Intro to Glass

Design Idea C51E Necklace
by Tammy Honaman, Author, Jewelry-Making Expert and Educator,
Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' selection of glassworking supplies and tools brings you glass in a useful scale and all the tools to transform glass into jewelry. Whether you are foiling and soldering, fusing glass, or lampworking beads, there is something here for everyone.

Foiling and Soldering

The stained-glass technique, also called tinning, adds a silver rim to the edge of your glass. Tinning is the process of applying copper foil to the edge of a piece of glass then covering the copper with lead-free solder. This process accents the shape of the glass, protects the edges and keeps the wearer from being scratched.

Intro to Glass

This technique can be used on any material that can withstand the heat of a soldering iron, up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. Add a ring, loop or another finding during the soldering process and the glass is transformed into a component that can be used as a charm, pendant or link.

The glass can be purchased at the size you like or cut to size using a glass cutter and glass-cutting oil (check out the ''Glass Cutting Tools'' article for more information).

Design idea C517 shows wire-wrapped rivolis combined with the tinning process. Design idea C518 is a design with decorative paper sandwiched between two pieces of rectangular glass that are tinned.

What you need:
  • Glass
  • Copper foil (wide enough to fit the thickness of the glass with extra to fold over the edges)
  • Lead-free solder
  • Solder iron
  • Findings to add a loop
View illustrated instructions on tinning copper foil.

Fusing Glass in a Kiln

Fusing is the process of heating multiple pieces of compatible glass to a new shape. Compatible glass is glass with the same coefficient of expansion (COE). COE indicates the rate at which glass expands and contracts. When two different COEs are combined, stress builds up in the glass which, at some point, will cause the glass to break. Be sure to label each COE of glass you have so you don't inadvertently combine two.

The finished shape and dimension of fused glass is dictated by the temperature and where you stop the fusing process.
  • Fire polishing (1300 - 1400 degrees F): the glass will be shiny and the edges rounded off.
  • Tack fusing (1350 - 1450 degrees F): the glass pieces will fuse but retain their individual shape and character.
  • Full fusing (1450 - 1550 degrees F): two layers of glass merge and the edges are rounded.
Intro to Glass

Fusing is not an exact science. There are three parts to each fusing. Ramp-up is the time and speed you set for the kiln to heat up. Soak time is the time the fusing temperature is held and the glass "soaks" in the heat. Annealing is the time the glass cools to allow the stress built up in the process to escape, so your piece does not shatter.

A test piece (or two or three) makes sure the kiln temperature is right for the glass being used, the soak time is appropriate for the desired finish and the annealing process is slow enough to allow the glass to de-stress. It is important to learn your kiln so your finished pieces are just as you would like them.

Item Number H20-1083KT Fusing Glass Starter Kit

You can get started by fusing small pieces of glass with a microwave kiln. Glass used in microwave-kiln fusing is typically 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. No more than two pieces of either thickness should be stacked in the microwave kiln. (For a how-to on fusing in a microwave kiln, see the Additional Resources section of this article.)

What you need:
  • Compatible glass
  • Kiln wash (glass separator)
  • Kiln
  • Safety glasses

Lampworking Glass

Lampworked beads, pendants and other jewelry-making components are created using fire and steel. Tubes and rods of colorful glass are transformed using a torch and metal tools in the complex and delicate process of lampworking (also called flameworking or torchworking). While modern glass artists use gas-fueled flame torches, this kind of glasswork was originally done over an oil lamp and was termed "lampwork glass".

What you need:
  • Glass torch
  • Glass tubes
  • Steel or soapstone shaping tools (or "marvers")
  • Steel rods
  • Kaolin
Find everything you need to start lampworking glass with the Beginner's Essentials Glass Beadmaking Kit and learn more about the process in the Additional Resources.

Item Number H20-1084KT Glass Bead-Making Starter Kit

Design with ... Additional Resources: