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Glassblowing Basics: Equipment, Part 2

Updated: Feb 11

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

A birds eye view of the glassblowing bench where the gaffer sits when they work.
Bench with all the tools

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.

Image of a marver, which is a steel table with heavy casters, allowing you to roll it around wherever you would like to use it.

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.

Opened-doored kilns are sitting side by side. One is a front loader and the other is a top loader, and are used for different purposes and for different pieces that require a specialized annealing schedule.

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.

Herb and David are knocking a piece off of a punty and into a kevlar mitt so that they can safely put it into the kiln for slow cooling.
Herb and David

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!

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