glass to be at the same temperature. This is because glass is a good insulator and the transfer of heat from the top or the sides is relatively slow.  For small things, you can fire very fast, as there is a small mass of glass to absorb the heat.  But a speed of 250°C is fast enough for anything more than 100mm square and at least two 3mm layers thick.  (Thicker glass requires slower rates of advance as surprisingly do single layer projects).  The slower rate of advance allows the glass to be all of a similar temperature from top to bottom, allowing the desired effect to be achieved at lower temperatures or shorter soak times. 

For example, a slower rate of advance will give rounded edges at shorter soak times than a rapid rate of advance will require.  Alternatively, it might require a lower temperature with the same soak time.  Keep in mind that, in general, lower temperatures with slower rates of advance, give better results.

The faster your rate of advance, the more the glass lags behind the air temperature (which is what pyrometers are measuring). Therefore, a reasonable pace will give better results than the as fast as possible rate of advance. 

In short, the variations in top temperature required and length of soak is not about the kiln firing cooler or hotter as much as it is about the firing rate.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Adjusting Cut Runners

There are a number of types of cut running pliers.  These photos show some of them. 

The apparently most popular is this:


It is frequently difficult to find replacements for the plastic cushions that come with a new pair of cut runners.  People resort to a number of means to provide a substitute.  Some wrap electrical tape around the jaws, others use fabric bandages (Elastoplast/band aids).  I have even used the liquid plastic that is designed for coating tool handles.

However, if you adjust the cut runners appropriately, you can use them to run your scores even without cushions.  The purpose of these cushions is only to compensate for too much pressure in running the score.

Use without covers

You can run the score without cushions by using the adjustment screw on the top jaw of the tool. Yes, it does tell you which is the top jaw without having to check the end of the runners, but it has a more important use.  It is not just a pretty cool way to tell which is up. 

Its purpose is to adjust the width of the opening so that it provides the appropriate amount of bending force no matter how much pressure you exert at the handles.  If you are running scores in three-millimetre glass, set the jaws to that width by turning the screw until the jaws are that width apart.

Place the jaws at right angles to the score, aligning the mark on the top jaw with the score line and squeeze the pliers.  As you squeeze, the curved jaws provide enough bending force to run the score without over stressing the glass.  It is the adjustment screw that limits the over-stressing of the glass during the running of the score. Yes, you may not be able to run the whole length of the score this way, but you can repeat from the other end and that is usually enough to complete the running of the score.

You can continue to use cushions of various sorts with this adjustment for thickness, but I found that these were not necessary when the runners were properly adjusted.  In fact, I found that soft cushioning made more difficulties than using them with the bare metal.  I discovered this during the period of using the liquid plastic coating as used for tool handles.  I dipped the jaws multiple times to give a cushioning effect and it worked fine.  The cut runners continued to work even after the tool handle coating had worn off.  It was then that I realised I could control the running pressure more directly than by having a cushion between the glass and the jaws.

Setting the spacing

An easy way to set the correct opening of the jaws is to test against the glass you are about to score and break.  Place one side of the jaws against the edge of the glass. Slide that corner just a few millimetres over the glass.  Turn the set screw on the top of the jaws anticlockwise until they are fitting the glass snugly.  Back off a half turn (clockwise) so the jaws move easily along the edge.  This is now set to run the score on this glass. 

Open the jaws and place the centre mark in line with the score.  Close them gently and you can observe the arc of the jaws above the score line. Squeeze the handles and the score will run along the line away from the cut runners.  As you have adjusted the opening, no matter how hard you squeeze the cut runners, you cannot add more pressure.  This means you avoid crushing the glass.

The principles

The curve of the jaws is designed to provide the bending force required to run the score.  The radius of the curve has been designed to provide the correct bending pressure for differing sizes of glass.  The most common ones are useful for glass up to, but not including, 6mm glass.  The screw adjustment provides compensation for differing thicknesses of glass.  Setting the width of the gap to match the thickness of the glass prevents the application of too much pressure.

Thicker glass

For thicker glass you need cut runners with wider jaws.  These usually are fitted with three points to apply the breaking pressure - one under the score and one each side of the score on the top.  Again, these are adjusted to be just less than snug to the glass before applying the pressure.

One example of  cut runners for thick glass.  There are a variety of others.

