Hot Glass Bits #13

Contact Mike Firth

June 1993 [REPRINT]

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This issue contains no deadline information.

Hot Glass Bits is a personal chronological record of my wanderings through glass blowing and the bits and pieces of knowledge I gather along the way. It includes things I try, thoughts I have, information I receive, and reports on things I do. In many ways it is an edited diary and events calendar about glass blowing. If it is useful to others, then it is worth the effort.

TIL - Things I Learned. In this issue, TIL is used at the start of many short items that represent useful items I learned while traveling.

PRIZE WON - Just before I left for Ohio, I got a notice from A.R.T.CO. [348 N.15th Street, San Jose CA 95112] that I had won third place in their contest for designing tools, getting a $25 gift certificate for my reward. I will probably put it toward some diamond sheers. 4/28/93

Well, I drove industriously to Ohio, discovering once again the thrills of being on the road for too long. Parts of Arkansas and major chunks of Ohio and Michigan are under repair with the roadway cut to one lane. The area around Cincinnati is a monumental mess. I went through at 10pm with some of the traffic from the Kentucky Derby and had major nightmares trying to imagine what it would be like at rush hour - lanes with concrete barriers flanking the edge, with the traffic path weaving across the original roadway to get traffic around obstructions.


The B Team Workshop at Bowling Green State University was very good. The majority of the students were males older than I am with considerable experience (4 to 10 years and more) running their own studios. One man's wife was there and two female graduate students added to the group. Nobody was as inexperienced as me. Perhaps because of that, a member of the B Team gave me a goblet he had made; I toasted their health. (See below for more on the B Team.)

BOWLING GREEN SETUP - This Bowling Green State University is a marvelous setup, built under the guidance of Bud Hurlstone as the new art building was created. The room is thirty or more feet long with lehrs on the left and gas hot spots on the right. A total of 9 annealers, computer controlled for soak, etc., ranging in size from three 4x2x2 front loaders to several 4x5 foot top loaders of varying depth and one 8x4x2 foot job with two lids. All of the top loaders were built at BG and have 4.5 inch insulating fire brick walls with elements in grooves as well as full elements on the lid (which have power cut off when the lid is opened!!!) There are also several small kilns for glass heating, etc. The department does casting as well as blowing plus other kinds of cold glass working.

The furnace setup is a wonderful wall of stuff with all the blowers and gas piping overhead. Side by side (and left to right facing them) are a dust hood, fuming hood, medium glory hole, Spruce Pine Batch pot furnace, huge glory hole, cullet tank furnace, space for a (to-be-built) regenerative continuous furnace and a medium glory hole. Each of the medium (12-14" or so) holes has a pipe heater below it, with its own flame source. All the hot holes are controlled with industrial strength furnace controllers with heat set points that do auto start purging, etc., auto restart and flame detection, etc., mounted neatly on the wall to the left of all the hot stuff. Most of the units have the fuel mixed at the intake of the blower. The largest glory hole has a motorized vertically pair of doors that close to a diamond about 10" on a side and open to the full width of the space, about 2 feet. We never used the full size. Bud reported that normal use is only 40% of capacity.

Two more impressive items at BGSU were the marver tables, a large and a smaller one. Both were built with 1" thick square edged solid steel tops, heavy casters under corner posts, a lower shelf and diamond-holed pierced steel sheet filling in three sides to form tool storage under the top. The larger table is about 6' by 2.5' (the smaller about half that size.) The B Team used the size and edges on large pieces of glass with joy and the delicacy of jacks.


The B Team was dubbed that by a reporter referring to the well known glassblowers being the A team and the young up and comers being the B team. The idea of taking a group of young serious blowers into school situations arose from discussions between young blower Zesty Meyers and a person at Kent State University. The B Team is now a non-profit organization that sends college under and post grads out on tours so that students can see other blowers and team blowing. Over the last three years there have been tours on the west coast and into the Midwest, like this one, to 25 sites. This year three blowers travel with a student blower, a documentarian/PR person and a video person. They travel very cheap, in a single van, and haul all their tools with them. The goal of this group is to work together to make pieces that none of the Team members would make individually. From one point of view, the luxury of the tour is fantastic: they basically have as much glass as they can blow.

Team members this year are Zesty Meyers, a Pilchuck staff member and a student at Massachusetts College of Art who does multi-media installation pieces; Thor Bueno who paints on blown glass pieces in San Diego; Deborah Czeresko has a masters from Tulane and works in New York and blows both large and small scale pieces of fine proportion and interesting distortion; Clay Logan is the student member, from Palomar College, CA, who makes a good goblet and quickly hot works small sculptures of horses and skulls. Marina Marioni is photographer, PR rep, and occasional glass handler. Matthew Leet does videotaping for documentation and acts as tour manager.

B Team - Their second gather is bigger than many of my pieces. By blowing a well formed 2" bubble, cooling it a lot and gathering thoroughly, the second gather is a major wad of glass.

[This material added to online edition, 2003-11-27 after scanning photos.]  This image includes pictures of 3 pieces during the workshop.  The left side is devoted to making a solid cross and tacking a large chalice to it. The size of the piece can be compared to the hands in the upper left or the torch head bottom center.   All the work was done only with clear glass, so any color is from heat or reflected color from the surroundings.   The two right most pictures are of a sphere made of two bowls with four small sculptures inside, assembled by incalmo techniques.  The second image from the right in the top row is a heart with auricles, ventricles, etc.

Images of projects of the B Team, 1993, at Bowling Green State U.

TIL BEESWAX - A block of beeswax allows lubrication of jack blades, simply running the warm blades across the block picks up enough wax to reduce chatter and squeaking.

TIL STRINGER - When pulling stringer, taking the time to loop the end around a tweezer tip gives a more even pull.

TIL PIPES I - I found I like a lightweight pipe with a tapered stainless mouthpiece and no grip, having previously only used medium size pipes.

TIL DELICACY - Delicacy of tool use- I was delighted to watch the B Team and others work with the marver and jacks as delicate tools. With the marver, whether shaping a large cone of glass or pushing back the faint curve of a puntle, the concentration was easily visible as a delicate roundedness was worked on. The jacks, more often, seemed to briefly move to produce an unvisible perfection and then, after reheat, cause the perfect flaring of a goblet base or bowl.

TIL MARVER EDGE - The edge of marver can be used like a jack, especially with large amounts of glass. I have seen various slabs of metal used as marvers, but the sharp square edges of BGSU's tables were used artistically.

TIL BUTANE LIGHTERS - Never again. I have been told butane (like Bic) lighters are dangerous because they leak, but an accident at the workshop set my mind: Anytime I see a lighter in a glass environment, I will ask that it be gone. In this case we were using lighters on the propane torches and one was laid down on the large marver. While using the torch on glass, the flame washing across the table melted the plastic on the lighter which produced a three foot sphere of flame over the table (and rocketed the lighter off to a corner of the room, where we later found it.) One of the B Team received severe 1st degree (reddened, cooked skin) and some 2nd degree (blisters) burns on his face. I was standing very near and was looking at the flame, but it happened so suddenly, I was disoriented and didn't understand what had happened or that an injury occurred until I saw him being treated at the sink.

TIL STRIKERS - One reason I have use butane lighters is the repeated failure of spark strikers to work when needed. Since getting my welding rig, I have discovered that there are two grades of strikers: one has a wire handle and the flint mounted on the end of the bent wire, while the other has a flat metal handle, a different mounting for the flint so it is obviously replaceable and a much different appearing striker area under the cap. The latter is much more reliable, giving good sparks with predictable action. I will do what I can to replace the former when I encounter them.

TIL PIPE SUPPORT - Everyone seems to use a square base with four grooved wheels, like pulleys, running on angle iron tracks, with concrete in or on the base for weight. In some cases, the units were so easy to move that they slid under the weight and slope of the pipe. I would put a projecting shaft type handle at about waist height to allow easy control with the non-pipe hand. [As I mentioned in an older HB, I like and would add a shield for the hand on the stand.] The standard roller ball units are fairly expensive; from my theater experience, I would like to try block teflon, which slides in all directions like the balls, but doesn't corrode.


MARK MATTHEWS - After the workshop, I wandered across Ohio, discovering again the meaning of linearity (virtually all the roads go directly N-S or E-W) as well as "Bridge Out", to visit Mark Matthews, [State Rt.2,P.O.Box 332, Archibold OH 43502] who has a shop in Sauder Farm and Craft Village a place of old buildings and crafts west of Toledo. Mark makes terrific marbles and blows large tubes in which he places specific marbles made for the purpose. The individual marbles sell for $30 to $150; the tubes in the thousands. Mark has a series (and a post card showing them) called Ice Blue Air Number Spheres (1 11/16" dia.) with crisp sharp air bubbles making a digit (1234567890) in each one. He also has an alphabet set. Each marble is in the $75 range as I recall.

After wandering north to see the house I lived in for 5 years ending in 1950, and camping overnight, I went to an exhibit at the U of Michigan - Dearborn that included some huge cut glass pieces and the work of Frederick Burkhill, who I later met at G.A.S. Burkhill does flameworking creating glass pieces in minute detail and also making wooden boxes with glass forming 3-D elements in a painted environment.


EXHIBITS - One advantage of the GAS Conference is a chance to walk from table to table trying the equipment. I found this particularly marked in comparing blowpipes and jacks. Five different companies were offering examples (and I got to handle some Italian jacks used by the B Team.)
Most people consider the Steinert pipe to set the standard [$106 for 5/8" pipe, .062 wall, with 3/4" head, $87 for 3/4"/3/4", $105 for 3/4"/1".] It is delivered with a tapered plastic mouthpiece, a light weight grip and a hanging collar.
Paoli Clay offers a pipe [$80, 85 w/grip & collars] with a concave metal mouthpiece (effectively the lips grip a 3/8"dia. nipple which has a base that curves abruptly out to the pipe diameter.)
Keith Orr Blowpipes has introduced a less expensive pipe [$72 for 5/8" pipe, .080" wall, 3/4" or 1" head] that uses rubber radiator hose for the grip and two standard collars to hold it in place. The effect is to shift the balance considerably toward the mouthpiece while making a heavier pipe.
I tried the jacks of several different companies and found most [Paoli & Steinert] to be much stiffer (harder to close) than I preferred [Jim Moore]. I was bothered by the finish on the Paoli jacks--"cruder" I called it in my notes. I also found that I preferred the smaller hand grips on A.R.T.CO.'s diamond shears; the larger grips may make them easier to grab, but made it awkward to open with a one-hand grip. Several companies are offering diamond pad products (no comment) His Glassworks, Inc. 91 Webb Cove Blvd. Asheville NC 28804 704-254-2559 (a glass artist) and Erie Tool & Supply Co. 304 N.Westwood Ave. P.O.Box 352707 Toledo OH 43635-2707 419-531-2811 (smaller tools & disks)

JEWELRY - Silver jewelry in the shape of glass blowing tools is available from both Steinert Industries [1-800-727-7473 for Glory Hole Illusions Poster/ Catalog] and Anchor Tool and Supply [P.O. Box 265, Chatham NJ 07928-0265, 201-887-8888]. Steinert has a complete line including ladles, jacks, pipes, diamond shears and optics. The first three have small glass shapes and the last is just a flat disk (earrings) cut to suggest the optic. My favorite is the pipe ($52) which has the white plastic mouth piece, colored grip and hanging ring of the real Steinert product with the glass in a blow shape. Second favorite is the shears ($50/36) Most of the items are pins. Anchor has a jack as a tie tack ($50) and a pendant on 18" chain ($55).

WILTON Technologies [2932 Via Loma Vista, Escondido CA 92029, 619-745-5956 FAX 619-745-1944] has a Ceramic Burner Nozzle to compete with Giberson [1-603-456-3569, Dudley Giberson, The Glass Works, Box 202, Joppa Rd, Warner NH 03278]. Without having them side-by-side or being very experienced, two differences are the Wilton are more rounded on the edges and they cost more. Called Dudley and found that he is currently charging $95 for his heads. Wilton is charging from $125 to $160 depending on size and claims "Patent Pending"; Dudley's patent has expired but any new patent would have to cover something not obvious.

