Tip #92: Bottle Slumping
Bottle slumping is becoming quite popular, probably because you don't have to buy special glass, you just re-use wine and beer bottles. (Make sure you recruit your friends to help you drink all that alcohol! We know how it feels to look at a really cool Grey Goose vodka bottle and think "How long will it take me to empty that?" Given how addicting this is, we wouldn't want to be responsible for any irresponsible drinking!)
You will need a kiln that is able to fire to approximately 1500 degrees For higher. Any ceramic kiln or glass kiln can be used for this, as long as the bottles fit. Unfortunately the long shape of bottles make them hard to fit in many kilns. So we designed the Trio Kiln specifically to fit all our bottle slumping molds.
You will need glass bottles, such as wine bottles, beer bottles, soda bottles, etc. Wine bottles make nice trays and dishes, beer and soda bottles make great spoon rests.
Molds are an option that can be used to shape slumped bottles into dishes and spoon rests, or you can simply slump bottles flat, directly on the shelf to make trays. We have a large variety of bottle slumping molds including small and large wine bottles, beer bottles, and double wine bottles. Here are some examples of the shapes you can make with our molds.
With all slumping, there are general principles that need to be followed:
Bottles must be clean and dry. All label residue must be removed. Some people will use isopropyl alcohol to clean any fingerprints from the glass as well. The best label removal process I have used to date is filling the bottles with very hot water, and placing them in a bucket filled with very hot water and powdered oxy-clean. Let that soak a couple hours to over-night. Most labels drop off or can be scraped off with a plastic scraper. I often use those handy fake credit-cards that come in the mail. Ah, yet more recycling!
Bottles need to be placed on a surface that has been kiln washed or shelf paper such as thin-fire paper can be used. This is to prevent the glass from fusing to the shelf. When using kiln wash, be sure the surface is very smooth. Any brush strokes, bumps, etc. will show up in the glass. Even seams between sheets of thin-fire paper will show.
If slumping bottles with "painted" labels such as Corona bottles or Belvedere bottles, those labels remain on the bottle even after slumping. The trick is to have the bottle remain in place during the firing. Otherwise, the label looks off-center. I have used small pieces of thin-fire paper to prop a bottle that wants to roll. Granted these can be seen on the back of the glass, but in my mind that is better than tossing a bottle because the label looks funny.
If using a mold, it should be covered with a thick coat of kiln wash or glass separator. We offer a variety of mold shapes for slumping bottles. You can also make your own shapes using your own bisque. I often use smaller triangle shelf posts wrapped in thin-fire paper to create an elevated neck on beer bottles for spoon rests. They are small enough to allow the top of the bottle to touch the shelf after slumping.
Sometimes glass will get de-vitrify, or get cloudy. This seems very dependent on the glass the specific bottle was made from. But we have found that cleaning the bottle really well helps avoid it. We also have Super Spray, a de-vitrification spray which can be used.
One other thing to consider before firing is whether you plan to hang the tray or spoon rest. I have found high temp. wire works well and does not break down. Copper and brass wires will break down a bit, sometimes leaving unattractive flecks in the neck of the bottle. Simply cut a piece of wire, shape, and place in the opening of the bottle. As the neck slumps, it will permanently fuse the wire into place. If I want the wire to be gold, I just paint it later.
Decorating your slumped bottles can be a lot of fun too. You are the artist! Anything is possible. You can paint on them with Hues2Fuse non-toxic glass paints prior to firing. You can fire the bottles on texture molds. Some people incorporate other pieces of glass, such as marbles, although this can be tricky. And many people use wire (such as copper) to decorate them after firing.
As you research slumping bottles, you will learn there are many different firing profiles out there. Some profiles are provided specifically from the kiln manufacturers, others are a blend of several firing profiles from other artists. My own profile is a combination of both. I use a 7cu. electronic controlled kiln and primarily flatten bottles for cheese trays and spoon rests. The slumping profile that came from the manufacturer did not seem to adequately slump all of the bottles. Whether the uneven slumping was due the location in the kiln, the type of glass, the size of bottle, the variety of bottles in a single load, or the number of shelves I loaded, I cannot be certain. Aside from still trying to eradicate a few small bubbles trapped in the body of the bottle, I have had pretty good success. Generally the firing takes approximately 9 hrs.
|5||250||1475||10 min||takes roughly 4.5 hrs to this point|
|7||500||970||30 min||annealing occurs between 800-1000 deg.|
Let kiln cool naturally.
To give you an idea about different firing profiles, we have also been using this profile for wine bottles, with success, in the Trio Kiln.
|3||300||1425||10 min||at first we had this at 1475 but the edges of the bottle were sharp|
Let kiln cool naturally.
This profile does not even have an annealing phase, but we have found it seems to work fine. If you choose to use this profile, you may consider adding an annealing phase at the end.
Keep in mind these are guidelines, as every kiln will fire a little differently. It will take a few firings in your own kiln to obtain the results you desire. Be sure to keep a log so that once you have a successful load, you can duplicate it. And most importantly have fun with it.
Wishing you the best of luck! - Kris
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