Line Widths for Cartoons

The lines for copper foil and lead cartoons need to be of different sizes.  Only a small width is required between glass pieces in copper foil.  This allowance is for the two thicknesses of foil and a space for the solder to run through from front side to the back side.  In leaded glass a wider line is needed to allow for the width of the heart of the came.

On cartoons for different methods, draw the lines in the appropriate width.  For copper foil this width is ca. 0.8mm.  This can be accomplished with a ball point pen or fine felt tip. 

For leaded glass panels, a thicker line of ca. 1.6mm is required. A bullet tipped felt pen is usually appropriate, if it is not worn down at all.

A cartoon for fused glass should use the finest line possible, as the glass pieces will be in direct contact (ideally) with each other.  As in copper foil, a ball point or fine felt tipped pen will be appropriate.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Marker Residue on Glass

Often it is essential to make marks on the glass in preparing it for the kiln. However, sometimes these marks are visible in the final product. When making marks on glass in preparation for cutting or assembly in a fused piece, a balance needs to be struck between ease of cleaning and the retention of the marks as long as necessary. Often, when the marks are in spirit based markers, the temptation is to hope the marks will fire out without any further work. This is not a sound practice.

For the most temporary of marks use erasable markers, like white board markers. These will wipe away with a paper towel, leaving no marks after firing. These may not last long enough for your purposes though.

The next set of temporary markers are the permanent markers. These are more durable and resistant to being smudged off the glass. Most often they will fire cleanly away in the firing. But there are occasions when they don't. So it is best always to remove the marks before assembly. Usually water will remove the marks with a little rubbing. If not, then a spirit based agent will be needed. Of course then you need to remove the mineral spirit residues. I normally do this with window cleaner as used by glaziers, with no additives.

The most permanent marks are done by the paint markers. These do need spirits to remove them, or they will get fired into the glass. The removal of the mineral spirits is as for the permanent markers.

This example gives a range of colours.  It is best to use contrasting colours and I use black and white almost exclusively 

Of course, the best method of keeping marks off the glass is prevention.
In so far as possible:
  • Don't use permanent markers
  • Don't use oil in your cutter.

Temporary markers are usually all that is necessary.
Oil is definitely not necessary, merely a convenience, in your cutter.

[revised 07/09/2016]

Cutting from Cartoon

The cutting of glass directly over the cartoon without patterns is variously called trace cutting, English or European method. The advantages include a more direct process with fewer operations, making for less chance of inaccuracies.  These make this method quicker than using patterns or templates to draw or cut around. The disadvantages are that you still need to make patterns for opalescent or very dark glass, and there is no pattern to guide any grinding required.

To employ the method, use a strong contrast ink for drawing the lines of the cartoon. Draw these in the appropriate width - for copper foil (ca. 0.8mm).  This can be accomplished with a ball point pen or fine felt tip.  For lead, a thicker line (ca. 1.6mm) is required - a bullet tipped felt pen is usually appropriate, if it is not worn.

To cut, place the glass over the appropriate part of the cartoon and cut at the inside edge of the line. It is best to cut and break one line at a time.  Re-set the newly cut edge along the cutline and score the next line.  Break it and repeat the number of times required to cut out the whole shape.  Which line should be the first to be scored and broken is described here

Although the glass is normally only three millimetres thick, there is some possibility of a refraction of the light if you look from the side of the cutter.  As described elsewhere, you should be holding your cutter upright in the left to right plane and angled slightly back toward you so that you can look with your dominant eye along the barrel of the cutter and head.  This ensures you are directly above the cut line and do not have any refraction caused by the glass. 

Translucent glass may, and opalescent glass will, need a light box to assist in the scoring.  This increases the light coming through the cartoon and glass to enable a sharp image of the lines to be seen.  This means that if you intend using opalescent glass, your cartoon should be done on translucent paper to allow the maximum light through.

For black, dense and strongly opalescent glass, pattern pieces will need to be cut, as the insufficient light will pass through the glass to be able to see the cartoon accurately.

The reduction in the number of operations to guide the cutting of the glass also reduces the occasions for small errors to creep in.  It does increase the accuracy of cutting and speed of building a panel.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Scheduling for a New Slump Mould

Often you will see statements that imply a single temperature and time is suitable for all slumping or draping.  This is not so.  In fact, slumping is a delicate balance of layup, time, gravity, shape and temperature. This applies to draping operations too.

