Looking back on when I first started noticing and looking at fused glass pieces, it was a complete mystery how all the colorful pieces of glass seemed to be sealed together. I’d made lots of different types of jewelry before I began working with glass, and could usually look at pieces of jewelry, and easily figure out how they were made. This one stumped me though. Something about it seemed impossible. I wanted to pull it apart and figure it out, but the thing is you can’t! So how the heck is it done? If you’re interested, stick around and I’ll walk you through how I make one of my fully fused glass pendants.
First, there are a couple things you need to begin. Here are the essentials:
Kiln- Any kiln that will heat to 1600 degrees will do. I’m using a small 7” even-heat kiln for my example. This little kiln is an economical workhorse that I’ve had for five years+ and she is still going strong.
Glass- The trick here is to use compatible glass. I use glass that is specific to my medium, fusible stained glass and dichroic glass. The glass I work with has a coefficient of expansion of 90 or COE90. If you try to fuse together different coefficients your work will be stressed in the heating or cooling process compromising the strength of your glass piece, and causing it to crack in many cases.
Shelf Paper- This is a liner for your kiln shelf so when you melt your glass it doesn’t stick to the shelf.
Glass Cutter- Use a good glass cutter as this will help with the ease of cutting glass and give you cleaner cuts.
Glass Tac- This will keep your design in place.
The first thing I do when designing my fully fused glass pieces is choose colors I want to work with. I’ve chosen a variety of blue and green dichroic glass along with a silver swirled glass. I almost always start with a background layer of glass. In this example I’m using a 2mm piece of fusible black glass. You can use thicker glass, but it will make the piece heavier and more bulky.
Next, I start with one cut of colorful dichroic glass, using that as a building block for my design by stacking it on the black background. Now it’s just like a puzzle, cutting shapes that will fit flush together, balancing the weight of the colors as I go. Then, I take a clear piece of glass, and cut it just a little larger than the piece I just designed. My personal preference for the top layer being a 3mm piece of crystal clear tekka glass. It will make your piece nice and smooth on the top and give your work a little more depth.
Last you just need to move all three layers to the kiln. Before doing so, make sure your shelf paper is lined on your kiln. That’s mega important. You could probably chisel a fused glass piece off your kiln shelf, but it’s worth avoiding. To create a full fused or seamlessly fused piece of glass in my kiln I heat the piece to 1525 degrees, give or take ten to twenty degrees. Every kiln is different so the fusing temperature for a fully fused glass piece can vary, however, will be somewhere between 1425-1525 degrees F in any kiln. I check the pieces toward the end of their fusing cycle to see if they need more hold time or more heat to get them to where I want them.
After the fusing cycle is finished I let my small fully fused glass projects cool for an hour to an hour an a half. You never want to heat or cool your glass projects too quickly as this can thermal shock the glass, creating fractures in your project. And voila! That is basically how one of my fused glass pendants are made. Several of my full fused glass pendants do go through two fusing cycles. The first cycle if for creating the seamless multicolored pendant. I follow that fusing cycle by grinding the pendant to the exact shape I want it, then I polish it by fusing it in the kiln again. After the piece has cooled for the second time, I grind a channel around the glass, and finish it up with some jewelry wire.
Thanks for reading (if you got this far!), and send me a line if you have any questions!