Can’t say I’m a fan of cold working fused glass. It can be a bit tedious and also a little stressful. But it has to be done and the easier it is, as far as I’m concerned, the better.
So what do you do if you only have a small budget? Well, you make do, a lot. I do have a smaller budget and can’t just buy all those nice things like belt sanders etc, so I had to find a few alternatives. This article is all about how my station for cold working fused glass came about.
Okay, in this first photo you get a good overall view of the whole station and its components. But I will break it down a bit so you can see how it came into being.
This shows you the stand that I use for my grinder, some associated tools, including diamond pads, and the light I use. behind that is a large diamond flat lap that I use for some larger items, and some smaller items as well.
The Grinder Stand
The small grinder I use is a Glastar Super Start II. I’ve had it for a few years and it performs well. But you could do this with any small grinder.
My needs here were several. We make small pieces for jewellery so some grinding of small pieces is necessary. This unit has a range of attachments that suited me because I needed to grind inside and outside of small curves, do bevelling and a number of other things. So I have had one for a while.
However, previously to this stand I had to pull it out from storage and set it up every time I needed to use it. That soon become painful. So I looked around second-hand stores for a solution and found this stand that works perfectly. I have no idea what it was used for previously, but at just $20 it was a bargain. I did have to do a little modification on the sides, so I could gain more freedom with movement around the grinder. You can see where I cut pieces out of each side and curved them into the shape of the stand. The only other modification was a hole at the back for the grinders power lead.
A light was the next thing. Well, that was a $15 clip-on light with a strong bright halogen bulb. And being on a flexible arm meant that I could adjust it into the perfect position. That was new from our local office supplies shop.
On the stand are a few things.
The ex-window cleaner spray bottles are perfect for quickly squirting a jet to clean a piece off when working on both the grinder and flat lap.
The small jug is for filling the bottom of the grinder with water and filling the little sponge used to lubricate the grinding head with water.
To the left of the sponge you can just see the handle off a toothbrush. That’s my pusher when grinding. I simply cut the head off of an old toothbrush and I have a great little pusher. being plastic and easily replaced I don’t worry if it gets ground a bit. I can also cut it into different shapes for different purposes. For example, put a groove in it to better hold things.
There’s an old paintbrush for cleaning out the ground glass sediment in the grinder when I drain out the water and give it a clean.
To the far right, near the lamp, is an old chisel. That’s used to help remove the magnetic diamond laps from the flat lap. They really stick on with a strong magnetic back and you have to get under them to release them. They won’t just slide to the side.
Below the grinder, on the shelf, you can see a collection of diamond hand pads. I know, you thinking about water. Behind me and the camera is a laundry tub as a source of water when using the pads, when filling the water reservoirs in the grinder and the flat lap, and general cleaning.
Cleaning the Grinder
I need to explain what I do here, as you have to do it regularly.
To clean this grinder the grate on top lifts off and there’s a rubber plug in the water reservoir that when removed allows the water to drain out, down through the unit. So the outlet is under the unit. No, I don’t allow it to drain over the stand. Because the outlet is towards the front, I move the grinder forward so the outlet underneath hangs over the edge, put a square bucket under it on that shelf and drain into that. Easy, except the glass sediment is a little stubborn. That’s what the old paintbrush is for. To encourage the ground glass sediment to drain out.
The spray bottles you see there also help with the cleaning. I also use a short jet of water to help get all that gunk out. They are also used when grinding to wash sediment off the piece I am grinding so I can see better.
The Flat Lap
On the right-hand side of the stand you can see the flat lap on the floor, and what looks like a plastic bucket attached to the timber stand. Well, it is a cheap plastic bucket, but more about that in a bit.
I needed a large enough flat lap that I could grind the edges of pieces nice and straight. All the flat laps that I could buy new were generally much smaller, and quite expensive. This lap was used for lapidary work, gemstones, that sort of thing. But, of course, it can be also used for glasswork.
I purchased it second-hand from Gumtree for just $200. It was really filthy after sitting in a garage for years but worked beautifully. Just needed a clean.
It’s sitting on a low timber base just to get it to a better working height. As you can see, I sit on that little slung stool when working with it.
The buck is a cheap plastic bucket I modified for a water reservoir. You can see it sitting on a couple of shelf brackets screwed to the side of the timber stand.
The modifications to the bucket were as simple as drilling a hole in the bottom big enough for a small tap that I inserted and sealed with silicone. This leads to a piece of plastic tubing that is wound with soft copper wire. You can see all this in the photo. This allows me to move the water delivery tube to anywhere on the lap I require.
A very simple solution and when the bucket has had its day, I just purchase a new one for a few dollars, drill a hole and I’m set to go.
If you’re wondering where the water and sediment go to, it drains out through the bottom into a small bucket under the unit at the back.
Hanging on the side of the stand is a metal square that I use when grinding square or rectangular pieces. It’s right there when needed.
For light, the light I use for the grinder simply unclips and swivels out over the flat lap.
Hanging on the door you can see my apron and a small towel. Grinding can get messy so an apron is a must. Don’t worry, I do use a mask as well, but that is kept in another area.
What Happens to the Waste Water and Glass Sediment?
It’s all put in used plastic bottles, mainly old milk bottles, and left until the sediment settles. The clear water is then drained off and the sediment disposed of in the sealed bottle. It is not just poured into the garden and definitely does not go down the drain.
Glass sediment sets like concrete in drains, and clearing it out can get very expensive.
I suppose the point I am trying to make here is that don’t get caught up with buying expensive equipment to do a job. There are often other solutions. They may not be as pretty, nor provide all the bells and whistles that some gear does, but can still be great solutions at a budget price.
Personally, this setup works well for me and I can’t see any need to change it at the moment.
Hope this helps or at least gets you thinking outside the box for other solutions.