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Using Patterned Dichroic Glass

We've had many customers ask us questions so I thought I'd post some info here for all to see.

When speaking about patterned dichroic glass, I'm mostly speaking about the patterns we create here at Glass Orchids/UGotGlass, but the info can cross over to other patterns. I've included an informational section below that touches on the different processes used to create patterned glass but this is not intended to teach you about the various processes available. You'll have to investigate that for yourself if you want to make patterns of your own. More and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon and attempting to market patterned dichroic glass because it sells well. This is NOT an easy thing to do well and there are safety issues involved in 'doing' the patterns yourselves as some of the chemicals/materials are a health hazard. Buy only a little from a new company and test it before you make a large investment. It's wise to purchase a small amount on clear and some on black for best testing. If they sell scrap buy that as it will be a less expensive way to test (we do). Ask about their return policy too (we take it back if you have a problem). (.......or just buy from us and you'll be happy <smile>....)

(I'll be adding project images of both problems and correct pieces as soon as I can....)

There are two types of patterns:

  1. Those that are meant to be used as a 'background' pattern, i.e. you are not using individual shapes but using the pattern much as you would wallpaper. Patterns such as our Pebbles or Asia fit this category.

With these images you simply cut them and use them in your own work. There aren't many considerations you need to worry about.

  1. Those in which you cut out individual images to use all by themselves such as our Star of David pattern or Crop Circles.

There are a few things you need to think about when using these.

Cutting them out:

You need to be careful when cutting these out. We've left enough space between these so you can cut them out and still have enough space around them to place them evenly on a base. If you aren't careful then you won't have enough black or clear on all sides to place evenly.  I cut these out in strips using the Morton Grid and then cut the individual pieces out by hand... it's easier to cut each piece out just eyeballing them (at least for me).

Placing them on a base:

When placing these on a base you need to think about the size.  If the base is too small then the piece will stretch as the piece fuses and tries to become round and 1/4" thick (as glass wants to be).  If your finished pieces are becoming distorted then you are not making the base piece large enough.

If the pieces underneath are not 'flat' then the image will distort as it fuses and stretches over whatever is underneath. Thus these don't layer well.

Clear or Black Base?

Should you order your patterns on a clear base or a black base? Well, if you are going to fire the images on top (leaving the metallic up) then purchase black as it is bolder. If you are going to embed wire then purchase it on black so you don't see the wire underneath. However, if you are going to fire your dichro on top of a colored art glass or you are going to layer your pieces then you want to purchase it on clear.... this goes for the 'background' patterns as well. Clear is less expensive as well (usually).

Firing:

I find that firing individual images works best with the dichro side up. They are bolder and don't distort as much. I also find that using them in certain, very bold colors, works best.  I prefer the following: Cyan/Copper, Green/Magenta, Red/Silver, Red/Silver Blue, Green/Pink, Pink/Teal and Magenta/Green.

Other Considerations:

Different Manufacturing Techniques

We use a proprietary process, one that Greg spent over two years developing (and many thousands of dollars.)  We could tell you how WE do it but then we'd have to kill you <smile>*.

A note about the patterns themselves - Greg creates our patterns by hand. It takes dozens of hours to insure that each one is perfect and crisp. Our patterns have an amazing level of detail that most cannot achieve. Further, each patterned piece of glass is created by hand by Greg from start to finish.... not only does the original image have to be crisp, the pattern has to be 'created' carefully so as not to lose those details! We aren't churning out production pieces...... each one is created individually with care and precision.

Many companies use public domain, clip art for their patterns. I've seen some that are taken straight from Windows backgrounds, Adobe Photoshop fill patterns and clip art libraries that I bought 20 years ago!! Our creativity, attention to fine detail and our proprietary process meld to bring you a superior product for inclusion in your own work! Unlike many, we use our patterns in our own fused jewelry (as a MicroSoft tech support guy once said to me 'At MicroSoft, we eat our own dog food'... at UGotGlass, we do too...). If Nancy won't use it, we won't sell it (and she's a real pain in the you-know-where)!!

PATTERNS CREATED DURING THE COATING PROCESS

Each pattern is created during the dichroic coating process inside the chamber.  A mask is applied to the sheet glass which blocks part of the glass from being coated.  CBS uses this technique to create that lovely rainbow effect in their patterns.

POST COATING PATTERNS:

Most patterns are created after the glass is made 'dichroic' so you don't have that rainbow effect but, rather, have a two color glass ..... dichro + Black or Clear. These are typically more expensive than those made during the coating process because the creator starts with DICHROIC GLASS while CBS starts with ART GLASS!! i.e. we gotta buy it from them AND THEN make the patterns......the more hands that have to touch a thing before it's done, the more expensive it's going to be.... BUT, you can't get the level of detail using the in-process method. There are several methods of creating post coating patterns.  We aren't going to discuss those methods here.

TROUBLESHOOTING:

I'm not going to discuss the methods used to create patterned glass but I will discuss some of the problems you may have. 

1] Sometimes the dichroic coating is compromised by being exposed to chemicals for too long. This is like over exposing a photo. I've had this happen with some patterns I've purchased and the dichro was almost invisible after firing. Alternatively, some of the pattern may have been removed by accident if the glass was exposed to too much of the chemicals.

2] If you find that there is a grey 'haze' around the image when fired metallic side up OR if the glass appears cloudy when clear capped this may be due to one of two things. First, wash the glass before using, the haze could be due to dust on the glass. Secondly, if it's not dust then don't buy glass from that company again.... they don't fuse glass themselves (so don't know about the problem) and are using a process not fine tuned for dichroic glass.

3] If you find that you're getting air bubbles around the images. This may be because the image is made too deeply into the glass allowing air to get trapped. If this is the case you can tack fuse your raw glass before using it in your work.  This will flatten out the glass and remove the 'texture'.

One other issue:

The glass itself. The art glass we use is 99% hand rolled (we do have an occasional machine rolled piece but I don't like it). Like raw silk, hand rolled  glass contains some imperfections, i.e. bumps, lines etc....  THESE ARE NOT DEFECTS. This glass is then coated to create dichroic glass. If you bought a piece of regular dichro or art glass with these imperfections it would not be returnable because there is nothing wrong with it. We buy it from the factory and cannot, and do not, return it because there is nothing wrong with  it. We try not to use pieces with irregularities when creating our patterned glass because people perceive it as being defective.  If we ship you a patterned piece that contains one of these imperfections (maybe we only had a small amount of the color you wanted) you will see that we've given you a larger piece than normal.... we make up for it by giving you a larger piece or an additional piece! Instead of a 2" x 4" piece you may have a 2 1/2" x 4 1/2" piece.....  except for the single image patterns there should be no problem fusing glass containing these little irregularities. I use it all the time.......think I'm going to throw away dichro?!!!!

WASH THE GLASS BEFORE USING:

We wash our glass before shipping but some residue may be present and may cause your glass to look dirty after firing. Other manufacturers may not clean their glass as well. No matter which process the creator uses, we recommend washing the glass before you use it. Wash with warm water and rub gently with a sponge.

*We won't tell you how we do it. We won't answer specific questions about how we do it OR don't do it. When you DO ask and we refuse to tell you, don't get mad, we warned you that we won't tell you. I'm saying this because it has happened and continues to happen. We teach 98% of what we know and offer a lot of it here on this site. Other glass artists get mad at us for sharing all this information to you for free! However, there are a few things that are core to our business, that we spent a LOT of time and money developing. It would HURT our business to share them. Be reasonable. We've made a huge investment in time and money to develop our own process. It's taken us years. No reasonable person would expect us to hand the information out to anyone who asks (for free to boot!)!!

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