Hot Glass Bits #27

Contact Mike Firth

August 5 - October 6, 1995
Rev. (minor) 2006-07-29

Prev.Issue 26 Link to HGB Table of Contents Next Issue 28


This issue contains No deadline information. [capitalized KEYWORD starts a paragraph below] Known hot glass class sites: 01002, 04627, 14830, 11217, 43216, 70130, 75253, 76028, 98144, 98292 Would like to know of others

Hot Glass Bits is a personal chronological record of my wanderings through glassblowing 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 glassblowing. If it is useful to others, it is worth the effort. It is normally closed near the end of the odd numbered months and mailed soon after.

WHOAMI? - Mike Firth is a 52 year old, low experience glassblower who signed up for his first class in '91 without having seen anyone blow, although he had seen TV shows, and had done stained glass and worked clear tubing in the past. He has built cheap equipment in his back yard to learn and practice. When not blowing, he is a married self-employed computer programmer and teacher about computers.

Vision Thing: Everyone makes mistakes and has successes. Professionals learn from their mistakes, amateurs often have to live with them. By discussing my explorations and observations, I can reduce the number of mistakes and increase the number of successes.

The legal stuff: Working glass is inherently dangerous, involving heavy materials that can be razor sharp, so hot that damage can be done before feeling occurs, with chemicals immediately poisonous, dusts that can damage the lungs, and heat sources that can wreck the eyes. Understand the safe practices required and use them to blow beautiful glass. -------------------

------------------------ Hot Glass Magazines and Newsletters -------------------
Antique Notes [Blenko Glass, P.O. Box 67, , Milton, WV, 25541] Small newsletter on Blenko glass.
Glass Art Magazine [P.O.Box 260377, Highlands Ranch, CO, 80126-0377] "The Magazine for Stained and Decorative Glass" Stained, lampworking, kiln worked,
Glass Artist magazine [28 South State Street, Newtown, PA, 18940, (215) 860 9947]
Glass Focus, the Contemporary Art Glass Periodical, [9323 Olcott, Morton Grove, IL, 60053, 708-967-8433, $5/$24]
 Collectors newsletter. Vol.9 Oct/Nov 95 Gallery reports, interview with Jon Kuhn. SOFA Chicago Nov.3-5, Corning Access reborn, Us. 10/6/95
Glass Line [120 S. Kroger St., Anaheim CA 92805 714-520-0121 FAX: 714-520-4370, $7/$25 6/yr]
Lampworking Newsletter; 8/25/95 Sep/Oct.95 Vol.9,No.2 NEW ADDRESS & PHONE. Feaure on Scott Summer, glass sculptor; Bead Column reviewing a book on mosaic glass; Intro to Abrasive Blasting; The Vagabond Lampworker discusses torches; Workshops; Video review. 16 pages; 7 pages of ads.
GLASS Magazine [UrbanGlass, 647 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY, 11217-1112, 1-718-625- 3685] High quality Art glass; arr.9/14/95 #60 Fall 95 Includes ad for new Steuben crystal.
Hot Bits Newsletter [12 , $11, 6/yr] Newsletter for molten glassblowers.
Independent Glass Blower [% Gruenig Glass Works, Main St.,W.Barnet VT 05821,1- 802-633-4022, $25/yr, qrtly] 8/18/95 #38, Long Alice in Glassland essay speculating induction heating of glass; Notes from maker of Zephyr Electric furnace on control and use of ten pound furnace (max. 10#, safely melt less) running off 20 A 110 volt outlet, comments on supporting Kanthal at up to 2500F; letters on home built plus shop about to use oxygen injection; furnace building in Kenya; 2 pages of ads.
NEUES GLAS/NEW GLASS [GLP International, P.O.Box 9868, Englewood NJ 07631-6888 for American subscriptions (only) $48/yr, or MasterCard or Visa to 1-800-457- 4443] International glass, not stained. Not seen.
-------------------Hot Glass Web Pages & Internet Addresses ------------------ and currently only lists the messages from the group 9/7/95 Links to other places also will show pieces he blew. 9/7/95 International Paperweight Society Larry Selman White House Collection of Crafts - Glass -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- --

