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The Graphite Kiln Shelf

Graphite seems like it would be an ideal material for a kiln shelf.  It's commonly used by bead makers and glassblowers to shape glass.  It can easily withstand the heat of the torch, can be used as a mold for shaping beads, and leaves a smooth, glossy finish on the glass. It's also available in several forms, including smooth slabs that seem ideally suited for the kiln.

Despite these desirable characteristics, graphite does not make a good kiln shelf.  If used in a kiln, it will work well for the first firing, and sometimes for the second, but by the time it has been fired several times the graphite starts to disintegrate.  Continue firing and you're soon left with a pitted surface, chunks of broken graphite, and ugly black dust all over the kiln.

The reason graphite works well for lampworking and bead making but won't work for kiln shelves is that fusing requires the shelf to be exposed to high heat for a long period of time.  This starts to break down the shelf and eventually makes it decompose entirely.  In glassblowing and torch working, by contrast, the graphite is only in contact with the glass for a very short period of time, so problems of prolonged exposure are avoided.

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Copyright 2005 Brad Walker.  All rights reserved.

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Copyright 2005-2006 by M. Bradley Walker.  All rights reserved.

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