This blog post starts a series I've had on my mind for some time. It occurred to me that the kiln, in addition to being the tool to shape or melt glass, is often a great teacher for many lessons in life that I have to learn--sometimes over and over. Glass is no exception. So I will lay out a few "life lessons" illustrated primarily by kilnwork, and though there may be interruptions in the series, I think I have about ten or so lessons at least in my head.
Patience. It's so hard to come by. Do you know patient people? Do they amaze you with that patience? Or do they drive you nuts? Are you a patient person? If so, this post might seem self-evident. But I'm betting that in a society like ours that grooms us to want it all NOW, most of us are deficient--at least some or most of the time--in patience.
My recommendation to get more patience is to learn to work glass.
When I first started trying my hand at glass, the first wall of patience I smacked into was learning to score it correctly. This is no joke--it took me 45 minutes and some tears before I finally got a good score and break on my first piece of glass. To be fair to myself, I later figured out that the glass scoring tool that came in the beginner kit was far inferior to the kind most of us use. (I've since replaced all my class kits with decent scoring tools. And I've always wondered why most of these beginner kits start the newbie out with such junk. It's a good way to discourage people right off the bat, if you ask me.) But I did eventually get better at it--I had to--because that kit didn't come with much glass.
I worked with micro-kiln fusing for about a year until I could cook up a plan to buy a larger kiln. Guess what? Larger kilns require MORE patience. Why is that? Well, whereas the micro-kilns basically heat glass in a continuous run from room temp to fusing temp in 3 minutes or so, larger kilns do not. In fact, the larger or thicker the glass piece, the slower it needs to be heated. That's where the beauty of a computer-controlled kiln timer shines.
And, to my shock as a newbie, I learned right away that my large kiln isn't on all the time. The programmer basically heats glass in steps, called "ramps," with hold times required at each segment along the way. The same is true on the cool-down side, too. So what I realized very quickly was that glasswork went from a 2-hour operation to about a 24-hour operation. Below is a sample firing schedule for a full fuse of 2 pieces of Bullseye glass, approximately 10 inches each:
Degrees F/hr Target temp Hold time/mins. Elapsed real time
300 1050 20 3 hrs. 50 mins.
200 1150 40 1 hr. 10 mins.
100 1225 10 55 mins.
100 1250 10 25 mins.
150 1300 5 25 mins.
500 1490 10 30 mins.
No Pwr to cool down 950 60 2 hrs. +/-
100 700 5 1 hr. 35 mins.
OFF 100 or < --- 12+ hrs.