- Art Glass Resources, and some business information
- Helpful hints and tips that we find online, in books and from our own personal experiences
- Lots of great information for Stained Glass (Tiffany and Leaded), Lampworking, Fusing, Slumping, Glass Painting, Sandcarving, Mosaics and more
- Lastly, HARRACH is pronounced, Hair - wreck
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
To view the original article and pictures follow this link Bullseye Glass Tips Sheet 5.
This Tip Sheet will introduce you to ways to create a reverse relief cast
glass object with the optical clarity of a furnace casting, using plaster silica
design elements in an open face mold assembled from vermiculite board and
other refractory materials. In this process, there will be less waste than with
traditional kilncasting processes and the majority of the mold will be reusable.
The molds themselves will be of uniform thickness, allowing for even heating and
cooling. Furthermore, the molds will not fail at casting temperature, which is
among the most common concerns in kilncasting and one of the reasons that there
is such a boggling array of mold recipes in use. The results are typically much
cleaner and more predictable than kilncasting in most of the traditional methods,
and the process is extremely easy to repeat for the purposes of making editions or
Origins of the Method
This method of kilncasting developed as an outgrowth of an artist exchange project
in our Research & Education department with Mexican artist Rafael Cauduro. Cauduro
had originally come to the factory to work in methods known as Painting With Light,
but quickly became intrigued with kilncasting processes and began to make large-scale
cast glass sculptures using traditional “monolithic” or one-piece refractory molds.
The fabrication, handling, and technical challenges posed by making and firing
these molds ultimately led the R&E team, assisted by Ray Ahlgren,* to begin researching
other ways of building the molds. After the conclusion of the project, this research
continued. TipSheet 5 will lead you through the processes that were subsequently
Where you are going: The finished piece
The end result will be a solid block of glass with relief imagery in the back of the
piece that when viewed through the flat front creates a nearly holographic image.
The top surface of the piece will be glossy and smooth. If carefully planned and
executed, the top perimeter will have a soft, bullnosed edge. Occasionally, some
cold work may be necessary or may be a tremendous advantage in the finished work.
The finished block will measure about 19.5 x 19.5 x 4cm. These dimensions may be
enlarged by adapting the general guidelines and adjusting the firing schedule.
Glass: Because clarity is essential to creating a reverse-relief casting, we recommend
using any of Bullseye’s 1800 series casting tints in billet form. Because they have
smoother surfaces and less surface area by weight than other forms of glass, billets
will trap less air than frit, powders, or sheet glass, and therefore create fewer bubbles
in the final piece. Billets are preferable not only for the clarity they produce
in the finished casting, but also because they are easy to handle, cut, and load into the
mold. The 1800 series glasses are formulated to gradually transition in color saturation
as they go from thick to thin, making them ideal for this and other casting processes.
• Clay and tools for modeling design elements
• Metric scale
• Metric ruler
• Bullseye Hydrogel N (8242), or similar moldmaking material
• Mixing containers
• Bucket of water for initial clean-up
• Bucket of water for rinse
• Bullseye Vermiculite Board (8240)
• Stainless steel (deck) screws
• Bullseye Investment (Plaster-Silica) (8244), or similar refractory investment material
• Fiber paper (7036)
• Vaseline/petroleum jelly
• Murphy Oil Soap
• 946 ml Ziploc food storage box, or equivalent
• Garbage can with liner
• Self-lubricating glass cutter
Notes on Metric measurements
For the sake of simplicity, all units of measure in this TipSheet are Metric.
The decimal format of the metric system and its direct and simple translation from
length to volume to weight in water makes it a superior system for laboratory work.
in the metric system: 1 cubic centimeter (cm3) of water = 1 milliliter (ml) of water =
1 gram (g) of water. If the interior of an empty box measures 20 x 20 x 2.5 cm,
then this interior has a volume of 1000 cm3. 1000 cm3 of water is equal to
1000 ml of water, which is equal to 1000 g of water. Bullseye glass is 2.5 times denser
than water, so it would take 2,500 grams of Bullseye glass to fill this same volume.
Making a mold for multiple copies of a model
preparing a model using clay or a found object:
Prepare a model no larger than 5 x 5 x 3 cm using either water- or oil-based clay.
This model will be used to make the design elements that will create the reverse
relief imagery in the final casting. Water-based clay is usually softer than oil-based
clay, can be modeled very quickly, and can be reused and recycled. However, it
will dry out over time and will shrink as it does so. Oilbased clay is usually firmer,
does not dry out, holds fine detail very well, is reusable, and releases very easily
from most mold materials such as alginate, rubber, and silicone. Found objects
may need to be coated with a release, such as Vaseline or Murphy Oil Soap.
