Fused Glass Bracelets
Elegant fused glass bracelets are not only fantastic to behold, but they are also cool to construct. These handmade bracelets can be devised to match your attire, or given as a cherished present. Some people find them very uncomfortable and burdensome, even though they are beautiful and pricey. Designing these elegant pieces truly flutters the wings of your creative imagination.
It may take several tries at this method to achieve an acceptable form. Don't get frustrated if at first you can't properly bend a handcrafted bracelet. This method takes patience and practice. It is always helpful to watch a DVD on this technique.
IMPORTANT: When constructing these fused glass bracelets, be sure the kiln is unplugged and shut off before you reach in with the tongs, wear protective eye wear, cotton clothing, pull back hair, don’t wear any metal and use high temperature gloves.
There are a lot of things to think about and take into consideration when making glass bracelets. Not only do you need to decide on the design and color you want to construct, but you must also calculate the perimeter of the unique bracelet and the size of the opening so that the bracelet can be easily slipped onto an arm.
Smaller kilns are recommended for making fused glass bracelets. With a small kiln, the heat emits only out the top when you remove the lid. All you need are tongs, eye protection and relatively lightweight gloves. It's really not practical to try these in a big kiln. It takes so much time to heat up a larger kiln and it is more intimidating to open a big kiln, reach in and manipulate the glass. Not to mention the cost of heating up a larger unit and the fact that you would need protective clothing and a face shield. A small table top kiln is much easier to use for this process.
It is suggested that the larger mold be purchased. The smaller mold is said to be so small that you would need to place several layers of fiber paper on the mold to build it up.
The Fireworks brand is not the best made mold for constructing fused glass bracelets, but it is the cheapest to purchase. The Persico oval shaped mold is noticeably flatter and heavier than the Fireworks brand. The other difference between these brands is that Fireworks puts the leg coming down from the middle of the mold, while the Persico brand has two upside-down “V” shaped legs on each end of the mold. With the leg in the middle it has a tendency to get in the way when bending the cuff, with the outside legs, the middle of the form is clear for bending with the tongs.
So what are the steps to making these fused glass bracelets? Let’s take a look at the calculations before we begin.
Perimeter and Opening Sizing
One of the frustrations of constructing these bracelets is obtaining the correct size. Since these fused glass bracelets are firm and unmovable, they need to have an opening where you can slip your wrist through. So, you must not only determine the size of the wrist that this piece will be adorning, but also the thickness of the wrist.
The rule of thumb for one layer of glass is to use the wrist size minus 1/2". For two layers it is approximately wrist size minus 5/8". This is also dependent on wrist thickness. The average circumference of women's wrists is six inches. Some females have wrists as small as four and a half inches, while others have them as large as nine inches. Build up the mold with fiber paper until you have a circumference of the wrist size plus one fourth to one half inches. The general idea of the glass length and wrist size relationship is that a thin wrist needs more glass wrapped around it to stay on the person, while a thicker wrist needs less glass to allow it to be put on and taken off.
Some individuals have round wrists, while others have flatter wrists. Because of the difference in size and shape, it is almost impossible to make fused glass bracelets that will fit just about anyone. Making fused glass bracelets that will fit just about anyone is impossible because of the differences in size and shape. Glass bracelets cannot be constructed for sale or shows, because the final creation will only suit the person for whom the bracelet is made.
The length of the bracelet depends partly on how tight you want it to be on your wrist. Some people prefer a tighter bracelet that mounts snugly on their arm, while others like a looser fit. To figure out the size of the finished product, you must decide what size you want the inside diameter to be minus the size of the opening plus the allowance for the thickness of the glass. Keep in mind that a larger wrist needs a bigger gap to accommodate placing the bracelet on their wrist. Therefore, the blank needs to be smaller to get a bigger gap.
Once you have determined the fit and dimension of your particular bracelet prepare an exact size and shape blank. This will allow you to make the same dimension bracelet over and over in the future.
Design and Color
There is such a diverse selection of glass that can be used for these fused glass bracelets. There is no limit to how creative you can be in constructing these fused glass bracelets. Purchase some pre-cut dichroic strips and cap this with clear glass. Try embossing the fused piece, or twist the glass. Both of these methods are achieved at a high temperature in the kiln. These pieces can also be
by making even cuts in the blank.
Practice doing a few dry runs of shaping the glass without the heat of a hot kiln. Place the
in the kiln and practice shaping with the paddle or tongs. This will ensure that you are not only confident in your moves, but guarantee that the mandrel is placed so that it can easily be reached.
Make a few out of scrap glass before going on to attempting my intricate details and designs. This will allow you rehearsal time. This procedure does require practice to achieve a satisfactory outcome. Use regular stained glass scrap for your first few firings. Fuse two layers of glass cut from the same sheet to alleviate compatibility issues. Practice firing and bending on the less expensive glass.
Decorated and sized glass strip
Stainless steel bracelet mold
High temperature gloves
Protective base under mold
Stainless steel or copper wire
Small tabletop kiln with removable lid
Eye wear with IR and UV protection
Cut and design a strip of glass that has been measured to size. Fuse this piece to either a tack fuse or full fuse inside the kiln. Allow the piece to cool to room temperature. Make as many pieces as the kiln can hold. Do any cold work on the glass. This could be to round out the corners or add any unique designs. Clean and dry thoroughly.
Cut a section of fiber paper. Make it large enough to wrap around the mandrel with just a little more than needed to fold over itself. Be sure to build it up until you have the correct circumference for the bracelet. The circumference can be adjusted by adding more fiber paper to the mold. Use some type of heat resistant wire to secure the paper to the mandrel. Twist the wire only a couple of times to secure the paper. Some people don’t actually wrap the mold. Just place a piece of thin fire paper around the size of the blank over the mold and fire the glass.
