The Battle with Reduction Frit

Reduction frit makes me crazy.  I’ve made a half dozen beads in the same session using the exact same tools, glass, techniques and reduction frit, and they all turn out completely different.   Can someone tell me how you put the bead in a propane (gas) heavy flame and don’t come out with a mucked up bead?  It is possible!  Karen Leonardo made the most amazing gold and silver metallic beads using reduction frit – each was like a priceless treasure – gorgeous!

I attempted to make beads that used opaque ivory glass as the base, covered in silver foil, then topped with a freeform surface design made of reduction frit stringer.  As you can see below, I tried several of the same bead.  All are different.  None look like what I was going for, although the one on the right did actually reduce nicely, but the bead was darkened from keeping it too long in the propane.  Ugh!

What the experts say…

I started reading up on different methods for using reduction frit.  Here are a few points I found…and after some experimentation, I added my own thoughts…

  1. Reduction glass is one of those things everyone has to figure out on their own using their own torches, and one must go through a lot of beads to figure it out….like earning your right of passage to the world of reduction glass.   I suppose this is true with lampwork in general.  One must know one’s torch. 
  2. Brass and metal tools help initiate the process.   Applies more to raku, not so much with reduction frit. 
  3. It doesn’t matter what color or kind of glass you use with the reduction frit.   I believe this to be true. 
  4. The key is getting the flame right.  I’ve read 60-70% propane (gas) flame, or turning the oxygen off completely leaving a high propane (gas) flame which is supposedly clean and working at the base of the flame.  Wave the bead in and out of the top end of this flame for up to 10 seconds.   This begs the question…can you really have a high gas flame that’s clean?  

My Ahah Moment

Can you really have a high gas flame that’s clean?  Within the answer to that question lies the solution to achieving consistent results with reduction frit.

I sat down this time and made a bunch of small beads using all types of reduction frit and stringers, including silver blue, copper ruby, and three shades of iris gold.   However, I decided to try turning the oxygen off completely and holding the bead at the base of the torch where the gas is supposedly clean.  Sure enough, it worked.  I turned the bead in the flame at the base for a quick 2 seconds, then waved it back and forth in the base of the flame for another 2 or 3 seconds until I’d reached the look I wanted.  The glass reduced fast, consistently, beautifully…every time.

Of course, if you hold it in too long, the bead will become dark and murky.  But this method seems so easy, so simple, so fast that I can’t help wonder why it was ever a mystery to begin with.   If you’re battling with reduction frit, battle no more.  Give this method a try and watch your bead decor sparkle and shimmer like treasure in a pirates cove.

Documenting the Journey and Sharing Discoveries in Hot Glass