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  #1  
Old 2005-12-13, 1:51pm
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Default Blowing Shards Tutorial

I’ve had several requests for a tutorial on blowing shards, so here it is. I have to first apologize for the quality of the photos. My friend took two digital cards worth of photos of me, but when I was transferring the pictures from the card to my computer the second time, my computer crashed and wiped out the second set. I chose the best pictures from the first set we did, but I have to warn you, some of them are blurry. I think they get my meaning across though.


To blow shards you’ll need a hollow stainless steel mandrel with a ľ” interior diameter. I use clear glass for blowing the shards. I think clear glass adds a luminous glow to the shards that opaque glass does not. Here is your chance to use up any scummy, bubbly or scratched clear glass. You will also need some frits. I use powdered or #00 frit and #1 frits.

I have played with making shards for a week now and did some research, but I am by no means as expert at this. Any glass blowers reading this will probably snicker.

It is important to avoid having “blowouts” when blowing glass. A blowout is just what it sounds like, you blow a hole through the glass. The reason you want to avoid this is that when a blowout happens, it spews a gazzilion tiny shards of almost microscopic sized glass particles in the air. You don’t want to breathe these in or get them in your eyes. The good news is that once you get it, blowing glass shards is easy to do and you won’t have any blowouts.

Start by applying a doughnut of glass to the end of the mandrel just as if you were laying down a footprint on a regular mandrel. You don't want any bead release, just a naked mandrel. You want the glass to be flush with the tip of the tube, but not going over the edge and obstructing the end of tube. It should look like a skinny doughnut bead.


I am showing three rather fuzzy pictures here, but I think you’ll get the idea.
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Last edited by alexm; 2008-04-09 at 6:18pm.
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Old 2005-12-13, 1:52pm
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Now start applying more glass to the side of the doughnut, making sure that you keep the center open. You will soon have a tube of glass. Keep the center open until you have nearly used up the entire rod of glass, then seal the opening and add an extra dab of glass to the top. This is important because you will want to have a bubble of air in the center of the ball of glass you are creating. You wonít be able to blow anything but blowouts if you donít have that bubble of air in the center.
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BHB/PANDORA EXCHANGE IN THE PATIO

Last edited by alexm; 2008-04-09 at 6:18pm.
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  #3  
Old 2005-12-13, 1:53pm
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Slowly get the whole gob of glass molten. You donít want to heat too fast because you will collapse the bubble of air inside the glass. Once youíve collapsed the bubble you will have to start all over again. This is a picture of the bubble of air inside the molten glob of glass. You want to get the glob of glass hot enough to round up and smooth out, but not so hot that itís runny.
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BHB/PANDORA EXCHANGE IN THE PATIO

Last edited by alexm; 2008-04-09 at 6:18pm.
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  #4  
Old 2005-12-13, 1:54pm
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Let the glass cool down a bit. We are now ready to apply color to the glass. At this point you will be keeping the glass surface hot enough to apply frits and hot enough to melt the frits into the surface of the glass, but not hot enough to make the glob unmanageable or to collapse the bubble or air. I usually roll the glass into powdered frit or #00 frit 2 or 3 times, melting it in smooth in between. Then I roll it once in #1 or #2 frit and again melt it smooth.
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BHB/PANDORA EXCHANGE IN THE PATIO

Last edited by alexm; 2008-04-09 at 6:18pm.
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  #5  
Old 2005-12-13, 1:55pm
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Iím now ready to blow it out. Heat the gob of glass in the flame until you have it molten, but not runny molten. The object here is to have the glass evenly hot and soft enough to blow, but not so hot that itís out of control. A bright orange glow seems to be idea for me.