PILCHUCK AUCTION - A card has been received announcing Pilchuck Glass School's Annual Auction on the weekend of October 26-29. For information on invitations, contact Pilchuck at 206-621-8422 or write 315 2nd Ave., S., Seattle WA 98104. 7/24/95

HORIZONS - The New England Craft Program [108 North Main St., Sunderland MA 01375, 413-665-0300] announces a Glass Beadmaking: Lampworking in Italy during October 7-14, with Kristina Logan. Glassblowing sessions planned are Oct. 7-9 with Jim Holmes with an Add-On Oct.10-12 with Carmon Sasso; and Oct.21-23 with Page Hazelgrove. The Add-On's may be taken without taking the previous session if the basic knowledge needed is already on hand. Cost of the glassblowing sessions is roughly $100 per day ($310 to $510 per session.) 7/24/95

BLUE TARPS - I am very impressed by the blue tarps being sold all over the place (including Home Depot) for not very much money. I bought mine to protect the house when I had part of the roof torn off. I have used a wide variety of tarps and related sheet goods in my life, including a lot of black plastic, and these are much the best. These blue tarps are woven fiber reinforced so are very strong, are opaque enough to provide good shade, and are very light weight. Unlike some plastic sheeting, the grommets along the hem are strong and the material doesn't tear even when holed. 8/9/95

LARGE BARREL - I bought a used one for $15 (Acme Cooperage) all nice and freshly painted. 55 gallon size - 24" dia. outside 22.5 inside. Now that it sits in the yard, it looks very big. The jump in scale from my current stuff is huge. Also, the cost (see below) of castable to go inside seems impressive. I am wondering whether a 30 gallon, which is 18" OD, might be more in scale. I am thinking about choices in wall thickness and mixtures of materials. One choice is the fiber/castable pair mentioned in the G.A.S. report issue. (#25) Another would be a vermiculite layer since that material costs about $4.50 a cubic foot. 8/9/95

SMALLER BARREL - Bought a new (used not available) 30 gallon barrel ($30 - Dallas Steel Drums) which seems more manageable. For example, the 30 with lid weighs about 25 pounds while the 55 is 37. One interesting thing is the casual way these people have with measurements: 55 gallon is 36x24 and 30 gallon is 30x18. The 30 is a full inch shorter than stated (29 vs. 30) while the 55 is quoted as being 24", but that is the ridges around the outside, it being just under 22.5" inside. The 30 gallon is 18 1/8" inside and 28" deep. If a core is made 12" in diameter, the difference in diameter is worth about 50 cents in cost of castable vs. carefully setting a 3" thickness. I called on the cost of insulating castable.
A.P.Green in now selling their Cast-o-Lite 25 for $47.43 for 100# bags at 90#/cu.ft. Thorp, the local distributor, is selling National's 2500. castable for $15.60 for a 50# bag at 80#/cu.ft. Besides the possible convenience of the smaller packaging, National is priced at $24.96 per cubic foot while A.P.Green is $42.69/cu.ft. To show the oddities that can happen locally, Thorp has a big local customer for 2500 so it is actually priced less per bag than the 2200 product. I built a spreadsheet to play around with the amount of material and cost in various configurations. An 11" ID (3.5" wall) costs about $6 more than 12" ID (3" wall). A half inch lip on the front, to turn the heat across the opening, would reduce the access to 10 or 11".
I would like to be able to put the entire piece beyond the flame in the glory hole, so that means about 12" beyond the flame for the biggest thing I am likely to make for a while, plus flame width of about 3", plus 6" working space in front of the flame: the hole should be about 21" deep (plus 3-5" insulation at the back.) The barrel is 28" inside so either I cut off a few inches or I make it deeper or I use some filler, like vermiculite in the bottom, behind the back wall. I am planning on moving this stuff for demos, etc. I just did a line calculating the weight of this thing: 200-225#! That is without framing, door, burner, etc., just the barrel and the castable.
This is a definition of portable that hadn't occurred to me before. I have been thinking about the way I will make the hole. Choices are a block of Styrofoam; a metal sleeve, paper sleeve or a commercial paper tube (Sonotube). I think, no matter what I use, the top (door) end of the casting will be a disk of Styrofoam to shape the lip and a piece of foam is probably the easiest way to shape the burner port.. The disadvantage of the metal sleeve is that I have to get it out, either through the reduced opening or before I pour a second casting for the lip. The paper could be burned out, the Styrofoam dug and/or burned out. I was thinking of making my own paper sleeve from many layers of brown wrapping paper glued, but looking at that weight, it seems a bit chancy. Maybe I had better price 11" and 12" concrete molding tubes. 8/11/95; 8/12/95

