Raku on a Winter’s Day

One of our friends asked about our raku firing process. Some of the steps are just like any other pottery process: think of the great idea, make something close to the great idea, and bisque fire it. The glazing process this time was only slightly different from the norm: 2 thin coats of a copper matte glaze, versus the usual 3 coats for most other glazes.


Getting ready for the actual raku firing today involved some extra steps.

  1. Unload half of the shed, including all the patio furniture you stored for the winter, to get to the raku supplies. This confuses the neighbors and makes them wonder if you’re having an unusual yard sale.

  2. Spend a minimum of 5 minutes fussing about how cold it is. Briefly admire how awesome you look in your fuzzy red hat.

    Baby, it's cold outside!
    Baby, it’s cold outside!
  3. Get out the instructions so you can remember how to build the kiln.
  4. Make about 15 trips back and forth, in and out of the house, getting supplies you forgot.
  5. Make 20 trips to and from the shed to get all the fire bricks, shelves, and stilts to set up the kiln.
  6. Load your pieces and start the firing. Rex was in charge of all things combustible, including running to the nearest gas station to get another tank of propane because we have learned from past experience.
  7. Prepare the metal cans with newspaper and other combustibles. Jen was firing some special, delicate pieces today so she was in charge of this. Plus she is picky.

    The metal can brigade, plus supplemental newspaper cones.
    The metal can brigade, plus supplemental newspaper cones.
  8. Check the state of the kiln at least 4 dozen times.  Huddle around the kiln when you need to get warm.

  9. When all parties present agree the pieces are ready, put on your kiln-unloading gear. This includes a welder’s mask, leather apron, and Kevlar gloves. You won’t be recognizable, nor will you be able to hear anything, so plan to spend a minute or two shouting instructions at each other.
  10. Lift the lid off and get busy with your assigned task. Today, Rex was the unloading master, and Jen was the newspaper and can lieutenant. There are no pictures of this, since there were only 2 of us and no free hands to take photos.
  11. Burp the cans – take the lid off, fan it until the fire re-ignites, let it burn briefly, then cover again. Move to the next can and do the same thing. If thee can woofs at you, it’s even better. Note: do not lean over the can while doing this, as it is risky to the eyebrows.
  12. Walk away from the cans. You will want to look… don’t do it. Let the pieces cool down, and you can peek soon enough.
  13. You are already bored waiting on the cans to cool, so get out the router, a work table, and some wood you’ve been wanting to run through the router.
  14. Repeat step 4.
  15. Discuss how to use the router. Decide to read the instruction manual.
  16. Use the router together. Fuss about who is tilting the wood more. Decide that you are both under-equipped to use power tools. Make several attempts and decide your efforts are enough for today.
  17. Open the cans and see the awesomeness that has hatched. 2 pieces are pretty but cracked from the thermal shock. Breathe a sigh of relief that the others survived and are pretty! Pictures to follow soon…
  18. Go directly inside and take a hot shower, put on fuzzy pants, and take a nap.

Happy Accidents

I wanted to share a little something we’ve been working on, in hopes of conjuring more spring-like weather.  This fused glass plate started out as an accident and was compounded by a second accident.



Initial plan: use Glassline pens to “draw” a flower onto a yellow glass disk, tack fuse the design, then full fuse to a clear glass disk (same size).  Outcome: we accidentally ran a full fuse instead of a tack fuse, and glass being glass likes to be thicker than the single layer we fired.  (This happened to an entire kiln load, by the way.)  The edges pulled up and rounded beautifully, while the middle was a bit thinner.  It wasn’t what I had in mind but I thought it had potential… I just had to let the ideas percolate.


Next plan: I landed on the idea of making the yellow flower disk the foot of a clear glass plate.  Around the edges of the plate, I would write “loves me” and “loves me not.”  Rex suggested adding little bitty flowers between the phrases, losing one petal at a time.  I was not sold on the idea initially but decided to try it.  Tack fuse to set the lettering and petals: initiated.  Outcome: pretty close to what I had in mind.


Next step: we discussed at length the next steps of the fusing process and decided to slump the plate onto foot and into the plate mold in one step.  Outcome: I expected the plate to tack itself to the foot, but it slumped around the foot just a bit.  Not exactly what I had in mind but it wasn’t bad… except for the devitrification on the plate.  Argh!  We’ve done quite a few firings and almost never had devit.  After getting input from a super talented glass artist on what happened, we concluded that the yucky cloudy devit happened because we fired just a few pieces (instead of a full load) on the lowest shelf (which gets hotter on the bottom and had no shelf above to help radiate the heat downward).  Now what to do.


Experiment: Rex taped off the foot and sand-blasted the bottom of the plate.  The outcome is pictured… I’d call this one of the most pleasant surprises.  We hope you like it, too.

