Jump to content
I Forge Iron

Inlaying Glass

Recommended Posts

I was reading through Alex Bealers book "The Art Of Blacksmithing", and I came across a small section on inlaying glass and thought that would be perfect for a project I'm working on but the small section in the book didn't go into much detail
Has any of you done this? I'm looking for any advice, tips or tricks to help shorten the learning curve and to keep from ruining the whole project.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I fused and slumped glass for lighting so I can tell you what I know about glass. If you use common "float" glass you need to be aware of several thing.

1) found "float" glass does not have uniform coe (co-efficient of expansion) so just because you may be able to get it to work today does not mean it will work the same way every time. Fusing glass is great with a known COE it is also expensive to experiment with.

2) the COE of glass is generaly similar to stainless steel. Mild steel can work but you can waste a lot of time with cracked and useless results.

3) glass loves to be in a oxygen rich environment steel does not. Lack of oxygen will cause the glass to de-vitrify ie clear glass will get smokey and coloured glass will begin to loose its colour.

4) below 900 f glass begins to thermal shock. so work quick then back into the kiln.

5) float has tin on the surface. The tin will congeal creating cloudy blooms.

I would advice, from personal experience, for best results for medium to largeish inlays:

Forge the piece with the desired recesses to be inlayed. Cast something like bondo or into the recess. Use that piece to make a mold from jeweller investment then using glass frit (powered glass ) kiln cast the piece to be inlayed. Using frit has the advantage of filling the mold more closely so you only have to "top up" the mold once or as neccessary. Once the glass has been annealed epoxy it into you item.

for smaller inlays, knobs and drawer pulls:

if you try to melt directly into a recess use oxy/propane torch fairly lean and start with a small recess, anneal the glass by wrapping it in kao wool. I would also be be inclined to read up on glass bead making . There are a wide selection of glass rods available for bead/marble making. there are also little beads call millefiori that could greatly enhance your design.

Murano Millefiori hand blown Murano Glass millefiori (thousand flowers) for mosaic and glass art

One last tip glass fractures that are almost invisible to the naked eye can be seen with a polarizing lens; however, sometimes it is best not to know :)

hope this helps a little and does not scare you away from trying.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks guys, Alex Bealer made it sound alot easier. LOL

Alex Bealer made a lot of things sound easier than they are. He was more of a historian than a smith and didn't get everything right.

Still, preserving blacksmithing as a functioning craft is largely to his credit, he documented, recorded and published the art in a way many, myself included, found inspirational.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alex Bealer made a lot of things sound easier than they are.

I couldn't agree more! ;)

I did a couple test pieces once when I was bored and waiting for a chisel to normalize or something. I sliced off some thin sections of pipe . Then I crushed up some of those little colored glass aquarium beads. I sprinkled the glass dust into the sections of pipe and heated the whole thing up with the torch. SLOWLY. I used a chunk of rod with a rounded end to gently pack the glass down as it melted. Most of them ended up with a bunch of little cracks within the glass itself, but it made a pretty cool effect when you held it up to the light.

If I might make a recommendation, check around and see if there is someone who is a glass blower in your area, and see if they'd mind if you stopped by to watch them work. I recently had a rather large globe made for a lighting fixture (that I will someday get around to making :rolleyes: ). I straight out asked the lady who was making it for me if I could stop by and check out the operation. She was more than happy to let me watch her working in the studio (probably because of what I was paying for the globe...) It's really neat to watch and I walked away with lots of neat ideas for future projects involving hand-blown glass elements, and a better understanding of how heated glass behaves. She also mentioned a possible need in the future for custom made tools, so I've possibly got that coming down the pipeline someday as well.

-Aaron @ the SCF
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...