Friday, February 19, 2010

Like Christmas ... But More Glass!

Today was a red banner day when it comes to getting shipments of exciting new things. The stars have aligned in my supply-buying world. Money from classes, I made another sale, tax refund, and supply SALES! So, I've been ordering glass, tools, and frit blends (frit is little glass shards used to create organic patters).

[COE 32-33] Glass Alchemy borosilicate order, now with SHARDS! Oooooh.

[COE 96] Glass Alchemy order: Zimmerman (no-longer-in-production) z-77 Avocado cane, z-850 Lilac cane, and z-851 Lilac Rose Special cane, z-99 Purple Rose Special rod . Look at those rings of color. DELICIOUS!

It's strange, really, to get so excited about a colored glass rod ... or is it? Take a look at this:

The end of the z-99 Purple Rose Special rod.

The side of the z-99 Purple Rose Special rod.


Glass isn't monotone. It's reactive, it's multidimensional, it's amazing. Plus, you get to melt it with a torch. Come on! I don't know why you aren't all signing up for my lampworking classes right now. Torches! Alright, maybe I'm the only one with a borderline torch disorder, but I'm comfortable with who I am. But the glass ... well, if you don't see the fascination, I just don't think the issue is on my end.

So, glass. Why do you have to spend good money on it when it's in Prego jars, lightbulbs, or window panes? It's because of something called Coefficient of Expansion, or COE . When glass is heated it expands (for the techies: [COE]x10-7 inches/degree F). There's a little more to it than this, but more or less, if you melt together two different glasses that expand at different rates everything's good when the glasses are molten, but when they cool ... that's a different story. Of course, exploding glass might be your thing, but it's hard to sell. Because of that, companies spend a lot of time in research testing their glass to make sure every color is compatible with every other color it manufactures. New companies usually choose one of the COEs on the market and make their glass compatible with that. When glasses are tested compatible you can use them together. No one has tested the Prego jar yet.

The main COEs on the U.S. market are 104 soft, soda-lime glass; 96 Furnace Glass; 90 soft glass produced by Bullseye; and 32-33 Borosilicate glass, which is the same as the commercial brand Pyrex. I use them all and each has their charm. 104 is easy to melt and use, has a huge range of colors and brands that are easy to obtain. 96 has uber intense colors, and some of those colors just aren't available in 104, like a wide range of intense pinks. 90 was, I believe, originally formulated by the Bullseye company for glass fusing; whether the rods were originally made for lampworkers or not, we certainly use them now. The advantage of Bullseye's line is the colors are amazingly stable with very little changing or bleeding after heating or applying on or next to other colors. Borosilicate glass ... well, Boro merits a post for itself. It's a metal-rich glass that is highly reactive. Many 'colors' of rod can actually be coerced to produce the entire rainbow of color in a single bead (or sculpture). It's hard to melt, but it's less sensitive to temperature fluctuations, so it's more forgiving in sculptural use than other glass. Beadmakers just love the colors.

Since I have classes this weekend that I still need to prep for, I can't go out and make beads with all of my new, beautiful glass yet ... at least not more than the couple of test beads I was compelled to make. But when I do, wait until you see the pictures! I know you're not as excited as I am, but I hope you're more excited than you were before!

1 comment:

  1. I should mention that I purchased the z-99 ROD on purpose. The cane was sold out and since the color is now out of production I wanted some version of the glass to use. What I'll need to do is break up the rod, put the chunks into the kiln to gradually warm up, finish heating it in the torch, then pull it out into stringers, or keep on smashing the chunks into frit.