I’ve been starting to make murrini from Spectrum System 96 rods recently, and I thought I’d share my experiences with working with this type of glass in the torch.
Observation #1: System 96 opal rods are very well-behaved.
Bullseye opal rods can be rather temperamental. In particular, the pale opals. They can crack during the long, 4th and 5th wrap stages of a cane (I make my murrini using the round-the-world method, which I’ve found gives me personally the best results). The cracking is a pain, as it means that I have to stop, pull of the inch or so of cold rod that has cracked, smooth the break and start wrapping again. I’ve found the tempramental-ness (should be a word) varies significantly by batch – I had some petal pink that was almost completely useless for wrapping and could only be used for making stringers and cores of canes (and being thrown across the shed), and another set that was lovely and well-behaved and I wanted to stroke it. Either way, I always pick up my bullseye pale opal rods with slight apprehension.
In contrast – System 96 opal rods are universally well behaved. They’re like the teacher’s pet of the glass rod world. They’re the kid that would be allowed to take the register back to the office, and stay behind to tidy up the textbooks at the end of the class. They don’t crack, they don’t shock or fizz. They’re smooth and lovely and if every rod was like them, making fusing murrini would be universally wonderful. However, there’s a downside, which leads me on to…
Observation #2: System 96 Opal rods ‘wash-out’ more on pulling and don’t re-opalise on firing.
Some of the Bullseye light opals pull to very transparent, but when the chips are fired in the kiln, they re-gain their opacity and the results are good. However, the System 96 opals don’t seem to do this kiln-re-opalising stage, which can leave the murrini looking a bit ‘washed out’, lacking some of the contrast which is needed to make a striking design. This is a bit disappointing, since many look very opaque in rod form.
Observation #3: Colours are much more limited, but still useful.
As a general rule, saturated transparents are your friend. They retain their colour on being pulled thin and mean that you don’t end up with soggy-looking blobs instead of nice, striking murrini on full fuse. There are a very limited number of colours (in rod, anyway – more on working with sheet in another post), but there are still a good selection of deep transparents, enough to be getting on with in the short- to medium- term, anyway.
In short – working with System 96 has been interesting. I’ve got some more colours and ideas in the pipeline, which I will be making as and when. I think it’s fair to say that Bullseye are the market leader in fusing glass, but I can see why System 96 fusers are loyal – the turquoises especially are very pretty =)