For some time I’ve been using my fingers to sprinkle or place frits. I have also been tapping them out of a simple home-made frit dispenser. All very simple and low-tech but not very precise and rather laborious. So I have been looking into alternative methods and you’ll maybe recall how I have described the use of CMC to squirt your fits elsewhere in my blog.
A Simple Frit Dispenser
A long time ago I stopped using folded-up pieces of paper to dispense frits. Instead I now make simple little home-made frit dispensers. They work remarkably well considering they are nothing more than pieces of cardboard stuck together with pieces of sticky tape. If you want to make your own, look at the example cutting plan.
All you need to do is cut around the outline, fold the sides upwards and glue (or otherwise attach) the tabs marked T to the back. You should end up with an open-ended trough with a relatively narrow opening slot. They take just a few minutes to make and you can vary the size of the opening slot to suit the task at hand.
As much as these little tools have been remarkably useful, endlessly tapping their sides to dispense frits can get rather repetitive and boring. So, I decided to look at alternatives that are commercially available.
Enamel and Glass Sifters
There are a number of tools where vibrations caused by a spring being pushed back and forth against a screw thread cause frits to be dispensed by vibration. Some tools dispense frits through a sieve mesh whereas other dispense through a small hole. A quick trip to https://www.arrowsprings.com/html/sifters___pens.html in the USA illustrates a few examples of what I’m talking about. I like their design simplicity, particularly the use of a spring juddering over a screw thread to cause vibrations. But they are manually operated and each one costs significant money but does only one task.
Some Household Alternatives
You may also be familiar with hand-held tools that are used in the kitchen. You have probably used some of them for your glass work.
The sifting alternative to my little cardboard gadget would be a plain ordinary open-topped tea strainer. But have you considered the enclosed tea strainers (also used to infuse spices and herbs) with a refillable ball-shaped mesh at the end of a handle? A simple as these are, they are useful for spreading frits over a wide area in a reasonably controlled manner. Their main disadvantage is a fixed mesh size.
Icing sugar shakers are another alternative (also used to dust chocolate or cocoa powder). They are nothing more than a small cylindrical container with a meshed lid. These can also be useful sometimes but are only useful for distributing frits over a wide area. They too have a fixed mesh size but it is possible to remove the mesh from some, allowing a differently sized mesh to be used instead.
What other household tools do you use when working with frits? Do please tell us all!
The Powder Vibe
The Powder Vibe from Bearfoot Art is an interesting tool. It originally used a Hummingbird flosser from Oral-B to dispense frits. Apparently the flosser is no longer available but a newer design has been produced. You will find more information in videos here and here, both of which which suggest this might be a rather useful tool but the power unit costs around $42 and the tips cost around $8 to $10.
I am particularly impressed by the creative use of nested metal tubes in the new version (and indeed the use of a flosser in the previous versino). I am also impressed that nested tubes are also used to allow either one or two AAA batteries to be used (thereby catering for low and high power setting).
What caught my attention was the use of electrically-powered mechanical vibration. I have a couple of tiny inexpensive toys that use vibration motors. I also happen to have some tiny little vibration motors. Time to start experimenting. Time to make a prototype frit buzzer!
The Frit Buzzer
What I will now describe for your delight is a simple electrically-powered tool that uses my simple cardboard frit dispenser as a starting point. It will not take you much time to construct something similar, it will not cost a lot of money, and you will find it works rather well.
In case you need some convincing, here are some squiggles, lines and heaps of black powder frit to show you what can be done without any skill or experience with nothing more than my first rudimentary prototype.
And when I say without skill or experience, I really mean it! What you see was my first attempt with my first prototype. I am sure that with a more suitably shaped frit dispensing trough and a little practise I might be able to so much better. Don’t be deterred – read on!
Here you see two views of what I made. You will need to construct something similar. Click on the pictures to study larger versions in a new window.
On the top of the tool you can see the simple cardboard frit dispensing trough that I described early in this posting. It has a rather wide opening so produces rather large heaps and rather fat lines. I will be removing this trough and replacing it with a trough that has a narrower exit.