Factors in glass forming

The balance of colour arrangement has an effect on how the glass forms.  In an extreme example of white on one side and black on the other, the forming will begin on the black side first, leading to an uneven slump. Read on - there are ways to make this effect less severe.

The length of time you are willing to wait for the piece to slump is a factor in the temperature required.  Patience is rewarded.  Longer soaks mean that lower temperatures can be used. Lower temperatures lead to less marking on the back.

The mass (often thought of as the thickness) of the glass affects how quickly the glass will form. The greater the mass, the sooner the glass begins to form. This means with heavy glass lower forming temperatures can be used, because of gravity effects.

To get glass conform to a mould with complicated shapes takes longer soaks or higher temperatures than simple shapes.  This is because the glass requires to be more plastic to get into multiple shapes, small details or sharp angles.

General Principles

Since all these factors interact, any one schedule will not do for all occasions.  The general principles for a good slump are:
  • Use a steady rate of temperature increase (rate of advance).
  • Use the lowest practical temperature to get the forming done.

The reasons for using a single steady rate of advance in kiln forming are:
  • It is much simpler to program a single rate of advance all the way to slump temperature.  
  • Glass reacts best to steady inputs of heat, allowing the whole substance to be at the same temperature as it heats up.
  • It helps avoid uneven slumps.  Glass that is the same temperature across and throughout itself is more likely to begin to form all at the same time.
  • It helps ensure that the whole of the thickness of the glass is at the same temperature, thus avoiding splits on the bottom.
  • The slow steady input of heat means the glass can be formed at a lower temperature because of the heat work put into the glass on the rise in temperature.

The reasons for using the lowest practical temperature to slump and drape are:
  • It allows the glass to begin moving before it gets sticky, and so dragging on the mould producing stretch marks and sometimes needles.
  • A low temperature slump reduces the risk of uneven slumps.  At low temperatures the glass is less likely to react to colour variations that absorb heat more quickly than others.  Where there is uneven weight, the forming is more likely to be even as it cannot react so quickly to the differences in weight.
  • The glass will be less marked on the mould side at lower than at higher temperatures.  The glass, being less plastic, will take up less of the mould texture.

Calibration of Schedules

As each mould is different, there are as many schedules applicable as there are moulds.  Bullseye has recognised this by publishing suggested schedules for their moulds.  But there are lots more moulds than the Bullseye ones.  And even for the Bullseye moulds there are a variety of variables in the glass put on top.

The point is to find a way to determine the appropriate schedule for the mould and the glass it supports.  This involves the main variables - rate of advance, top temperature and soak time - although there are others such as lay up, degree of fusing, weight and its distribution, colour variation, etc.

The rate of advance will depend on:
  • The thickness of the piece.  Thicker glass needs slower rates of advance.
  • The degree of fuse.  A tack fused piece will require a slower rate than a full fused piece.

The top temperature depends largely on the complexity of the mould shapes, although it is very closely related to the soak time.  One of the principles of slumping given above is to use the lowest practical temperature. The reason for this is to get a good result with the minimum of mould marks.

The main means of determining forming temperature and time is observation. I determine my slump temperature (normally) by what temperature I have to use for the particular mould to get the glass fully slumped in half an hour.  For more complicated moulds such as a candle bridge I would use 1.5 hours as the soak time.

There are two main methods of doing this observation.  One is to set the “one size fits all” schedule and modify it. The other is to create a new schedule by working up from the lowest temperature to the practical temperature.

Modification of existing schedule

To prepare for the modified schedule, you need to do several things.  

Get your kiln log out ready to record the information about the firing.  Record the mould shape and separator (and add a picture of the set up if you can) and include the lay up of the blank to be formed.  Also record anything you think may be relevant to the forming process for this firing.

Set your single rate of advance all the way to the top (forming) temperature and record it in the kiln log.  Begin observing the progress of the slump from 60°C below the top temperature you have set.  This involves quick peeks at approximately five to ten minute intervals.  You may not see much movement at first, but at later peeks you will see the glass progressively forming.  When the glass appears to have just touched down at the bottom, you can use that as the top temperature.  Advance the schedule to the soak portion (read the controller manual if you do not already know how to do that).  Note the temperature and time in your log book when you do this.

