Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Amphitheatre - or is it - Ampitheater

I wanted to do some finish work on this piece before I posted it.  Unfortunately life, or in my case, work, got in the way.  I cast this in the Daniel Clayman class at Corning last month.  

It turned out as I expected, actually better than I'd expected.  This was a simple form that was inspired by my trip last year to Athens, Greece.  I loved looking down at the amphitheatre from the Acropolis.  

This obviously isn't a direct recreation of what I viewed.  Rather this is my interpretation given the limitations of what I could cast and finish in a two day firing cycle.  There is some flashing and minor imperfections that a little, make that a lot, of coldworking will fix.

Time to get busy...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Future Fossils

When I was preparing for the Daniel Clayman casting workshop at the Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass earlier this month, I needed to show up to the workshop with a relief ready to cast. I was struggling to come up with an idea.  I think of reliefs as being two dimensional even though they are technically a three dimensional thing.  

For some strange reason, I started daydreaming about fossils.  I really like fossils of animals, fish, reptiles, and vegetation found in rocks.  I can't imagine the joy of someone breaking open a rock and finding a trilobite in perfect form, preserved for millions of years.  My mind wandered and had a very strange thought.  The fact of mind wandering isn't so strange for me.  The strange part is where it wandered to.  I was thinking of the types of fossils people of the far future would find from our civilization.  I thought that all the hardware - nuts, bolts, screws, wires, and other metal found in our houses, cars, toys, and other elements of our daily lives - would be the fossils of the future.  Thus, "Future Fossils" were born.  

Above is a picture of the first "Future Fossil", which was created during the workshop.  It is shown standing up and embedded in a chunk of clay.  That made the most sense as a quick solution to the photography problem and seemed more fitting than a plastic display stand.

Here are some photos taken on my mobile phone showing some of the steps along the way.  First up is the original clay model.  Here I took a bunch of parts from my workshop, rolled out about a half-inch thick slab of plasticine (non-hardening) clay, and then pressed the hardware into the clay. 

This is sitting on a piece of melamine board that has been waxed to prevent it from sticking completely and can get it off once the mold is created.

Next up is the preparation of the mold.  Here I'm doing a hand-built mold rather than a poured mold.  In this picture, I'm using compressed air at a very low pressure (about 3-5 PSI), to gently move the plaster/silica mix around the surface of the clay.  

The purpose of doing this is to eliminate the tiny air bubbles that get trapped on the surface and cause issues in the mold.

 I didn't take a picture of the final mold before removing from the supporting board, nor one of the mold with the clay still in it.  One trick we learned is how to use compressed air at much higher pressure (40-50 PSI) to help remove the clay original.  Note that the clay came out perfectly.  However if you look close, you'll see I still didn't do a great job of eliminating the air bubbles as there are many little pock marks on the surface of the mold. 

 The next picture shows the mold sitting in the kiln and filled with a turquoise blue colored glass frit.  Even though I've mounded it up, you can see that the final fossil isn't as thick as I'd have liked it.

I leveled the mold in the kiln and took great care to make sure it was level before I filled the mold.  I think it must have been moved or adjusted based on the final result, where it is slightly thicker on one edge than the other. 

All in all, I'm quite happy with my "Future Fossil #1".

Friday, September 10, 2010

New Work - Now Including Pictures

I've been making a new form for my blown work.  This form isn't new - I can't say I invented it, but it is new for me, and I'm hoping to apply my own spin to it.  On a side note about inventions in glass, I spent last week at the Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass.  I always tour the museum while I'm there studying.  The objects from four and five thousand years ago show techniques and forms that are still considered "fresh" today.  

Anyway, these new pieces are much taller than my previous work, most are around 24" tall.  My little tabletop photography light tent won't accommodate such tall work, being limited to a little over a foot tall.  Taking pictures of clear/transparent work is also very difficult.  Thus I haven't posted any pictures as they weren't good enough to show what I envision for the work.  Corning workshops provide access to a very good photographer for a very nominal fee (basically free).  She is great.  I took two pieces for her to photograph.  Below are the results.

Now wasn't that worth the wait? 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

World's Tallest - Revisited

A week or two ago I posted an entry about what I called "The World's Tallest Vase".  You can read about that part of the story here.  Well to my surprise it actually survived the annealing process.  When I went to the studio to pick it up, I was more than shocked.  It was intact, quite uniform, and actually pretty nice.  

I couldn't photograph it in my usual set up.  I have a small table top tent and lights that most of my glass work fits into quite nicely.  However the tall pieces I'm doing now will require much different approaches to photographing.  While I contemplate that process, I thought I'd capture a snapshot of the piece and post it here.

This is a little hard to see in the photo.  It's a nice steely blue color and fairly uniform the entire length of the glass.  That doesn't usually happen.  The lip is slightly darker as it is a little bigger than the long stem.  The bottom still needs grinding in order for it to stand by itself.  However, I don't think it will be standing on a table by itself any time soon.  If it gets displayed at all, it will have some sort of mechanical help to stand up.  Perhaps I should cast a hand grasping it and have that anchored into the wall.

By the way this thing stands 53" high.  That is four feet and five inches!  Now, that is certainly the tallest thing I've ever created.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The World's Tallest Vase?

I don't have pictures yet, as the piece is still in the annealer.  It certainly won't be the world's tallest, but it will be the tallest piece I've ever made.  Or is it the longest?  Either way it is big.  

So what is "IT"?

