Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Little Fiber, A Little Glass

Today I finished a sample piece for a "Join in and Make Challenge" that's part of the online felting community to which I belong. It was interesting and fun, and I learned quite a bit about this technique. I'll be incorporating my sample into a larger felted piece. I wanted to use it on a vessel but it's just too heavy. I may try this again with some refinements. Here's a lousy picture (my own picture... bad lighting) of my sample. Does it make you think of anything in particular?

Later, I'll be working on more of my embellished felt pieces for possible necklaces/pins.

Regarding glass... I got into a discussion with someone last week about flame annealing soft glass beads. I've been making beads for over 9 years and I've been a member of the International Society of Glass Beadmakers for 9 years. All the information I've read and heard on this topic is that so-called flame annealing does NOT properly anneal your beads. If you anneal them this way, they are more likely to break some time down the road than if you anneal them in a kiln. Why? Because flame annealing does not eliminate the stress that is created in the glass when parts of the bead (outside) cool at a different rate than other parts of the bead (inside). The person with whom I was having this conversation insisted that when she took a bead making class many years ago, they did not put their beads into a kiln. They flame annealed their beads, and she still has these beads many years later and they never broke.

So I ask all of you folks out there who are glass bead makers: What is your take on this subject? Is flame annealing sufficient? Would you ever sell beads that you only flame anneal? Would you even bother flame annealing?

And now I'm off for a Starbucks treat. Go have yourselves a happy and creative day!

16 comments:

Cindy said...

I started lampworking about 8 years ago. I heard the 'anneal' don't anneal but flame anneal argument all the time. I had some nice sized beads I was quite proud of so I put them into a bracelet. Just 6 months ago they all began to crack.

I have too much pride in my work to sell something and have it do this. My reputation is on the line.

Pam said...

re: the flame annealing question... my beads are way too big to even consider doing that, it would never work. I did once have a pretty famous beadmaker tell me that the small crunched beads really can survive without being kiln annealed... but if you've got a kiln running anyway, why not be better safe than sorry?

now that felt thing.... wow! It reminds me of a brain. no, coral, no, brain coral... or some seed pod from a very strange plant. It's pretty cool.

Shirley Cook - Jumping Jack Glass said...

Cindy, I'm with you. And it's interesting about the cracking - were they flame annealed?

Pam, regarding the felting thing - if I had done it in other colors, I might have used it for some sea anemone type of thing. But this is going to end up on a "tree". :-)

Anonymous said...

'Flame annealing'is NOT annealing a bead. To anneal a bead it must be put in a kiln at a temperature higher than the stress point of the glass and slowly brought to room temperature. I'm not going to go into the whole annealing process but a bead that hasn't been annealed in a kiln should not be sold.

Sara said...

Nope, not possible. The "flame annealing" I have seen is really putting a layer of soot on your bead. It acts as an insulator, but does nothing to anneal the bead. Look at it this way.. when you take your bead out of the flame, the inner core is a hotter temp than the outer core. As soon as it hits room temp, the outer core starts a rapid cool down. You are taking your piece out of an environment exceeding 2000 degrees into on in the 68-75 degree range. When you place it in the kiln at 960 and give it a chance to become 960 all the way through, you are stabilizing the piece. Then controlling the cool down process. There is no way you can do that in the torch. Remember also that glass is a super cooled liquid, not a solid and it's molecules are always racing, although at such a low rate that the human eye cannot see it when at room temp. You can't make the piece think it's all one piece in the flame. The stress you put into the piece while working it needs adjusting. It's only possible to adjust the molecules in the kiln.

beth boal said...

I think there is plenty of science available on the topic. The "soak" time and rate at which you actually must reduce the temperature is just physically impossible to recreate with so-called "flame annealing". Unless you are talking about really tiny beads with nothing fancy (like metal, dichro, or glass with the possibility of even a small difference in COE).

My understanding always was that "flame annealing" is really an entirely different activity. It removes any tool marks, helps finish the bead to a very shiny finish and "prepare" the bead for the kiln or fiber blanket, etc. But it was not a replacement for true annealing.

Even with "flame annealing", even on the smallest of beads, you would use a fiber blanket or vermiculite to slow cooling. That right there tells me "flame annealing" is in no way synonymous with "kiln annealing".

