Fused Glass - Glass Pendants - Step One
Basic Glass Jewelry
I know your anxious to get started so I'm going to take you through the process of making some simple fused glass jewelry.
Preparing and protecting your kiln and kiln shelves is the first step in any fused glass project. You have a large investment in your tools and equipment and you really shouldn't ignore this fact just because you are anxious to get started. I'll cover this topic at length in this article, and then move on to:
Step Two: Cutting your glass
Step Three: Cleaning and assembling your project
Step Four: Firing your first fused glass Jewelry pieces
Step Five: Enjoying your handiwork
Clean Your Kiln
If your purchased a new glass kiln, or if you shopped around and found a good quality used kiln, you need to protect your investment before you even turn it on or consider firing a fused glass project.
Your new glass kiln is lined with a heat holding and insulating material commonly referred to as fire brick. Fire Brick is a fairly soft material and is prone to becoming dusty. The fire brick lining of your kiln can be damaged quite easily if not properly protected. This is especially true when talking about the kiln floor.
Cleaning the inside of your unfired kiln is as easy as vacuuming out the interior with a common shop-vac or vacuum cleaner and hose attachment.
Use your vacuum with a soft brush attachment to gently but thoroughly clean the inside of your kiln, paying attention to the kiln floor.
Mixing Kiln Wash
Mixing up some kiln wash certainly isn't brain surgery. It is not difficult but it is important. If you bought your kiln new you probably received a small packet of kiln wash with your purchase. In order to mix up the kiln wash you simply combine the powdered kiln wash mixture with some plain water. Most of the commercially available kiln washes mix at a rate of one part powder to 4 to 6 parts water (check your particular kiln wash instructions).
I like to use a standard quart size Ball Jar to do my mixing. Ball Jars are clear to give you a good view of what your doing and they also have graduated markings on them to make measuring easy. After you have measured out the proper amounts of water and kiln wash powder, simply place the sealed lid on the jar and shake! I like to add a few marbles to the mix because the marbles help to clear any clumps of powder out of the corners of the jar.
Just a few last tips. Don't mix too much kiln wash, a couple of cups of kiln wash will last you a long time and after a while no matter how well you seal your jar, the water will evaporate out of the wash and make it quite thick. It's also a good practice to wear a dust mask or respirator while mixing this finely powdered material. Your lungs will thank you for the effort.
Applying Kiln Wash
You have several choices when it comes to applying kiln wash to your kiln floor or kiln shelves and molds. Many people suggest using a basic sprayer to apply kiln wash, but I find this method to be aggravating at best. While using a sprayer may be necessary when coating small molds and some stainless steel molds it really isn't the easiest way to apply kiln wash to shelves and kiln floors. I have found that it is difficult to find a sprayer that will handle the thin material without clogging. Kiln wash needs to be constantly stirred to keep the fine particles from settling out of the liquid and this can easily clog the bottom of many sprayers.
I recommend using a brush to apply your kiln wash. While a standard paint brush will work, you must make sure that you use a brush with natural bristles to insure that the bristles will hold the wash. Some people use disposable foam brushes to apply their kiln wash and this method works quite well. Just make sure you never use a foam brush on a hot surface.
My favorite brush for applying kiln wash is something called a "haike brush". A haike brush has very fine bristles and this makes it very easy to get a smooth finish on your kiln shelves and molds. Haike brushes are available in many widths and can be found in many craft stores and artist supply stores. A haike brush is pictured in the photo that accompanies the last section of this article.
Once you have mixed your kiln wash, dip you brush into the mixture and allow it to absorb some of the kiln wash mixture. Using only the tip of your brush gently apply the wash in a smooth light stroke. Remember that you are not painting your shelf, you are coating it. Don't try to go back and forth with your brush, just make nice gentle strokes that go end to end across your shelf or kiln floor. Once you have coated the shelf in one direction, start over again and coat it again in the opposite direction. You want to make sure you cover your shelf or kiln floor completely.
Some people suggest that you apply as many as ten coats of kiln wash to your shelves but I recommend you only use about 4 to 5 coats. The problem when applying too many coats is that the wash becomes quite thick and has a tendency to stick only to the layer beneath it which causes chipping of the coating and rendering an uneven work surface. Remember that the back side of your finished fused glass jewelry piece will mirror the smoothness of your kiln shelf. A chipped and pitted shelf will result in an uneven bottom side of your finished piece which can be quite unappealing.
Last but not least, before using your kiln, kiln shelf or mold, you want to make sure that everything is completely dry. Moisture is the enemy of any fused glass project. To assure proper removal of moisture from your kiln and accessories simply by heating your kiln to about 500 degrees F, and then letting it cool down naturally.
DO NOT lay your kiln shelf or mold directly onto the kiln floor when drying them. Place your kiln shelves and/or molds on 1/2 kiln posts when drying them.
The kiln wash that you received when you got your new kiln is usually a great option when coating your kiln floor, but you may want to consider a few other options when deciding how to best protect your kiln shelves or molds.
If you prefer using kiln wash for coating kiln shelves and molds I recommend a product called "Hotline PrimoPrimer". This product is the only thing I use anymore when coating molds and shelves. Ask for this product at your local glass studio, or shop for it online. One of the nice things about this shelf primer is that it absolutely will not chip, and it is so easy to clean up when you want to re-coat your mold and shelves.
You can also use a product called thin-fire shelf paper. Thin-Fire paper is a one time use product, but it is fairly reasonable and provides a very smooth surface on which to fire your projects. I use thin-fire shelf paper exclusively when I'm making jewelry.
Fiber paper is another product that is used by many glass artists, but it is a bit expensive for use as a firing surface.