PDA

View Full Version : Using Laser Engraver to assist in Kiln Formed Glass projects



Al Bray
04-10-2011, 3:54 PM
Just thought I would share the results of a couple of project where I used the laser to assist in cutting stencils which I then use to help create design elements in my kiln formed glass.

I work a lot with glass powders to create design elements/imagery in my glass projects. Basically this involves sifting down thin layers of glass powders (either free hand or though custom cut stencils) directly onto the kiln shelf and tack fusing them together into what is called a glass powder wafer. These glass powder wafers are then used as components to incorporate into larger piece.

When creating custom cut/sized stencils, the typical 2 to 10 mil mylar material, though “fairly” easy to cut free hand with an exacto, heat knife, or in some cases a plotter, just wasn’t thick enough to allow one to lift the stencil off the kiln shelf without the powders falling off the stencil back onto the un-sifted area.

The thinner mylar also had a tendency to warp when doing designs where the elements in the stencil were close together (this warping wouldn’t allow the stencil to sit perfectly flat on the kiln shelf, again resulting in the sifted powders bleeding over to unwanted areas).

Laser to the rescue….I was able to locate a 60 mil laser safe stencil material that vector cuts pretty tight designs without warping and yet is thick enough to support the weight of the sifted powders to be lifted off without spillage back onto the un-sifted area. Of course this material would be almost impossible to cut by hand. The Laser makes pretty quick work of it so on can focus on the designs.

- Al

Dan Hintz
04-10-2011, 3:59 PM
Very slick.. I love glass, and I always wanted to learn glass blowing as a hobby...

Bruce Boone
04-10-2011, 4:08 PM
That's a great use of the laser. I love to see people using them as a tool for niche uses rather than the usual stuff.

Martin Boekers
04-10-2011, 4:23 PM
Very slick.. I love glass, and I always wanted to learn glass blowing as a hobby...

Fusing glass seems relatively cheap to get into and you can begin pretty quickly.
They have a glass class here on base, I just don't have much time to explore another
thing right now, :-(

There are a couple glass studios close to me, I've been to events, pretty amazing!

I can see you learning this quickly with your knowledge of how thing work.
Come on Dan!

Hey when are we going to see some CNC work?

Dan Hintz
04-10-2011, 4:38 PM
Martin,

I've done a lot of research into glazes (prompted a couple of years ago when the cost of Cermark and their lack of a quality red was causing a big stir)... I eventually came up with semi-decent red (my first "success" was a muddy brown). I do tend to approach this stuff from a more scientific standpoint than the typical artisan, which often leads to avenues of research I don't normally see (at least in print). I would love to hook up with a local glass artisan, have them tell me what they've been trying to do unsuccessfully for years, and see if I can't approach it from a viewpoint that will eventually get it to work. I have the science, just not the art. For the moment, my gee-whiz thing is turning on the lathe... I've done a couple of bowls, now I want to do really BIG bowls, then some hollow forms (aka, vases). Pens will be in there somewhere. Any of it is a candidate for the laser, mind you. I'm working on plans so a fellow woodworker can build some cabinets to put the CNC machine on... I already have clients waiting in the wings for when I'm able to process their files, but one thing at a time, unfortunately.

Dee Gallo
04-10-2011, 4:44 PM
Fabulous! I love the way you took the best of the techniques and blended them into one great look. I'm wondering if you fire the powder while the template is still on there (vaporizing it in the kiln) or if you have to lift the template off first? THAT would be a nerve-wracking moment!

Absolutely beautiful and interesting twist to one of the oldest forms of art.

Thanks for sharing, dee

Al Bray
04-10-2011, 6:00 PM
I've done a lot of research into glazes (prompted a couple of years ago when the cost of Cermark and their lack of a quality red was causing a big stir)... I eventually came up with semi-decent red (my first "success" was a muddy brown). I do tend to approach this stuff from a more scientific standpoint than the typical artisan, which often leads to avenues of research I don't normally see (at least in print). I would love to hook up with a local glass artisan, have them tell me what they've been trying to do unsuccessfully for years, and see if I can't approach it from a viewpoint that will eventually get it to work. I have the science, just not the art.

Dan,

Thanks for the feedback.

Any glass artisan would be fortunate to have the benefit of your scientific approach to problem solving.

There is definitely a great deal of chemistry and physics going on behind the scene when working with kiln formed glass. This is probably one of the reasons I chose this medium (the science) as I can't draw/paint a stick figure to save my life.

Funny you should mention the Cermark "Red" problem. It's a problem that one faces quite a bit in kiln forming. The red/orange/yellow glasses (glass with significant amounts of selenium/sulfer) do tend to strike to a muddy brown the higher one pushes the temperature or if a piece is fired multiple times high temperatures. Even a risk of sift of COE.

Then there are the reactions between the chemicals used to color the glass (Cu for the some blue/greens, Se/S for reds/oranges/yellow, S commonly used for the cream colors, Pb in many purples/pinks.etc) that can either drive one crazy, or one can adapt and use the reaction to their advantage. If your blending color powders to create your own color palette, much like one blends paints, it is even more of an issue.

Attached is a picture of a wafer where there is a reaction halo (along the border where the red/marigold colored powder touches the blue used in the Om symbol itself. When it is re-fired as an element in a larger project, the halo fused to a nice dark outline that helps to separate the design. But can probably guess what you would get if you tried to blend these powders together for a custom color....mud..:eek:

Suffice it to say, one can always benefit from the knowledge of the science to help them better achieve the artistry and something I would welcome with open arms if someone approached me in my area.

- Al

Al Bray
04-10-2011, 6:15 PM
Dee,

Thank you for the kind words.

The stencil is actually lifted off before the piece is fired.

As you stated, trying to lift off stencils cut from thinner mylar material without any excess falling back in on the design or shelf is very crazy-making.

The 60 mill (1/16") stencil material I cut on the laser now is very rigid. You just hold one edge down at the corners, and then lift up on opposing edge. The material also has a smooth side on the bottom, and a slight pitted texture to the top which aids greatly in holding the excess powder on the stencil itself in place while it is being lifted off.


- Al

Dan Hintz
04-10-2011, 8:30 PM
Al,

Are you looking for the demarcation line / halo to darken during the next fire (I think it would looks nice to separate the colors so dramatically), or are you trying to make the halo disappear (I can think of one possible solution off of the top of my head)?

rodger d cooley
04-11-2011, 1:17 AM
Great looking stuff. What exactly is the material you are cutting? I am always looking for materials that cut well.