Monday, November 26, 2012

Glass Fusing Tutorial: Snowman Plate

A few posts ago, I posted some of the glass art my After School Art Club did last year and I was asked to post a tutorial.  Soooooo, since I've been a little down and out about my Delilah gone missing, I decided to take 30 minutes today to create a little snowman plate out of glass to post a tutorial!

All of the glass supplies I use I have purchased in classroom kits from eNasco and Dick Blick.  The glass refills come from Blick.

To let it be known, I am not a paid sponsor of any type for Nasco, Blick, or any of the glass supply companies that I will mention.  I also have a very limited background on glass art, except for what I have self-taught myself in the last year since I purchased my glass kiln for my room in the summer of 2011.

My glass kiln is a Skutt Hot Start electric kiln.  It comes pre-programmed with a slow, medium and fast firing schedule for doing a full fuse (melting glass together to be a flat sheet), a tack (melting the glass enough so that it sticks together; will still have raised aspects to it) and slumping (heating fused glass in a mold so that it slumps to a bowl/plate shape).  The kiln is about 12" round and about 8" deep.  It only has one shelf, so when I work with the 6" glass pieces, I can only do one at a time.  When we work with the 3" glass, I can usually fit 4-5 in the kiln, depending on if I am fusing or slumping.

Note: I cannot fire clay in this kiln.  There are kilns you can purchase that do both, however since I have virtually no clue about the temperatures that you must hold the glass at, I decided a kiln with an automatic firing system would be best!


The glass on the left is confetti glass.  Confetti glass is very thin and very sharp!  The glass on the right is called looks like a little flower encased in a cylinder.  

The glass on the left is just called glass chunks...they are thicker pieces of colored glass.  The glass on the right is frit...a very fine, almost powder like, glass.

These are just some of the glass plates I have.  You can order the glass plates to use as a base for projects in 6"x6" squares, 3"x3" squares, and 6" circles.  The circles are more expensive than the squares, and the colored glass is more expensive than the clear glass.

You also need a glass cutting tool (the red tool), which actually only scores the glass.  It has a tiny wheel that you run along the glass to put a score line.  Then, you use the glass pliers.  You line up the pliers with the score line and squeeze the pliers.  The glass literally just pops apart! I like having a piece of felt under the glass when I am scoring.  It helps hold all the little shards and keeps them off the tables so you are less likely to get a splinter from one.  Also...make sure you wear goggles!  Glass shards can fly into your eyes!

You can see the teeth on the scoring tool...those are used to pry at the glass edge to chip it off if you have to thin of a piece to snap apart with the pliers.  As far as I know, it is nearly impossible to cut a perfect circle out of glass, however, when I fuse the glass together, it should melt into a decent circle.

Here is my snowman so far...this will be interesting to see how the glass works together as I am using glass from two different companies.  You have to make sure the glass has the same COE, or coefficient of expansion.  Some glass is COE 90, some is COE 96, and some is COE 90 compatible.  (COE 90 glass can be used in a microwave glass kiln.  I also have two of these...a post to come in the future about using a microwave glass kiln!)  

next I added the arms using stringers.  These are long pieces of glass that are either shaped like a noodle or a flattened noodle.

So far, I have used millefiori for the buttons, cut glass for the snowman body, hat, nose and scarf, confetti for the mouth and eyes, and stringers for the arm.

Now for the hard part!  Right now when I create a glass piece, I don't use any type of glue to hold the pieces in place.  Some people use watered down Elmer's glue to hold the pieces in place when moving it to the kiln, however if you use too much, it will create imperfections in the glass.  There is also a special glue you can get for fusing glass, however I have heard much of the same complaints...that it creates imperfections in your glass.

Usually what I do is just carefully pick it up and shuffle across my room to take it to the kiln.  Once inside, I usually have to push the little stringers back in place, and that's about it.  

Before moving the glass pieces to the kiln, you have to make sure you have a good surface for it.  You can use kiln wash, or you can use fiber kiln paper.  Kiln wash is definitely cheaper, but it's more work.  I've noticed that after every fuse, I need to scrape the shelf and reapply the kiln wash. Then I have to wait for it to completely dry, otherwise it will produce air bubbles in the glass pieces when firing.  The only thing I have found I haven't had to reapply kiln wash to are the slump molds, but more on those later.

Kiln paper is expensive, but it creates a smoother edge on the glass and a smoother bottom.  With kiln wash, you end up with the brush strokes on the back of your glass piece. I'm opting for kiln paper.  Simply cut it to be about the same size as your project.
My piece after I moved it in the kiln...all the noodles moved!

After I put it in the kiln, I added some light blue frit...this will make it look like snow!

On goes the kiln!  I set it for a slow speed full fuse.  It will take about 7 hours to complete.  The fast fuse takes about 4 hours.  Hopefully I'll have good results to share with you on Thursday! (Tomorrow is my day school for me!)


  1. Really Cool! Can you do glass fusion in a regular pottery kiln?

  2. I was wondering what Holly was wondering too. At first I thought this was a clay kiln, because my kiln has the same firing speeds...until you said otherwise. :)

  3. I suppose you probably could, but there are some big differences in ceramic and glass kilns. I'm pretty sure you can buy a kiln that specifically does both, however I wouldn't suggest firing glass in a ceramic kiln. Glass kilns heat from the top, and you only have one shelf to ensure even heating, whereas ceramic kilns heat from the sides of the kiln. Glass kilns are also shallow and wide (in some cases) and ceramic kilns are skinny and deep. If you have a large ceramic kiln, I definitely wouldn't suggest firing glass in it.

    It would also be a little difficult to ramp and hold a ceramic kiln at the specific temperatures glass needs to be held at in the fusing/tacking/slumping stages. My ceramic kiln uses a cone to shut off when it reaches the appropriate temperature and I have no way of getting a thermometer through the kiln wall to monitor the temperature. Glass generally only gets heated to about 1400 degrees, whereas (correct me if I'm's been a while) I believe low fire clay usually gets heated to about 2000 degrees? is possible to fire glass in a ceramics kiln if you have a way to monitor the temperature to hold it at the various stages glass needs to be held at...a ceramic cone wouldn't work. You just have to be very careful about where you place the's difficult to achieve an even heating in the ceramic kiln.