There have been a few questions flying around recently about ways to work safely in your house with fused glass. I sometimes work on my fused glass projects in my kitchen, so thought I'd tell you what works for me.
Nobody but me is allowed in the area while I'm working.
I cut carefully and make sure there's no open food-containing items nearby. I work on a big cutting mat, and also clean the worktop with damp kitchen towel to get all the itty bitty splinters up, then sweep the floor after I finish.
I keep all the shards and bits of kitchen towel in a separate lidded box (takeaway tub!) and dispose of it carefully when it's full. I pick up any big flying bits as I go (and often use them in other projects!).
If I'm doing something which will definitely be messy, like lots of powder sifting, I sometimes open up a bin liner and put it over the work surface before I start. Wear your dust mask when using powders. I also turn on the extractor fan.
If I had pets or small kids then I would recommend a separate working area where they don't go.
I always wear safety glasses. Always. And shoes. I always cut standing up. I wash my glass in a bucket of water, and let any residue settle to the bottom before pouring off the water - this stops my sink getting blocked. If I'm peeking in my kiln I always wear my green kiln glasses (not my clear safety glasses as they protect from flying bits but not from infrared).
If you're worried about flying bits, then you can always put your cutting mat into a deep tray or surround it with a little booth made from a cardboard box, which would stop most of the flying splinters. If you produce a lot of flying bits then look on youtube for glass cutting videos and see if you can improve your technique. Use the right tool and technique for the cut you want to make - it makes things neater.
I always put my extractor fan on when the kiln is running. Or open the window! I always wear my protective gloves and special kiln glasses when peeking in the kiln. It's a really good idea to wear natural fibres, have your hair tied back and wear closed toed shoes. If you're peeking at higher temperatures or for a longer time then you need more protective gear.
If I use my microwave kiln, I always use it in my craft microwave, never in my "cooking" microwave and have a large tile to put it on when it's cooling (never leave it to cool inside the microwave as you can melt / warp it!).
Everyone designs their workspace differently. Some people prepare several projects, put it all away, then fuse. If you can do this then you need less space.
Remember that your kiln needs to have clearance around it when you're firing it - most people recommend at least 1ft, but you might want to increase this if you have a larger kiln or are doing casting projects which require extra long firing times. It also needs to be on a non-flammable work surface. I fire my Paragon SC2 on a large granite tile which I got from a kitchen supplier, and elevate it off the work surface on little blocks so there's less possibility of the heat transferring to the surface.
I have been known to use my electric glass grinder in the house - I do this by putting the whole setup into a large cardboard box with one side cut off to make a booth so that any spray is contained.
I do not use my tile saw in the house - I wait till summer and do it in the garden because it can be quite wet and messy! Even outside, it can be a really good idea to use a protective box with this and/or put bin bags down, especially if you like to be able to wander around your garden in bare feet (though ALWAYS wear proper shoes, eye protection etc. when using tile saws and other equipment).
It's a great hobby as long as you take a few simple precautions. Enjoy!
PS If you're one of those lucky people who has a whole room or a dedicated studio for their glass work, then do check out my other post about setting up your fused glass studio.
Disclaimer: I hope you find these tips useful. Use at your own risk. Always fuse responsibly.
Whether you are an experienced fuser, or a novice, it is likely that at some point in your career you will get your glass stuck in the mould.
This is not always the end of the line for the glass, or the mould, as there are lots of ways to rescue things depending on whether your mould is ceramic or metal.
Pendant Pods with holes
These are notorious for people getting things stuck on them! They're fantastic if you can get them to work for you.
If you got it stuck in the first place, it's possible that you didn't use enough kilnwash / boron nitride spray / zyp / primo primer, or whatever separator you normally use, or that you fired it too long or too hot. Some separators don't hold up to casting temperatures so do check the information to make sure you are using the correct product for what you are trying to achieve.
That said, these make fantastic pendants and are well worth the effort. These often get stuck around the little round bit in the middle, because glass shrinks more than ceramic and so it hugs the centre part as it cools.
You can start by folding a towel and putting it on the worktop, then putting your mould upside down on top and giving it a few good taps (not enough to break it though!) - a rubber mallet can help with this if you have one. Sometimes this will dislodge the pendant.
If that doesn't work, then put it back in the kiln, upside down, suspended on little shelf posts and do a tack fuse - that should enable it to drop out.
Heating these in the oven doesn't work, as there is ceramic in the middle as well as outside so you're trapped both ways!
If any little bits are still stuck on the mould, you can remove these with a dremel tool (with a diamond bit, use it wet!) or with a bit of wet and dry sandpaper.
If you have managed to break off the little bit in the middle you can use fibre paper or a piece of chalk to replace it, just use a new one for each firing.
Stainless steel drape vases:
If you slump or drape something over one of these, or a cocktail shaker, or other similar vase, sometimes if you over-fire it can get stuck. These are normally fairly easy to release, as metal shrinks more than glass, so wait until it's cooled down properly and then pop it in the freezer for a bit. Often this is enough to shrink the metal enough to release it from the former.
If you can't get it off, then pop it back in the kiln upside down and it should release at slump temperatures. Keep an eye on this as you may be able to loosen it just enough to keep your vase too!
If you want to get more kiln wash on it before you start, heat it up in the oven (or with a hairdryer) and then spray kiln wash on it. The evaporation will help more of it to stick. If you have one, you could also rough up the metal with a sandblaster or some wet and dry sandpaper.
Stuck in a ring?
The new metal casting rings (for pot melts / screen melts etc.) are brilliant, but you need to make sure you line them with 1/8 inch fibre paper (NOT thinfire or papyrus - they're not thick enough) so that when the metal ring shrinks around the glass it won't trap it.
If you've trapped your glass, try popping it in the oven first to see if that will release it, as metal expands more than glass.
If that doesn't work, you can support the ring on kiln posts and take it up to slump temp and wait for the glass to drop out.
Ceramic drape vases
(You can use these upside down for draping!)
These are not recommended, because there's a high possibility your glass will get stuck and crack. This is because glass shrinks more than ceramic when it cools, so it will hug your vase very tightly and not want to come off without a fight.
If you do want to have a go, for instance if you're on a budget and using a terracotta plant pot, it's a good idea to put a big circle of fibre paper over your mould, as well as kilnwashing it, as that way there is some space even if the glass shrinks. Be generous with the fibre paper so that you know it will reach all the way to the ground around your pot in case you over-fire.
If you are on a budget, it's better to keep an eye on your local charity shop and get hold of a second hand stainless steel cocktail shaker!
Don't use things which are smaller at the bottom than at the top. These are a recipe for disaster!
If you get one of these stuck, remember you can put it in upside down and take it up to slump temp again - it should release - just keep an eye on it so you can keep a vase shape rather than a puddle!
Stuck drop ring vase (ceramic)
One of my pieces cracked on the way up and wrapped itself round the drop ring! I tried the freezer but it wasn't having any of it...
I set it up in the kiln, upside down, supported on kiln posts with a couple of posts on the top to counterbalance the weight of the glass. I also put some thinfire on the top of the ring in case it decided to flop down the other way instead. Then I full fused it.
Success! The glass came free and only the very tiniest bit of glass remained on the drop ring, and that was easily removed.
I'll use this glass in another project (or for practicing on my tile saw!)
I hope you have found this helpful. Please do add your hints and tips in the comments.
Disclaimer: These are some things which have worked for me, they may or may not work for you. Always fuse responsibly.
Experienced silk painter, glass fuser, teacher, enthusiastic and inspirational.