Glass is a fantastic medium for tabletop art because it is scratch- and heat-resistant and easy to clean and maintain. Glass is also really fun to work with. As an artist you have plenty of opportunity to experiment with colors, textures and patterns. Advanced crafters will choose a method of glass fusion, the melting of individual pieces of glass together to make one piece, as an ideal technique to connect glass pieces for a tabletop. You'll need the right types of glass and access to a glass kiln large enough for the project. Although just about anyone can complete a glass fusion project, check with your local community college or look online for glass fusing workshops if you are intimidated by the project.
Items you will need
- Glass pieces
- Cutting oil
- Glass cutter
- Glass kiln
- Kiln wash
- Protective eyewear
Select the right glass. Glass is available in endless types and textures, but for kiln firing the glass pieces used in your tabletop must all be compatible. Glass expands and contracts during the firing process, and all of the glass pieces in your project must expand and contract at the same rate or you will end up with a broken tabletop.
Cut your glass. Dip your glass cutter in some cutting oil. Cutting oil will keep your cutting blade sharp and running right. Use firm, even pressure to run your glass cutter across your glass to score it. Make only a single score, don't go over the line again. Clean the glass pieces really well, because fingerprints will show up after firing.
Prepare your glass kiln. Use a kiln wash on the kiln shelf and run a new kiln empty at least once. This allows the kiln to burn off any residue inside, and puts a protective oxide coating on the heating elements. This firing will also get rid of any moisture in the kiln.
Arrange your glass pieces in the glass kiln. Experiment with layouts of glass pieces of different sizes and colors. You can create a random mosaic look or try to mimic an image such as a sunset, starburst or any other image you fancy. If you have grand ideas for a glass tabletop but little experience, consider making a simpler version first. This will help you identify technique issues you may have with your masterpiece. Put the biggest piece of glass on the shelf first. Then add smaller pieces, and lastly add decorative bits. Use a little bit of glue to hold the glass together before firing.
Fire the kiln. Close the kiln lid, and plug the peep hole before you turn it on. The ultimate target temperature for glass fusion is about 1450 degrees F. Heat your kiln at about 500 degrees per hour to 1000 degrees. Keep the piece at this temperature for around 10 minutes. Then heat up your kiln to 1450 degrees for full fusion. Let the kin cool to 950 degrees, and keep that temperature for an hour to anneal the piece. Then, turn off your kiln, and allow it to cool to room temperature. Your glass tabletop is now complete and ready to install.
Tips & Warnings
- Decorative bits such as ground glass, called frit, and decorative glass rods, called stringer or noodles, must all have the same coefficiency of expansion as your glass pieces. Two popular glass product lines in which all components are tested compatible are Bullseye and System 96.
- Always use protective eyewear when working with glass.
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