Frit is glass maker’s jargon for crushed glass. Frit comes in all different sizes from extra coarse shards to very fine powder. If you take the large, coarse frit and scatter it on a kiln shelf and then fire the kiln up to 1,500°, you get little spheres of glass like those shown in the photo to the left. (Click to enlarge)
I can already hear the next question coming: “So why would you want to do that?”
There was a tip sheet that caught my eye on the Bullseye Glass website on working with frit. The tip sheet showed a really interesting bowl made up of frit balls as shown in the photo to the right.
When I saw it, I thought that it would be a great idea to make a bowl out of frit balls made from various colors of blue and green glass, with some clear thrown in to help keep the light and airy feel of the dots.
So, this was step one. The next step is to make another kiln shelf full of frit balls from each color I want to have in my finished bowl. Once that’s complete, I’ll experiment with different mixes of the frit ball colors until I find a color combination I like. Next, I’ll tack the frit ball mix I’ve created into a circular shape and then slump the sheet of fused dots into the bowl shape like the one in the photo to the right. Voilà!
For those of you science geeks who want to know why irregularly shaped frit turns into perfect little spheres when you fuse it in the kiln, keep reading. Otherwise, you can go back to your regularly scheduled day…
Because of it’s molecular makeup, glass “prefers” to be be about 1/4″ or 6mm thick. Because of that preference, if a piece of glass is less than that thickness, the sheet will “steal” glass from the edges to create that thickness in the center. For instance, if you fire a thin 1/8″ or 3mm sheet of glass alone on a shelf, the glass sheet will pull in on the sides and the middle of the sheet will be thicker. As you can see in the photo below, the glass in the fused pendant on the right has pulled in on the edges all the way around the piece, but especially so on the top right where there is no clear on top of the colored glass.
As a result of this preference glass has for 1/4″ thickness, when you take coarse shards of crushed glass like those shown in the dish to the right, each tiny shard of glass is much too small to fit glass’ “preferred” structure of 1/4″ thick. Because of that, when the glass is heated in the kiln to a temperature that allows it to melt, it lets go of the form it had and is able to re-form into it’s “preferred” size. Under extreme heat, the glass flows, which allows it to reform into a sphere as it tries to get as close as possible to 1/4″ in every dimension. Ta da – frit balls!
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