Working With Fused Glass Is Easy And Fun!
I've been making my own jewelry for almost eight years, but about two years ago, I began working with fused glass -- my true love and calling. Because I live in an apartment, I can't have an industrial-sized kiln. Instead, I do all of my work with a microwave kiln.
These kilns are small and portable, and can heat up to 1500 degrees. When you place the top of the kiln on the base and fire the glass within, the kiln contains the heat, which allows it to reach such a high temperature. It is HOT and the pieces turn bright red and molten.
There are two types of microwave kilns, both of which are available online: a small kiln and a large. I used the small for a long time, but you can make more intricate pieces with the larger kiln. The bigger one takes more time to heat, but it produces better results, and more evenly-fired glass. Also, because it heats slowly, your pieces are less prone to cracking -- which happens if they heat too quickly.
I prefer the larger kiln, but if you're just starting out, you might want to make a few practice pieces using the smaller. You can heat and finish a piece in about two minutes, depending on the setting and microwave. And yes, results will vary from microwave to microwave. Whenever I use a different appliance. it feels a bit like if you drive a new car; it takes some getting used to.
How To Make A Basic Fused Glass Pendant: Cutting The Glass
If you're just starting out, I suggest getting the Fuseworks Microwave Kiln kit. This comes with a pack of dichroic glass scrap, glass accents, gloves, tools and of course, the kiln itself. One thing to note is that the glass cutter that comes with this kit is not so great. It just doesn't cut very well and the blade becomes dull quickly. Also, the kit doesn't come with a glass breaker... which you need to actually, well, break the glass apart. So when ordering a kiln kit, also purchase a quality glass cutter and glass breaker.
Some glass cutters require oil to work, but I prefer using one that doesn't need oil. You can find many different types on sites like Amazon, ArtGlassSupplies or DelphiGlass.
When cutting glass, always wear safety goggles! You never know when a piece of glass can fly up. Wear goggles and stay safe!
Also to note: when you purchase glass -- whether it's dichroic, sheet glass, stringers, etc. -- all of the glass must be the same COE or coefficient of expansion. This is the rate in which the glass expands while fusing. I like glass that's COE 90, but you can also buy COE 96 glass. If you try to fuse two different types of glass, they won't fuse, so make sure everything has the same COE. You also don't want to include random glass into your fusing project, So no beach glass, broken bottles, scrap glass, etc -- unless you happen to know its COE.
When scoring the glass, you're going to use the glass cutter, which is the tool that looks almost like a calligraphy pen. The little screw should be facing UP. You're going to hold the tool upright, as if it's a pen, with your grip toward the bottom. With one hand, grip the tool and with the other, push down with your palm. While doing this, move the cutter across the glass to form a line. You'll hear a sizzling sound, which means you're breaking the glass. The movement is awkward and takes some practice, but you'll get it!
Once you score the glass, you'll need a glass breaker to actually separate the section of glass. With the glass breaker, the screw should again be facing up. Make sure the line in the glass lines up EXACTLY with the line on the tool. Gently squeeze like a scissor and voila! The glass will break.
How To Cut Glass
Fusing Glass In The Microwave
When fusing your piece of glass, I find it's best to do so in increments -- like 30 seconds to a minute. Regular kilns operate on a schedule, where it'll be, say, 500 degrees for a certain amount of time, 800, 1200, 1500, back down to 800, etc. It can take hours for a piece to fire because they heat SLOWLY. This keeps the glass from breaking and give it time to form and expand.
With microwave kilns, you don't get that option because it heats very quickly. I like to slow down the process by heating in stages.
For using the kiln, you'll need KILN PAPER. This is a fiber paper that you can tear with your hands. It prevents the glass from sticking to the kiln. Industrial kilns use a kiln wash, which accomplishes the same thing: it keeps the pieces from sticking. This paper is fine for microwave kilns. I use each little piece of paper 2-3 times, until it frays and falls apart. The paper will sometimes get a brownish tinge as the piece fires, but that's what it's supposed to do.
Place a square of the kiln paper into the center of the kiln and then carefully center your pendant on top of the paper. Close the kiln lid. Wear your goggles AND your safety oven gloves. The kiln kit provides them, but you can also order microwave kiln gloves online. Again, the kiln will reach 1500 degrees, so stay protected!
Begin using your microwave, the same way you would as if you were heating food. I like to keep mine on medium power so the pendants don't overfire. I also like to be able to plug in the cook times manually, so I can control how long the piece is fired.
I find the pieces fire best if you do so in 30-45 second increments. What I like to do is fire the piece; stop the microwave; lift the kiln lid (WEARING MY GLOVES!) and check. You don't have to check EVERY 30 seconds, but at least check every other time. What you're checking for is to make sure the glass hasn't cracked or collapsed. If this happens -- and it does sometimes, unfortunately -- stop the process. Let the piece fully cool before removing it.
You'll know your piece is firing properly when it begins to turn a golden red color. When it gets to this stage, you can begin using longer increments, like a minute at a time. The fully fired piece should be bright orange and molten, with the edges rounded. Once it reaches this stage, stop, because you don't want your piece to overfire. An overfired piece will look singed with dull-colored glass. Not so pretty!
You CAN slightly underfire the piece, which will give the glass a chunkier and more textured effect. Fully fired pieces are smooth with the glass completely fused together into one design.
It should go without saying -- but I'll say it, anyway -- that if you plan to regularly use a microwave to "cook" glass, don't cook food in it! Use a separate microwave for crafts and cuisine.
Once the glass is finished, let it cool! Seriously, don't be impatient about removing it from the kiln because A) You can burn yourself or B) it can break. The glass needs time to cool, harden and anneal, so it becomes strong and durable. Give it at least an hour to cool. Once it's fully cooled, gently wash off the remnants of kiln paper, which can stick to the back. Sometimes the glass edges can be sharp; you can simply smooth them down with a file.
Now your pendant is ready to go! Attach a necklace hook or pin back -- you can find ready-made ones at any craft store or online -- with KrazyGlue or craft glue. Give the glue time to dry, at least an hour. As you can see, there's a lot of "hurry up and wait" with this art form. Then add cord or a chain of your choice and wear your treasure.
And there you have it; how to make fused glass jewelry. Here are some photos of my pieces:
Fused Glass Pieces By NaomiR
Links To Fused Glass And Wire Wrapped Jewelry/Glass Jewelry Supplies
- Naom's Designs - Jewelry, Fused Glass
Handmade jewelry, fused glass jewelry, wire wrapped jewelry, rings, necklaces, bracelets, wedding, custom order
- Stained Glass Supplies, Fusing Supplies At Delphi Glass
Stained Glass Supplies, Fusing Supplies, Flameworking & More at Delphi Glass
- Bullseye Glass, Dichroic Glass, Frit, Kilns, Fused Art Glass USA
ARTGLASSSUPPLIES offers bullseye glass sheets, CBS dichroic glass, fused art glass, confetti, frit, kilns, slumping and draping molds, fused glass supplies, glass stringers, jewelry embellishment supplies from its store at Goffstown, New Hampshire, U