Becky Johnson pulling glass streamers at the Creative Arts Center of Dallas. (Last week’s photo shows the same session from a slightly different angle.)
Making Glass Streamers with the Vitrigraph Kiln
Reader Response: Frit; kiln wash sticking to the mold
Recent Q&As: Removing labels from glass bottles; books on glass fusing
MAKING GLASS STREAMERS WITH THE VITRIGRAPH KILN
You can save money by melting scrap glass into streamers (glass rods the size of pencil lead). So don’t throw away fused glass pieces that have ugly bubbles or cracks.
Several years ago Bullseye Glass developed a way to make streamers with a technique they call the Vitrigraph kiln. You can twist the hot streamers into shapes as they flow from the kiln, and you can combine colors into new ones.
Since the Vitrigraph is an advanced technique, please attend Vitrigraph classes before you try it at home. These instructions are only basic guidelines to help you after you have received instruction from an experienced teacher.
The Bullseye Glass Co. uses the digital Paragon Caldera as a Vitrigraph kiln. (You can see the Caldera in the photo above.) Since the Vitrigraph is suspended several feet off the floor, it is essential that you follow safety precautions:
Remove flammable materials from the firing room, which should have a concrete floor.
If possible, do not use an extension cord.
Keep pets and unsupervised children away.
Fire only glass scraps that are fusing compatible.
Keep the electric cord out of traffic areas.
Fire the kiln only with the help of an assistant.
Pay undivided attention to the kiln. Do not leave it unattended.
Do not reuse the flowerpot that holds the scrap glass. Do not refill the flowerpot while the kiln is hot. Use only one flowerpot load of glass per session.
Wear safety glasses at all times. Small pieces of glass can scatter about when you break off the streamers.
Set up 2 sturdy steel tables (without casters) spaced about 10” apart. Place them where they will not be jarred by anyone passing by.
Stack 2 cinder blocks on each table. Span the gap between the tables by laying 2 steel straps 2 1/2” wide x 1/4” thick across the top of the cinder blocks. The straps should be about the length of yardsticks.
Cut a 2” hole in the center of a 14” x 14” piece of 1”-thick rigidized fiberboard. Place the fiberboard over the steel straps. Lay 2 - 3” x 7” cordierite ceramic shelves on top of the fiberboard and positioned on each side of the hole.
It is important that the steel straps support the kiln. Do not depend upon the stability of the ceramic shelves and fiberboard alone. A ceramic shelf can break without warning due to heat shock, and the fiberboard doesn't support much weight.
Place a small, unglazed terracotta flowerpot on top of the 2 ceramic shelves. The flowerpot should have a 1/2” hole in the bottom. Fill the pot with frit or small pieces of scrap stained glass.
Place the Caldera kiln (without the bottom section) on top of the fiberboard. The kiln must be stable. Test it to make sure it doesn’t rock. Keep the cord away from the hot sides of the kiln and out of traffic areas. Place a large steel bowl on the concrete floor between the tables to catch the streamers.
Program the controller:
450 degrees F per hour rate
target temperature of 1700 degrees F
2.00 hour hold
When the kiln reaches approximately 1700 degrees F, the glass will begin to flow out through the hole in the flowerpot. You can adjust the thickness of the streamers by adjusting the temperature.
As the streamers flow from the kiln, break them off with large tweezers or needle nose pliers.
Cindy Durant of Penong, Australia wrote, “One of my favourite ways to make frit is to heat the glass in the kiln. You will need to play around with the temperature to find what works best for you. I usually go to 400-500 degrees C (750 – 930 degrees F).
“Remove the glass using large tongs and high temperature gloves [and safety glasses], and drop the glass into a metal bucket of cool water. (Do not use a plastic bucket.) The glass fractures from heat shock and might then need a bit of a wrapping in paper and further assistance in breaking. But it is by far the best and easiest way I have found to make frit in quantity without too much waste.
“The stuck kiln wash can be a real drag! Overfiring is usually the culprit. There are so many solutions to the problem. For really special pieces that I want perfect, non-textured, and clean, I now always use Bullseye Thinfire shelf paper for my fuse. It can only be used once but is worth the small price. I also sometimes just give my molds a light dusting of dry kiln wash; they still have a good coating of brushed-on dried old kiln wash from years ago.
“I would say that if the kiln wash is sticking during the slump, it is definitely overfiring. I usually slump at a low temperature and soak for 20-30 minutes to get a good gentle and even slump. The temperature will vary depending on the type and the thickness of the glass. A good kiln wash should not stick if all of the other factors are right.
“Thanks for the kiln pointers. It is always an interesting read. I also agree with the woman's comments on how scary it must be to live in tornado alley.”
Thanks, Cindy, for the valuable glass firing pointers.
Q. A liquor storeowner gave me his French champagne display bottles for glass slumping. I am having trouble removing the labels. Any suggestions?
A. Soak the bottles in hot water until the labels loosen. Then scrape off with a safety razor blade (the type available from paint supply stores).
Q. I would also like to slump glass. Can you recommend a book to get me started?
A. Please go to www.paragonweb.com and click on Products, then Books & Videos from the drop menu. Or click on this link:
You will find a list of book reviews, which includes books on glass fusing. I especially recommend "Introduction To Glass Fusing," by Petra Kaiser.
Wishing you a joyous Mother's Day,
Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. – Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd. Mesquite, TX 75149-1122 Voice: 972-288-7557 & 800-876-4328 / Fax: 972-222-0646 firstname.lastname@example.org / www.paragonweb.com