Getting Started in Glass Fusing

For a while now, I've been wanting to try out warm glass - fusing, slumping, jewelry making, etc.  I'd also like to try metal clay, enameling, and flameworking too at some point.  But Step 1 for me was to get a kiln and some supplies to get started.

Meet Esmerelda - My Kiln Setup

I've been keeping a lookout for kilns on Craigslist for a while, and last Spring I saw this one listed for $300.  It was the perfect size, and the owner was just selling her to move up to another model.

I named my new kiln Esmerelda.  She's a hexagonal shape, 24" exterior diameter, and 11" exterior height.  She fits right into a good spot in the basement, and is big enough to make all the pendants and plates I want.  She is an older Jen-Ken kiln, maybe from the 80s?  Her last owner bought her a new Paragon DTC 100 controller.  The controller didn't quite do everything I want - it didn't seem to allow for a controlled decrease in temperature, and it doesn't allow for a multi-stage program (so you need to visit the kiln after every firing stage and reprogram for the next one).  The previous owner mostly used her for ceramics, so maybe that controller worked fine for ceramics, but it seemed like it would be hard to make it work for some of the complicated glass firing schedules.


I ended up ordering a new controller board from Bartlett Instrument Company,  and I got the Genesis Model LT3140 for $329.  This is just the board, which we installed into the controller box for the DTC 100.  It fit, but the holes weren't in the exact right spot, so we had to drill 2 new holes for the bottom screws.  The photo to the right shows the box hanging on the wall - the darker grey part is the new controller board.  




Kiln all setup and ready to fire.

Kiln all setup and ready to fire.

My total cost for the kiln and controller board was $629, and it looks like a similar new kiln runs about $1000 today, so I'll call that a win.  I have definitely invested that extra savings plus some into other supplies and glass, so it was nice to save where I could.

The kiln fits perfectly in our basement between a brick wall, the furnace, and the hot water heater.  It's placed on some cinderblocks.  During the first firing (which had a max kiln temp of 1420F), we used a laser thermometer to keep track of the temperatures all the way around the kiln and found that the hottest point was the surface of the kiln, which recorded a max temp ~300F.  The bricks, furnace, etc, didn't go up much in temperature.

Additional Fusing Supplies

The kiln is the biggest and most critical item needed, but I've also been getting a bunch of other supplies too.  I decided to go with all COE 90 glass - I read that it's a little harder to work with than COE 96, but since there was more selection in colors, I picked 90.  I don't really want to have to store both types, so I will probably stick exclusively with COE 90.  I bought one of the Bullseye class packs from Delphi (link isn't to the exact one, there are several different mixes), 6 jars of Frit, and some stringer rods - all Bullseye.

I already had all the essentials for glass cutting, but did invest in a new "non-essential" - a Taurus 3 ring saw.  I had been doing the score and snap method, which works fine, but I've been drooling over the idea of a saw for a while so I could make more intricate shapes.  And I'd tried using COE 90 glass in a stained glass panel, and found that it was much harder to work with - I broke a LOT of pieces while scoring/snapping, and so I thought it might be a lot nicer to have a saw.  I'll need to do a whole other post on the saw, but let me just say that it has been GREAT to have !

Kiln Furniture and Molds

My research said that you want to have your work in about the center of the kiln.  I got 3" kiln posts, and a 12" round shelf to place the work on top of.  I also got some fiber paper and Primo Primer for mold prepping.  

I wanted to start out with smaller molds, so my first project uses a square pendant mold - I also have a mold for small square dish, and a couple other pendant molds I haven't tried yet.

Of course, I still have a wish list of stuff to get and try -more frit colors, I'd like to try decals, I need some thicker fiber paper, and of course more molds and glass too.  For now, I just need to focus on trying out some easy projects with what I have but it's really hard to go crazy buying piles of supplies!

Next post, I'll talk about my first two projects in the kiln - #2 is firing as I type and I'm hoping it turns out well!