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My Blog:life, thoughts and behind the scenes 

Welcome to learning about the tools of glassblowing! To learn more about my Glassblowing Equipment series. Click here for Part 1 and Click here for Part 2.

Jacks are probably the most necessary of all tools for a glassblower. The blades are used to create "jack lines", which define where the glass will break free from the metal rod. Jack blades are also used for shaping the inside or outside of the glass vessel. The back of the jacks are called "straps", which can also be used for shaping and/or cooling the glass.

Beeswax is used as lubricant on jack blades and a select few other tools. The jacks are always oriented with the blades pointed back because the beeswax doesn't want to get on the other tools. Waxy tools make for unwanted slippage and will inhibit the performance of the other glassblowing tools.

Parchoffis are useful in shaping glass vessels with rounded, interior contours, such as bowls.

Tweezers are used to apply thermal shock to a neckline, often with the use of water. They are also used to pick bubbles out of glass, to pull the lip before trimming, or to create patterning. Tweezers can essentially be used in any scenario where you need to maneuver the glass, because you can't use your thumb and forefinger... for obvious reasons.

You can cut glass with shears, just like you would use scissors on paper. Shears can come in different sizes and profiles to fit specific needs. The most common use of shears is to trim the lip of a vessel.

Diamond shears are similar to straight shears in that they can be used to cut glass, but are also useful for grabbing and pulling glass for straightening, elongating, or cooling.

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Welcome to Part 2/2 of my Equipment series. Click here for Part 1.

The bench is our work station in glassmaking. This is where the glassblower, aka the gaffer, will shape the glass with the help of their assistant(s) who helps with various tasks such as blowing air into the glass or turning the pipe.

Marvers are steel tables used for shaping glass. It's one of the most essential tools in glassblowing because it aids in shaping as well as cooling the glass to manipulate how the glass bubble will blow out.

These are buckets where our used glass is held before being recycled or thrown out. It's also where pipes and punties can cool and be broken free from the inevitable glass that remains after each use. Because the metal and glass have different rates of expansion as it cools, they are incompatible, and the glass will pop off naturally.

The process of slowly cooling glass to room temperature is called annealing, which is why our kilns are called annealers. If glass is not cooled at the correct rate, its crystalline structure will not form properly, and stores stress within itself. Badly annealed glass can form cracks during the slow cooling process, or after it's out of the kiln. Annealing can take as little as an hour or up to years depending on the object.

The color box is essentially a small annealer/kiln where glass color is heated in preparation for use (depending on the color, in the 900 -1050 degree range). Not all color applications require preheating, but if color rod is being used, it is essential. The color box can also be used to preheat and hold other glass objects for a variety of applications.

The garage is like the color box in that you can use it to preheat any glass to working temperatures before use. The garage is almost essential in making goblets where multiple parts need to be heated to specific heats and held in an environment where the heat can be easily monitored and modulated.

After finishing a glass work, you must safely transfer the glass from the bench to the annealer. Typically you will have your assistant help you in this process because you have limited time. Because of the nature of glass making, you must put the glass away when it's structurally stable and not moving, but hot enough that it doesn't crack on the way to the kiln. Our green, welders jackets offer sufficient protection for most small to medium sized glass, but anything larger produces uncomfortably hot radiant heat which requires one to rock the spaceman outfit. Mitts are made of kevlar to protect the hands.

Here, we have my friends Herb and David getting ready to put Herb's work away into the kiln. You can see David putting his hands under the work in case the piece were to drop unexpectedly. Herb has ready a pair of tweezers in his right hand, which he uses to tap on the punty rod. The vibration from the tap will break the glass free from the punty rod.

Thanks for reading! Comment and leave feedback if you'd like :) Next week, I'm staring Glassblowing Basics: Tools ~ Stay tuned!

Hello! Welcome to my new blog series! I hope you find this to be interesting and gives you better appreciation for hand blown glass. I'm hoping this series will act as a source of reference for you. This is my world ~ I am excited to share!

The furnace is the heart of a glassblowing studio, and stays on 24/7 at 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. I work out of a non-profit glass facility called Public Glass in San Francisco. Public Glass has a 600 pound capacity, electric furnace, which you can see here, which periodically gets "charged" with new or recycled clear glass based on use. Molten glass is held inside a crucible that gets swapped out once a year for maintenance, as a failure in the crucible is a dramatically detrimental occurrence that I've only witnessed online. Essentially, molten glass will eat through the walls of the furnace and will spill out the bottom, destroying anything in its way.

Here, you can see my friend, Minami gathering glass out of the furnace. Gathering is the process of spooling molten glass on the end of your pipe or punty. At 2100 degrees, glass is like the consistency of honey. It's weird to think that all hand blown glass is made out of a formless glob on the end of a pipe, right? It takes years of practice to control your gathering technique!

These are pipes and punty rods. Pipes have a hole running through the body of the rod, and is used for creating blown work. Work made on pipes will typically be transferred onto a punty rod in order to finish the glass from the opening. Punties do not have a hole running through its body. Both pipes and punties come in all sizes, each to satisfy a specific need, and can come in a variety of diameters, materials, with or without grip, counterweighted, etc. I had mine custom made to be 4 inches shorter than the industry standard (not shown), to fit my needs.

You will typically see at least one bucket next to any glass furnace. The strip bucket is where you off-load some glass after gathering, since it's difficult to measure how much is gathered until you're out of the furnace. The hot end of the pipes and punties can be quenched in the water bucket in order to clean or cool it down before gathering. The clear glass from the strip bucket will eventually get recycled back into the furnace.

This is the pipe warmer heating the tips of pipes and punties because glass doesn't like to stick to cold rods.

Minami is cooling her punty rod with the pipe cooler because the rod gets hot after gathering from the furnace. The rod is cooled in a trough of water that gets recirculated through a bin of water. Public Glass' pipe cooler is made custom out of an old beer keg.

The gloryhole is the reheating chamber that we use to extend the workability of glass after gathering from the furnace. The gloryhole is heated with forced air and natural gas, and is around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike the furnace, the gloryhole can be turned off when not in use, with the ability to adjust its heat. As a glassblower, you must constantly move the glass from the gloryhole to the bench, where the glass gets manipulated in the desired shape. You only have a short window of opportunity to reshape glass before it loses its workability due to becoming too cold and rigid. Depending on what is being made, the glass' workability outside of the gloryhole can be a few seconds to a few minutes. The yoke sits on a set of metal rails, allowing the glassblower to easily rest the pipe or punty while in the hole, and makes for easy maneuverability in and out. The heat shield is very helpful in protecting the glass maker from the gloryhole heat.

There are many different types of furnaces, gloryholes, etc.. Every glassblowing studio looks slightly different. This is just showcasing the equipment that's currently available to me and one day I hope to have my own. By the way, Public Glass has lots of options for classes if you're interested in trying out glassblowing. Not a paid promo... just letting you know in case you're interested and in the area.

Thanks for getting this far! If you have any feedback or questions, leave it in the comments :) Stay tuned for next week's Equipment, Part 2!

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