There are many popular glass crafts today that use one of the three main types of glass: hot, warm, and cold.
Artwork involving cold glass, such as etching or engraving, does not require any heat at all. However, hot and warm glass work call for high temperatures.
For people who do not have access to a kiln but would nonetheless love to become involved with some form of glass art, this can be a problem.
Can you melt glass without a kiln? There are two ways to safely melt glass without a kiln: lampworking and using a microwave kiln. Lampworking involves the use of a torch to melt glass to the point of being easily manipulated. A microwave kiln melts glass effectively for small fusing projects.
Even if you don’t have a kiln, you can still create lots of fun glass projects, so don’t lose hope.
You may just need to shift your focus to another equally rewarding form of glass art.
While a kiln is a requirement for some glass work, there are a couple of alternatives that will provide an outlet for your creativity and allow you to enjoy and work with molten glass safely.
Melting Glass Without a Kiln
While there really isn’t a perfect substitute for a true kiln when you’re working with glass, there are alternatives that will allow you to make small glass items at just a fraction of the cost of a regular kiln.
Lampworking is similar to glass blowing but on a much smaller scale.
Lampworkers use a high-temperature torch to heat glass rods and tubes to the point of being malleable.
Once the glass begins to melt enough to be pliable, it can be shaped, blown, and otherwise manipulated into all kinds of objects such as:
- Decorative sculptures.
- Drinking vessels.
You can learn all about the basics, benefits, and necessary supplies of lampworking in my article found here.
For now though, know that lampworking is a viable option that will allow you to pursue your love of working with glass without necessarily having to purchase your own kiln.
Many cities have glass-making studios that offer lessons to help you master the basics.
Then, you can purchase your own torch, a few mandrels, a heat-proof work surface, and glass rods (find them here on Amazon) to get started on your own projects.
As far as the torch goes, you can choose between a hot head torch, a minor torch, and a gas/oxygen torch.
For beginners, I’d recommend a hot head torch like the Bernzomatic TS4000KC. It lights and extinguishes with the push of a button and comes with an easily replaceable MAP-Pro fuel tank.
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Depending on the type and thickness of the glass with which you are working, you may even be able to achieve some basic tack fusing using a torch such as this.
Tack fusing joins two or more glass pieces (frit may be incorporated as well) together, but they will each retain much of their original properties.
The pieces will be permanently joined, but they won’t be fully fused and incorporated into one another as with higher temperature methods.
However, you could successfully fuse decorative items such as paperweights or pendants for jewelry using only a torch.
Just be aware that since no proper kiln annealing is being done, the items may be prone to breaking easily.
For those with their heart set on glass fusing but do not have access to a kiln, a microwave kiln may be the perfect solution.
Technically, a microwave kiln is a kiln, but it is much smaller and costs a great deal less than a regular glass kiln. You can often find them for under $50.
A microwave kiln is a small container usually made of ceramic fiber that concentrates the heat generated from the microwave into its firing chamber.
Because it’s small enough to fit in a microwave, the size of your projects will be limited, but you can still create beautiful fused glass designs for jewelry pendants and small decorations.
Esdabem’s Microwave Kiln Glass Kit comes with everything you need to get started: a kiln, ceramic fiber kiln paper, diamond file, gloves, cutter, opal glass, millefiori glass, confetti glass, frit, and dichroic glass.
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In as little as 6 – 8 minutes, you’ll have a fully fused creation to enjoy.
Just allow it to cool completely in the covered kiln to prevent drastic temperature changes that will lead to cracking.
Note: You should only use a microwave dedicated solely to glass fusing when using any microwave kiln – not one you use for food.
Common Questions About Melting Glass
Many people assume that all you need to melt glass is a heat source, such as an oven or a campfire, and that a kiln is only something professionals use.
This is actually far from the truth.
Kilns are used by both hobbyists and professionals alike and are the ideal way to control the melting process in crafts such as slumping, draping, and fusing.
(You can learn more about these methods here.)
Let’s take a second to sort out the facts here.
The kilns used for glass art today are nearly all electric and come in small sizes designed for personal use, industrial sizes for commercial purposes, and many sizes in between.
Although it’s possible to find a small kiln for around $500 or so, many are priced well into the thousands.
Understandably, some people can’t justify such an expense for a hobby.
However, most glass requires temperatures in excess of 1,200℉ to melt. There really is no getting around that fact.
Without a kiln, achieving this is difficult, but not impossible.
As we’ve already discussed, both lampworking and using a microwave kiln are valid options, but there are still rumors floating around that other methods involving a fire or a household appliance will work too.
Let’s address those issues and set the record straight.
Will a Regular Oven Melt Glass?
As mentioned, glass begins to melt and become fluid at around 1,200℉.
Kitchen ovens, however, are only capable of reaching temperatures around 500℉ or so. Obviously, this isn’t nearly hot enough to get the job done.
Can I Melt Glass in a Fire?
Some folks on occasion enjoy melting glass bottles over a fire. Although it’s not exactly the safest way to go about it, it can be done.
The results, however, will likely not be what you had envisioned.
I explain more in my article about slumping and draping, but for now know that while you can make simple items like spoon rests over a fire, the risk of the glass cracking or shattering is rather high because of the inability to precisely control the heating and cooling of the glass.
Can I Flatten Bottles in a Toaster Oven?
You may have stumbled across videos or articles promoting the use of a toaster oven to flatten glass bottles. Please do not attempt this!
While a toaster oven will melt the bottle to the point that it becomes relatively flat, the method involves leaving the toaster oven on for days at a time and pushes the machine far beyond its intended use.
Doing so is just asking for a major injury or house fire. It is not worth the risk.
Just so you know, the lovely flat bottles you often see for sale at craft shows and shops were formed in a standard kiln, not a toaster.
Why Using a Kiln Is the Best Option
For many glass workers, a kiln is a standard and necessary piece of equipment for several reasons.
Most kilns today can be easily programmed for specific firing schedules based on your project and type of glass.
The kiln will heat the glass at a certain rate, and hold it at the programmed target temperature, repeating these steps according to the firing schedule.
It will then take the glass through a specified cooling cycle to ensure proper annealing occurs.
Results should be fairly consistent once you get the hang of it, and the chances of the glass cracking or shattering will be greatly reduced, thanks to the proper annealing process.