Kilns are expensive. I hadn’t realised quite how expensive until I looked into buying one.
But, as I only want to work with glass, I don’t need something as big and powerful as is required for ceramics, and have settled on a specialist glass kiln. Small, compact, but quite big enough for my intentions for the foreseeable future. I was concerned that something that gets as hot as a kiln may be a step too far for my all-wood workshop. But I was assured, by the aptly-named and very helpful Warm Glass Company of Bristol, that it would be fine as the exterior of the kiln doesn’t get much hotter than a radiator.
My Skutt Firebox 14
I was tremendously excited when the kiln arrived, packed up in an enormous box all the way from Portland, Oregon. It took some time and effort and the help of my long-suffering partner, to get it out of the box (which wouldn’t fit through the door) and into my studio.
It lay in the middle of the floor for a few days, until I got some ceramic floor tiles to sit it on and until the rest of my tools arrived.
My Kristall Glass Grinder
Once it was installed on the metal stand and was all ready to go, I suddenly became a little nervous of it and wasted another few days shilly-shallying around and being busy with other things.
I had been given a large quantity of art glass by a local community outfit who are hoping I might be up to doing some workshops for them next year and, having selected a sheet of what looked like 3mm thickness, I decided to give it a go.
I have always found glass-cutting a bit of a dark art in the past, but after taking Brad Walker’s advice in his ‘Contemporary Fused Glass’, I bought a medium-range oil-filled cutter and am surprised how easy it is – once you have the right tools!
I have read a lot about using compatible glass (which has the same COE – Coefficient of expansion) in the various library books I’ve got (and the Brad Walker book) but as I had no idea of the COE of the gifted glass, I just had to give it a try.
I had also bought a student pack of Bullseye glass offcuts, which I am reliably informed has a COE of 90.
I cut a 5″ square from the glass that I’d been given and cut a few vaguely Christmas tree shapes from one of the green Bullseye glass pieces. I laid the green shapes on the clear glass and, after lining the kiln shelf with the Thinfire paper which came with the kiln, I placed the tile on the shelf and was ready to go.
The beauty of my new kiln is that it comes pre-programmed with a number of automatic programmes which allow beginners to get going without having to write their own firing schedules. All I had to decide was if I wanted a Fast, Medium or slow heating rate which depended on the thickness and size of my piece. Impatiently, but rightly, it turns out, I went for Fast! I also had to choose from Full fuse, tac or slump. That was of course Full fuse.
When the kiln started, about 3:15pm and for the next few hours, I kept to the far end of my workshop (which is 30 feet long) and fretted about things going wrong.
I had assumed that Fast meant my piece would be ready quickly, but seven hours later, the kiln was still showing a toasty 200 degrees C (even though the programme had declared itself complete after about 6 hours) so I decided to switch it off and save the pleasure of seeing my first attempt until the next morning.
And here it is.
Now you may notice the little crack on the top left hand side. That wasn’t there when I first opened the kiln and didn’t appear until 48 hours later! So at first glance I was delighted and declared to anyone who would listen that it had been a success and about all the things I was going to make with my gifted glass.
I had of course read that this was likely to happen with untested glass and cracks could appear on firing or even months or years later! I don’t know if it may also be because I only used one layer of glass and an accent layer. If I had read the books more fully before I got started, I would have realised that ‘glass needs two layers’ and I should have used a base layer, a design layer and an accent layer.
The impatience of beginners!
I was a little disappointed when the crack appeared as it means I’m going to have to buy some compatible clear glass for my planned projects. But I have plans for the gifted glass and I hope to share these with you in my next post.