I was glassblowing yesterday, during my normal time slot.  I am making a new series of tall vases (vessels?) that have curved, swooping tops.  Not entirely ready to post pictures, nor do I have the ability to make a decent picture of them.  Anyway, the first piece I made was a very nice vase about 16" tall.  The only problem is that is was very plain and had pretty thick walls.  I was having a little bit of trouble and accidentally bumped the pipe ever so slightly.  BONK.  The piece hit the floor.  It survived and I thought I could rescue it.  Rather than just putting it into the annealer - it would have been a good piece of "Flintstone-ware", or a good blank for carving and sandblasting.  But no, I was going to be a hero and re-punty the thing and finish it according to plan.  Almost made it too.  Got very near the end and the cold spot where it was resting on the floor for a few seconds cracked.  Oh well - 45 minutes wasted.

The second piece was much nicer.  I followed the same steps, but this time things were looking up.  However, another problem occurred.  I put bases on the tallish vessels.  This is done with a "cookie foot", basically a patty of glass.  Now I've made hundreds of them and usually pretty good.  This time I wasn't.  I did some things to correct it, but it wasn't going to be one of my best pieces.  My glass blowing partner, John, said "Keep working, you never know how it will look finished, and you can cold work it later".  OK, keep pushing through the piece.  

It was very hot and humid yesterday, actually the entire last two months, and I just wanted to finish the piece.  To stretch the neck, you get it pretty hot and swing it out.  I wasn't paying attention and got it rip roaring hot.  Usually, I don't work that hot as it is easy to lose control of the piece.  I started the stretch and it was going quite well.  Going fast, too.  I kept letting it drop down.  The base of the piece is six or seven inches across and the neck tapers down to about an inch and a half.  And there is a lot of neck.  Kinda like a giraffe.  There is a a wide mouth at the very top which is probably three inches wide.

Getting it knocked off the pipe was a lot easier than I thought.  Getting it into the annealer wasn't.  The annealer is about 54" long and 24" wide, and pretty deep.  There were already some big pieces in there so there was about 48" of length to put the piece.  I put it in and it didn't fit.  I had to lean it up against the far wall.  At least I avoided placing it against the elements!  I don't think it'll slump, but who knows.

I have no idea if the thing will even stand up, or be worth finding a way to stabilize it.  But it sure was fun, and it rates a story here.  A real conversation piece.

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's Corning Time Again

Time is fast approaching for my semi-annual trek to one of the mother land's of glass and glass instruction - The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass.  I've been accepted into Daniel Clayman's "Mold Making for Glass Casting" workshop.  Here is what the official description of the session 

This course is intended for sculptors wanting to explore kiln-casting glass using plaster molds. Students will explore the how and the why of a broad array of casting concerns. Using the students' work as a platform for demonstrations, the course will cover a range of topics, including mold recipes, wax-working techniques, rubber mold making, glass sources, kiln requirements, and more. Students may make an object or two, but the emphasis will be on learning the process, not leaving with completed objects. 

The description also says some sculpting skills required.  I'm not entirely convinced right now of this.  Of course, this is what I always think prior to attending a workshop!

I've known about this since early May.  Every week I've thought about what I want to make / learn in the session.  But there always seemed to be time for it later.  Well, looking at the calendar, I have a little over two weeks to get off my butt and get ready.  

As inspiration, I'm posting this picture which was in the Corning catalog for the summer sessions this year.

I'm not going this big or anything close.  We've been limited to a size of about 6" on a side.  Given we only have a week, casting anything larger isn't feasible. 

Time to get going... 

Friday, July 30, 2010

What a "Fair"

I've been attending the "Ann Arbor Art Fair" for 35 years now.  I put it in quotes as there isn't one fair, but a whole bunch - four official fairs, and a bunch of offshoots, street and parking lot vendors, etc.  I've always gone on Friday afternoons of the four day, Wednesday to Saturday, event.  In fact, I met my wife on a rainy Friday evening during the fair a long time ago.   But that is another story.

The whole month of July here in southeast Michigan can be classified with one word - "HOT".  The fourth week of July is usually pretty warm, but this year it was significantly hotter than usual.  The heat index Friday afternoon was at about 105 degrees (F).  That is pretty hot.  It was high 90's plus very high humidity.  Not really looking forward to walking around outside on the asphalt streets and amongst the throngs of people.  But we went.  

We knew we wouldn't see everything.  In the old days we could spend five or six hours walking around and seeing almost everything.  These days as walking gets harder and the stamina falters, we have to pick and choose.  Given the heat, we changed up our usual route.  After 35 years, you have a game plan and routes that let you see the most without backtracking.  We saw some interesting stuff and spend about two and a half hours slowly moving through the streets.  

One thing that has me puzzled though is how little new there was.  Back in the "good old days" - 80's and 90's - it seemed like there was always something new, or at least something that you saw a lot of people buying.  I really am tired of seeing the same photographs, paintings, ceramic pots, jewelry, and even glass.  We haven't bought any art in probably the last five years.  Some years we'd come back with half a dozen items, some years it would be that one piece that really grabbed us.  But we don't seem to find that any more.

I had rained earlier in the day on Friday, and there was a strong wind storm on Thursday night.  One of the streets is known as "tornado alley" as the winds really play havoc with the tents.  I heard a lot of people lot work who hadn't prepared properly for that condition.  I remember one year we were on tornado alley when the winds and rain came.  I remember the sounds of glass breaking and the sight of tents flying down the street.  It was really bad.  I don't have exact statistics, but we know in our hearts that it will rain during the fair on Friday.  It may be a small shower or heavy downpour but it WILL RAIN.  

We were tired and sweaty around five o'clock so we decided just to go to dinner.  We have a favorite Greek place that we always go to.  Since we were on the other side of the town due to changing up our route, we got in the car and tried to drive over.  Parking on that side of town wasn't looking good and we just decided to go to the Red Lobster out by where we live.  The air conditioning in the car sure felt good.  Then about five minutes later the heavens opened up.  There was the "art fair downpour" we'd been expecting.  It was fun watching the people scurry like cockroaches when you turn the lights on!  I know that feeling - we've been there too many times to count.  It only lasted 10 minutes but really did help cool down.