For this particular process, the model itself should have minimal undercuts.
Undercuts on found objects can be filled in with clay. The very bottom portion of
these design elements will end up being submerged in investment material to
hold them in place in the final casting process, so plan accordingly.
Preparing to pour a mold:
Place the model into a box with a minimum of 15 mm
of space all around it; a 10.5 x 10.5 x 9 cm flexible plastic food storage box (Ziploc)
with a slight draft to the sides works well. The box serves as a coddle system, or
a set of dams, into which you will pour the alginate to make the mold. Use something
like petroleum jelly to secure the model to the bottom of the box to keep it from
moving or floating once you have poured in the mold material.
Types of flexible mold material
for casting multiple copies:
Hydrogel N mold compound is a type of alginate that is fairly easy to mix and sets in
5-10 minutes. It is somewhat weak with a short working life and will dry out
and shrink over a couple of days, but if kept in a sealed container and treated carefully,
it will usually last a few weeks.
RTV Rubber (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) is activated at room temperature but can have long set times and often takes 24 hours to cure into a very durable, very strong material.
For the sake of expediency, we have used Hydrogel N to illustrate this TipSheet.
Mixing hydrogel N mold compound:
Measure box/coddle system—including 1.5 cm above the model in the calculation.
For our specific box and model, this is 10.5 x 10.5 x 4.5 cm, which equals 496
cubic cm, which means that it will take 496 grams of water to fill the box to the
appropriate level. The manufacturer of Hydrogel N mold compound recommends
mixing it 3 parts water to 1 part Hydrogel N by weight and adding the mold
compound to the water, but we have had good success mixing it 4 parts water to 1
part Hydrogel N by weight and adding the water to the Hydrogel. For our project,
then, we will need 496 grams of water and 124 grams of Hydrogel. We have
had the best success mixing this with a spatula in a bowl using a folding, not a beating
motion, to avoid creating bubbles in the mix. Work in a well-ventilated area and
wear a NIOSH-approved respirator whenever working with powdered materials
Pouring the hydrogel:
Be certain that you are working on a flat and level surface. Pour to one side of the object
in a flowing motion to keep air from getting trapped on the surface of the model.
Vibrate the worktable so that the air bubbles don’t get stuck to the model.
Using water immediately makes a mess. Allow remaining Hydrogel to dry in the
container and then immerse in bucket of water for initial clean up. Once cured, it is
possible to peel the Hydrogel out as a skin. Never pour into a sink.
Removing the mold from the coddle box:
Turn the coddle box upside down on the work table and squeeze and push the flexible
walls to let air into the sides until the mold drops out. Turn the mold over
again and squeeze it and push carefully to force the clay model out. You now have a
flexible mold for pouring multiple copies of your model in another material.
Making design elements out of refractory mold material
Many different refractory mold (or “investment”) materials and recipes exist. In our
factory Research & Education department, we use a simple mixture of 50% #1 Casting
Plaster and 50% silica flour (295 mesh) mixed by weight.
Measuring mold material:
Measure the original model and overestimate its size; it is better to discard some
inexpensive investment than to run out and have to quickly mix more. Our model is
roughly 5 x 5 x 5 cm = 125 cubic cm. Referring to the Investment Ratio chart on page 8,
we can add together the amounts of material needed for voids of 100, 20, and 5
cubic centimeters to get the proper quantities of water and investment required for
our 125 cubic centimeter void. This means that we will need 79.99 grams of water
and 139.98 grams of investment. Weigh these materials in clean, dry buckets. Remember
to work in a well-ventilated area and wear a NIOSH-approved respirator whenever
working with powdered materials.
Mixing investment material:
Steadily sift all of the required investment into the water. An island of dry material
will begin to form once you have sifted most of the material into the water. Allow
the investment to fully hydrate/become saturated. If left alone, the investment can
sit for quite some time. Once the mixture is saturated, dip your hand in and
break up any chunks. Feel the consistency. You want a creamy texture. Mix the
investment by hand for 3–5 minutes or with an electric mixer/drill for 1–2 minutes.
This will cause the plaster to begin to work so that it will subsequently set.
Pouring the mixed investment into the mold:
Be certain that you are working on a flat and level surface. If you have a lot of fine detail,
begin by brushing some investment mix into the details in the mold, which will
break the surface tension so the mix can go into the details. Aim for one place in
the mold and pour in a flowing motion to avoid creating bubbles. Once
you have finished pouring, vibrate the work surface to make certain that no air is
trapped within the details of the mold.