CONFERENCE CONCLUSION - The G.A.S. Conference was mind bending for me. There were demonstrations almost all day each day. There were video tapes of the ones I missed. There slides of many people's work. We were meeting in a museum containing one of the finest collections of worked glass around and Friday evening we went to Detroit to the see the very large Chihuly installation and the incredible Habitat Gallery 21st (??) International Invitational Glass ----- Even the parting shot, the Glass Axis show, back down at Bowling Green contained a surprise or two. Throw in a tour of a glassware factory and I feel that I have seen a sample of virtually every kind of glass working that someone can do; all I have to do is pick something I want to do and learn to do it.

MICHIGAN GLASS MONTH - An amazing number of glass related things occur in Michigan during late April and early May. Any glass blower who expects to be in shooting range of Detroit in late April or early May needs get hands on the Michigan Glass Month flier (313-357-0783 for 1994 listings). The art museum in Toledo Ohio is worth a visit for the glass in their collection and in their special study room.

AQUARIUMS - I have been thinking about aquariums & blowing for some time. I have thought about blowing aquariums, hanging them in air or on a wall, and fusing or blowing reefs or other shapes for placement in aquariums. But I have never owned a tropical aquarium, although I kept minnows in bottle tanks as a kid. So, in early March, after much shopping, I bought a 3 gallon hex tank kit, conditioned the water and put in four small fish, which, I regret to say, died almost immediately (2 within an hour, the other two by next morning.) So I redid the water, bought a heater, had the water tested, and put in three more, which survived nicely. Just after I returned from the trip, I bought some more and they are doing well along with about two dozen snails, most of which are the size of a broken pencil point and almost disappear when they get down on the gravel during the day. I have pulled some glass shapes in the glory hole and are trying them with the fish.

I tell this tale in part because of what ended the trip: The Glass Axis show, to my amazement, included a large rectangular aquarium, floored with two kinds of marbles, bubbling air, and mostly filled with blown glass. (No fish as there was no time to condition the water.) Pieces included (I am looking a my pictures) 6 or 7 pale green opaque cactus shapes, mushroom shapes the same color, some red and pink round shell shapes, a clear dolphin shape with a bubble for a hump and several floating piece really too big for even this large aquarium but interesting on a pond.

OPEN STUDIOS - A topic of discussion at the Conf. was public access or otherwise open studios. A number of these have been advertising in Glass Magazine and Studio Access to Glass [261 North Baker Street, Corning NY 14830, 607-962-3044] handed out fliers talking about classes and rental. There seems to be a split between low cost rental ($10-15 per hour) and a higher fee ($30-35).

VIDEOTAPE - If you want videotape of a good glassblower working solo, Glass Axis [P.O.Box 2485, Columbus OH 43216 $45.00] is offering a 150 minute tape of Bill Gudenrath. The taping was done in April 1992 during a demonstration at the Columbus College of Art and Design. The tape includes 57 minutes of a goblet and a vase being made, followed by 50 minutes of making a dragon stem goblet he is famous for and that is followed by 39 minutes of chalk talk and question and answer. I have seen part of the tape and it is well made and shows details nicely.

----------- End of G.A.S. Trip

SCARBOROUGH FAIRE - With a couple of friends, I went to Scarborough Faire, a commercial operation 30 miles south of Dallas. While there I discovered a glass blowing place. Since my friends were interested in other stuff, I spent only a little time there, but found the situation and work interesting.

Scarborough Faire builds from a representation of a spring fair in England of 1533, a renaissance fair. In 1993, the thirteenth year, it ran weekends (plus Memorial Day) April 24 to June 13, costing $10-12 a person (with various discounts.) The site is a couple of dozen acres (plus parking) mildly rolling, crossed by a creek having several bridges, surrounded by a wall and stretching from a jousting arena far to the right, through three major areas to a mud pit and Canterbury Theatre far to the left. Included are about 200 booths and stages offering entertainment, games, food (over 50 different items) and crafts. Included among the crafts sales sites are tents on platforms, rows of shops as along a street, and free standing buildings.

Peter Andres & Chris Chapman Glass [607-546-4646, 4881 Voorheis Rd., Trumansburg NY 14886-9433] have a site, that I learned they built themselves, which includes an semi-circular arrangement benches around a blowing area with two furnaces and a glory hole, which is backed by a glass display area and topped by a second floor used as living quarters. The whole reminds me of a small theater in the Shakespearean style. Andres with Chapman's assistance gives blowing demos four times a day. Some equipment is anachronistic: sheet metal and ceramic fiber around gas fired furnaces, modern pipes, but the modern is played down: The blowing bench is mostly wood with angle iron rails, angle up; storage is in a rough wood chest.

Chapman has been blowing for 13 years, Andres for 18 starting at Kent State and continuing at Rochester Institute of Technology. They have been at Scarborough Faire for 10 years and also work a similar fair in Arizona and one in upper New York. Andres does a light patter, answering any question, often humorously at first ("How long have you been blowing?" "About three minutes," as he works a piece, "For 18 years.") He describes the steps of blowing in detail, discussing alternative ways of working and where the style developed. He tells the viewers in advance what he will be making. On the day I visited, he had melted cobalt and clear glass in the furnaces, much more of the latter.

The pieces on display showed a very good form in several design groups and a delightful sparkle likely to catch the eye of buyers. One group was gently rounded shapes, mostly mugs, some with gold leaf in the glass, most threaded around somewhat randomly with silver, just enough lines to be artistic, without clutter. A second group, most attractive, used a straight sided cone shape on a stub stem done in bright translucent colors - yellow, blue, purple, orange - with a lip wrap and black cookie foot. The goblets in this set had a striking handle: straight at an angle, then several wiggles back to the base. The pitchers had a stronger handle (fewer wiggles, closer to the glass) within the same form. A third group used the optic for spiral goblets, ornaments, and forms with silver thread in the grooves, done in many pale colors. The last group were striking goblets, with a cornucopia bowl, often in color, growing from a shell spiral with sparkling color twisted in it, on a clear stem of a blobby rope twist with a clear foot. Goblets are priced in the $60 area, pitchers $120-160, ornaments about $30. All the pieces shown were vessels. Several larger pieces were much higher priced and different in style. One piece was lined in white, cased in black, with fused ornaments placed on the black, then the whole cased in clear. Weighing perhaps 20 pounds, it was priced at $1400. A few fused glass jewelry pieces were on display and mildly flawed pieces (short or bent goblets, etc.) were sold at about 1/3 off in a paupers corner. 5/29/93

TIL MARVER - Andres & Chapman's marver plate was mounted on short wood rails, on the lid of the storage chest, with the threading wheels mounted at the back, a bracket for the color puntle to the right, all easy to take off and carry or store. 5/29/93

TIL EXTRA GLASS - In designing a piece, in planning the making, an allowance of glass is required at the bottom, to grasp while twisting [and while pulling a goblet bowl to shape.] The extra also receives blobs of color at the end of threading job. 5/29/93

TIL GLORY HOLE - A&C's glory hole door was angle iron in square form, filled in with diamond shape expanded steel. A center round hole is set in smaller square doors hinged on rods from the outer frame. These doors are set in larger square doors. Ceramic fiber is wired to the expanded steel. One layer of fiber is set within the frames. A second layer is wired inside the large doors, overlapping the center door opening to protect the steel of the small door frame. The best design I've seen so far. 5/29/93

TIL SPIRAL COLOR - To spiral color in grooves, set stringer in each groove in the optic, using a hot gather to pick up the color, much hotter than common optic grooving. 5/29/93

Terry Snider, from the 91 Junction class (going back in '93) came to town (6/2/93) and we drove up to see Art Allison's studio while chatting about studio and blowing choices. Art's studio is by the side of the road on the way to Lake Texoma, a recreation area on the Oklahoma-Texas border.

ALLISON GLASS - Art's studio is a 16 by 32 foot building that he built himself (with a little help with the corner posts) for a startup cost of under $5,000 for building, furnaces, etc. The building is a wood frame with heavy joists and a metal roof 13 1/2 feet up. It has doors on all sides for Texas ventilation and openings near the roof for even more. Art doesn't blow in stormy weather but does blow all summer.

My impression of Art before going was that the visit would be interesting, but there wouldn't be much interaction, which wasn't the case. I thought that because Art sets limits to defend his territory and is very precise. This is reflected in his blowing schedule, which is 10-5, Wed-Sun. He was very pleasant and talked precisely about the costs he needs to meet each day of blowing. He, for example, says he needs to blow 20 goblets in a day to break even.