Get into the restaurant and then the lights go out.  It was only about 10 seconds and they were back on, but then another storm came.  This one was much bigger and the winds were very strong.  That one lasted about 30 minutes and since we were inside weren't paying much attention.  Driving home the six miles you could tell that the closer we got to home, the worse it was.  There were trees and leaves and branches and trash cans everywhere.  Pulling into the driveway it looked like a war zone.  Of course, there was no power.  It was still very hot, and now really humid.  I didn't see much damage until I went to the far side of the house and saw this.
There was a nice 12 foot high ornamental flowering cherry tree in this area, now it is tangled up with some branches that fell from the 70 foot oak trees that are nearby. The clean up task will begin.  There are leaves and branches everywhere.  I suspect it'll be a couple of weeks before things look normal again.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday - Glass Musings!

I was planning on posting this a little bit closer to the actual day when I celebrated one year of writing this blog.  Like everything else this summer, I haven't done much blogging.  This is one of the strangest summers in a long time.  The heat and humidity, along with the raft of thunderstorms and tornadoes have left me in a mood to not do very much.  Thus, I'm two weeks past due in celebrating.  

July 5, 2009 was the first post.  My intent was to post a few times per week.  I posted 66 entries in 52 weeks - actually 54 weeks given the delay.  That works out to 1.2 posts per week.  Far short of the 2 or 3 I planned.  Looking back, I started off pretty good, got some good spurts in, and now have lost steam.  I don't see that coming as a result of not wanting to continue to write about my adventures in glass land, just a reality that I have a lot of things to do.  Glass has taken a back seat since early this spring and thus everything related has fallen by the wayside.  

I plan on writing more in the coming days and weeks.  I know I've said that before, but I have a few unfinished projects that I need to complete.  I have some new blown glass work that I'm pretty happy with as well.  Stay tuned.  

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What Happened - A Frustrating Result

Well, here is a really strange result.  I created a strip-cut blank and a incorporated some of the murrine tiles I made a while ago.  It is all made from Bullseye glass so I'm pretty sure it is all compatible.  I spent several hours cutting the strips, alternating clear and opaque ones which looked really nice when setting up the layout.  I used murrine that had clear glass centers surrounded by an amber brown color.  These made little windows or stepping stones across the piece.  

I fused the blank in a 12" ring.  It came out perfectly - just as I expected.  I got some new slumping molds for Father's Day.  One was the deep sided bowl.  This is a 12" diameter mold across the top but only a few inches deep.  This should have worked perfectly in my small kiln.  In a nutshell - IT DIDN'T.  

The picture above is what I saw when I opened the kiln.  I peeked when the piece was heating up to make sure everything was OK.  At a little over 1000 degrees (F) it was perfectly fine.  It was late so I went to bed, around midnight, knowing that it would take most of the night and the next morning to slump, anneal, and cool.  

A couple of notes, I had a good kiln wash on the mold.  I was happy and it was uniform.  Note that the glass came out perfectly fine from the mold and only had a slight dusting of kiln wash residue which wiped right off.  The blank was perfectly centered in the opening and was very level.  The mold has an indented bottom on the outside so I didn't think it needed to be up off the kiln floor.  The only other thing which is a little unusual is the placement of the thermocouple.  It is about 3/8" from the side of the mold.  It isn't touching the mold but its placement meant I had to keep the entire set up slightly off center in the kiln.

Here is a more close up picture of the break.  Note that the piece seems to have slid down the sides of the mold unevenly as one side is higher in the mold than the other.
I used the following schedule which I felt was conservative.  I peeked in the morning when the temperature was about 750 and the piece was cracked.

Step   Rate    Temp (F)   Hold
  1      100      1000         60
  2      240      1240         30
  3      9999     900          180
  4      50        700           0

The picture below is a close up of the crack from the underside.  Note that it is very smooth and fire polished.

 So I'm really at a loss to explain why this happened.  It isn't a compatibility issue that I can see.  All the white, red, and clear strips where full length strips so there was no piecing together.  Seems to me that since the edges of the crack are smooth that the piece cracked sometime after the 1000F mark but before the full fuse.  

Help?  Thoughts?  Ideas?

Friday, June 11, 2010

I'm Not Dead!

I've been busy.  This past five weeks have been pretty crazy.  I realized it had been over a month since I'd posted.  In fact, it has been five weeks for both posting and glass in general.  Wanted to drop a note here to say "I'm not dead".  I'm alive and kicking.  Not much happening in glass, though.  

I am trying some new things in blown glass.  Some really tall, thin necked pieces.  I hope to take some pictures this weekend and I'll post those.  In the fusing world, I made one piece in the past month using the "strip" method.  No - get your mind out of the gutter - it doesn't have to do with taking off ones clothes.  It is the method of cutting lots of strips of glass, standing them on edge, and using them to make interesting patterns.  I used some of the murrine I made this winter.  I'll never get used to how many strips you need for a piece.  It took a lot more time (and glass) to make the blank.  I haven't slumped it yet and don't have a picture.  Again, that is on the plate for this weekend.

By the way, the title of this post, "I'm not dead", comes from one of my favorite movies - "Chilly Scenes of Winter".   Here is the link from the Internet Movie Database.  Note that they've changed the name to "Head Over Heels" which makes no sense.  The classic line comes from the mother, played by Gloria Grahame, who always responds to her son's question, "How are you?" with "I'm not dead".  I've loved that line since 1979 when the movie first came out.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Floating Away

Been quite busy lately and haven't had time to post.  A while ago, I posted about some float (window) glass that a buddy of mine obtained quite cheaply.  You can follow that thread here and the first test results here.  I certainly was amazed by the results which wasn't at all what I expected.  I posted my results and asked some questions over at the Warm Glass forum.  The answers told me that I should have expected the results.  But I wasn't happy.  The holy grail of cheap clear casting glass was theoretically in my sights and I wasn't giving up quite so easily.

