I’ve been exploring the fusing option on my kiln, as some medical annoyances (carpal tunnel for one) have been sidelining my ability to make lampworked beads. I’m enjoying making donut beads right now! I decided to do frit casting because I have so much glass frit that I don’t use anymore, and have also decided to “use what I have” to as great an extent as possible!
“Frit” is tiny pieces of glass that you use to embellish anything from lampwork beads, to fusing, to even enamelling on copper.
I started by ordering a casting mold from Delphi Glass – I like them because they are responsive to your questions and have some great resources on their web site.
As you can see, my mold is already well-used and has some issues – pulled porcelain off the mold, and some glass that stuck. I have found that this is most likely caused by me not allowing the separator medium dry enough before I filled the mold with the frit. It’s all good, though, because it doesn’t seem to be causing an issue on the backs of the donut beads.
I spray the separator medium on the mold, let it dry, and then fill with frit. I use a mixture of frit and clear glass frit, because just using frit alone would make the colors too intense and you wouldn’t get the effect of actually seeing all the colors. The beads would be too dense. Use the directions provided by the manufacturer – this is always a good thing to do!
It looks so pretty already, doesn’t it??? Next, I run my kiln on a fuse cycle. It had been a very long time since I programmed a cycle on my kiln by myself, so I asked Craig at Arrow Springs if I had it right. I did not (although I was close) and he very graciously helped me by correcting my program! This is the program I use on my kiln (your segment numbers may vary):
Segment 23: CONT; 300; 10; 1420
Segment 24: CONT; FULL; 30; 960
Segment 25: CONR; 400; 0; 400 (which is a very conservative cool down, so no cracking)
Segment 26: END
And when I’m done:
So, I have to tell you, I wasn’t really totally happy with the way they came out. I ran multiple loads, but was getting so much shrinkage and to me they just didn’t look “juicy” enough. I ran one of the loads a second time in my kiln on the pre-programmed fuse cycle, and although they looked more even, they still weren’t juicy enough for me. Then I had a slight brainstorm – run them on my pre-programmed fuse but add more clear glass to the top of the beads. This made me very happy!
Now I have what I consider to be happy, pretty, juicy donut beads! These are great for multiple uses – I’m sure you have seen gemstone donut beads on leather cord with a larks head knot; but you can also wire wrap them for a very arty effect!
I also learned a few things along the way – don’t be so excited that you don’t let the separator medium dry; take your time when you add the frit and put it into the kiln – I had a spillage incident where I had to vacuum out my kiln and that wasn’t in the plan; and take chances. I’m glad I thought on how I could make the donut beads more to my liking and decided to just go for it – if they were ruined, oh well! But they weren’t! I have been selling these in the various FaceBook selling groups I belong to, and I will be adding some to my Etsy store (if anyone still uses Etsy – I do!).