Category Archives: Tips

Glass art tips from Stained Glass Express

Mind the Gap!

How close should your glass pieces be?

They should be close enough so that you are comfortable with how heavy a solder line you will end up with.

To help prevent uneven spaces, here are some hints:

  • Use push pins or jigs to hold your glass in place while building and checking the fit. That way, you won’t get one piece fitting perfectly as you are pushing another one out.
  • Make sure you have not flipped any glass over. Label your pieces to avoid this.

Before you say “good enough,” think about any holes or uneven spaces you are filling with solder. When your piece is held up to the light, those places will not let light through. They will become part of the design.

Another problem is overheating the glass due to reworking it with a hot soldering iron. You don’t want to crack your glass with thermal shock because you are adding so much solder to fill the gap. Often when you are doing this, one side looks good and then you turn the piece over and there is a gob of solder. So you fuss with that, going back and forth, heating and heating, and then you hear the dreaded tink—the sound of glass cracking and your heart breaking!

The best fix—sorry to say—is to recut.

Be patient with yourself. This is a skill—so practice and don’t give up.

Photo courtesy of Inland.


Bottle Club


Don’t you just hate to throw out those wine and liquor bottles?  They are quite nice with the graceful shapes and the beautiful colors.   Make them into fused art!

First (and most important) step is to clean them.  The labels and any glue must be completely removed to be sure that no residue is fused onto the glass.  Use very hot water with ½ cup baking soda and 1 tablespoon of dish soap.  Submerge them in the water and let them soak for 10 minutes then add 2 cups of white wine vinegar.  Roll your bottles around so the vinegar mixes in.  Let them soak until you can get the labels off.

Once the bottles are clean you have some options.  You can just lay it in the kiln and full fuse it.  This one just has a little decorative wiring and some etching.  You could add a decorative knife and have a nice little gift.

Another option is to use a bottle mold.  There are all types available.  See the full collection here.

There are textured molds.  The one above has a lovely Tree of Life motif.

Drop molds, such as the one above, make an interesting shape.

You also can use a textured flat mold, such as the one below, and then slump it into a bottle mold.

You may get devitrification with some bottles.  To prevent it, spay with a divit spray like Spray A.



No Bad Luck Here!




Don’t think of it as seven years bad luck, think of it as an opportunity to be creative.  If you are worried about the seven years of bad luck you can bury a piece in the garden and that will stop it. (so I have heard). Here are some ideas for broken mirrors, most of which I got from Fusing 101:  Any and Everything You Wanted to know but Were Afraid to Ask.

This from Jane Wimbury.  How sweet is that!

Another idea is to get Styrofoam balls and make garden balls.  Or use an old bowling ball:

Frame the irregular shapes for eclectic mirrors:

Just put it back together roughly for a high interest look.  Many of these ideas from dyi.

I can see this done with wine corks, as well!

Try  your own designs – Good Luck!

Glass Fusing Q&A


Q: When I fuse my projects, sometimes I get medium to small bubbles. What causes them and how can I prevent them?

A: Bubbles can be caused by many different things. First, uneven stacking of glass can result in air trapped between layers. To prevent this from occurring, check the placement of all the glass pieces and insure they are sitting properly on the base. Since the edges of the glass fuse before the center of the glass, cut your base glass 1/8” larger than the top layer to allow air to escape. Second, check the glass prior to fusing. Some glass may already have contained bubbles inside the glass, which may or may not affect the outcome.

Q: After I fuse my pendants, I get uneven areas around the edges. What’s happening with the glass?

A: You did not fire it long enough or to a high enough temperature for a full fuse. Try firing for a little longer time.

Q: Sometimes my glass pieces look like a porcupine with spiky edges. What causes the glass to spike?

A: Spiky edges can be caused by over-firing your piece. The spiked edges are caused by the glass grabbing as it is trying to shrink.

Q: What caused my layered glass pieces to flatten?

A: If the glass piece has flattened out too much, you have over fired the piece. To prevent this from happening, reduce your power and shorten your time. After your first firing, open the microwave and using Fireworks Hot Mitts™; carefully lift the lid to inspect the fuse piece. If the desired results have not been achieved, continue firing in 30 seconds intervals.

Q: I tried to make a 1 inch pendant with embellishments, however after I finished fusing, the glass shrunk. How can I prevent this from happening the next time?

A: Glass naturally wants to be ¼ inch thick when heated. Your glass will shrink or expand to obtain this depth. A good tip to remember is that if your piece is less than ¼ inch when you start, it will shrink up to reach this depth. If your piece is larger than ¼ inch when you start, it will want to flatten out to reach this depth.

Q: What causes two pieces of dichroic or iridized glass to blow apart in the kiln?

A: Repelling glass will occur with dichroic and iridized coatings. The coatings can’t be placed together for fusing purposes, because they repel each other. The only way to avoid this is to encase the coated glass with a non-coated glass, such as clear. This will cause the coated glass to be encased and sealed.

Q:  Yuck, this film appeared on my fused glass. What is it and how can I prevent this from happening?

