How to Set Up a Fused Glass Studio

comments (4) June 27th, 2008     

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below14th Below14th Studio, contributor
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The below 14th studio on a messy day, and by messy I mean regular.
Basic tools include a piece of cloth, cutter, tweezers, and breakers.
Flat-nose pliers or breakers.
The below 14th studio on a messy day, and by messy I mean regular.

The below 14th studio on a messy day, and by messy I mean regular.

Photo: below 14th, 2008

Eight months ago, I had a full-time office job that I hated. I hadn’t done anything creative in a very long time, if ever. Like many, I was feeling a combination of disappointment about turning 30, of boredom with my office career, and of craving to do something bold and creative. I thought I wanted to be one of those people who get to play with bright, messy colors, but I didn't know where to start. On a whim, I decided I liked the look of fused glass and that maybe I could teach myself the craft.

A few weeks later, I bought my first kiln and although I was afraid to turn it on for a few days, eventually I tried my first firing. I was mesmerized from that first day, and the last eight months have been a joyful, rewarding, happy outburst. I won't bore you with my benevolent encouragement to try your hand at fused glass (for that kind of ambush you can visit my blog), but for those of you who are in fact curious about glass fusing but don't know where to start, I'd like to share a little bit of what I've learned.

Here is a brief tutorial on how to take the first step in setting up a fused glass studio. For about $650, you can purchase everything you need to get started. Although $650 is a good chunk of money, everything will pay for itself once you start giving away your own handmade creations as gifts (instead of buying something) or once you start selling (why not?) your work!

The first thing you will need, of course, is the space. A small table will be enough in the beginning. Although you want a table that's relatively sturdy so that you can cut your glass on it comfortably, the most important thing is that it should have a tabletop that you can abuse and not worry about. You will most likely destroy it within two weeks, with cuts, spills, scratches, and coffee stains.

Something to keep in mind is to put a thick rug or a yoga mat under your table and chair and cover as much of your floors as possible. Tiny bits of glass get on my floor all the time, and I've already ruined them by not covering them from the very beginning. So make sure you cover yours and that you ALWAYS wear shoes.

Now that you have a space, you need some tools. Your basic tools are: a glass cutter (I like the kind that you can pour the cutting oil into), glass breakers, tweezers, and a rag (or paper towels or anything to put between the breakers and the glass when you break it).

Basic tools include a piece of cloth, cutter, tweezers, and breakers.

You can buy the breakers at any craft store for about $3 and up.

Flat-nose pliers or breakers.

My tweezers are old eyebrow tweezers. I use them to pick up tiny bits of glass and hold my bails in place, etc. The sharper the tips, the better.

Sharp tweezers are essential for intricate designs.

Other things you might need, if you decide to glue your fused glass to something else (like ring bases, jewelry findings, etc.), include:

1. Flat picks (from any craft store) and razor blades (from any pharmacy).

Razors and flat picks come in handy if you need to attach your glass to something else using glue or epoxy.

2. Cutting oil and glue (or epoxy).

Two-part epoxy (only one container is pictured).

It's worth mentioning that I've included a picture of the famous E6000 jewelry glue that a lot of people use to mount their findings. I personally have found it to be really weak, so I use resin instead of glue. I still use a bit of glue just to hold my finding in place while I apply the resin. For that, you don't need E6000; any glue will work—Elmer's, Gorilla, whatever you have around the house. Just make sure it's clear so it doesn't show on light or clear glass.

Here is some glass-cutting oil and E6000 jewelry glue.

3. A glass jar with a lid for your kiln wash and a brush (any brush works, including those foam brushes from any hardware store).

Use a glass jar with a lid for your kiln wash.

4. Kiln wash (You could also use kiln paper, which is easier to use since you just cut it and put it on your kiln shelf, but wash is cheaper.) I buy basic kiln wash. It comes in a powder, which you mix with water.

The kiln wash I use is from Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland, OR.

Finally, you need the most expensive tool: a kiln, plus one or two kiln shelves and kiln posts. I can't really recommend a kiln because it depends on what you want to do: fuse, enamel, fire big or small pieces, do ceramics, etc. There are many options out there, ranging from about $350 to thousands of dollars. I have a Paragon Caldera, which I love. It's on the small side and it doesn't have a window, but it gets the job done. It's programmable and digital, which I highly recommend. If I were to buy another kiln, I would want something slightly bigger, with a window and a front-loading shelf for enamel. Do some research and find your best fit.

That's it! If you manage to get everything together, you have a fused glass studio. It's really that simple. One thing I'd like to add is that, while you don't need a special space or a lot of storage, you should keep in mind that you will be working with glass so it's best to keep your workspace very clean, if not away from your living space. Keep a surgical mask and protective glasses close by and use them if you need them. Vacuum your workspace often to clean up any bits of glass that might fall off your table. Make sure your area is well ventilated and that your electrical wiring can support your kiln. Have a small fire extinguisher handy, just in case.

I hope this information helps you. If you have additional questions, you can visit the below 14th studio's website and send in your inquiries.

posted in: tutorial, handmade, fused glass

Comments (4)

beadfairy writes: Hi, this is a great story and thank you for sharing. It was very inspiring. I myself am bored to tears with my current job and have been making jewelry for some time now selling it herea and there. I have recently decided it is time to get out of the daily grind. I currently make polymer clay beads, paper beads, and resin beads. I think fuse glass has many more options and am going to give it a shot. To save a little on the kiln, I have let my family member's know it would be a grat Christmas gift for everyone to pitch in on and then I will come up with what is left. I must tell you, your story is the reason I nw believe it can be done. Thank you so much for the information and the awsome tutorial!!!
Posted: 3:34 pm on November 22nd
gneame writes: Great article. Thinking of getting into fusing glass but was concerned about not having the proper place to do it.
Posted: 8:56 am on October 1st
trusk4u writes: Love the tutorial! Good information without being boring! I have kicked around the idea of making glass beads and such and this makes it even more appealing! Thanks!
Posted: 12:22 pm on June 27th
VictoriaNorth writes: Thanks for the great photos of your studio. Even a jar of kiln wash manages to look nice. Nice job with the tutorial.
Posted: 11:32 am on June 27th
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