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Fusing is the process where glass is heated in a kiln to a specific temperature so that a desired modification to the glass occurs. A kiln firing is heating the glass to one of these temperatures. There are three common temperature ranges used with each modifying the glass in a different manner.
Most of the objects that I fuse used two firings with some using three. The first firing is to a fusing range to produce a blank of glass from the individual pieces. I often use a single piece of clear glass as a bottom layer. On top of this I put strips of colored glass. The fusing range converts these pieces into a single glass blank. The second firing is to a slumping range. The glass blank from the first step is placed on top of a mold. At the slumping temperature range the "soft" glass falls into the mold assuming it's shape. The actual glass processing time in each firing is only about 20 minutes at the desired temperature. However, a complete firing is usually in the 15 to 17 hour range. Why so long? The glass must be heated slowly and cooled even slower so that it doesn't crack or have large air bubbles form.
On the left is shown the stacked colored glass pieces on top of a single piece of clear glass. This is what is placed in my kiln for the first firing. The glass is placed directly onto a large ceramic disk, a kiln shelf, which is raised a little from the bottom of the kiln. The photo was taken before the glass pieces were cleared as some marks associated with glass cutting can be seen. Any such marks must be thoroughly cleaned off or their residue will be fused into the glass during the firing.
The second firing would be done with this blank placed on top of the desired mold as shown in the photo on the right. The flat glass blank sits on top of the mold where gravity will have it slump down into the mold's shape at the desired temperature, approximately 1260 °.
The result of the second firing is the finished crazy color plate shown on the left. Since the plate is twice as long as it is wide, sinking into the mold has the long side pull in a little. Thus the plate is narrower, by about 1/4" on each side at the mid-point of the long side. This just gives the plate a little more "character".
A plate can be made from many colors with the individual glass segments many shapes. The limitations are the glass colors available in fusing glass and the number of shapes desired. The more complex the shapes and the number of colors used influence the final cost some. My plan is that I don't plan to use a formal template for cutting glass segments so that no two plates would ever be identical. The plate as shown is $50 (12/2011 price quote).
Packing, shipping and insurance depends some on the distance from Durham, NC. Within the continental 48 states it is usually in the $10 to $15 range. Up to 4 plates can be shipped in the same box at the same cost, thus a significant savings. Different shaped plates can be mixed with up to a total of 4 for the same cost as one plate would be.
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