To me there isn't really anything to debate as it's comparing apples and oranges. Now, if you want something to debate, is "batch" annealing (after "flame annealing" and then slow cooling in a fiber blanket) as good as kiln annealing at the time of creation? I've always assumed not, but not sure of the science on that one...

Karen Sherwood said...

Flame annealing just plain isn't annealing. You can work a bead in and out of the flame to help keep the outside warm while the core cools *slightly* but it's absolutely not the same as the slow, controlled cooling you get in a properly programmed kiln. Small beads may survive for a considerable period of time, but larger beads will crack due to the stresses of uneven cooling.

esbeads said...

I love the felted piece! Reminds me of grapes, a giant raspberry, or caviar! Guess I'm hungry!
As to annealing, I was taught to flame anneal prior to putting the bead in the kiln. I would not sell a bead that has not been annealed in the kiln. It is just too risky and why take the chance with your work and reputation?

rosebud101 said...

I anneal my beads in a kiln. I do not flame anneal my beads. I'd be afraid that they would break.

Jenny @ TAG said...

Hey beautiful! Personally, I think that felt item looks more like a grenade or pine cone than anything else. ;-D

On the glass question, I do think we need to move away from even using the word "anneal" with this technique (of cooling the bead back to color in the flame before parking it.) Obviously smaller beads can survive for a while without a kiln treatment -- but then your handmade pieces are no more durable than the cheap mass-produced lampwork beads imported by the ton. We should be annealing them for strength, durability, and for one thing we can say REALLY makes a difference between a 50 cent import bead and yours for $10.

Cindy said...

Sorry, I should have specified. Yes, they were flame annealed. My DH insisted I have a kiln when I started doing this. His theory is if you do something do it well. We had a girl in our local bead group that always sold beads right off the mandrel at shows. She'd demo, somebody would want to buy it and she'd sell it to them.

She insisted the beads were flame annealed. So, I put the theory to test. I was surprised how long they held out. But they did in fact crack. I put a post about it on my blog when it happened.

Shirley Cook - Jumping Jack Glass said...

Thanks to all of you for your comments!

Jenny, you made me laugh out loud! (grenade... wow!)

Jenn said...

I think the issue has already been put to rest and I agree with everyone regarding kiln-annealing being a key ingredient in "finishing" a bead.

I'm just going to use my own beads as an example. I took my first class and we did not kiln-anneal our first beads in this class. We "flame-finished" them. All of my beads from this class have broken. One broke on the way home from class. (That was a disappointment!)

I played with beads for another 4-5 months before I took the plunge to buy a kiln. I wanted to see if I was serious.

I have now traveled across the world and shipped my beginner beads with my glass stash to my new home in Hong Kong. My pre-kiln beads that had survived much initial abuse (getting dropped on tile and cement floors) did not survive the trip across the ocean as beautifully. Now, two years later, when I get my beginner beads out for people who are interested, I find that many more are broken. I still get interesting ideas from them...and I'm proud of my first dabblings in industrial arts...but, they aren't salable.

So...to sum up... I would use my own beads to demonstrate that kiln-annealing is an important step in selling quality beads. Sometimes even my kiln-annealed beads break (disk beads). But, that is less likely than my non-kiln-annealed beads.

Anne Londez said...

If you can re-create in your flame the exact temp, soak-time and first 100 F ramp-down rate of an electronically-controlled kiln no problem, you can flame-anneal. Anyone who can actually do it give me a call...

As to your felt piece, it reminds me... of a brain. Too much Halloween ?

Amy said...

I've never even heard of flame annealing, and after four years living and working in beads and glass here on Murano, someone would have mentioned it by now. Traditionally, most people have used wood ash to anneal,for beads smaller than 14mm. Anything bigger is put into a kiln.
There are many many artisans and production beaders that work without a kiln, using only wood ash pots.
But nobody would think of doing what I'm understanding flame annealing to be, it seems completely unreliable. And believe me, if it really worked well, they'd be doing it here to avoid the expense and investment of the kiln!

Beaver Island Jewelry said...

You have to anneal beads or they will break - maybe not today or tomorrow but later. If you sell them you don't want your customers coming back!

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