Off to the kiln for round two.  Since the first test wasn't flat, and took way too long to grind, I decided to fire the test piece longer and hotter.  The test pieces are 8" rings about 1" thick.  This is something that easily fits in my little kiln, doesn't take forever, and is easily repeatable.  I doubled the length of time for the melt and added 150 degrees to the top temperature.  Glass I'm used to would have been in a puddle on the floor at those times and temperatures.  Here is a picture of the second test.

Now this is strange.  It's hard to see in this picture but the glass went completely milky white.  The previous piece had "veils", but this piece is completely opaque.  It was definitely flatter, but certainly isn't smooth.  The bottom was pretty good, but this still has a long way to go before I could say I have an 8" flat disc.  My guess right now is that even longer/hotter wouldn't get where I want to be.

That left another test to do.  What if I took the glass, crushed it into frit, and then cast that.  That is a good way to work with other types of glass.  So I put a bunch of the float cullet in the kiln, heated it up to about 1100F, and then quenched the hot pieces in a bucket of water.  This sets up a bunch of internal fractures in the pieces, but they don't shatter immediately.  Hitting them with a hammer creates a fairly uniform gravel (frit).  The best way to describe it, is that they are like fat grains of rice. 

I weighed the first test piece which was 2.5 pounds.  I then weighed out the same amount of the frit, so I'd have a good comparison.  Of course, the frit mounds up as there is quite a bit of air spaces in between each of the grains.  It should all melt down flat.  Off to the kiln with a schedule that I thought would work, based on previous frit casting.  Boy was I surprised.

The picture is sort of out of focus, so sorry for that.  But you get the idea.  This looks like the surface of piece of sandpaper enlarged a hundred times!  This isn't flat, not even close.  However the color is much more uniform, even if it is white.  That I expected based on previous frit casting with transparent glass.  I wasn't ready for the surface texture.  Longer and hotter for this piece is needed as well.  

Finally, I had a friend polish the first test piece.  This is quite nice.  I like the veiling effect, but you certainly see the shape outline of the original cullet.

Well, its off to consider other options and tests. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

1000 Visitors and Counting.

Wow - I first created this blog on July 20th of last year.  I didn't know if anyone would visit or come back a second time.  I started with Google Analytics from day one to track the reading of this blog.  For the last week or so, I've noticed the number of users creeping up.

This morning marked a milestone for me.  As of today, 1000 different people have visited the site.  Of course, some of these may be the same user coming from different computers.  But this is still a large number and I've very pleased that so many people have cared to see what I have to say.  And that people come back for more - that is even more satisfying.  

I guess I need to post more often.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Casting - How do I Account for These Results?

The first results are in.  The first casting/fusing of the nice, cheap Guardian float glass is complete and I'm at a loss to explain what happened.  The first part of the story is here.  This first picture is a bucket of cullet.  It was approximately $4 for 40-50 pounds.  Great price.

Even in the bucket, this stuff looks great.  Even though it is a "float" glass, the type of glass used in windows, it doesn't show the usual greenish tint.  The picture below shows some pieces laid out on a paper towel, to give you an idea of how crystal clear it is.

So I piled up a bunch of this stuff in a 9" casting ring in the kiln.  It probably was a little over two inches high in most spots.  I knew it would melt down and I was going for about an inch and a half in thickness.  I understood that there would be lines and ghostly images where the various chunks where, but overall I thought I'd get a fairly transparent disc of glass.  Instead this is what I got.

This was melted at 1500 degrees (F) for 120 minutes.  The surface is quite bumpy still, and you can clearly see the outlines of every chunk of glass.  The texture is fairly smooth, and doesn't feel like devitrification, which in my experience is quite rough and "crackly".  The bottom is fairly smooth as shown below.

The bottom is a little closer to what I expected, but still it is very cloudy - not clear at all.  Anybody have any thoughts?  I haven't worked with float glass and am a little puzzled.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cheap Casting

I am finally going to get more serious about casting glass.  I have several ideas, which I won't detail here now, but stay tuned.  More in the coming weeks.  Anyway, I needed to find a way to test out some ideas without breaking the bank.  Really nice glass can cost $8 to $10 per pound - or even more.  That is just too much for me to waste learning techniques and trying different things.

One of my friends found that the local glass factory sold broken stuff for next to nothing.  I won't give the place away as I don't want the convenience and low cost to be taken away!  I think the price is under $0.10 per pound.  This glass comes in half-inch thick chunks.  I'd say that the average is from about 1" square to 3-4" pieces.  The glass is very clear, even though it is a float glass which is usually found in windows.  The nice part is that there isn't any green tint that is associated with this type of glass.  

I took my 9" ring and loaded it with about 5 pounds of the chunks.  It is in the kiln now.  I'm trying to see how well it melts and what kinds of veiling or other remnants show up.  Stay tuned for the update when it comes out of the kiln tomorrow.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I finished a big chore of pulling out all of the glass I have and sorting, cleansing, and other spring cleaning tasks about a month ago.  You can read about it here.  This resulted in my living room having three areas of glass being displayed.  In a similar theme to the movie "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly", I have - "The New, The Decent, and The Seconds".  The "New" are the Rothko's that I've been making over the past nine months or so.  See them here. The "Decent" are those that I either want to keep personally for now as I like them too much or would be stars of the show in an art fair.  Finally there are the "Seconds".  These are the pieces that I like or are good enough to sell, but aren't the best.  These would be things that I'd sell cheaply at art fairs or during a planned "yard sale" later this spring.  I like to have things available that are less expensive than normal.  Right now, they are occupying a large portion of my living room floor.  Here is a picture.  Wanna buy them?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Forest of Rothko's

I've blogged previously about the Mark Rothko-inspired pieces I've been blowing here.  I've completed quite a few and put them all on a display shelf to try out different arrangements.