WELDING - I own a small tank welding rig, the kind that costs $200 for the regulators, hoses, handle and tips, with another $150 for the small tanks. Each tank gets swapped out for about $10-15 and has about 10 cu.ft. in it. As I learned a couple of years ago, I can rent a pair of 100-120 cu.ft. tanks for $7 a month and get them filled for about $55 the pair. At Welders Supply, they don't actually charge you the rent unless you have the tanks out on one particular day a month, like the 26th. So if you empty them and turn them in before then, you are just paying for the gas, and at a much cheaper rate than the small tanks. After a number of delays, I got the bigger tanks (plus an adapter for my regulator, $7.50) earlier this month and I have been busily welding and cutting away. Much of the work has been the framing for my BBQ grill holder, grill and forge support, forge legs, and BBQ grill cover for smoking, but I have also started on the frame for the furnace and will weld the framing for the glory hole (and cut it if I decide to) before I turn the tanks back in. I have been doing most of the welding with the #5 shade plastic shield that I use for glass blowing; I find I need to adjust its position for the reflections that occur with the sun behind me. 8/12/95

GLORY HOLE III - Well, the equivalent of Sonotube, called SavWay, which comes only in 12' lengths, is $27.12 for 12" ID (12.3" OD) and I need less than two feet. If I want a thicker wall, the next size down is 10" at $24.24. When I started calling on Styrofoam, I was dismayed to find that all the nearby places were only willing to sell me a full 4' x 8' sheet at any thickness up to 40" (who uses this stuff?) One place quoted me $77 for a 1' x 4 x 8 slab, another $105.60. I let the computer do a search and located my notes on calls last year and found that the place that volunteered smaller chunks could be bullied into cutting something smaller if they could get it from their drop off pile. I will get a 1'x1'x4' chunk tomorrow for about $21.50 and get to know the place (Dallas Foam) which is up on the other side of the other end of DFW airport. Carve part of it to inside of GH without patching as I would with SavWay or metal sleeve. [Grim joke- DFW terminals are built in D shapes around short term parking, "just a few short steps from your car to the plane" except that American Airlines can't fit all its hub connections even in two awkward side-by-side D's so wants to build a big straight terminal and the FAA just announced parking restrictions within 300 feet of terminals, thus wiping out all those parking spaces and $$$$$ in revenue. We need to start bombing the terrorists back.] 8/14/95

SCHELL - Got a letter from James Schell, who is having NIOSH do tests on eye protection for glass workers, saying that the results have been delayed due to the funding cuts coming out of Washington. At least the project has not been canceled. 8/14/95

WESCO Refractories, Inc. [410 East Magnolia, Ft.Worth TX 76104 817-332-1589] is the company that Divas Art Glass uses to cast their furnace crown. Unlike Thorp [9100 Carpenter Frwy, Dallas TX 75247 214-638-8990] which is a distributor for National and Carburundum, or A.P.Green [Green Blvd., Mexico MO 65265 314-473- 3626, plus local offices including 4542 Bronze Way, Dallas TX 75236 214-330- 9243] which is a local office selling its own products, Wesco is a manufacturing plant. They have a catalog that is now being revised (to be done by the time you read this) that is a compact summary of the products, their qualities, and how to handle them. 8/15/95

SHEET METAL - Well, now I know why annealers get built in shells of friges and freezers. I dragged the lid of my annealer, which was put together in 20 minutes or so by my brother-in-law, then in Louisiana, to several sheet metal shops to serve as a model, since I lack the terminology. I wanted an estimate for making two 6"x36"x48" units, one for the lid and one for the base of my new annealer. Most seemed to agree that the material cost would be about $20 for each one. One old guy sketched the joints he would use and carefully came up with $85 plus tax. Another old guy glanced at the lid and picked $150, apparently out of thin air, and went back to watching his guys do stainless steel tables. A third guy, 40 yo third generation, came up with $210 if cut out of large enough metal to fold from a single piece and $150 if folded from smaller stuff. I may try a pure heating and air conditioning place, which is sort of what the first place was, and then bend it myself with used metal. I want to see what happens with the ceramic insulation board as the inner layer, backed by vermiculite and by fiberglass insulation. As long as the annealer stays at 1050.F or lower, the other side of the board should be below the melting point of the glass. Will do some temp measurements within the walls and report them. 8/15/95

ON THE INTERNET - The vote on passed 307:12, so it will appear sometime soon. Since this issue will not be going out for 45 days, I suppose I will look at it before then and post some stuff. 8/16/95

BURNER HEAD - Well, I took advantage of Dudley's offer and got a burner head, probably to use with the glory hole muttered about above. Arrival today is timely, with the torch sitting hot (sort of) ready to cut a hole in the barrel for the burner port and weld on the outside frame. Included are several pages of suggestions for making the head last 22 years, which will affect several of my design choices. 8/18/95

IGB #38 arrives, see notes in periodicals above, 8/18/95

NEUES GLAS/NEW GLASS - is an international quarterly periodical reporting on glass around the world for 14 years. For American subscriptions (only) $48/yr, $96/2 yr, either mail to GLP International, P.O.Box 9868, Englewood NJ 07631- 6888 or MasterCard or Visa to 1-800-457-4443 All as reported in a neat little flier that arrived to day. No stained glass shown in flier. 8/18/95

INTERNET GLASS - Two days ago when I tried to subscribe to, CompuServe refused. Last night, it let me, showing 0 messages. This morning (5:03 AM) when I woke up because my wife was having trouble getting one of our dogs to come back in from a medicine stimulated backyard visit, I couldn't get rid of the thought that I could leave the first message. So I did. I think. Will see later. Mentioned Hot Glass Bits and my backyard setup. 8/19/95 Compuserve is so busy, it is messing up Usenet access royally. Missing lots of messages. They say they are fixing it. 10/3/95

IF YOU'RE NOT USING - Sheetrock (SR) screws for putting together wood projects and fastening metal to wood, you are missing something everyone is doing. In fact, it has become so popular, screws of the same profile are being sold with square drive holes for "better" driving and smaller heads. SR screws are usually black, much harder metal than wood screws with sharper (thinner) threads and a very sharp point. The shaft is the same size and threaded for most of its length (wood screws are tapered and have a thicker unthreaded portion.) The SR screw has a trumpet head which smoothly curves from the shaft to the edge so as to smoothly indent without tearing the paper surface of SR (flathead wood screws are cone shaped with a sharp angle at the shaft.) SR screws have a #2 Phillips slotting and exactly fitting drive bits are easily available.
Most people using SR screws fasten soft wood (pine and white wood) without drilling pilot holes. This only works if the wood is clamped or a trick is used which is reasonable only with a power driver (drive the screw, which usually separates the two pieces of wood, back out the screw, leaning on the driver, until the gap disappears, drive the screw in again.) One disadvantage of using SR screws is they come in only 4-5 lengths, one of which is a tad too long to fasten 1x wood. - Battery powered screw drivers for screws, nuts and bolts, you are probably suffering from a sore wrist that you don't need to have. The strong gearing gives a great advantage and the motor drive makes placing and removing fine thread electrical bolts much easier.
These thick bodied drivers take a huge variety of tools with 1/4" hex shafts, including a 1/4" square socket driver that allows accessing most nuts, bolts and hex headed screws. Sets of tips are available with most of the "odd" driver tips at much lower cost than buying handled versions of Torx, square drive, Phillips, slotted, hex, etc. If you buy the "super" version you will get one that locks when off, so it can be easily (without pushing a lock button) used manually as a huge handled screw driver for getting a tough fitting started. Get the slightly more expensive ones with removable batteries. Besides having an extra battery charged up for continuous use, when the battery finally fails, you are not throwing out the motor and gears (replacement batteries in the non-removable actually cost more than the whole driver.) 8/19/95

DOOR MOTOR DRIVE - If you have considered motorizing a gloryhole, furnace or annealer door, you might try using a battery powered screwdriver to provide the power, rather than dealing with a surplus linear actuator. The advantage of the driver is (within limits) a choice of speed by changing the voltage and by choosing the number of threads per inch on the rod. Both devices would require stop micro switches and a reversing switch, while the driver would allow an interesting variation in design by allowing manual opening (fast) and automatic closing. (A pneumatic piston could also do this.) I opened a Skil Super Twist tonight because it had failed to run. (I found a battery contact bent and fixed it.) I was amazed at how simple and adaptable the design is. A drop-in reversing switch simply contacts the regular solder terminals of the motor, which slides into the gear case. A T-10 Torx opens the case (with a snap clip at the battery entrance) Using threaded rod with nuts, a matching socket with adapter and one or two thrust ball bearings, perhaps epoxying parts of the linkage, could be enough. One design, if the motor is to only close the door, would involve a pusher that would reverse as soon as the door was closed, backing up and stopping ready to push the door shut again. Using a spring loaded ratchet would allow opening the door past the pusher if access was needed while the pusher was retreating. My Skil driver, specified at 180 rpm, does 4" in 28 seconds on 5/16"-18 threaded bolt or 72 rev. or 144 in 56 sec. or about 154 rpm. Or 8.5"/minute

ART ALLISON TRAVELS - Got a late evening FAX from Art Allison with drawings, costs, and added little notes as he prepares for a trip to the Chicago area. He has built a portable rig for demonstrations & teaching that is built in two barrels using 3" frax for insulation. The furnace uses the same pot formula I have used and mentioned in past HB. That came about because Art was talking about buying crucibles last spring and I wondered aloud at the cost and the likelihood of cracking in the cycle of heating and cooling in the demo environment. He tested a pot in his glory hole, taking it out hot on a punty and cooling it between two layers of blanket! When he wondered at the life of the pots in terms of stones in the glass, etc., I pointed out that we are only talking 30 days of on and off stuff and thermal toughness seems most important. The annealer is 2 cubic feet using his favorite replacement drier element ($3). He sketched some numbers in the corner of the page which total roughly $575 minimum for the rig with as much as $380 more depending on controller choices for the annealler. Should be back in early October just as this gets mailed out. 8/19/95

SEARS TORCH - I have liked Sears for years, starting with my first wife convincing me that it was okay to order from the catalog and return stuff, which didn't seem fair at first. Most of my appliances and older tools are from Sears, although I really hadn't been in the store since they killed the catalog. I mentioned long ago, the pistol torch on a hose that Art Allison uses that I liked so much I bought one. The valve on my torch failed, letting liquid through the hose. When I called Sears to get parts, none were listed. When I called Sears to see if they still sold the torch, reading the name off the Owners Manual, they couldn't find it. I was near Sears shopping with my wife and went to tools and there it was, with a different name. I asked about parts and the guy picked up the box, turned it over and showed me the unconditional warranty on the back. Today, I took in my torch, picked up a new one, showed the warranty, and walked out with a new one in about 1 minute, no problem. Sears is neat. They also seem to be carrying a lot more tools than they did before. 8/21/95

PAPER COST - I went to make some copies of old issues of Hot Bits for someone who bought the back issues and needing another box of computer paper, planned to get some. I found that a box of new 20# bond, which used to cost $19-23 now costs almost $44! Since there are 2200 sheets in the box, that means the paper for the wrapper I use on HB costs 2 cents. Just as a comparison, when I copy a full issue (at the same place that is selling the paper) I get a sheet of paper and copies on both sides for 3.6 cents. You may get this issue with labels applied instead of the wrapper. Recycled paper is still $25.
To put this in my context, on the same trip I was dealing with replacement of a dead hard drive in my older computer. The one coming out was an 85 Meg SCSI which I bought and installed myself 3-4 years ago, paying $345 for the card and drive. The replacement is ten times as large (850 Meg IDE) and with card AND installation totaled $319. Computers live in a world all their own. 8/25/95

GLASS LINE lampworking newsletter arrives, New Address and phone, see notes above. 8/25/95

MEA CULPA - A slip of the finger added $100 to cost of classes at Divas. $300, not $400

DIVAS INVESTS POT - As I asked, Terry Maxwell at Divas Art Glass called when they set a date for investing their pot. So I peeled my eyelids off the pillow early on a Saturday and drove the 50 miles to help/watch/learn. This was a commercial pot, handle with care, awkward and hard to grip. The frame of the furnace is 1/4"x3x3 angle iron and 1/8" sheet steel with insulating fire brick inside. The insulating castable for the investment was Tex Kast 90 T from Wesco (mentioned above), six bags being used. Because the location of the cracks in the crucible last year was where the castable was the thinnest, they arranged the bricks to give a little more thickness this year. Unlike the Mizzou castable of Art Allisons job, described in a previous issue, this did not look like cement and it was not nearly as quirky when adding water. On the other hand this high alumina stuff clearly looked dangerous and people backed off from the dry in deference to others with dust masks on. This had fibers to hold it together, flakes of light weight aggregate and pure white dust. One could easily believe there was silica and other risky stuff in the mix. Water called for is 9-11% by weight, so a 70 pound bag should take under a gallon (8 pounds.) It has been hot and dry and I think we added more. Once mixed, a bag at a time in a wheelbarrow, it was shoveled and then pushed into place around the pot. The pot and the fire brick both tended to suck up water and cause the mix near them to set faster. When I left, the last of the smoothing was going on. The top will be the cast shape from last year, which is now in three well fitting pieces and will be cemented and installed. 8/26/95

NEW CENTER reported on CompuServe Crafts Forum 31-Aug-95 09:24:04 Sb: #108857-#Glassblowers: VT, NY, MA Fm: AVERY H. ANDERSON 73074,2425 There's a brand new glass blowing center in West Stockbridge, MA....called the Berkshire Center for Contemporary Glass. The owners are Ed and Judy Merritt - both of whom are glass blowers. The center opened only 4 weeks ago. I was out visiting them two weeks ago and doing an interview for a forthcoming issue of Common Ground: Glass. The center is beautiful, it is open 7 days a week, and if you visit on Saturday or Sunday between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00 PM, they will let you try your hand at glass blowing for "free". They also have a gallery connected to the glass blowing center called "all fired up" which has some nice blown pieces from other glass artists, in addition to some fine craft pieces in furniture and other mediums. Ed and Judy also have a schedule for upcoming workshops and classes they will be offering. There are a couple other glass blowing studios in this area, in addition to some fine galleries specializing in glass art (Holsten in Stockbridge), etc. It's a wonderful area to visit. Best, Avery Vice Chair, IGGA

GIBERSON HEAD - I took advantage of the pre-price increase sale mentioned in the last issue and bought a medium sized burner head from Dudley Giberson. The ceramic part is mounted in a heavy metal disk threaded in the center for 1 1/2" pipe. The head is much heavier than I expected. It comes with directions explaining that for good thermal shock characteristics, it is about as fragile as insulating fire brick. These make clear that pounding on the plumbing, furnace frame, etc., are likely to break the head, so take care. 9/2/95

LAST CALL - I had cause to revise and review my recipe Catalog of Blown Glass Objects and it occurred to me that two items listed might be eye catchers for people who sell at their studio or at shows (as opposed to gallery sellers.) These are a glass rolling pin and a glass linen warmer. The former can be blown (to be filled with hot or cold water), but I am thinking of solid glass. The latter is a rounded edged disk shape with a knob on top and a smooth bottom. The occasion for making one or the other might be the last glass in the pot. Either would use a lot of glass and not sell for much, but would certainly act as the center piece of a display. 9/4/95

ODjOB (Odd Job)  is a plastic barrel about 20"x12" with a screw on top and molded in spiral ridges designed to mix a 60# bag of concrete by rolling it. It sells for $30 at Home Depot and is made by Scepter [170 Midwest Road Ontario Canada M1P 3A9 1- 800-387-6038 in USA, 419-751-9445.] I bought it when I needed to mix 6 bags over a weekend when my usual 1/4-1/2-3/4 yard premix place wasn't open. It seems ideal for mixing batch and castable, provided the limitations of the container can be met. It is limited to 30 Kg (translated as 60#, but more like 66#) and to filling to the ends of the ridges (about 6 gallons measured, 0.8 cubic feet.) The lid is marked for measuring water, up to 1.5 qts/ltrs, but I quickly learned not to trust it, my second bag being too dry and third too liquid. The lid is so flat that it is hard to level and easy to spill the water. The whole seems very strong and I might risk carrying the filled container by the handle (if I could lift 60# with one hand.) Irritants are that the lid is hard to remove after mixing, requiring a rap with a rubber hammer to get it started and a rubber O-ring that seals the lid falls out rather too easily. Now that I have it, I will use it for castable. 9/4/95

COLOR SPIRAL - I feed hummingbirds. I make the liquid by using a 4 cup Pyrex measure, running very hot tap water violently into the cup, setting the cup on the counter and slopping four 1/4 cup measures of sugar into it. This should produce a violent turbulent mixture. I then take a spoon and pour a bit of red food coloring into it, using a spoon because too much tends to come out of the bottle. I put one drop of coloring in the liquid and return the rest to the bottle. (No, you are not supposed to color hummingbird liquid red, but I need to keep track of what I have on hand and help tell which is clear glass in the feeder and how much liquid for timing refills.)
Instead of the color dispersing randomly, what I get is a lovely slow moving spiral just at the surface of the water, bands of red and clear, as nice as anything I would want to put in glass. On the basis of no research at all, I assume I have a layer of heavy sugar water near the bottom and a gradually cooling (from evaporation if nothing else) layer of nearly pure water on top and a mild convection occurs which is spiraled by the Coreolus effect of the turning earth.
The only problem with that is a half hour later (now) the turning has stopped and the color is still confined to the top 1/2" of 4" of liquid. So where's the convection? 9/5/95 When I prepared to boil the sugar mixture in a straight sided round pan, the color effect was transitory, but I got to watch a thunderstorm in the pan. The heavy sugar syrup formed from the sugar at the bottom of the pan began bubbling quickly, but the bubbles did not break through into the lighter (and cooler) water. The interface between the sugar solution and water, visible as shear effects when lighted from above, behaved like thunderheads forming on a summer afternoon. 9/15/95

