Sunday, 9 May 2010
Microwave Dichro Kiln Test!
Tonight I will be testing the FuseworksTM microwave kiln in the hope that it produces good enough results for us to both stock it and teach workshops using it.
I've been making fused glass pendants for over 3 years now but have only ever worked with bullseye glass and a 'proper' kiln (a Paragon SC2) so it will be very interesting to see how a microwave kiln compares.
I will be testing the Beginner's Fusing Kit which includes the microwave kiln, kiln paper, an assortment of glass, a glass cutter, hot mitts, bails & instructions - I'm intrigued to find out if the kiln works the same with my usual Bullseye glass but those experiments might have to wait till another day.
The kiln has to be pre-fired before it's first use and then left to cool for 30 mins which will give me plenty of time to prepare pieces to fuse. My initial reaction on unpacking the kiln is wow that's tiny (8.5 x 12cm) - I wasn't expecting it to be large but did expect it to be a lot closer to the size of the box than it is! The surface available to fuse on is a 7cm circle but when you take into account a sensible gap the maximum piece you could make would be 5.5 x 3cm or 4.5 x 4.5cm I think. Probably only a maximum of two small pieces at once e.g earrings.
The glass cutter provided is one of the ones that work dry (without cutting oil) - I found this much harder to use than my usual cutter but this could just be a case of what you're used to, also the glass is fairly thick and can't be broken by hand (at least not by me!).
Right kiln paper cut, glass cut, piece assembled; time to fire! My microwave is 800w so 3-4 minute fuse time is recommended (this seems crazy to me as I'm used to programme which takes over 2 hours for the kiln to reach fusing temperature, ~800c, and 5 hours to complete the cycle). After 3 minutes I take a peek - the glass is hot but hasn't fused yet so I try another minute, amazingly after this the piece has fused. I now have to leave the lid on for at least 30 minutes to let it cool down slowly and anneal (vital for durability of the piece without proper annealing a glass is liable to break, not necessarily straight away though it could happen many weeks or even months down the line).
My first attempts are disappointing,
with sharp burred edges. I know a bad workman blames his tools but I can't help feeling that it could be related to the kiln paper, which feels rough like fibre paper so I'm going to try my next piece using Bullseye Thinfire paper. My hunch was right the Thinfire paper made all the difference! However as shown in the photo,
what I thought was a transparent red which I put dichroic glass underneath was a striking opaque - d'oh! I think I'll have a go at a channel pendant next...........
Hmnnn turns out that any glue can cause the glass to shatter in a microwave kiln as it heats up too quickly, which would explain these two sorry affairs!
So now I need to make some nice examples and as i'm already cheating by using thinfire I guess I might as well use nice glass too! (The glass in the kit is quite a good colour selection but is very lacking in the clear department)
In conclusion the microwave kiln works! It's very different to fusing in a kiln and although it's very quick, if you want to make more than 1 piece in an evening, it's very slow (as you have to wait for it to cool down completely before using it again); so is only suitable for making pieces for yourself or as gifts etc. (Personally I'd be wary of selling pieces that weren't kiln annealed anyway). It's also very difficult to control the results and improbable that you'll be able to, if not impossible to achieve consistant pieces. However if you want to start fusing glass and your budget is nearer £100 than £600 then the microwave kiln could be for you.