Place the pre-fired strip of the correct length on the prepared bracelet mandrel. Make sure the piece is centered lengthwise and perpendicular to the mold. Check to see that the kiln and mold sit level. Try placing a piece of heavy terra cotta tile on one side of the base to keep it steady during the manipulation process. Place a prepared kiln shelf or other flat mold piece under the mandrel. If the piece should droop and reach the bottom of the kiln, you will want a protective piece there to avoid ruining the kiln bottom.
Turn on the kiln. Since the piece has been pre-fired and is now thicker, bring the piece up gradually. If using a temperature controller, set it to increase at a rate of 500 degrees Fahrenheit per hour until it reaches 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. Then soak the piece for about ten minutes. Go as fast as possible to 1300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Watching the glass is essential. Monitor the bracelet until it has softened and the ends have drooped and are pointing straight down. The bracelet is formed immediately after the ends point to the floor of the kiln. This usually occurs at around 1300 degrees Fahrenheit. But each kiln is different and only practice and record keeping helps you achieve adequate results. The type of glass can also change the timing of the forming. Transparent glass bends sooner, while the opaque white takes forever. Temperature and time are more dependant on the glass type, thickness and color than any chart.
The actual working time between the time the glass initially slumps over the mold and the time it starts to stretch out of shape is very short. If the piece remains too long in the slumping process, the bracelet elongates. If the piece is too cool the bracelet will move off the mandrel. If the glass jumps off the mandrel, cool down the kiln, reposition the bracelet and try again. So, keep an eye on the piece.
The graphite tongs pull the heat from the glass causing tiny fractures. Heat the graphite tongs before shaping the glass to prevent these cracks.
Once the piece has reached the desired look, turn off and unplug the kiln. Put on the heat protective gloves and UV protective eye wear. Grab the heated graphite tongs, and remove the lid of the kiln.
With the protective gloves on, use the tongs with both hands and beginning at the top of the piece. Gently glide the graphite paddles along the surface pressing the glass down and around the mandrel on one side. The slumping glass will not go around the mandrel by itself. On occasion, the tongs can leave small marks. Maintain constant contact with the glass. This motion secures the glass to the mandrel so that it stays stationary and doesn’t move out of position. Gently rotate to the edge and continue gliding until the end of the bracelet has been pressed under the mandrel. Do this for the other side of the bracelet also. Ensure that you have a secure wrap around the mandrel.
If you take too much time and the glass cools down and hardens before you get the second side bent, just close the kiln. Turn the kiln on, reheat and start again. The temperature won’t take long to rise again.
Some thrill seeking fusers don’t use the tongs, but prefer the dexterity of just the high temperature gloves or mitts. Gloves themselves give better dexterity in wrapping the glass around the form. They recommend Zetex plus gloves or PBI/Kevlar gloves. The gloves must be able to withstand the temperature. This process would also require a face shield and better body protection than just cotton clothing.
Be sure to anneal these pieces. Hold the kiln at 1000 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes. Anneal soak them for 30 minutes at 950 degrees. Allow the temperature to drop slowly but reducing the infinite switch settings. After the piece has reached room temperature it can be tested by placing the piece in a dishwasher or running hot water over the piece. If it breaks, then you will know that you need to change the annealing process.
To adjust the size of the finished bracelet, just lay the piece on a prepared kiln shelf. Bring the temperature up to about 1250 to 1300 degrees Fahrenheit. Unplug and turn off the kiln. Open the lid and use the tongs inside the piece to pry it open, or gently use them on the outside of the piece to close the opening. Don’t force the piece. If more heat is needed, plug in the kiln and bring the temperature up some more.
Problems with Fused Glass Bracelets
Gloves getting to hot to stay in the kiln – purchase gloves that can stand the heat up to 1700 degrees Fahrenheit. Gloves do come in contact with the heat and don’t always allow enough kiln time without worrying about them catching on fire.
Glass cooling quickly when kiln is open and the glass won’t mold to the form. – Shut kiln lid and bring temperature back up to 1300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Conforming glass to curves - Getting the glass to conform to the curves of the mold takes practice.
Bracelet tongs are not large enough – When making these fused glass bracelets, try cutting up some vermiculite board. Scoop out a channel in the middle that conforms to the curve of the mold. Use the board to reach in and manipulate the glass around the curve. Some individuals use a water-soaked wooden stick to help form their piece.
Thin fire paper was cut too small and the piece is stuck on the mandrel. - Just heat the fused glass bracelets back up to a slumping temperature. Work the piece toward the end of the mandrel until it is released.
Now let’s take a look at the liability of selling these fused glass bracelets. The problem with fused glass bracelets is that people don't understand how to put them on their wrists. Unlike metal cuffs which have more give, these have to be slid onto the side of the wrist where it is narrower. Then the cuff is twisted around so that the opening is in the back. The opening is too narrow for the cuff to be slid over the top of the wrist.
It is suggested that additional product liability insurance is added to your insurance policy before selling these fused glass bracelets. Another suggestion is that a written instruction and care sheet is included. The statement should let the purchaser know that glass can break, and that care is needed in the wearing of these fused glass bracelets. You should also state that you cannot be responsible for broken pieces. You also might need to demonstrate how to put the bracelet on and off before you allow them to try on the piece.
Place the fused glass bracelets behind glass or in a case and separated by size. Before you allow a customer to try on these fused glass bracelets, measure their wrist. This way you can be sure that they are trying on a piece that will fit their particular wrist. Taking control over the situation will help eliminate frustration and broken pieces.
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