Clean investment mixing buckets right away. Old plaster in mixing buckets, on hands
and/or on tools will cause subsequent batches of investment to set before
you have a chance to pour them. It is good to use black
or colored buckets so that you can easily spot old plaster in them. Never pour
investment into a normal sink as this will clog your pipes. Pour excess investment into
a garbage can that has a liner in it. From there, have two buckets of water to use in your
cleaning operation: one bucket for cleaning and scrubbing the mixing buckets and one
bucket for rinsing them. When these buckets become too filled with waste investment to
continue using them, allow them to settle, then pour off the excess water and dispose
of the waste investment in garbage bags.
After investment has set up:
It usually takes 5-20 minutes for the investment to set. Lightly touch the surface of the
investment to test its hardness. Once it has set, the plaster/silica design element can be
removed in the same fashion that the clay model was. Immediately after setting, the
design element will still be a little soft, which means that it can be easily modified
with simple clay tools at this point. After the design element hardens, it can still be
modified, but you may need to use power tools for the sake of speed. Store the
alginate/Hydrogel mold in a closed container for later use, being careful to keep
it from drying out.
Building the box mold with vermiculite board
Vermiculite has a bad reputation because it is often mined in the same places as
asbestos, which can contaminate the vermiculite. Bullseye Vermiculite Board comes
from a mine that is certified asbestos free. It is stronger, more durable, and less
expensive than most fiberboard and can be cut and tooled like wood or particle board.
Work in a well-ventilated area and wear a NIOSH-approved respirator whenever
generating dusts. If you want your finished piece to be level and square, it is
important to cut the vermiculite boards accurately. Also, pre-drill and countersink
screw holes so the board does not bloat or blow out when you screw it together. Use
stainless steel screws to put the mold together as they will hold up to repeated firings
without flaking. Do not use galvanized steel screws because upon firing, the galvanization
will release toxic fumes and the screws will flake and cause contamination in your kiln.
Cut two long side boards at 25.5 x 9 x 2.5 cm, two short side boards at 20 x 9 x 2.5 cm,
and one base board at 25.5 x 25.5 x 2.5 cm. Lay the boards out as an open box
and pre-drill holes in the flat surface of the long side boards to connect them to the ends
of the short side boards using a bit that has a diameter slightly smaller than the diameter
of the stainless steel screws. Be sure to drill your holes on center to avoid blowing out the
side of the board. Then screw the sidewalls together. Next, set the base board on top of the
assembled side boards and pre-drill holes to join it to the sides, and then screw it together.
Then take the entire box apart and fire the vermiculite board at a rate of 500°F (278°C)
per hour to a temperature of 1580°F (860°C) or about 55°F (30°C) higher than the temperature
at which you will cast the glass. Hold at that temperature for half an
hour, and then crash cool the kiln.Once the boards are cool, take them out and
reassemble the sides using the stainless steel screws. Cut a piece of 3 mm fiber paper at
25.5 x 25.5 cm and set it on the base board, then set the assembled sides on top of the fiber
paper, and screw the box together. Line the side walls with 3 mm fiber paper, making sure
that it fits tightly, without bowing or leaving gaps in the corners.
Affixing design elements within the box
The design elements must be held firmly in place for the glass casting process. To hold
them, a shallow layer (or “bed”) of investment is poured into the bottom of
the box around the design elements. Hydrate the plaster/silica design elements by soaking
them in water until the bubbles quit rising (5-10 minutes). This helps to keep the
plaster/silica bed from sucking in around the design elements due to differences in
humidity. Arrange design elements on the interior base of the box. Check once again to make
certain that your work surface is flat and level.
Measure the inside of the box to determine the appropriate amount of investment
material needed. Our box is 19.5 x 19.5 cm, and we need enough investment to
fill it about 0.5 cm deep. Thus, the investment needs to fill a void that is 190 cubic
centimeters. Referring to our investment (plaster/silica) mixing table you will see
that there is a batch listed for 200 cubic cm, which will be more than enough.
Mix the investment according to the previous directions and pour it quickly and
evenly. Avoid pouring the mix directly onto the design elements or the side walls.
Vibrate the work surface to make the investment level out.Set aside the box mold
for 24 hours to make sure that all of the plaster/silica components of the mold have
cured to an adequate hardness. As with the design elements, you may choose to
modify the affixing layer of investment.