A: This dull white crystalline substance on the surface of your glass is known as devitrification. This is one of the most talked about glass fusing problems around. It can occur when your glass remains in a temperature range 1000ºF-1300ºF too long. You need to minimize the time spent in this temperature range.

Gray or Scummy Edges – Gray or scummy edges can occur on pieces that have been fired once and then cold worked before refiring. Cold working involves using either a grinder or glass saw on a piece of glass. These can be avoided by thoroughly cleaning the glass before refiring the piece. Keep a bowl of clean water near your work area and soak the glass right after doing the cold work procedure. This will keep the edges damp and allow the piece to be cleaned easier. Scrub completely and let dry before proceeding with the refiring process.

Q:  My glass cracked! What happened?

A: Cracking glass either during or after firing can be caused by a several things: thermal shock, heating up the glass too fast and compatibility.

Thermal shock occurs either by taking the piece out of the kiln too soon, or by opening the kiln and exposing the hot glass to cool air.

If the glass cracked in the kiln and it has an “S” shaped crack, the piece has heated too quickly. Slow down!

Finally, if the crack occurs along the line where the two pieces of glass meet, then the two touching pieces are not compatible. Make sure the glass you are using have the same COE (coefficient of expansion).

Q: How can I prevent my glass from shattering?

A: Glass Shattering in pieces over 1” with more than 1 layer may sometimes shatter. To prevent this from occurring, reduce the power. This will allow the glass to heat slower and will be less likely to shatter. Next, make sure your glass is clean and dry before firing.

Q: My fusing instructions say to clean my glass before firing, can I use a glass cleaning spray or detergent?

A: We don’t recommend it. Detergents, dish soaps, multi-purpose cleaners, some window cleaners, ammonia and even denatured alcohol should NOT be used to clean glass. These can actually promote devitrification. We suggest diluted white vinegar or rinsing your glass with distilled water.

Q: Every time I put my fuse glass project together, the pieces roll off before I can get it to the microwave. What can I do to prevent this from happening?

A: To hold your fusing project together, mix one drop of glue.   Apply a very thin amount on the back of the glass using a brush and allow the glue to dry thoroughly before firing.


Some Info from The Frog Blog

Dichroic glass is so beautiful and there are so many uses, it is just delightful.  However, there are a few problems that knowledge can help deal with.

One is that it is impossible to tell 96 from 90 COE if you get them mixed up.  The answer to this one is—DON’T mix them up.  Keep them labeled.  If you keep scrap, keep it in a well-marked box.

It is often important to know which side the dichroic coated side is to get the look you are going for.  If it has a dark base, no problem—you can see it.  However, on a transparent base, it can look the same on both sides!  Reasons you may want to know this?

Cutting.  Always cut on the non-coated side of the glass.  It will help prevent chipping, especially on textured glass.  It also saves your cutter.

Coated Side Down.  When using the coated side down or capped with clear glass, the dichroic glass will have a smooth glossy surface and sparkle like glitter.  It will also change colors between the transmitted color and a completely different reflective color, depending of the angle of view.

Coated Side Up.   If you use the dichroic glass with the coated side up or uncapped, the dichroic surface will have a highly metallic sheen.  The piece may additional be rough and textured depending on the type of dichroic glass you are using.

This is what to do.  Place the glass over a dark background.  Look at the glass at an angle so that you are seeing the reflection of the dichroic.  Touch the surface with a paperclip (don’t scratch it).  The paperclip will reflect.

To know your answer.  Does the reflection meet the paper clip, or there a gap between the clip and its reflection?

Tips from the Glass Academy: Accessory Glass

So Much Fun with Accessory Glass!


Available in 96 COE and 90 COE as well as regular stained glass. You can get very hard to cut glass already cut. Animals, bugs, sea stuff, flowers, holiday items, stars, nature items, symbols, hearts, vegetables, winter items, on and on!

Shop for 96 COE precuts here


Similar to non-fusible nuggets. Approximately 1/2” diameter and 1/4” thick. Fusible. Beautiful colors.  Great to embellish your projects. They come in bags of approximately 25 pieces.

Shop for 96 COE pebbles here


Smaller than pebbles. 1/4” to 3/8” diameter. About 50 in a package. Also available in mixes.

Shop for 96 COE polka dots here




Dots are cut from rods. A convenience product. No need for you to be nipping rods. The other nice thing about them is that they come in mixed 1 oz packs so you do not have to buy a bunch of rods to get a nice variety of color.

Shop for 96 COE dots here


So much fun in a 1/2 oz package. At first glance, they look round but they are actually flat which makes them much easier to use. They are thin – the sizes range from 1/12” to 1/4”.

Shop for 96 COE frit balls here

Tips from the Glass Academy: Fractures or Confetti

Every time I look at glass fractures, I wonder how they make them. They are just fascinating. It is called fracture glass or Confetti.

It is made from eggshell-thin blown shards or flakes. They are irregularly shaped and very thin wafer type pieces of glass. This from Wikipedia “…are prepared from very hot, colored molten glass, gathered at the end of a blowpipe. A large bubble is forcefully blown until the walls of the bubble rapidly stretch, cool and harden. The resulting glass bubble has paper-thin walls and is immediately shattered into shards.”

