Coffee has come and gone (literally). The iPod is still down in the studio and all is quiet here. Yesterday I was still so discombobulated by the (in)famous people browsing my site that I forgot to post the most important news of the day: I have broken my dependence on Thinfire! I hear the tiny cheers from other fusers across the country and can see them doing the wave in the distance--and well they should!
Don't get me wrong--Thinfire is a wonderful product. But to have to use it for every firing, and to have cut enough to cover the entire shelf area in Big Bertha (almost 6' X 3')--because I always plan to fill her all the way up, but sometimes I run out of time and have to fire with gaps--is both labor and cost intensive. Then there is the clean-up: After Thinfire has been fired it turns from paper to dust held together with a fragile webbing. If you scoop carefully sometimes you can get it all up in more or less one piece. If you end up having to sweep up bits of it (90+% of the time), it sticks to the shelf and makes a dusty mess.
So how did I break this vicious cycle? At the end of 2004 I bought a large ceramic fiber board to use as a kiln shelf (Duraboard HD... I think). I scoured the warm glass posts and archives to see how to prepare it for use as a shelf and to find out if I could fire bare on it or if I needed to use fiber paper (Thinfire) or fiber blanket. The answers I found were mixed enough that I just went ahead and used Thinfire for safety's sake: The last thing I wanted to do was fuse a glass piece to my brand new soft shelf and have huge chunks pull out of it when I lifted the piece up.
A couple of weeks ago I broke a corner off of this shelf as I was maneuvering it back into the kiln after a deep slump. So a couple of days ago I figured, what the hell, that corner is already munged up anyway, why not try to fuse on it to see if the glass sticks. It did not! I am going to do more extensive testing, but it looks like I can fire bare with equanimity at my fusing temps. This is going to speed up my production cycle and make my studio less dusty and less harmful to my lungs. And cheaper, did I mention cheaper?