Thursday, January 27, 2011

Glass Color

People often ask me how I get my glass to be the right color. Some people ask me if I paint the glass or if I add chemicals to the glass. So I'm going to explain here about recycled glass colors. Let me first off say that even though I can often be found with a variety of liquor bottles in my possession, I don't drink alcohol. However, alcohol bottles are the most abundant type of bottle out there and come in the biggest variety of colors. That’s right; I get my colors from the bottles themselves.

There are a few ways stained glass gets its color. First of all normal glass is clear which is very convenient because it would be weird to look out of colored glass windows all the time. To get different colors of glass manufacturers add metal oxides to a batch of molten glass. Different metal oxides in different ratios produce the myriad of colors that you see in stained glass. These colors can range between opaque to clear, dark and light and everything in between. There are several companies out there that specialize in producing consistent colors for use in art glass.

This is a good time to talk about compatibility. The companies that make art glass usually try and make their glass compatible. This means that two different pieces will fuse together when heated and when they cool they will maintain a congruent, cohesive bond. Basically glass expands as it is heated and as it cools it contracts. Depending on the chemical makeup of the glass, i.e. the different metal oxides mixed in, the glass may expand and contract at different rates. If you try and fuse two pieces of glass that are not compatible, they will expand and contract at different rates and a cohesive bond will not form resulting in cracking and in extreme cases explosions. The trick here is to produce glass that is not only compatible, but also in a range of colors. The swirly colors seen in a lot of stained glass is produced in this way.

Bottle and window manufacturers don’t care if their glass is compatible with others, they only care if their glass finishes out structurally and visually sound. This is why people usually don’t fuse recycled glass; it just isn’t compatible. Because some of the metal oxides required to get certain colors are expensive (silver and gold for example) there are several colors that you will rarely see in “throw away” liquor bottles. Reds, yellows, oranges, and purples are rare in bottles and are usually reserved for art glass or more expensive containers and vases.

Another way glass is colored is by painting it with fuseable glass. If you look at stained glass in churches and see faces that look like they are painted it is because they are. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a cheap trick because it usually isn’t. Specially trained glass painters practice for years to learn to paint with enamels on glass. Enamels are basically powered glass. The artist will paint on the glass and then fire the glass in a kiln to fuse the enamel onto the glass. The end product truly is “stained glass” that won’t scrape off and can’t be washed off.

The last way glass is colored is by painting it with regular paint. This is the cheapest and worst way to color glass. Basically the glass is painted with normal paint, and that’s all. This kind of paint will eventually come off because there is no chemical bond to adhere it to the glass. If you were to put painted glass in a kiln it would burn of the paint and you will get a dirty clear glass as a result.

As a result of all this, I have a limited pallet of colored glass to choose from. Most of my glass comes from bottles including the ones shown here. (No, I am not endorsing any of them.) Sometimes I use different colored (usually white) light sconces. To get the hard to find colors I search the thrift stores for vases, plates, cups, etc. Everything I use has to be cut with my saw and then fired flat in the kiln before I can use it in stained glass.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Christmas Presents

A little Late, but here are some of the projects I did for Christmas.  As always, you can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Stained glass Mickey Mouse

This Mickey was for my boss who is a huge fan.  100% recycled glass.

Stained Glass Humming Bird and Iris
 These two were requests.  I had made these two before and gave them to my Mother in Law who hung them up in her classroom at school.  This time they were made for someone who saw them in the window and wanted me to make them one as well.  Both are 100% recycled.

Stained Glass Joseph
 Here is Joseph for a stained glass nativity.  About  80% recycled glass and 20% reclaimed glass.

Mary & Jesus for a Nativity

 Here is Mary for the stained glass nativity. She is also about 80% recycled glass and 20% reclaimed glass.


The "complete"  Nativity

 Here is the whole family together just after opening on Christmas day.  I actually made two of these Nativity sets.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Watering System

So, it's in the middle of winter, 12° (-11 C°) outside, with several inches of snow and more on the way. All this adds up to me thinking about the garden again. I was going through my pictures and found a few that I took this summer of the watering system. So I'm going to show you what we use to water our little front yard garden.

You can see the markings for where to drill
the holes as well as a few tiney holes
To start off, I had to put in an automatic watering system. I just know that I don't have time each day to stand there and water everything by hand, plus when I run a sprinkler system I usually forget it and leave it on way too long. So a timing system was high on my priority list. So, we rented a trencher and buried the pipe.  

The drilled sprinkler pipe threaded into the regular
PVC riser laying on top of a small block "riser"
I decided to use the system designed and perfected by Jacob Mittleider. This system uses the thin walled (cheaper and less clogging) 3/4 inch PVC pipe with holes drilled in it. The holes are made with a #57 drill bit -think Heinz 57. There are three holes drilled every four inches down the pipe. The first hole is straight down and the other two are 45° on either side so that you end up with 90° of spray. The pipe is raised off the ground using 6” long pieces of 2x4 lumber. A couple of finish nails sticking up on either side of the pipe keeps it from sliding off the wood. These risers are spaced about every 4 to 5 feet down the grow bed. This will give you about 12 -16 inches of spray, so should only be used in narrow 18” wide grow beds/boxes.

Rain sensor mounted on the pergola

The Central Utah Water Conservancy District has a program where you can receive a rebate for certain parts of an energy efficient watering system. Luckily the nice lady on the other end of the phone was familiar with the Mittleider watering system and was willing to qualify it for the rebate. This meant that I had to install a rain sensor (she later told me that I should have bought a different kind, but she let it slide). It ended up only raining once or twice after I put the sensor in anyway, but I’m sure it will be useful this year. After the rebate the whole system cost me about $225. Not too shabby for how extensive it is.

12 valves before I put in the gravel underneath
and the boxes above

At my friend’s house we put this system in and found that we could only put about 20 feet of pipe in each zone. After that the pressure died off and the end of the row wouldn’t get enough water. At my house, that ended up being overkill. I ended up putting in 12 zones, but could have probably gotten away with only putting in 8 or so.

Control boxes with the receiver for the rain sensor
I have the timer set up to water every day, but I only run it for one minute each zone (three minutes in the hottest part of the summer). I have found that this gives the plants all the water they need. But the best thing by far about the automated watering system is that I don’t have to do anything in my garden but prune, weed, fertilize, and harvest. I can even go on vacation and not worry about it. Now that’s the kind of garden I like!