Sunday, January 29, 2012

Making Glass Frit

In an effort to clean up an an ever-growing pile of glass rod ends accruing on my table, I thought it might be time to show off my frit-making skills. I used to use my empty altoid container collection to save little bits of rods- all sorted into piles of like color- for instance, I put all of the aquas together- transparent and pastel alike. No, I did not put each aqua hue into a separate container, I'm not that organized. (And I don't use quite that many altoids). Granted, if you keep all of your 'shorts' separated by color, you can make a nice precise frit mix that is repeatable using the same methods I will outline here.
I'm not a real big user of frit- I'm more of a 'mix as you go' person. Most of the bits I had lying about were in tones of purple, green, and aqua. I piled them all together and they looked pretty good, so that was the frit mix I was going to make.
Again, I will say- your safety is your responsibility. This is what I do, it has not gone through any rigorous testing by any certified safety organization:

1) Put on safety glasses

2) Fill a clean glass jar with at least 4 inches of water (friends have suggested this be cold water- that should make it break even better!) and put it nearby on my torching table.

3) Light the torch.

4) Grab one of the shorts with a pair of tweezers and put it in the torch until it glows a nice red just about all over. Try not to put the tweezers directly into the flame.

5) Drop the hot glass into the jar of water. If it is attached to the tweezers, plunge the whole thing into the water and tap lightly. Usually the glass will detach from the tweezers. If there is a little bit still attached to them, reheat and plunge into a different jar of water to remove it- the 'junk' jar.
6) Do this with all of the pieces of glass. They will shatter as they are placed in the water, but not really into small enough pieces to be used as frit as they are.
*** After I wrote this, a friend told me that she mashes the glass into a thin lollipop shape and the glass naturally breaks into small frit, so it is not necessary to use a hammer. What a great tip! Thanks so much, Lara***

7) Pour the glass through a small strainer that is reserved for this purpose.

8) Let dry on a piece of newspaper.

9) Put glass into an old broken down cereal box or other thin cardboard, or wrap in fabric. Wrap around the glass so that it can't escape easily.

10) Wrap with newspaper and tap with a hammer on a solid surface. Open and see if the pieces are to your liking. If not repeat wrapping and tapping.

11) If desired, the frit can be put through different sizes of mesh to sort it by size.

 That's it! All done and I'm ready to use it.  Frit made of glass with special qualities, like rubino oro or silver reaction colors, should be made separately rather than used in a mix so that the reactions and flame atmosphere can be controlled properly.

There are times when I want to make frit using specific color combinations. To do this, I simply heat the end of a rod and plunge it into my jar of clean water. This is where Lara's 'lollipop' trick could really come in handy!
It is a good idea to reheat the end of this rod right away as it may be a bit cracked at the end. This will save your being surprised by a 'shocky' end later.