Art uses about 175-200 gallons of high pressure propane a week, firing a 125# pot furnace 7 days a week through a venturi (thus no power requirement -- it will keep running though a power failure.) He melts Spruce Pine batch on Monday & Tuesday of each week, blowing the rest of the week from it. This week, the whole pot was neobinium purple, the color adding about $60 to the cost of a 100# patch. His firebrick-in-a-barrel glory hole uses a blower and comes to full temperature in something over an hour.

Because of the open building, wind affects the work. He uses a shield around his pipe hanger and finds the Paragon controllers he uses on his lehrs are vital (he used to adjust them by hand after almost every blowing move.) Art uses cardboard templates to guide making goblets and uses carbon and graphite marvers because the metals he puts in and on the glass corrode a steel marver.

Art welcomes visitors and about a fourth of the floor space, surrounded by storage cabinets and display shelves on the walls, is roped off for visitors. A group of senior citizens arrived at we departed. Art removes all his glass and color from the building each day, fully expecting to drive up some day and find it burned down.

Art likes Mizzou castable and has used it to build his furnace around an invested Ipsen crucible and for the doors on his glory hole. Using a round bottomed crucible, the base of his furnace was a donut with the crucible set in to perfect the shape and an outside diameter 3" larger than the rim of the crucible. (A layer of firebrick is under the donut in the furnace.) When the base had set, a sheet metal sleeve slightly shorter than the crucible was wrapped around it and more castable packed between the crucible and sleeve. When that had set, the sleeve was raised up and a second sleeve inserted to fit the outer rim of the crucible, and the 3" space between the two sleeves filled with castable. Art uses a rule he picked up some place he doesn't recall that the space over the glass should be 1.5 times the volume of the glass. The top of the furnace is a disk cast on a flat surface over a mound of clay to give an arched lower surface, reducing the weight in the center. There are only two openings in the walls, created by sheet metal spacers during casting, for the side entry burner and the door. When first built the door was very tight and since that is the only vent for the unblown burner, it didn't work well. Art got help along the way from Dudley Giberson, the source of Art's burner head.

Art's glory hole doors are a pair of donuts with sheet metal backing. The castable is packed in the metal and overflowing, so its profile is kind of like a straw hat with a thick brim. The overflow protects the sheet metal. My guess is that the inner edge of the castable is somewhat fragile and works better in a single person shop than one where less experienced people are working. The two doors are hinged on opposite sides, so the small door has to be open before the large can be moved.

Art's lehrs are built of Insblock board and use drier heating elements (at $3.50 each). In early days he used replacement oven controls for manual control and now uses Paragon [Paragon Industries, P.O.Box 850808, Mesquite TX 75185, 214-288-7557] controllers. [Digitry, 108 High Street, Portland ME 04101, 207-774-0300 has just recently introduced their GB1 single controller -$550 - to supplement their industry dominant GB4 (2-5 units, $1390-$1560) -- in each case add contactor/relay ($50-100) and thermocouple ($12-55) cost.] Paragon's prices are $410-610 for their TnF II depending on power handling - 120v 15A to 240v 60A.

TIL BUBBLES - "Some days the glass will not be as bubble free as others. Blowers should have a design line that uses applied color to conceal the bubbles, so blowing can be done every day." Art Allison.

SESSION - Fired up the glory hole with the gas hole drilled out to #50 and got it up to 2120 with the door closed, holding at 2010-2020 with the door open and wide open (a door brick fell out part way through.) Used larger pot saucer to hold startup glass and it cracked and melted at some point about 2000. Have to make a door or ledge that avoids the balancing act I have now. 6/3/93

Rebuilt the glory hole layout, moving the burner hole nearer the front and lower, arranging and adding bricks to make it deeper and adding a hard brick front lip. Haven't tried it yet. 6/6/93

Sent off my order for GS-3S diamond shears from A.R.T.CO. 6/7/93

Having free time for the summer, I thought I would look into the Dallas Glass Artists Society only to find it had dissolved. No show in September. 6/10/93

Three groups of people get Hot Glass Bits at this point: Those who are mentioned in an issue, those I feel like sending a copy to, and those who have paid some money. The only ones guaranteed to get the next issue are the last group.

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