SKLI Max: Fabrication of a Custom Fused Glass Light Fixture

The challenge was to make an 8-ft. long piece of custom fused glass, which would “float” below some LED lamp holders to create a remarkable new light fixture.

After creating a “base sheet” of 1/2″ glass, we laid out hundreds of small glass rods, known as “stringers,” prior to the kiln firing which would fuse the “stringers” to the base sheet. After heating in the kiln (and cooling), the entire assemblage was waterjet-cut to the final shape, a long serpentine. The glass plane was designed to hang over a stairwell, with three LED lights above to illuminate the glass.

The transporting of the glass from the kiln to the waterjet shop caused a lot of nail-biting, but the glass made it without incident.  The waterjet programmer, Jason, had a great deal of experience in cutting glass, but there was always a risk of cracking during the waterjet process.  Jason programmed a complicated set of cutting paths, crisscrossing back and forth in order to minimze glass stress.  In the event of a crack, we could place the glass back in the kiln to “heal” the crack, but that would be a last resort!

Bad news:  we had a small glass break during the waterjet cutting.  A small, 4″- long sliver of glass broke off the end of the glass piece.  I asked my friend, Joe Benvenuto, to take a look.  Joe is a glass artist who does glass fabrication work for a number of glass artists.  When we placed the glass sliver onto the glass piece, there was a distinct line between the sliver and the rest of the piece.  But, there was hope that Joe could work his magic and make the line disappear!

As you can see from the photos above, Joe Benvenuto was able to use a marvelous glass-to-glass epoxy called HXTAL to make an almost invisible bond between the broken glass sliver and the main glass piece.  The joint was very, very faintly visible.  We were back in business!

The glass went back on the truck, this time to be transported about 20 miles to a glass lamination shop.  We had a safety layer of 1/8″ glass waterjet-cut to the exact same shape as the main art glass piece.  The lamination shop’s task was to combine the two layers perfectly.

The glass now had a safety layer of 1/8″ glass, making the overall thickness about 7/8″.  We took the piece to a glass shop, intending to do some minor edge polishing.  However, after test polishing of some scraps, the glass shop strongly recommended to leave it alone.  The sanding action could splinter some of the glass rods.  And no one wanted to damage the glass at that point!  The edge was acceptable. Some additional polishing would have been nice, but frankly, when you look up at a glowing glass serpentine shape, you will not focus on the edge whatsoever!

We made the LED lampholders in stainless steel, with enough strength to support the 8-ft. long glass with a series of wire cables.   Fortunately, we were able to use a standard stainless martini shaker from a kitchen supply store for the basic lamp shade!

The installation day was pretty tense, and our 2-hour estimate quickly turned into 6 hours!  We hoisted the 200-pounds of glass up in the air and attached the clips, but the glass just wouldn’t hang straight!  Then, a number of the cable adjustment fittings broke.  Finally, we made some crimps so that the cable could never release even if the fitting failed.  We succeeded in making the glass hang straight in the end, and the SKLI Max was in place, creating a beautiful and sensuous accent over a 2-story stairwell.

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18 Responses to SKLI Max: Fabrication of a Custom Fused Glass Light Fixture

  1. Mia Banks says:

    It’s beautiful!!! Congratulations on yet another job well done!

  2. Questions:
    – How long did it take to design/create?
    – How much did it cost?

    PS: Your comment form has white text on a white background in the fields. Yikes!

    • nilsfinne says:

      The fixture took about 3-4 months to make, since there were multiple fabrication processes involved and we were working on other projects during that time period. If you are interested in costs, you can e-mail me directly ( to obtain more information.

  3. Mandy LeBoeuf says:

    so fun!

  4. Nadine says:

    Love this! Love your work….

    • finnearch says:

      Thanks so much, Nadine!
      I am currently working on several new light fixtures for a house in the North Cascades. The fixtures are quite large (over 14 feet long) and should be pretty amazing!
      Nils Finne

  5. Jegan Jay says:

    Hi there, your work is very beautiful. I reside in Singapore and would love to get my hands on SKLI Max. Please advise me on the cost of the light and shipping charges.

    Appreciate it,

    Jegan Jay

    • finnearch says:

      Thanks for your interest in my work.
      While I would like to help you, I am much too busy with 12 current projects!
      We just installed a new custom light fixture in Waterjet-cut aluminum at our Mazama project under construction.
      I will post photos soon, probably on the FINNE Architects Facebook page.

  6. nate mills says:

    what a great look to the stairwell !

    the lampshade idea is priceless.
    it validates my longtime desire to make sconce shades out of cloudy decanters.
    you guys have a very creative spirit.

    Nice work!


  7. Masterful repair of the glass. HXTAL? Good to know!
    12 projects you say? If you’re looking for a design intern, I’d be happy to send my resume.


  8. Alfred says:

    I like to know the size of your SKLI Pendant . The price and delivery time . Thank you in advance

  9. finnearch says:

    Hi Alfred,
    The SKLI Max pendant was made as a custom fixture for clients in Seattle. Unfortunately, we cannot offer this fixture for sale to others…..Sorry about that!

  10. mark vylonis says:

    your work and creativity , design is awesome.
    I would like to know if blueprints are available for your homes.

    • finnearch says:

      Thanks for your kind words about our work. We design every home in response to a particular client’s requirements on a unique piece of land, so we do not sell blueprints of completed homes. Sorry about that!

  11. Mary Jo Onweller says:

    I have kept a picture of your work as a screen saver for about 5 years now and imagine your services are pretty expensive for the size houses I see on your website but would you consider drawing a retirement home plan of 1000-1500 sq ft for my husband and I? We are looking to build a contemporary style home on a piece of property we own in Ocqueoc Mi with Highway US 23 separating us from the beach to Lake Huron. even though we are not directly on the water we do have nice views which we would like to situate the house to maximize these views. Your designs are all I imagine my last house to encompass, the open, airy floor floorpans, the custom cabinetry, the windows and the roof lines.

    Please email me back if this is a project you would consider embarking on sometime in the future. We are looking at a 5-10 year plan so I am just initiating this process and would like to continue with you.

    Sincerely yours,
    Mary Jo Onweller

    • finnearch says:

      Thank you so much for your kind comments and I apologize for allowing this message to sit unanswered for so long. I simply did not know about it! Unfortunately, we cannot help you with your project.
      All the Best,

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