I made the display shelves as well.  I been doing woodworking for about thirty-five years and may be better at it than glass!  This display is a little over three feet tall and almost five feet wide.  

It is interesting to mix and match the various colors and shapes.  The speckled ones on the top two shelves are very different depending on how you view them.  Looking straight down into them, especially the flatter ones, give wonderful reflections.  

There is a lot of work represented here - there is at least two hours into each piece, some as much as three.  Blowing them takes about 20-30 minutes max, and then upwards of two hours of cold working (grinding & polishing).

I feel tired now.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Stripping . . . for Fun and Profit

OK, so that title is a little misleading.  Maybe I'll get some new readers that way when they are Goggling the subject.  Anyway, a lot of the fused glass I am making requires a lot of glass strips to be cut out of sheet glass.   

This is for pieces such as "Orange Bowl" shown here and even the murinne pattern bars I've recently started making.  The problem is that a piece may require hundreds of strips of glass, all the same width.  In this case, these are half-inch wide strips.  These are then stacked together on their edges to make the layup for fusing into a single blank.  Cutting that many strips is a real PITA (pain in the you know what).  Cutting them all the same size, within maybe 1/32" is even more of a PITA.  

I've got a ghetto set up where I use a very good strip/circle cutting tool but it is limited to cutting one piece at a time and therefore way too slow.  The accuracy is OK, but not really what I need.  I've seen some commercial strip cutting tools that are many hundreds of $.  That isn't in the cards, and after seeing them I've always felt I could build it myself.  I just didn't have the whole thing worked out in my head of how I could do it with stuff I could get at the big box stores such as Lowes or Home Depot, or even order from Graingers.  

That is when I happened upon a post on the Warm Glass site advertising plans for a strip cutter that can be made with the source of parts being Lowes.  And they only wanted $10 for the plans.  The claim was that it would cost about $50 to build.  The bonus was a link to a YouTube video showing the strip cutter in action.  Perfect.  Off to PayPal I went and after purchase, got a secure link to download the PDF of the plans.  All I can say is I'm impressed with the quality of the plans, the clear pictures, and most importantly and exact parts list with part numbers for the pieces I'd need.  

Hi Ho, its off to Lowes I go.  I spent $41 on parts.  I had the rod already, which was a very nice piece of stainless steel, which probably cost $10 with shipping.  Finally, I needed a bed/table for the thing.  I had some old plywood which seemed too rough.  I had a nice sheet of plexiglass that was the right size, but didn't think it would take the abuse.  I usually have MDF around, which would have worked, but nothing in the right size.  So one more trip to Lowes and I got a sheet of particle board covered in melamine for $30.  That is for a 4' x 8' size, and I only used about 32" square, so less than 1/3 of the piece - that's the final $10.  The glass cutting head is the key to all of this, and a replacement Toyo cutter head (one of the best) is $20 with shipping.  So in reality, this thing is closer to $80, but you might get by with a little cheaper if you had some of the things on hand.  

I can easily cut full sheets of glass using this, and I saved about $300 by doing it myself.  Here is the finished product:

And now for the closeup:

If you want/need on of these things, buy the plans and do it yourself.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Photosensitive Glass

Here is a picture of an interesting process involving hot glass (blown) work.  This could also apply to fused glass work although I haven't tried it.  


 This piece is a blown platter that is about 16" in diameter.  The intent was to blow a rondel, a round platter that doesn't really have any dips in the center and almost perfectly flat.  That is one of the ways they made window glass in the "good old days".  Anyway, this one is pretty good for me.  There is a slight depression in the middle which is about half an inch deep.  The interesting part of this is that you use a special glass color which is clear, but photosensitive.  Thus it does need to be kept in a special wrapper until you are ready to use it.  You blow the blank and then anneal/cool it.  The annealer shouldn't be opened much as the piece is light sensitive and will pick up some darkening, however it is a very large exposure time. 

The photo above shows the blank after it came out of the annealer and ready for its exposure.  I took a bunch of egyptian symbols as well as a photo of me and a colleague on horses at the Great Pyramids at Giza.  I just taped these on the glass and even used a Sharpie to write my name and date on it.  We had to work in a dark room with a safe light, just like old fashioned black and white photographic dark rooms.

This was then taken outside.  A very strong ultraviolet light, the sun being a great source is needed to expose the blank, just like a photograph.  We left it outside at high noon for 45 minutes as there was some brief clouds.  Normally 30 minutes in bright sun should be sufficient.

This is then placed in a cold annealer, brought slowly up to working temperature (around 1100 degrees), and then annealed again.  This sets the image on the blank.  You can see in the top picture the color difference.  There is an interesting color cast to the developed image and overall blank.  The original blank was a very pale blue, and this developed piece is a medium amber color.  It would take a lot of practice to figure out just how to make use of the coloring.

Overall, I was impressed with the detail you can obtain using this process.  I don't think I'll do it a lot, as it does require special glass and a means to expose it, but it sure is fun to contemplate.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In the Frame

One late afternoon last summer in Marty Kremer's fusing workshop at Corning, I found myself having a lot of leftover pieces of glass and wanted to do something different.  I had an hour or so before dinner and really didn't want to start a typical strip cut piece.  This is what I came up with from the table scraps.  I finished most of it there, but finally got around to cleaning up the edges and taking a photo.  The photo really sucks but I didn't feel like getting out the tabletop photo tent, lights, and tripod.  So I just spread out a piece of wrinkled fabric and made a quick snapshot.

