John is from sunny Arizona and has been crafting since he was a child. He loves guiding people through a new creative process.
Make Your Own Glass Sun Catchers
There is one thing in Arizona that there is not a shortage of: sunshine. And when it comes to sunshine, there is nothing more enjoyable than making a sun catcher. A DIY sun catcher will bring joy to your home and provide a colorful decoration for all to see. I find this a great project for summer. Here are instructions on how to make my favorite solar captor.
These are basic tools for making fused glass, including the best prices I could find:
- Fused glass microwave kiln. I suggest starting with a small one to evaluate your enthusiasm for the hobby. Best price: $22 on Amazon.
- Ceramic kiln fiber paper. 50 sheets of ceramic fiber square microwave kiln glass fusing paper. This keeps the glass from adhering to the bottom of the kiln. Best price: $8 on Amazon.
For this project, you'll also need:
- Empty beer bottles
- Cutoff wheel
- Polymer bake clay or hardboard/cardboard and laminating sheets
- Beading wire, like Darice 28-Gauge Beading Wire, 40-Yard, Silver. It's sturdy and looks good.
- Glue. I have used E6000 for jewelry and glass projects for years. It dries hard and sticks better than anything else I've tried. It runs anywhere from $8 to $15 (a tube with craft applicators—nice).
This reminds me of a comment from an Eastern European doctor who gave me a physical at the VA. After many health-related questions, it was time for a digital prostate exam and he said, "And now for the unpleasantness." So for a small investment, you can let your creative genius fly, as this is the extent of the unpleasantness. Now for some fun!
Step 1: Cut the Lips Off Some Bottles
Begin to collect beer bottles. Cut the lips of said bottles off with a 1" cutoff wheel for Dremels. Home Depot and Harbor Freight have inscribing knockoffs that work just fine. So do the cutoff wheels.
Little sparks will come off as the grinding material sheds from the wheel—don't worry, they do not travel far. Wear a mask to prevent breathing any small particles of glass, although I have found little seems to get aerosolized. Most falls directly to the ground. After cutting a number of lips off, you are ready for the next step.
Step 2: Begin Fusing
Most people have microwave ovens. You should use a 1000 watt oven to do the fusing. I use a 900 watt version with good results.
Prepare your kiln for firing. You need to use the ceramic paper to place under you glass so it does not adhere to the bottom of the kiln. I sometimes use a tiny piece of scotch tape to make a cylinder out of the paper which is placed inside the glass lip. This assures you of a hole in the middle after firing. You can also use a chip of material off a kiln insulator block. If you time the melt correctly, nothing may be needed as the sides of the lip will not touch inside.
With a 900 watt microwave, I cook the glass for 9 minutes in the small kiln and 13 minutes in the large kiln. You will need to experiment a bit, as microwaves are not exactly the same.
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Step 3: Open the Kiln (Remember, It's Hot!)
I usually wait at least an hour after I have cooked the glass. Then I open the kiln and take the lid off. At that point I close the microwave door and let the kiln sit a couple more hours. I use leather welding gloves which I had before I started the hobby. I think any gardening gloves should work for removing the lid.
I don't take the kiln out of the microwave until an additional 2 hours is up because going from a hot environment to room temperature may result in cracking. I must say, I have only had a problem with that a few times. Even then, you can glue the broken pieces together with just about anything and put them in the oven again. They usually melt fine—just don't pull them out too quickly. You will have to experiment to get a rule developed for yourself.
Step 4: Make Flowers
I make the flowers out of polymer clay. You can use corrugated cardboard for backing or hardboard, too. Then laminate a flower picture to your backing.
Tie the glass loops together with beading wire. When you tie off the wire, put a dab of E6000 glue on it to insure the wire does not unravel over time.
You can also use string, dental floss, or whatever you want. These glass strings are then attached to the flowers.
Enjoy Your Crafting Process
I recall at age 9 carving bear claws out of soft pine and stringing them on a necklace for my mother. Since then, ideas for crafting seem so inviting. It starts with wondering if a creation in mind might be colorful and attractive. Painting, model making, clay sculpting, and glass baubles follow. Once an idea for creating something beautiful pops up, the process proceeds to construction and materials. Glass transparency is a marvel.
Fusing involves melting and bonding pieces of glass to create captivating patterns with fascinating textures. Glass is ubiquitous—there is never a shortage of materials to experiment with. Check the Internet for a host of techniques.
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“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
- Pablo Picasso
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 John R Wilsdon
John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on September 24, 2020:
Fusing glass is a great activity with unlimited possibilities. Thanks for the read.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 23, 2020:
I would have never thought that small microwave kilns would be that reasonably priced. Your fusing of glass to make sun catchers sounds like a fun hobby. Thanks for telling us about it.
John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on September 22, 2020:
Thank you, Danny. Glass is a wonderful material. Good luck.
Danny from India on September 22, 2020:
Amazing craftwork with glass. Nice article John