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How to Blow Glass, Part 1

By: Abby Robinson and Neal Robinson
July 26, 2006

Summary: In this two part article you will learn how to blow glass and the basics of glass blowing.

How to blow glass? The ironic part about blowing glass is that you don’t start by blowing. There is much preparation to do before you even pick up the blow pipe. Therefore, plan to get to the studio early. the glory hole takes at least a half hour to heat up – more if it’s old or not well made.

First thing you do when you get there is turn on the gas and oxygen to the glory hole. Depending on your facility, they both may come on with the flip of a switch or by some other arrangement. You then need to turn on the pipe warmer because if they aren’t hot, nothing sticks to the pipes.

While the hole and pipes heat up you can empty the annealer, if need be and then turn it on to heat. It's a sad thing to have finished a piece of glass and have nowhere to put it!

The temperature at which you set the annealer it depends on the type of glass you are using. Different glass anneals at different temperatures. Your studio, and/or raw glass supplier can tell you where to set you high set point, what the stain point is and all the niceties you need to know in order to anneal your work with cracking it by thermal shock.

Turning on the annealer, if that is even necessary, won’t take long. If you blow in the middle of the day, it might already be sitting there all ready for you. Then get out your tools and choose your color. Get out your blocks and paper and put them in your pale full of water.

Then you make a little flower or animal something with your tools. This warms you up, clean off the tools get used to manipulating your tools, and allows you to see the level of the glass in the furnace. You may even have practiced using a mirror before you got this far.

Some artists get really creative in their warm-up. Steve Darlington makes glass knots that would shame an Eagle Scout and many of the glass animals made by the Italian masters started out as gaffers “pulling ponies (making little horses) to warm up. These are things that all can be done without a really hot glory hole.

When everything is ready, the hole is hot, the annealer is up or close enough to it and the stars are properly aligned, it’s time to blow. Choose a pipe, blow in it to assure it’s clear, quench it to make sure it’s clean and stick it in the furnace.

And above all, do not forget throughout the making of any glass piece to keep TURNING THE PIPE!!! This is the last I’ll say about that- it will become readily apparent if you forget.

Another thing you may want to remember (in case you forgot from the safety section) is to cool your pipe. This will make your experience so much more enjoyable and give you some place to set the pipe (on the pipe cooler) while the hot glass is still squiggling around on it. You might even want to do it before and/or after each gather.

Next time well cover the subject of getting the glass out of the furnace and onto your blowpipe.

How to Blow Glass, Part 2

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