Fused Glass Tutorials - How to do Raking
Raking (or combing) hot glass in a kiln, while it's on, can be a very scary thing if you haven't done it before.
Before you start, at least a moderate amount of glass fusing experience is essential. If you're feeling a bit daunted by it all, or aren't sure it's going to be for you, then attending a class with a reputable glass course provider will mean you haven't invested in all the safety gear for nothing.
If you have a decent amount of experience and your own kiln, and think you'd like to have a go, first take a look at pictures and videos of other people doing raking - that will give you an idea of the kind of safety equipment you need and the processes involved. Here's a helpful starter list (which may not be completely comprehensive) - please do feel free to add your favourite raking tips in the comments!
The larger your kiln, the better and more comprehensive safety gear you will need.
Having a bucket of water handy is REALLY a good thing. I set fire to my gloves the first time I tried raking because I was too slow and my rake was too short!!! Also, have some heavy kiln bricks / hot damz to put around your thing you are raking to stop it moving about when you poke it. Line them with 3mm fiber paper.
The glass needs to be really red hot to move easily. Don't be afraid to shut the lid and let it heat up again between pokes. Always wear closed toe shoes (preferably leather, or steel toe caps!) and old natural fabrics - you can melt things straight on to you if you're not careful - at least with natural fabrics you'll get the charring not the melting!
If you're still going OMGSCARY then try it in a microwave kiln or try some lampwork beadmaking or enamelling, or use a baby test kiln like a Paragon SC2 which has front opening door so easier to handle with just one person. Raking small scale is actually quite cute and gets you over THE FEAR a bit before trying a bigger piece!
Top tip: Thinfire paper can disintegrate if you rake too deep. A nice smooth kiln washed shelf or a 3mm layer of fiber paper is best, and/or a layer of clear glass as your bottom layer.
Always make sure there's someone else standing by - don't do it in the studio on your own!
For some helpful videos on raking, take a look at these youtube videos:
Absolute basics, "raked stripy puddle style" in a dinky kiln (but please please please use proper safety gear!)
From "The Edge of Glass". You can see more of Tim Worral's spectacular work at www.theedgeofglass.com
Raked Fused Glass Work by Tim Worral
You may have seen those little clear glass christmas ornaments with impressed stars and other pretty shapes... it's done with fiber paper.
For mine, I use 3mm thick fiber paper (not sure what that is in inches!). The thicker the paper the more obvious the impression.
I cut the star, or tree, or heart, or other pretty shape out of the fiber paper, then put it on the primed kiln shelf with two layers of 3mm glass on the top and a little loop of wire between them to hang it from later. You could also add another loop at the bottom to hold beads or other decoration. You can obviously make your glass any shape - squares, rectangles, tree shapes, diamonds, circles, you name it!
You can use nichrome (high temperature) wire, or copper wire (which goes black but can be revived by soaking in a layer of tomato ketchup ... what is IN that stuff??!). I don't advise using galvanised wire as this gives off nasty fumes when you fire it. You could always drill a hole in your ornament instead, if you prefer.
If you decide you're going to use thinner glass (e.g. one sheet of 3mm) then you need to use more of a slump firing than a "full fuse" firing, as otherwise it can get really thin at the joins if you fire too long. Also you'll have to drill your holes rather than fusing your wire inside.
Once it has been fired, you'll find that the fiber has somewhat stuck to the bottom of your glass when you pick it up. Making sure you are wearing your breathing mask, I tend to dunk my ornaments in a pot of water and let them soak for a bit, then scrub off the fiber, then rinse. This way you can let the ceramic residue sink to the bottom of the pot and dispose of it properly (bag it and bin it) rather than letting it block up your sink trap.
To make your items 3D, you can slump them (if you want your design to stay nice and sharp then you need to slump gently) - It's not such a good idea to leave the fiber behind the glass when slumping as it can fall out! But if you're adding additional tack fused decoration to a flat piece then I'd leave the fiber behind the glass to help it hold the shape.
You can put more than one layer of fiber on if you want a more 3D effect, but be aware that higher piles of fiber can make the glass really thin if fused too long, so you'll need to do a bit of experimenting to make sure it holds well.
There are a range of fabulous free tutorials available on the web, including Bullseye Glass's fantastic kiln carving tutorial. Glass with a Past has one about kiln carving with bottle glass. Here's one with the basic process from Glass Fusing Made Easy and another one with some images for inspiration. Paul Tarlow has also written an ebook about it which you can buy.
Experienced silk painter, glass fuser, teacher, enthusiastic and inspirational.