You will also see that the cardboard dispensing trough is glued onto a wide flat lollipop stick. Underneath the lollipop stick are a vibration motor, a pushbutton switch and some batteries connected together with wires into a circuit. I used some Uhu/Bostik glue because it is weak and easy to remove – adequate for a first prototype!
One point of note relating to the vibrating motor I used is that the eccentric weight protrudes beyond the end of the lollipop stick – for this particular motor the eccentric weight is wider than the diameter of the motor so could not be mounted entirely underneath the lollipop stick.
Another point of note is that I am right-handed so the pushbutton faces towards the right. You may not be right-handed!
When the component parts are glued together you will be ready to connect them electrically so a circuit diagram for what you are trying to achieve is on the right.
The Electrical Components
The vibration motor is not something you’re likely have readily available. If you have a broken child’s toy that used to vibrate then you’re likely to find a vibration motor inside it – re-use it! I bought my vibration motors in a 5-pack through eBay, intending to make silly things with my nephew. They cost a few tens of pence each.
Within sensible limits, it does not matter how big or small the vibration motor is. The main thing you are looking for is a motor which has an eccentric weight on the end of the shaft. It is this offset weight that causes the vibrations in childrens’ toys, adult “toys”, the Powder Vibe and my own prototype.
The size and weight of the motor has more of an effect on how comfortable your frit dispensing tool will be when used. What my prototype tells me that even a tiny vibration motor is sufficient– the motor itself is just 10mm by 5mm. On the right is a close-up picture of the vibration motor I used. Notice the eccentric “lump” of metal on the end of the motor shaft.
The number and size of batteries you will need depends entirely on the motor rating. The motor I used has the ratings 0.11A at 1.5V and 0.23A at 3.0V. When used with rechargeable batteries I found the motor consumed 0.18A at 2.8V. What is important is that the specification says it will work at 1.5V and 3.0V, which means I could use either one or two AAA batteries. I could have chosen larger AA batteries but I decided that they would make the prototype tool rather heavy and bulky, even though their larger capacity would make them last longer before needing replacement.
In order to fit and replace batteries it is sensible to put them into a battery holder. Here is where you will need to decide on a one-cell or a two-cell battery box. I chose a two-celled AAA battery box because I happened to have one in my spares box. Two batteries (3V) are OK for my motor so means more powerful vibrations than using just one battery (1.5V).
The switch I used is known as a single-pole momentary switch because it has one set of connections and is only “on” for as long as the button is pressed. A double-pole pushbutton switch is equally good but will cost a few pennies more. Do not get a “latching” switch because you will have to press to turn it on and press again to turn it off. Using a toggle or slider switch is also possible but will not be as convenient as a pushbutton switch.
From the circuit diagram (above) you will realise that there are three components to be connected into a simple circuit. If you can’t solder wires together, find a friend who can.
And a word or warning: It is all too easy to melt the plastic battery holder even with my 15W soldering iron so don’t try soldering the circuit with your 100W stained glass crafts soldering iron.
I have already realised that I should try a new cardboard frit dispensing trough with a narrower exit. Another possibility is to make one from corrugated cardboard so that parallel dots and lines can be made quickly and easily. This idea could be refined and made more flexible with front-end attachments to a standard open-ended trough.
For precise control it is important to dispense the frits close to the place where they are required so the prototype will need altering so that the dispenser exit does not have lots of “lumpy things” underneath that get in the way. Moving the switch and the motor backwards are obvious starting points, as is choosing a smaller pushbutton switch. And I wonder how it will work with the motor attached to the back of the battery box.
I am sure my first prototype will not last long before it falls apart. This is not a problem because it has been built with an expectation that it will be messed about with and modified to explore possibilities. If nothing else, the prototype tells me that a tiny little vibration motor, a pushbutton switch and two AAA batteries in a holder are all that’s needed. It also confirms in my mind that the Powder Vibe might indeed be a really useful tool.
I now invite you to make and explore your own prototype. Use it to decide whether you want to continue developing your own design. Or will it cause you buy a Powder Vibe?
And if you have any good ideas, please let me know!