Sunday, February 08, 2009

Studio Tip: Keeping Glass Warm in a Coooooold Studio

I just had a thought - a borrowed technology thought. I know lots of folks set up their studios in un-heated (or underheated) garages, sheds, workshops, etc. After all - once you get going, the torch and the kiln help warm the space up, and you can schlep the concentrator inside (they don't like to be damp or frozen.) And, you can also haul all your glass inside every time too - but once you've accumulated more than 4-5 pounds - that starts to get old. How nice it would be to have all your glass, stacked and neatly organized, nicely kept handy, and at room temperature - even if the rest of the studio is cold. Because cold glass is shocky - really shocky. Sure - you can stick a few pieces on top of the kiln or run a hotplate to pre-warm. But what if it was just room temp - after all - not all glass needs to be warmed that much.

This is an idea borrowed from my hubby - who's hobby is also glass - but the kind that comes as a fabric and gets stuck together with resin. He's building an airplane - a fibreglass composite aircraft - and the resin for construction of the aircraft - that bonds the fibreglass - must NOT freeze - even though the workshop gets cold. This is what he, and scores of other homebuilt airplane crafters - which there is an entire thriving community of out there - do. They build a "hot box" and keep it warm with a lightbulb.

Here's how. It requires a little do-it-yourselfing.

Find an abandoned dead or dying fridge. Maybe you already have one - there seems to be an endless supply by the side of the road. It's a nice, sturdy, insulated box with a door.

Position the fridge within arms length of the torch, and with the door opening away from the torch. You are going to be leaving the door open while torching.

Take out the shelves. They won't be strong enough for serious amounts of glass. Cut up ABS piping, fabric roll inner cardboard tubes, downspout, fencing post tubes, and stack it inside. Lots of stuff at the home hardware store can be cut to lengths and stacked to sort and store glass. Cut it shorter than the lengths of glass. When it hangs out - it is easier to grab. Be sure the fridge is deep enough to close with the glass rods in it.

You'll need a little electrical knowledge for the next part. You are going to install two light bulbs - in sockets, on a thermostat, in the fridge - the kind of line voltage thermostat as is used for baseboard heaters. (OK - if you have a tiny little heater with a good thermostat - you could use that too.) This appears to be the sort of project that folks who are into electronics immediately say - "oh sure - that's easy." If that's not you, find one and bribe them - glass, beer, chocolate - whatever their price is. You'll want to put the thermostat at the opposite end from the bulbs - so that they don't turn themselves off before the whole thing warms up.

The reason you use two is so that if one burns out - the other one comes on and keeps it warm. This is critical for the resin - but merely inconvenient for glass - so you could skip it. Needless to say - you need to use an incandescent bulb that actually gives off heat - not an energy efficent, no-heat, fluorescent bulb.

So, this is a reversal to the regular fridge, where you use it to keep things cold and the lightbulb goes out when you close the door. You are using it to keep things warm, and the lightbulb stays on. I've been quite boggled at how good this solution has been for keeping the resin warm in the "hangar." Nice and toasty in the fridge, and minus freakin' 30 outside.

You can store your bead release, tools, etc., and other stuff in the door. Nice and handy.

Just a thought.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting idea! I'd love to be able to keep my glass and bead release at room temp. I do put glass on top of the kiln to warm it up; but sometimes it gets too hot to handle! Fortunately (?), I have a teeny studio that doesn't take too long to warm up with a space heater.