Getting Started

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Sure you need glass, and you need a kiln also,
but what else is needed to get you on your way?

A typical kiln for fusing and slumping glass. This is a Square 146 GFE kiln, made by Olympic Kilns.

Aside from the glass, the most important item you need is a kiln. Most kilns used are electric and are capable of reaching temperatures of around 1700 degrees Fahrenheit. Kilns are available in sizes ranging from less than a cubic foot to big enough to fill a room. Kilns made specifically for ceramics can be used, but it’s better to have one that’s specifically engineered for firing glass.

Your kiln must have the capability to accurately monitor and display the inside temperature. This is usually done with a pyrometer, a precise thermometer that is often coupled with a controller, a device that helps manage the firing of the kiln. A controller can greatly simplify the task of precisely directing and monitoring the temperature changes inside the kiln. You can get by without a controller if you’re willing to keep a closer eye on the kiln, but a pyrometer that can accurately measure the temperature inside the kiln is essential.

In addition to the kiln, you need a shelf to set the glass on and (if you want to slump) a mold to help shape the glass. Shelves are generally made of clay or a lightweight refractory material, while molds can be made of clay, stainless steel, or various kinds of cements and plaster mixtures. The key is that both the shelf and the mold can withstand heating up to a temperature of 1700 degrees Fahrenheit or so and then cooling back to room temperature.

You’ll also need some sort of glass separator to keep the glass from sticking to the kiln shelf and the mold. The separator can be a special kind of paper that glass won’t stick to at high temperatures (called fiber paper) or it can be an emulsion that you apply to the shelf, then allow to dry (commonly called a shelf primer or kiln wash). Without this separator, glass will stick to the shelf or mold when it gets hot and your piece of artwork will be ruined. 

That’s it. If you have some glass, a kiln, a shelf or mold, and something to keep the glass from sticking, you have the basic ingredients to begin fusing and slumping. Add some tools to help cut and the glass and a few essential pieces of safety equipment, and you’re ready to begin.

 

Safety equipment includes gloves that can take the heat, glasses that block infrared radiation, and a mask or respirator.
Various molds for slumping or draping glass.
An assortment of eye protection equipment, including face shield, clear glasses, and glasses for blocking infrared radiation.

For much more information on glass fusing and slumping, check out Brad Walker’s Contemporary Fused Glass, available at a 30% discount at this link.