Art Glass - Kiln Preparation

Preparing the kiln for firing is very important no matter what type of fused art glass or dichroic jewelry project you may be planning. If you have a new kiln, you must take precautions to protect the floor before its first firing. You also will need to prepare the kiln shelf in some way before each firing. Some of the kiln shelf protectors will last through several firings some for only one firing. However, you must examine the shelf each time to make sure it is ready to be used. It is important to have all the art glass materials and supplies on hand before you begin the art glass fusing process. Preparing the kiln should be done first because it will take some time to complete. Do not skip this step. Your art glass project can stick to the kiln floor or shelf and could do damage to the kiln as well as ruin your jewelry.

Preparing a new kiln for the first firing

If you have a new kiln that has never been used, be sure and read the owners manual and follow the directions on the first firing. If you have a used kiln, and have no manual you should get online with the manufacturer. They should be able to provide a manual that you can read online or download.

The following is a list of general directions that will protect the floor of your kiln before you fuse your first art glass project. However, you will also need to prepare the shelf. There are several ways to prepare the shelf and I have listed some of those ways later on this page. However, if you plan to use kiln wash on the shelf, it would be wise to prepare the shelf at the same time you prepare the kiln.

  • Vacuum the floor of the kiln being careful of the fire wall bricks and the thermocouple

  • Mix and apply kiln wash to the floor and the shelf. Be sure and wear a mask or respirator while mixing the kiln wash. Always read and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

  • The kiln should be completely cool to the touch when applying the wash.

  • I suggest a haik brush because of its softness. You will need to apply 5 or 6 coats of kiln wash. Each coat should be applied in ONE DIRECTION ONLY. The next coat should be applied in a 90 degree angle from the first, the next one 90 degrees from the second, etc. It is not necessary that each coat dry before applying the next coat.

  • Make sure that the surface is completely covered. An old pair of panty hose can be “wadded up” and used to smooth any imperfections of the kiln wash application.

  • Now the kiln can be plugged in, heated to a temperature of 450 –550 degrees with the kiln lid vented. As soon as the desired temperature has been achieved, turn the kiln off and unplug it. This last step is to allow the kiln wash and tray to completely dry.

    Preparing the shelf for each firing

    Your kiln shelf has to be protected during each firing. There are a variety of ways that you may choose to do this. No matter which method you choose to protect the shelf, be sure and read and follow the manufacturer’s directions.

  • Kiln wash (glass separator) will prepare the shelf – usually can be used several times before you have re-coat the shelf. Use the kiln wash in the same way that you did for the kiln preparation for the first firing.

  • Thin shelf paper will prepare the shelf for a one-time use only. You can cut this with scissors to fit the shelf. It will disintegrate into powder during the firing so you must wear a mask or respirator when removing it from the shelf.

  • You may decide on fiber paper that can also be cut to fit the shelf. This fiber paper must be pre-fired to 1200 degrees in a vented kiln. As long as the paper is free from tears and stains, it can be used in multiple firings.

  • Lava cloth is a more expensive method of preparing the shelf, but it can also be used in multiple firings. This product is much more than a shelf liner. The lava cloth has a variety of textures (Herringbone, Crows Foot, and Harness) and is a great way to dress up the back of your jewelry. It will last through many firings; but when it begins to break down, you can just throw it in the trash. There is no hazardous waste involved.

    Always cool the kiln before firing your first art glass project

    Always remember that the kiln should be cool before adding your art glass project. The glass needs to enter the kiln at a room temperature and very gradually rise in temperature. Follow the directions in the Glass Fusing Steps section of this site.

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