I had a bunch of white and clear strips left and was playing around with them.  I thought that the alternating patter of the clear and white made a nice pattern and a reminded me of matting on a picture.  That spawned the idea of framing something interesting.  

The pattern bars are actually four strips of a communal pattern "sheet" we made in the class.  That was interesting.  We set up a 20" square on a kiln shelf and surrounded it with kiln furniture.  That was lined with fiber paper.  Then the class went to town in the scrap bins filling the interior with random cuts and colors about 2" thick.  I've done a lot of bars, but never had seen a sheet done like this.  The result was a little less than an inch thick and 20" square.  That was sliced up into half inch thick bars, 20" long.  I selected a few that I thought had a cool pattern and graduation of warm to cool colors.  

Two pairs of book matched strips were then laid down.  The original intent was to fill up the interior of this frame with the pattern bars, but even I couldn't take the jumble of color.  I settled on the two pairs you see here.  There was still an open area and I was getting hungry.  There was a nice piece of chartreuse but not nearly enough.  Rather than cut up in strips, which I knew wouldn't be enough, nor have the look I wanted, I opted to lay it flat.  This is only one layer of chartreuse and there were three layers of clear underneath it.  

Due to the way we were loading kilns, I think this one got bumped a little.  I had to trim the border a little so it isn't perfect, but it's OK.  I had a lot of kiln furniture surrounding the borders, but I probably should have used a little more.  I slumped it in a low square bowl mold and was very pleased.  The wrinkles of the fabric are a little distracting in this picture, but otherwise the photo does show the transparency, which is what I was hoping for.

Control Panel

I'm slowly going through all the stuff I've made and deciding what to do with it.  This is an example of that issue.  This piece I made during on of my workshops at Corning.  

 Well, I should say I made the pieces/parts at Corning and fused it at home.  This is a quick reference picture.  I didn't realize when I took this picture that I'd cut the corners off the picture.  You aren't missing anything as I got almost all of it.  The doughnuts were a somewhat failed effort to do a rollup of a fused panel and then pull that down into a cane that would in turn be cut into a bunch of murrine (how the heck do you spell that any way?).  I wanted the holes in the middle, that much worked.  However I got lots of variation in the diameter of the pulled cane.  This meant some of the bits were larger or smaller than the others.  

The other thing I should have done is bevel the edge of the blank form.  If you look closely, there isn't enough white to completely encircle the rings.  And I think there is a duplicate red - another lesson learned.  Have opposite colors at either end of the blanks.  

Oh well, I spread a bunch of them out on the table and I got the impression of gears.  That in turn made me think of a crazy, Frankenstein-esque control panel.  I laid this out on a scrap bit of aventurine green (sparkly).  Then with a bunch of scraps of other glass and bits, I set up this panel.  I couldn't get it fused while there, so I did it when I got home.  I wanted these to be tacked on, not nearly as much as it ended up.  I kinda like the look, but some of the random bits melted too much.  

Overall I think it's pretty cool.  Note the "signature cane" I made.  The "J" just seems to fit.  I may make some more letters for use in the future.  I am envisioning some sort of much larger piece where this control panel is just one part.  That assembly hasn't been worked out in my feeble mind yet, just another thing I could do if I have the time, energy, money, desire, drive, support, tools, techniques, skills...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Smooth Sailing, Captain Phil

A brief note to say goodbye to my favorite crab boat captain - Captain Phil Harris of the Cornelia Marie.  He was my favorite person on the TV reality show "Deadliest Catch".  I started watching that show when it first came on and don't miss an episode.  Captain Phil certainly had his share of health related as well as boat issues, but I was always pulling for him.  

You can read a little more about it here

Makes me a little worried as he was the same age as me.

Smooth sailing, captain.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hoarding and Cleaning

I really am a sucker for crappy reality TV shows.  The latest one I've been watching is a show called "Hoarders".  It shows here in the U.S. and is all about people whose houses are literally filled to the ceiling with stuff and the floors falling in.  There is a similar show that has been on the BBC for a few years as well.  I have to laugh as it really is incredible.  But I also have seen that I tend to keep a lot of stuff, even it is well packed away in tubs.  This is even true for the blown glass pieces I've made over the years.  

I've been blowing glass for a decade now.  I've made about 1,100 pieces.  Of that number, probably 600 have been sold.  Over a hundred have been given away as gifts over the years.  I have almost 200 marbles of various sizes (2" to 3" in diameter).  There were probably a hundred items that were numbered and photographed, but were cracked or in some other way defective.  That meant somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 pieces are floating around my house, basement, garage, and pole barn either being displayed or packed away.

The hoarding had reached its breaking point and now I had to cleanse.  So I spent all day Sunday rounding up all the suspects and laying them out on my living room floor.  I really should take pictures, but I don't always think of it at the time.  There were some that were now apparent that should be destroyed.  I have pictures, but they are either really bad, defective in some way, too wonky to correct, or just plain UGLY.  I got rid of about twenty of them right away.  

Then my toughest art critic (my wife) was brought in to sort them remainder.  We donate about a dozen pieces a year to various local organizations for silent auctions and other fund raisers.  She picked ones out of the pile that fit that need.  We also agreed on the ones we would keep.  My personal collection of about fifteen evolves over the years and older ones keep getting replaced with newer or better ones.  Then I had her pick ones out that we'd try to sell.  There are forty that are in that pile.  About 50 of the "Rothko" series are in various stages of finishing/displaying/readying for sale so these got spared for now.  The final fifty-ish "good" pieces were packed away for a seconds sale or some future use.  That left about fifteen more to toss.  