Take the glass out of the flame, take a deep breath and blow. It helps to blow downwards a little bit and to rotate the mandrel until the glass is cool enough that it doesnít sag. You want steady, even pressure from your lungs, you donít want to blast the air as hard as you can or else youíll have the dreaded blowout. It will take moderate pressure from your lungs. Often the first time I do this nothing seems to happen, but I think what happens is that the air bubble inside expands a little bit without me noticing anything from the outside. Place the glass in the flame again and rewarm to a nice orange glow. Try blowing again. It often takes me two blows to blow it big enough. Remember, you want steady pressure, not a hard blustering blow. You should see the glass start to expand. Keep up steady, even pressure until it no longer expands.

These two pictures show a blown bubble and the broken shards. Notice that one side of the bubble is very thin while the other side of the bubble is much more solid. This happens sometimes and I think itís due to inconsistent thickness of glass, so itís important to wind the glass on as evenly as possible. Still, I managed to avoid a blowout this time. I had a picture of a much better bubble, but of course the computer crash ate that one.
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BHB/PANDORA EXCHANGE IN THE PATIO

Last edited by alexm; 2008-04-09 at 6:18pm.
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  #6  
Old 2005-12-13, 1:56pm
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Congratulations, youíve done it. I use a large coffee can to break the glass bubble off the mandrel and into shards. MAKE SURE YOU ARE WEARING SAFETY GLASSES TO BREAK THE BUBBLE TO PROTECT YOUR EYES FROM FLYING GLASS. I use another hollow mandrel to break the bubble off the mandrel. Dunk the mandrel into a glass of water to shock off any remaining glass.

NOTE: If you get a blowout near the end of the mandrel and it looks like a flap of glass blew off, itís because you let the air bubble collapse.

Applying the Shards to Beads

I had several great photos of applying the shards to beads, but they died in the computer crash. Iíll paint a word picture instead. Itís pretty easy. I hold the shard to the bead and move both of them into the edge of the flame. The shard will start to melt and turn orange and thatís when you want to apply GENTLE pressure to stick it to the bead. Donít stay in one place too long, just keep moving. When you are done wrapping the shard around the bead, you can go back and clean it up a little if you wish. I heat any part of the shard that stick up too much and gently mash it down with my brass shaping tool. I bathe the entire bead in the flame to make sure that it evenly warm and then pop it into the kiln.


Ok, Iím done! Go forth and make shards!
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  #7  
Old 2005-12-13, 2:21pm
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Thanks Alex! I'll have to try it w/clear and then decorate... here is my first attempt... it's a pretty uneven "bubble" but it didn't blowout!! Now, I just gotta smash it.


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Old 2005-12-13, 2:34pm
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Great pics Alex, I'm excited to give this a go again. Maybe I'll be successful this time
Thanks!
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  #9  
Old 2005-12-13, 3:57pm
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FABULOUS tut Alex! Thanks sooo MUCH for taking the time to show us, with pictures! Gotta try this tonight!
Thanks again!
Barb
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  #10  
Old 2005-12-13, 5:21pm
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Thank you for the tutorial on the shards. I just haven't gotten around to it yet. I will though. Thanks so much again.
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  #11  
Old 2005-12-14, 8:54am
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Absolutely wonderful Alex!! I can't wait to try it. Thank you!!
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Old 2005-12-14, 8:56am
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Thanks Alex - awesome tute, very clear and easy to follow. As I have only heard this technique described in writing, I was never sure I had visualised it correctly - now I know.
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Old 2005-12-14, 9:32am
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Thanks Alex...you are so sweet to put so much work into it! Great tutorial! I can't wait to try it tonight.

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Old 2005-12-14, 9:33am
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The pictures make it! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this.
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Old 2005-12-14, 10:14am
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Great tutorial, Alex. I really needed this because I have been really wanting to try it.

I have a question: If you end up with a shard that is a little big, do you think it would look ok if I cut it with some round blade cutters to make it into smaller pieces? Have you ever done this or do you just smash it with the other mandrel?
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Old 2005-12-14, 10:28am
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Alex thank you so much for doing this. The pictures and your descriptions make it look so easy. Can't wait to try it this weekend. Have a super day.
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Old 2005-12-14, 10:35am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by softbleu
Great tutorial, Alex. I really needed this because I have been really wanting to try it.

