Friday, May 17, 2013

Making Fused Glass Pattern Bar Pendants & What I Learned

Since I'm making functional art glass (e.g. plates, bowls and platters) using pattern bars, I thought I would see try my hand at using pattern bars as pendants.  I decided to pursue two styles, the bookend pattern bar (where there's a mirror image) and the Roman pattern bar (which has a series of columns).  I also wanted to play around with shapes so that the design could be accentuated.  

For the bookend pattern bar, I decided on a fat triangle or fan shape as I liked seeing a wider portion of the glass to reflect the mirror image.  To help decide on the shape, I have a number of plastic templates like the kind you would use in drawing architecture plans. However, if you didn't have these, you could also cut shapes out of paper.  This gives you an idea of what the pendant will look like once it's cut.  For the Roman pattern bar, I decided on a trapezoid shape. I was a little limited on the width as it's only one bar (whereas the bookend is two).

The next consideration was what type of bail to use.  I had planned on cutting a donut hole on the trapezoid shape but once I received the drill bit, I realized it wouldn't work on my Dremel.  Note: I guess a new drill is on the "to buy" list sometime in the future.  Also, since each of the pendants have transparency built in, I didn't want to use a standard bail.  So, I decided to try using pinch bails.  To use a pinch bail, you need to drill a hole in the glass and then "pinch" the bail closed through the holes.

Lessons learned:
  • Buy a lot of drill bits.  One bit can drill one pendant or it can drill several.  On my first round, I went through a pack of 6 in no time and had more left to drill. Next time, I ordered a pack of 25.
  • Don't try to stretch the drill bits - as soon as it looks like the diamond coating is worn off, toss it.  Otherwise, you will end up cracking the glass. You'll know the diamond coating is gone when you see the hole is black or the drilled run-off is black or the bit doesn't seem to make a much of an impression.
  • Drill from both sides rather than trying to make it through on one.  This gives a cleaner hole and you're less likely to have a larger puncture mark.  To help identify where to drill on the back side if you're drilling through opaque glass, I put a pin in one side and view from the side, so I can determine where to mark on the back side to line up the hole.
  • Buy large bails.  Since I knew the glass would be 6mm or so, I needed to get a wide bail.  However, in addition to being wide, having long bails also helps as you need the length plus width to help get the bail closed around thick piece of glass.  I originally purchased a shorter bail for the above pendant but it wouldn't close.  Note: with larger bails, you may need to cut the prong length.
  • Use jewelry pliers, if you have them, to close the bails - I have chain nose pliers that helped pinch the bails shut.
It certainly was a learning experience making these but I'm glad that I tried it.  I like the look much better than the standard bails, although one of these days, I still need to try making donut pendants.