Probably should have been more critical, but I did get the pieces sorted, organized, and reduced in number.  


One of the pieces I was looking for was a blue "Sea Fan".  This is a really crappy picture, but it was already uploaded so I am going to use it here.  We can't find this piece!!  It happens to be one of our favorites and I hadn't planned on selling it.  It was here sometime before we packed up all the art and put out the Christmas decorations.  It isn't here anymore.  Can't really see myself selling it as it is the last one of three or four that I made.  Kinda weird.  I usually have a good sense of where anything is - and I just can't recall what happened here.  Just strange.

Oh well, guess I'll have to make more.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Rescuing an Old Piece of Glass

I've sold a lot of the 1100+ glass objects I've made over the course of the last ten years.  I figured it out, I've been blowing glass or working in glass in some way for a decade now.  Not sure if I'm getting any better, but I'm still positive that work is progressing.  

So I was cleaning out a tub of old glass last summer and this very early piece was there.  It didn't have the decorations, just a blown floppy bowl.  I liked it but really didn't have a use for it.  It didn't have a bottom so it just rocked back and forth if put on a table.  However it is a pretty good color - "Cranberry Pink" it is called.  So it sat there for a while as I pondered its fate.

At that time I was trying to decide if I wanted to invest in a plotter that cut stencils.  I'd then use the stencils for sandblasting.  One night while watching HGTV with my wife, I noticed people were using scrapbooking punches with fairly heavy cardstock.  That was an epiphany for me.  Would those punches work on sandblasting resist material?  I suggested a trip to the local Michael's craft store.  I had to take my wife so I wouldn't look like a complete idiot.  Usually when I go there looking for picture frames or gifts, I'm the only male in the store.  Anyway, I took a scrap piece of the resist to the store.  Luckily, the punches were not sealed in plastic so I could "try it out".  The punch worked perfectly and out popped a nice little stencil and I had a negative image of the design left in the scrap resist.  Two for the price of one!  I quickly bought four or five punches, and a circle/oval cutter.  

I punched out a few designs and now I wanted to sandblast.  What should I use?  That's when I spotted the cranberry dish sitting there looking ready for action.  I peeled off a number of designs and put them on the dish.  The outside seemed like the best place to put them.  I used tape to mask off the areas between the stencils and headed out to the pole barn to sandblast.  Five minutes later the tape was peeled away to reveal a really nice pattern.  

During my next foray into the cold shop, I lightly ground off the bottom punty crap so it'll sit nice and even on a table.  The final touch was to add the "tub and shower protectant" I posted about a while ago here.  Wow - really nice, the gel really makes it shine and seems to fill in the rough sandblasted texture and doesn't show fingerprints.

The picture sucks, but it was a five minute job to lay down a sheet of copy paper, get out the point and shoot camera, take the picture, adjust it in Photoshop, and post it here.

Wanna buy it?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

New / Bigger Kiln - first thoughts

I think I've maxed out my little 13" heptagon (7 sided) kiln.  It runs on 120 volts and is in perfect working order.  It is from Evenheat and has a great controller.  It just is limiting on the size / shape of work I want to do.  The seven sides, not sure why not 6 or 8, are a little weird.  I can get a 12" round kiln shelf in there.  Not too bad, but I'm limited to a square about 9" on a side.  That is OK for a small plate, but really not for the art I want to make.  

I'm thinking of a square-ish kiln that is 24" x 24" or even 24" x 36" and reasonably deep enough to do some castings that are melted through a flower pot.  That requires some depth for the mold, some space above the mold surface, and then the flower pot filled with glass.  That is probably in the 14"-16" depth.  That is a pretty big kiln.  

I've been pricing them out and they are from $1900 to almost $3000.  That is a high price for the convenience of being able to unpack it and just plug it in.  One the other building it myself gives significant cost savings, probably well under $1000.  But I need to find a way to work with the metal structure.  I don't have welding equipment.  Perhaps I can beg/borrow/rent some.  I haven't welded in 25 years, but should be able to re-learn enough as all I'm really building is a big box.  The controller is the highest cost item with is a couple hundred bucks for what I want.

I'm about to start pricing out the components - metal, firebrick, wire elements, controller, miscellaneous hardware, and other various and sundry items.  I'll document what I find and ask for help / opinions.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Shameless Self-Marketing

I get asked all the time for photos of my work, my email, etc.  I usually point them to my web site, which is awful, out of date, doesn't have good pictures, etc.  Now I point them here to my blog, but it's harder to see a wide range of stuff.  So I put this together as a "one pager" I can hand out to people.  For obvious reasons, I've blurred my contact info.  You can contact me via this blog.  

I am going to keep updating this picture as time permits as some of my best work still didn't make it into this picture as I only had an hour or so to put it together.  What do you think?


Online Glass Resources

I thought I'd take a minute and post links to the three online glass forums that I check regularly.  For the non-glassies out there, these won't mean a thing, but they are wonderful places to find out information quickly and from fellow glass workers (artists and wannabes).

First, for blown glass work, I check out Craftweb Hot Glass Talk.  This is the place to be if you want to know anything and everything about the hot shop, glass properties and chemistry, or life in general.

Next, for warm glass (fusing, slumping, kiln casting, etc) I recommend the Warm Glass bulletin board.  There are many about five thousand members - probably twenty-five who post very frequently.  Got a question - there is the place for answers.