Continue to observe the progress of the slump but at about ten minute intervals to check on the progress of the slump.  When the slump appears complete, advance to the next segment of the schedule and note the time.  Subtract the start of the slump soak from the present time and you know how long the soak needs to be for that layup in the mould. Record that in your log book. 

When cool, inspect the slumped piece to determine if it is fully formed. Record the results in your kiln log.  If it is not fully formed, you can decide if it is practical to add additional soak time or if you need to increase the top temperature.  Only you can determine what is a practical soak time.  If you are soaking while you are away or asleep, it does not really matter how long a soak you need at the chosen temperature.  However, there are times when you need to have a piece out of the kiln to be able to put in the next.  Somewhere between these two is the practical soak time.

You may find that the glass does not need as much time as you gave it.  Record this result too.  In this case, you can reduce the top temperature in future firings until you find the best combination of temperature and time. You will have experience from watching the forming (whether slump or drape) to give an indication of the lower temperature to choose.  A general guide would be to reduce the temperature by 10C, and extend the time by at least 50% more than  what you used in the higher temperature firing.  

Record each firing with the lay up, rates, temperatures and soak times, plus the results.  When you have determined the ideal combination of factors, record the determined temperature and soak time together with the layup in your log book and on something in your mould box.  I have also used vitreous paint on the underside of the mould to indicate my standard temperature and soak time so that I don't loose the information.

Development of a new schedule

This is not as difficult as might be imagined.  It does involve a lot of peeking into the kiln, though. You start with an appropriate rate of advance for the thickness and style of fusing.  Remember that thicker glass and tack fused glass require slower advances than thinner and flat fused glass.  Set this rate all the way to your predicted top temperature.  No rapid rises with short soaks are required or desirable. Set a predicted soak time. If you are not certain, use 30 minutes as a general average. Then set the anneal soak and cool rates.

As you observe, you will see when the glass on the mould begins to form. It will generally start at about 600°C.  Peek at about 10 minute intervals from that temperature onwards toward the target.  When you see the glass begining to change shape, Change the top temperature to be about 20C higher than the initial forming temperature, and then observe after 15 mins at the new temperature. If it hasn't moved much, add 5°C more to the temperature and observe. Repeat as necessary. When the glass has a significant curve, stop the rise and soak at that temperature with the 30 minute soak.  Continue to observe at 10 – 15 minute intervals to determine when the slump is complete.  Then proceed to the anneal cool. Record rates, temperatures and times in your log book.

When you remove the piece from the kiln, check it over.  If it is not fully slumped, you can add time or temperature.  Adding time is likely to give a better surface to the glass on the mould side.  Sometimes, but not often, adding temperature will be the choice. 

It is possible that the piece will show evidence of too high a temperature or too long in the mould.  This will be clear from extensive mould marking, sometimes needles at the edges, stretch marks, or uprisings at or near the bottom of the mould.  In these cases, the temperature needs to be reduced.  Reducing the time is not advisable, as quick slumps can often be distorted or unbalanced.

Glass Types

Remember that these tests for the best forming schedule for you and your mould are only relevant to the kind of glass you are using at that moment. There will be only minor variations between Bullseye, Uroboros and Wissmach. There will be major variations between these and float glass. Separate schedules will need to be worked out for it, remembering that there are a variety of manufactures of float and they do not all behave the same as each other.  Float and other glass that is not formulated for fusing will not provide such consistent results as fusing glass, but successful schedules can be determined in the same way as for the fusing compatible glasses.


Once you have calibrated the temperature and time for the mould and the layup, you will know how to schedule for that mould. Record it in your log book and also along with your mould, either in the box or on the mould.

It will be for you to decide whether you use longer times and therefore lower temperatures.  When making the decision remember the principles of slumping – steady rate of increase to the working temperature, and use of the lowest practical temperature.

These actions will give you the standard forming temperature for the mould.  It is a base from which to make variations when you use a different thickness, lay up, or degree of fusing.  

You should continue to record each of your firings with full details, because sometimes things change. This will give you a basis to diagnose what has become different. It will help avoid the cry of "this has always worked for me before."  It means you have the possibility of working back to see what, if anything has changed. If nothing has changed in your level of fusing, thickness, lay up, schedule and all those other things you record, then you can begin looking at your kiln to see what might be different.