I have a question: If you end up with a shard that is a little big, do you think it would look ok if I cut it with some round blade cutters to make it into smaller pieces? Have you ever done this or do you just smash it with the other mandrel?
I haven't the foggiest idea. I don't think it would work because the shards are curved and because they're pretty thin. I would think they would break if you tried to do it that way, but who am I to say no? Try it and let us know. Just be careful, they're SHARP!
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Old 2005-12-14, 12:05pm
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hmmm now that I have my hollow mandrel (thanks alex ) I am going to go and try this...it looks like something that i could easily screw up LOL

so if I blow out it is possible to start over or what would i do?
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Old 2005-12-14, 12:09pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coyotesfamily
hmmm now that I have my hollow mandrel (thanks alex ) I am going to go and try this...it looks like something that i could easily screw up LOL

so if I blow out it is possible to start over or what would i do?
It depends. Sometimes parts of it are usable, but most of the time it's just best to whack off all the glass and start over again.
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Old 2005-12-14, 3:43pm
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Thanks Alex! But i have to tell you I made shards the first time I tried to blow a vessel!LOL It popped and scared me to death! I haven't revisited the hollow tube again but I will now!
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Old 2005-12-14, 4:47pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by softbleu
Great tutorial, Alex. I really needed this because I have been really wanting to try it.

I have a question: If you end up with a shard that is a little big, do you think it would look ok if I cut it with some round blade cutters to make it into smaller pieces? Have you ever done this or do you just smash it with the other mandrel?
Christy, after the blown piece cooled, I just banged on it with my brass marver until they broke into smaller pieces. Fun...I like breaking things! LOL
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Old 2005-12-15, 9:56am
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Thanks, Alex! Awesome tutorial!
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  #23  
Old 2005-12-15, 11:41am
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Thank you ALex for the great tut and awesome pics! I just got my Tink mandrel and as soon as the garage warms up again I will give this a try!
YOu put a lot of work into this!

pat
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  #24  
Old 2005-12-15, 1:32pm
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I just got done with another set of shard beads. I tried them before when Jen put up her tutorial and this one is a great one also Alex! I finally got some thinner shards so I hope the set turns out! It looked very organic-y going in the kiln so hope they look good coming out!
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  #25  
Old 2005-12-15, 5:32pm
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Thank you, Alex, for the great tutorial. It's so good that you are willing to share your time and knowledge.
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  #26  
Old 2005-12-15, 8:29pm
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Anne Ricketts Anne Ricketts is offline
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Hey can we post pics on this thread? I don't want to step on any toes so if not that's fine too!
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  #27  
Old 2005-12-16, 10:54pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anne Ricketts
Hey can we post pics on this thread? I don't want to step on any toes so if not that's fine too!
I'd love to see your work, please post your pictures!
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BHB/PANDORA EXCHANGE IN THE PATIO
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  #28  
Old 2005-12-16, 11:05pm
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Sue H-K Sue H-K is offline
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How fun was that!!! I finally had some time to go out and blow shards (sucessfully in the first try thanks to Alex and Jen Geldard) I almost hated to break my big bubble as it was really nice and symmetrical. If I'd had some hot fingers I would have somehow gotten it off the mandrel and made a christmas ornament...anyway, I've a "sharded heart" in the kiln right now and I can't wait to see it in the morning!
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  #29  
Old 2005-12-17, 5:25am
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Anne Ricketts Anne Ricketts is offline
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Ok Alex, thanks! For those of you that missed the showcases these are a couple of sets and a couple of focals made with shards.
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  #30  
Old 2005-12-17, 6:01am
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Great beads Anne ! Ok, now i want to try this again ! First couple of times for me were more than just blow outs ! They were fly aways ! lol !
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