Fusion project: new clay and glass art

We’ve been working for several months on a technique to combine several of our interests into a single product.  We believe our efforts have paid off and we can now offer these tiles made of porcelain clay and glass.  The process that finally worked for us is:

  1. Roll out slabs of porcelain.
  2. Cut out the tiles and let them dry between two sheets of drywall  This helps keep the tiles flat.
  3. Cut or carve out the designs and let the clay dry.
  4. Underglaze if desired.
  5. Bisque fire to cone 04.
  6. Glaze the tiles.
  7. This is where the process gets bifurcated.  Apply cut glass or frit to tiles before firing.  Skip this step if dichroic glass is planned for the tile.
  8. Fire to cone 05.
  9. Cross fingers.  This has proven to be one of the most important steps.
  10. If more glass is needed or dichroic glass is being used, apply glass and do a deep fuse firing.
  11. Cross fingers.  While this is a repeat step, again, it’s a very, very important step.

Hope you enjoy.


Finished! Yard Art Stained Glass Project

Yard Art

We finally finished assembling and glazing the window.  Now we have to decide where we want to put it.  All of our original locations in the yard and garden don’t seem right for it anymore.  We originally that building an easel so it could stand up or a place next to the house where it could lean.  But we are afraid of wind knocking it down or a stray rock (or baseball) going through it.  Any suggestions?

Yard Art

Oh No! Yard Art Stained Glass Mishaps and Disasters

All panes cut, foiled, soldered and fitted to the frame.  So it’s time to start glazing and final assembly.  Woohoo!  And then it happened.  I was sliding a glazing point into the frame and I heard a sickening crreeeaaack!  Sure enough, one of the glass pieces cracked.  Early on in the design I had decided to make use of the original glass.  Unfortunately that glass was thinner and old and brittle.  There was a lot of cuts that didn’t make it to the window as this glass kept breaking on me.  Fortunately, the piece that fractured was small and I was able to replace it and make the repair unnoticeable.  Back to glazing!!

That is turning out to be much harder than I anticipated.  I expected the goo used for glazing to be about the consistency of putty, but it is much thicker and you are not supposed to thin it out.

I have about a pane and a half glazed and hope to finish it out tomorrow.  Pictures of the completed window will be in the next post.  Stay tuned!!  We’ll be needing on advice on what the next step with the window should be on this journey.

Yard Art Stain Glass Window Project Update

Soldered Pane

This week’s update continues the explanation of an individual pane.  I left off on the last post with each piece of glass being foiled with copper.  Then it is pinned with nails to stabilize and secure all the glass.  After applying a coat of flux, all of the pieces are soldered together and you end up with the pane looking like this.

Soldered PaneAt this point, the pane is ready for application of a patina.  For this project I am using a black patina on all the panes.  I got sidetracked working on other panes and haven’t put the patina on this pane yet.

I did go back to the original frame and clean it up and get it prepared for insertion of the panes and glazing.  I’ll need to do some minor (I hope) adjustments for the panes to fit exactly.

There are two more panes to cut, foil, solder and patina and then it will be ready for assembly.

Jen and I have been discussing whether the frame should be cleaned up and a fresh coat of paint applied or leave it looking weathered.  What do you think?

Raku Weekend

Raku Firing

Rex and Jen working our raku kiln. Still learning but getting closer and closer. This time lapse video shows the long laborious process in just a bit over 2 minutes.  Took us all day including set up and tear down.  Bonus:  No ones eyebrows caught on fire, the fire department wasn’t called by any neighbors, and a fun time was had by all.

Raku Firing

Yard-Art Stained Glass Window – Continued

Window with Copper Foil

Let me start this post with a correction.  I had been calling this a “Barnhouse” window and Jen asked me why.  These window frames are clearly not something that would be put in a barn.  I think in my daze I meant to say “Farmhouse” window.  Regardless, these are destined to become various forms of yard or garden art.  So the work continues on it.  I thought this week’s update should highlight one of the individual panes.  By the way, this has been the easiest so far.

Window PatternFirst you cut out the pattern and number all of the pieces (before you cut them out).  A complicated pattern would be worse than a jigsaw puzzle on trying to reassemble.

Window with Glass cut

Then you cut the glass to match the pattern.









Window with Copper Foil

Then you need to apply a metal to the edges of the glass to give the solder a base to adhere to and helps to hold the pane together. This can be lead caming or copper foil. In this case, I chose to copper foil the pieces of glass. I used two types of copper foil in this pane. For the transparent pieces I used a foil with black backing and the opaque pieces I used copper backing. On the transparent pieces this will provide a better view of the edges when looking through the glass. The “foil” will disappear.

While corny, I can’t help but say, “Curses, foiled again!” everytime I get to this stage. Do you have any silly things that are part of your routine in an art project?

Barnhouse Windows – The Beginning….

Six-Pane Window

We have these old beat up six-pane windows that we’ve been moving from here to there, storing, moving some more and trying to find a place to put them.  We finally decided that we would use one of them for a stained glass project that would eventually find it’s way into our garden as a yard ornament.

Six-Pane Window

We thought you might enjoy watching the progress of this from the beginning.

After measuring the window and all of the panes, we got a large piece of paper and drafted the image that we thought we would attempt to put in the window panes.

Then painstakingly and painfully attempted to remove all of the panes.  We successfully kept one pane intact.  Disappointing, but since we were just going to cut the panes up to use in the image not a crisis.  That left the window at the state as shown here.

In the next update, we will probably show either the total image or some of the completed panes.

This is turning out to be a huge project and will take a long time to complete.  Have you ever completed similar projects?