I work with stained glass but I like to try different techniques and recently I bought a small kiln from a studio that was downsizing. At the moment I knew pretty much nothing about kilns and fusing, so, really I had no idea what I was buying. The seller told me that "it was a great kiln to try out things and quickly see how glass reacts before doing it all in the larger kiln". That satisfied my curiosity, and the price was great, so I took my kiln home.
I read a book about fusing, then took a 30-minute crash course with a fusing guru and started to experiment. My first little experiments of fusing coarse frit to glass in order to make polka dots were successful. However, pretty soon I realized that since my kiln did not have a programmable controller, there was no way to control the temperature other than by turning the kiln on and off. The corner stone of fusing - bringing temperature up gradually and holding it constant for specific periods of time - was not available to me with this kiln. However, I did not want to do anything complicated, I just wanted to see how far I could get with this small simple kiln.
I came up with a simple design of a medallion of a bird with a wire loop for hanging, cut the glass and arranged it on my kiln shelf. I turned on my kiln and about 10 minutes later, when the temperature got up to around 1100F, I heard a popping sound. I knew it was not right, so I opened the kiln only to find that the background has completely blown up. The temperature was too low for any of the melting to take place, so the shards have burst out from a single point and stopped where they hit the kiln walls. Amazingly, all the pieces on top of the oval have remained practically in place. I had no idea what caused it and decided to simply try again...
This time the kiln heated to 1750F without incident and the glass fused together fine, except the wire loop somehow got dislocated and just lay separately on the kiln shelf. Now I wanted to see if I could reattach the wire loop by placing it between a small piece of glass and the oval and firing again for them to stick together. Turned out that I had to heat the glass to a slightly higher temperature for that to work and as a result the oval's border has distorted and the bird looked misshapen. Also, you could see where the small piece of clear glass was fused into the oval and that was not pretty.
I tried it for the third time and it worked out. I turned the kiln off at just the right temperature, the wire loop was fused in, the oval remained sharp and the bird looked good. So, it was possible to get good results for similar designs with the kiln I had after all. Most probably, though, that was the limit. Also, having repeated the process four times, I came to realize that I did not really enjoy babysitting that kiln in order to get it to just the right temperature. Maybe once or twice, but not on a regular basis. That pretty much meant that if I wanted to go on to fusing more complicated projects, I would need to purchase a better kiln, one with a programmable controller. I weighed that option and decided that I was not ready for the commitment and that silly bird medallions and polka dot glass would keep me happy for now, especially if I would come up with a way to incorporate them into my stained glass designs.
By Alla (FleetingStillness)