You may select any form of Bullseye glass to fill the mold (billet, cullet, sheet, frit, etc.),
but the form that you select will have a direct impact on the clarity of the
casting. The smaller the form of the glass, the more air bubbles in the finished piece,
the less optical clarity. Powders and fine frits will create so many air bubbles
that even our Crystal Clear 1401 will appear milky white and opalescent when used
at this 4 cm thickness.Because this is a reverse-relief casting and the intention is to see
the imagery created by the design elements through the surface of the finished piece, using
billets will give you the desired clarity.
Calculating glass to fill the mold:
Measure the inside of the box mold. Then figure out the cubic volume. Use a specific
gravity of 2.5 for Bullseye glass to calculate how much glass will be needed to
fill the mold to the desired thickness. (Bullseye glass is approximately 2.5 times
heavier than water.)
Our box mold:
19.5 x 19.5 x 4 cm (desired thickness of casting) = 1521 cm3
1521 x 2.5 = 3802.5 (grams of glass needed)
This does not account for the displacement of glass caused by the design elements.
If you would like to account for the displacement caused by the design elements or if you
have an irregularly shaped mold, you can use rice for a more precise measurement.
Fill your mold with rice to the desired thickness of the casting. Then remove the rice
and decant it into a container. Level the rice, and then mark the level. Remove the rice
from the container, and weigh the container. Then fill the container with water
up to the former level of the rice, and weigh it again. Subtract the weight of the container
to get the weight of the water. It will take 2.5 grams of Bullseye for every
gram of water.Use a reliable scale to weigh out the amount of glass you will need.
Cutting the billet:
Use a self-lubricating glass cutter to score glass and about the same amount of pressure
required to score 3 mm sheet glass. It is always easiest to break the score if it is made
along the centerline of the piece of glass. In other words, cut the billet in half, then in
half again, to get the appropriate sizes to fill the mold.
Find the score line and break with big running pliers. Or hold the billet in a gloved hand
and use a hammer to open the score by tapping on the back of the glass underneath the score
line. (This does not take a lot of force; a tap exactly under the score line will cause the
score to open cleanly.) Hold the billet low and over the table so it does not fall on your
foot. Remember to wear eye protection.
Loading the glass into the mold:
Clean and dry the glass thoroughly, making sure to remove stickers. Any glass that is
going to be lower than the thickness of final piece can be against the mold wall, but
be careful not to indent the fiber paper because it will create a bump on
the finished glass piece. Stack the rest of the glass into the center of the mold.
Loading the mold into the kiln:
Make sure the kiln is level and make sure the mold is level. Set the box mold on kiln
furniture/posts, establishing three points of contact at least 2.5 cm from the floor of the
kiln. This will allow heat to circulate all around the mold. If you would like to
intentionally create a wedge shape, you may set up the mold on an angle; but make
certain that you have enough glass to cover the design elements, and that you adjust your
annealing schedule to accommodate for the thicker area in the casting. If, for example,
you would like a wedge that is 5 cm on the bottom and 2.5 cm on top, you will want to
support the end that will be thicker on 2.5 cm kiln furniture, and the end that will be thinner
on 5 cm kiln furniture, and then calculate the glass as if you were casting a rectilinear
volume with a thickness of 3.75 cm.
Firing the piece
Vent the kiln at least up to 1100°F (593°C) to make certain that all of the moisture has
escaped the kiln. Plan to be present when the kiln is at casting temperature, and visually
inspect the piece to make sure the casting is going as planned. If unwanted bubbles
are present on the surface or just below the surface of the piece, plan to extend the hold
at casting temperature until the bubbles have burst and healed. Firing schedules provided
are specific to the Paragon GL24AD kilns that we use in our factory Research &
Education department. All kilns fire differently. You may need to adjust the firing
schedule for your specific kiln and project. After the entire firing cycle is complete, we
recommend leaving the piece in the kiln at room temperature for at least a day before taking
it out to divest it.
Cleaning the finished piece
Remove the piece from the kiln and disassemble the box mold. Remember to wear an
approved mask while handling the fired fiber paper and investment materials. Watch
out for any sharp points if the glass has clung to the side walls of the mold.
The investment can be removed from the glass with a variety of tools, such as dental
instruments, wooden picks, nylon brushes, and wood carving tools. Wooden
tools are ideal for carefully removing broad areas of investment, and metal tools should
be used delicately to clean fine details. A nylon bristle brush and forced air are also
great tools for cleaning areas of residual investment. Most of the investment should be removed
from the glass before submerging it in or scrubbing it with water. While water can be
used to rinse away residual investment, we have found that scrubbing the glass with
vinegar and/or CLR* breaks down the investment material. Remember that you can create
a very different effect if you decide to coldwork and/or polish your piece. The optical
qualities can change substantially, especially with coldworking on the edges.
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