They are usually intensely colored. Sometimes they are sold just in a container so that you can use them as embellishments in fusing projects.

Note the orange mushroom on the left

Note the orange mushroom on the left


One of the biggest uses is Fractures and Streamers glass. This glass is fused to the bottom of sheets during the rolling process. This glass is so beautiful as backgrounds for leaves or flowers in particular. To make this, a hot ladle of clear glass is rolled across a table strewn with fractures and streamers. It is often sharp on the back side so be careful about running your hand across it.

The fracture/streamer glass was something that Tiffany and his glass artisans used often as backgrounds making it look like there were lots of leaves or flowers in the distance. The streamers often look like twigs or branches among the leaves, while clear streamers can look like cobwebs.


Girl with Cherry Blossoms by Tiffany studio. Not only are fractures and streamers in the background, her dress is drapery glass!

~ Janet



Tips from the Glass Academy: How We Got to Now

(some of this info comes from a summary by Jennifer Robinson)

I picked up a book on tape from my son’s counter the other day. As I was looking it over, he asked if I wanted to borrow it. “Sure!” I really love books on tape. The name of the book is “How We Got to Now” by Steven Johnson. It is about the six innovations that made the modern world.

I popped in the first CD and began listening. To my surprise, the first innovation was glass! The author went to Venice and met a descendant of Angelo Barovier, the first person to create crystal clear glass—an invention that creates a chain reaction of innovations that has made everything from deep space exploration to global communication possible.

He talks about the discovery of glass in Egypt. It is a mystery what heated the sand so hot, at least 1000 degrees, so that glass was created. It is believed this happened over 26 million years ago. Then about 10,000 years ago someone wandering around on the edge of the Sahara found it (by the way—did you know that Sahara means desert? So if you say Sahara Desert, you are saying desert desert!). Probably something hot falling from the sky was the cause of the heat. This piece of glass was then found in King Tutankhamen’s (King Tut’s) tomb in 1922. It had been carved into a Scarab Beetle.

The author talks about how mirror gave rise to the Renaissance, how glass lenses allow us to reveal worlds within worlds and how, deep beneath the ocean, glass is essential to communication.  He talks about glassmakers and a physics teacher who likes to fire molten glass from a crossbow. He talks about the development of art glass.

The link between the worlds of art, science, astronomy, disease prevention and global communication starts with the little-known maverick innovators of GLASS!

Just in case I have your curiosity going, the other five innovations are: refrigeration, clocks, water purification, recorded sound and artificial light.

~ Janet

Tips from the Glass Academy: Cylinder to Sheet

I guess being in the art glass business gets you thinking about things that others may think about. I wonder about how a piece of mouth blown glass which ends up in a cylinder shape, gets to be a sheet. So I research and blog. Here we go.

First the glass artist “gathers” the molten glass on a pipe.


They constantly rotate the pipe and work through different molds, adding more glass if necessary.   Then they blow into the pipe to bring it to a ball shape.


Then they take the ball of glass and cut it open on both ends and work it on a wood mold to form the cylinder shape.


This picture is not a great one because the cylinder can be like 24”.

The cylinder is then scored lengthwise with a glass cutter. It is scored on the inside of the cylinder.   The scored cylinder is then reheated and flattened. When it is very hot, they use a long tool that looks like a broom stick to push it apart at the score and let it flatten.

It is then cooled slowly in the lehr to remove the tension.

~ Janet

Tips from the Glass Academy: Trautman Glass Rods

Paul Trautman’s Contributions to Modern Boro Color Production

The following information is from

There was a time when American artistic lamp workers only worked with clear borosilicate glass; these were the guys making little glass menagerie animals at the carnival or Disneyland. The Italian soft-glass sculptors had color but the Pyrex glass workers used paint, or, if so inclined, mixed chemicals into some of their clear glass by hand to make a little bit of color for their sculptures. Then came Paul Trautman.

Immersed in both the arts and sciences, Paul worked with neon and played with the artistic side of lampworking, including the art of hand mixing color. At one point in his career, he even made lab equipment, but Paul was thinking big. By the mid-1980’s, Paul Trautman had conceived, designed, and built the world’s first commercial operation to manufacture colored borosilicate rod glass. Northstar Glassworks set the standard for modern boro color production, and now several small companies are using Paul’s techniques to manufacture colored glass. These companies also use recipes pioneered by Paul, which expanded the borosilicate glass palette from a few red and blue transparent colors into bright opaque jewel tones and highly reactive metallic colors that shift their hue depending on the atmosphere of the flame.

Paul sold Northstar in 2002, intending to return to art and his own lab, but the urge to mix color (and requests from his fans) lured Paul back to manufacturing on a smaller scale. After perfecting his recipe for a self-striking ruby red – the hugely popular Red Elvis – Paul started working on both a new palette and on improving some old favorites.

Dark Red Black Elvis


To view our inventory of Trautman Art Glass, click here