As some of you may already know, I saw some thing new at the Glass Craft and Bead Expo - 2007. Kokomo Hot Glass Studio was presenting bevels made from their colored glass stock. Not only were these bevels amazing for their deep rich color, a signature of all Kokomo glass, but also, bevels made with their exclusive textures, such as vertigo, an intriguing combination.
Little did I realize that I would be fortunate enough to have the man who actually does the beveling for Kokomo, contact me. Dennis Swan, with nearly thirty years of experience beveling, has been most open and generous, and he has provided me with wonderful information, from a beveler's, point of view. As we have been emailing back and forth, I realized that there was some great information here, worth sharing. I hope you find it helpful and interesting.
First, a simple primer about bevels. This is not a research paper by any means. So, if you have information that might be helpful to the story, do post on the AISG forum. Clear bevels have been around for quite some time. Starting from clear glass often 3/8 inch in thickness, a shape is cut and using special equipment, the perimeter edges are "beveled" on an angle. The clear glass, often referred to as "plate" glass, can be of other thicknesses than 3/8 inch, with some being made from as thin as 1/4 inch and some going to a full inch in thickness. Bevel angles and bevel surfaces can be made to any specification. I will be addressing this, later.
Bevels can be mass produced. There is equipment that handles a lot of the routine and repetitive work of creating "stock" bevels. Even though the cost of machinery is expensive, high volume output, keeps the bevel cost down. Stock bevels are the bevels that come in standard shapes and sizes. We have all seen them at our favorite stained glass supply store. Square, rectangle, round, oval or diamond shapes, are the most common. Some come engraved, glu-chipped or in a limited pale color palette.
Then there are bevel clusters. This is a grouping of bevels, cut in different shapes and fitted together to make a pattern. The most popular in the past were tulip, five petal flower, or fleur-de-lys bevel clusters, with novelty clusters like snowmen and hummingbirds, being more popular now. Bevel clusters have also made the leap of being available in limited colors. These clusters too, have a component of automation, to help keep the cost down.
Early in my career, bevels were considered a bit of an up-scale feature for a stained glass project. Maybe used as an accent border, at bit of glitz for a focal point or to recreate a bit of a history. I don't recall any contemporary artists striving to give bevels a new sort of expression. Though there was that fad period about the early 1980's, where whole-pressed-flowers and bevels were combined. They showed up everywhere. Picture frames, mirrors, lamps and boxes. Stock bevels were of good quality and reasonably priced and the pressed flowers, sold in little kits. It was a well made match.
There are of course, hand made bevels. Truly unique and custom works of art. Using similar equipment, a beveler takes each individual bevel from cutting the plate glass from a template, to the final polishing, regardless if it is a single bevel or the individual pieces of a bevel cluster. This is where true artistry can come into play. Choosing a different thickness of glass, specifying a different bevel angle or bevel angle surface width, will separate your work from the common stock bevel look.
In the next article, I will share some of the pitfalls of mass produced bevels, as a product and with Dennis' help, we will learn about what makes a great bevel. If you would like to see some examples of the Kokomo bevels and get more information about the bevel process, please check out Dennis' website. Dennis Swan Beveled Art Glass