Finally, for sand blasting and carving questions, I go to the Sand Carving forum.  If you want to know anything about sand blasting, sand carving, stenciling, photo etching, or related topics - this is the place to be. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I can't believe it's been almost five days since I left Corning for the long drive back to the Ann Arbor, Michigan area.  It was pretty uneventful - thankfully.  I found myself dozing off, especially on the long slog through New York.  No traffic and dead tired.  I had to stop several times for five minute cat-naps.  That is something I never do.  Must be getting old.

I don't have any updated pictures since I had to unpack and immediately turn around the next morning and prepare for a business trip to Houston.  I hope to update the pictures this weekend so stay tuned.

I titled this post "Retrospective" as that is what I did a lot of during the drive - at least when I was awake.  Some workshops I've attended, I come home with finished projects, others I come home with nothing.  Here I came away with a new found understanding of processes that can be used to combine warm glass work (fusing), hot glass work (pulling cane, glass blowing), and finally cold work (grinding, polishing) into one finished piece.  I can hear my inner self saying "it's not about the destination, it's about the journey".  How true in this case.  

The other thing I learned is a new way to break down glass objects that involve patterns into their component parts and combine in new and interesting ways.  I'm not sure where my work will take me - that is part of the inner retrospection that I need to do.  I like the things I've learned but now it's time to put them into action.  

That last part became clear to me.  One of the most exciting things that happened during the week at Corning didn't have anything to do with the workshop.  I actually sold three pieces to the Glass Market at the Museum which they will be offering for sale.  I took a bunch of pieces, as it was unclear what they were looking for based on the initial meeting last summer.  I was a little surprised at the pieces they chose.  Glad I had a selection.  I'm waiting to see what happens and if they want additional pieces if these sell.  It became clear that being good at something isn't enough.  You have to develop your own personal style.  The "Rothko" pieces I sold to the Glass Market are unique.  I combined a lot of techniques that I've seen or learned into a simple, yet complex piece of glass that others are not making. 

My goal is to figure out how to incorporate the newly learned processes into unique pieces that people want to own.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's Over - What a Week!

Day 6 has come and gone, and the workshop at Corning with Giles Bettison has been completed.  Day 6 (or day 7 if you count the introductory dinner on Sunday evening) is usually the most hectic.  The day starts early and the students are busy making as much stuff as they can, trying out different techniques we've learned this past week.  Instead of working until 11pm, the day ends at 4pm with a full shop cleanup after that.  It took us about an hour and a half to completely disassemble and clean the hot shop, the cold shop, the glass cutting workroom, and anything else we might have made a mess of.  This is a really hard thing, but it is wonderful to walk in the shop Monday morning and have everything clean and shiny and ready to go.

Today I pulled one cane and made a small vase utilizing the "rollup" technique we learned this week.  The finished canes from yesterday are shown in the picture below.

Here are three photos of the vessel I made yesterday.  One thing to note, I put in a signature murrine (a "J" in case you couldn't guess), but it has one problem.  I got the top/bottom thing correct, but I hadn't counted on the instructor wanting to flip the piece front to back.  Hence the "J" is backwards in the finished piece.

Note that these pictures were done by a professional photographer that the Studio brings in for students to utilize her services.  You can sign up for one hour time slots and it is great.  I brought a bunch of stuff to have photographed in addition to the pieces made during the session.  I post on those pieces in the next post.


Day 5 is in the Books

Well, the fifth day is now in the books.  Today was a lot of work.  First, we got to see the canes we made yesterday.  Here is a pictures of the "Ants" cane that I took four lengths of, bundled, and repulled into a new cane.  The four bars were tack fused in the glory hole, and then cased in clear before pulling down.  I think the final is somewhere about 3/4" in diameter.

The cane on the left is the stack I made yesterday. This slice isn't all that straight.  I have quite a bit of this particular cane that is much straighter.  I've bundled four sections and have it ready to pull tomorrow (the last day).  Here is a picture.  Sorry for the poor quality but I was having trouble with the close up function on the camera tonight and it was low on battery life so I wanted to get a quick shot before the battery power ran out.  I will cover this in clear and keep it a square cane, I think.

Here are the other two canes from yesterday.  I really like the "window" cane on the left, even though the picture here isn't that good.  The stacked cane on the right is very colorful - again I apologize for the photo quality.

Maybe this close up will help.

We concentrated on rollups today - I made a small vase from the layout I posted about yesterday.  I changed it slightly from the picture.  It should be out of the kiln tomorrow morning, just in time for my scheduled photo shoot.  More on that tomorrow.

Finally, I created a simple rollout which I will create into a vessel tomorrow.  More to come.



Friday, January 15, 2010

I've Got Blisters on my Fingers

While only one finger, and it's a small blister - but I have it.  Burned myself very slightly tonight and it was all just a stupid mistake of touching a hot pipe at the wrong end with my index finger.  Stupid.  Now for the real story of today.  

The point of today was to pull more, stack more, cut some, restack some of the cut cane, repull it if necessary, and get stuff ready for tomorrow.  In the midst of all that we watched some demos, got a tour of the contemporary glass collection at the museum, and worked out butts off. 

The first picture is of the five canes and one slice off of them that are out of the kiln.  The "ants" one (as my family had dubbed it) was restacked and pulled today.  It'll be out of the annealer tomorrow morning.  

The next picture is of a set up for a rollup which will be rolled onto a core of clear and then blown out into a vase shaped vessel (or a close approximation thereof).  Check out that triangle cane.  That was a last minute decision as we'd been doing squares for the most part, and a few people did a round one (I did one today), but no one did any other shapes.  I think this clear cane will really be cool with the white (french vanilla, actually) border.

I put two more stacks in tonight for pulling in the morning.  The two pictures are below.  Sorry for the poor picture of the second one.  I didn't realize the camera didn't focus correctly until after they were in the kiln.  

Stay tuned - we have two days to go!