Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Making Fused Glass Pattern Bars - Part 1: Prep

I have been fascinated by pattern bars as I love the colors and designs that they make.  However, the "how to's" of pattern bars are not easy to find.  So in 2009, I took a class on how to make them offered by Brock Craig in Vancouver, Canada.  While I had planned to take the class later (closer to the time I actually planned to make them), this was Brock's last class and I wanted to learn the technique, a couple of which he developed.

Here's an example of what Brock calls a "random pattern bar." I've also seen this technique referred to as a "progressive pattern bar," which I find a little more descriptive.  While I made the pattern bar in Brock's class, I finally got around to fusing the bars into a panel and I am very happy with the results.

Making pattern bars require a fair amount of prep work.  The first thing you need are dams for containing the glass.  To calculate the number of dams I would need and their size, I did the following:

  • Determined how I would use the pattern bars in finished work - this tells me the height of the dam
  • Next I made a plan for how I would lay out the pattern bars on the shelf - this tells me how many dams I needs of each size 
  • Then I made a plan of how I would cut up my kiln shelves.  Note: if you don't have a tile saw, you can go to a ceramics supply store and have them cut it for you or you can purchase dams from Bullseye, although this will get a little pricey.

It took me a while to cut up the kiln shelves as my rip guide broke and I needed to order another one from the manufacturer.  Cutting the shelves was like cutting butter - so easy compared to cutting up glass but also pretty messy as the ground ceramic was everywhere. 

Once the shelves are cut, the next step is to apply kiln wash to the dams, ideally on both sides.

I just loaded my first firing - 4 pattern bars.  It took A LOT longer than I anticipated.  Although I had already determined that my first round would contain blues and greens, it took me a while to cut the glass and figure out how I wanted to lay everything out - ideally, altering opaque and transparent glass.  I also had a problem with getting all the glass into the area for the pattern bar, so I think my pattern bars will end up thinner than I would like.  The way you're supposed to do it right is to figure out the ideal weight based on the size (which I did) but I couldn't physically get all the glass in the allotted space.  So next time, I will need to cut wider pieces and see if that works.

The glass just went into the kiln and the next post will share how they came out and show the additional bars (multi-colored) that I plan to make over the next couple of days.

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