Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Glass fusing is NOT as easy as some may say.

Judy Martin, in the "Fused Glass Fanatics" group on Facebook, shared an article from HGTV.com titled "How to Make a Fused Glass Sculpture". If you're into fused glass (aka warm glass), this article reads like dark humor. If you've never worked with fused glass before, please don't follow these instructions. Or, if you do, photograph everything. Those of us who are laughing nervously at the HGTV article will be laughing hysterically at your exploits and expensive losses. Your choice.

The article lacks refinement in its "Materials and Tools" section. The "Steps" section begins weakly, but not necessarily wrong. It's half-way down the steps that a crucial step is missed and the next step can only lead to a costly error. Let's have a look at what's going on...

Materials and Tools:

"dichroic and iridized glass in various colors" 

With no mention of COE numbers. The "Coefficient Of Expansion" number tells glass artists which glasses can work with which. You should also look for glass that is "tested compatible" because COE is not the end-all-be-all of compatibility factors.
Why we're laughing: Glass of differing COE values is going to crack as the glass cools (bad) or break when it's sitting on your bookshelf (worse).  Either way, this article just cost you money: Pretty glass = Expensive glass

Why we're laughing: If you get your own kiln and follow these instructions, you now own a worthless kiln.  "Why" is later...

Why we're laughing:  We're not.  You're going to get the wrong file and cut yourself.  The list says nothing about a dust mask which is needed for "cold work".  So don't.

"circle mold"
Why we're laughing: You need a "spherical section mold".  Circle molds make nice round disks.  The only photo in the article indicates that you will be making a rounded object, but gives you no instructions on how to do this.

"(missing things)"
Why we're laughing:  No mention of "shelf paper" or "boron nitride spray" or anything else that will come between your molten glass and your kiln furniture or your "circle mold".  Molten glass is sticky stuff.  You are going to be placing an awful lot of glass pieces into your mold and screwing up everything it touches. Very expensive to repair.  You may have just totaled your kiln.

Steps 1-5 are only okay.  Photos would go a long way towards helping the reader.
Why we're laughing: No shelf paper.  You're on your way to ruin.

Step 6 is the "Holy Shit" step

Why we're laughing HYSTERICALLY: A) Unless you're firing fine glass frit, if you go from room temperature to 1500 as fast as possible, the glass pieces are going to shatter.  Not crack, but shatter.  Without shelf paper, that glass is everywhere on the floor of your kiln.  Own a clamshell kiln?  You may have just glued glassed it shut.
B) Eight hours at 1500 might be good if you're melting a cubic foot of glass.  For the project pictured, you can get away with less than 30 minutes at 1450.  Oh, and all that pretty dichroic glass turns to a muddy mess if you fire it for eight hours.
C) "Cool for 12 hours" can shatter your glass on the way down.  Now, all those glass puddles are fracturing.  Enjoy your sharp stuck wrecked kiln.

Step 7 is not a funny step.
It should not be done with a "file".  You need a special file with diamond grit.  Maybe a couple files.  And a dust mask or file it under running water.

Step 8 is almost as bad as Step 6
Why we're laughing: A) You're not told to fire each circle separately.  If you're reading this article for your first fusing project you may not have known this.
B) Heating straight to 1200 degrees is going to shatter your piece the same as ramping to 1500, only without the resulting puddles.  Still messy but the shards will be pretty.
C) Oh!  Almost forgot.  You didn't prep your mold.  You just ruined your $50 mold.  Ta-Da! 
D) Six hours should be 30 minutes.  For a wagon-wheel type of design, you may have already gotten a good slump after 10 minutes.
E) After six hours at 1200, a spherical slump is going to be much thicker at the bottom with thin walls.  All detail from your design will be melting towards the bottom of the mold. 
F) Again with the bad cooling step.  Your slumped piece is now shattered.

Steps 9-11
Will never be achieved by following the instructions in the article.  Here are the steps you'll likely encounter:
9) Cry
10) Call your kiln manufacturer for a repair estimate
11) Cry
12) Find someone who knows what they're doing and start all over under their supervision.

There you have it.  A recipe for broken glass and shattered dreams; empty wallets and mad spouses.  This article has three failures to inform that will result in you dealing with broken glass.  I wish I had a throw-away kiln to show you why.  Then even those of you with no knowledge of glass fusing would be laughing along with the rest of us.

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