GLASS - Yesterday I was in Elliot's, a local hardware store, that had a small display of glass oil candle lamps using fiber glass wicks. Some of these were made by gluing a 4.5" beveled round mirror to the back of a small (2.5") blown flask, and that to two front clear 4" pieces of beveled glass in circle or heart shapes, so the flask is supported in mid-air between the layers of beveled glass and the unit sits on three points, the lowest edges or points of the beveled glass. Curiously interesting were blown glass units like 4-6" bottles with tiny 1/4") necks, thin walls, and (mostly) severely geometric molded walls - square, triangular, and flat disks as well as ovoids all with no punty marks. The brochure in the box says the products are the result of a woman's fascination with glass and her husband's engineering expertise. What it does not give any kind of address for the company! The only contact for Firelight Glass is 800- 654-8705. 9/5/95 [Emeryville CA per 1-800 assistance.] Having first seen them in the hardware store, they were also on sale at The European Influence in Austin. $16 to $60 each. 9/11/95

TRIP TO AUSTIN/WIMBERLEY - Over the weekend of the 9th, I drove to Austin and then to Wimberley to participate in the two sets of glass events announced here. It was a good trip. Friday afternoon I stopped at The European Influence as I pulled into town. EI is between The Sharper Image and the Barnes and Noble Bookstore, a narrow store front that broadens out into a room now housing hundreds of paperweights through Oct.6. Steve Lundberg and Jim Donofrio were there, along with a few customers, chatting about their paperweights and making a good opportunity to ask questions.
Saturday morning was spent at Fire Island, Matthew LaBarbera's place in SW Austin, with Lundberg, LaBarbara, and Alastair MacIntosh of Caithness making weights. The demo came rather close to not happening as 70-80 mile per hour winds swept the center of town in a Thursday evening thunderstorm that knocked out a lot of power, including Fire Island being out for 8 hours and the pot temperature getting down near 1000.F. Power came back on about 4 am. Besides the weights, some lamp working was done and they showed making and pulling a long (60') cane and gave away pieces. Frog paperweight.
Back to Influence to meet Janet Wolery. Her dichroic paperweights are spectacular (she was too, in a bright red blouse and short leather skirt - to balance that sexist comment, most of the guys were wearing T-shirts) larger than I remember and with a variety of arrays of dichroic swirled or otherwise arrayed inside. The dichroic tends to come apart on working, giving an even more gossamer appearance.
The I rambled down to Wimberley. Several events were added to "A Gathering of Glass" including a lecture with slides on casting and a demonstration of lampworking. Several artists were in attendance, including Vernon Brejcha, Robert Willson, and Jim Thibeaux. The latter explained when asked by Dale Battle that his "Night Flight" head and neck of a horse involved working the neck first, then double puntying the head, the second time from the top, after which the punty marks were covered with the glass bits making the mane, making a hollow solid surface sculpture. Unfortunately the demonstrations and gathering has not extended to the artist blowout that seems half promised by the title.
Afternoon demonstrations were offered at Wimberley Glass Studio, Tim deJong's place and an evening demo of one Joel O'Dorisio's pieces where he uses a chainsawed hole in a log as a mold took place at David Foglia's place. Foglia is doing assembled pieces, mostly large (12-15") portions of sagged hemispheres and ovals looking like fighter cockpits which are painted with enamels and glued together. Some of the pieces are now using blown and formed solid glass elements. David designs and makes the first pieces and has three employees that produce the product line.
Later in the evening, I made my way out to Jay XXX and Melissa's country place. After I got lost and was looking at a map in the IGA for the glassblower, a kid working there said, "I think he's the one at the top of the hill." He sure is, after the last turn the road is dead straight and goes up and up. The studio is a nice arrangement, well separated from the house with bleachers facing the hot shop and cold shop in another room. Jay is working on a series with sand cast faces on clear stems with leaves and blossoms on the faces. Melissa apparently likes color inside white tube shapes with a fair amount of cold working. Both are using UV curing glue for final assembly.

ELECTRIC CRUCIBLES - Steve Lundburg [Lundberg Studio, P.O.Box C, Davenport CA 95017 1-408-423-2532] is working on something he is willing to have talked about and may market in about a year. He has cast electric elements into crucibles which can melt 10-15 pounds or so of glass when plugged into an ordinary outlet (and in a well insulated box.) The casting eliminates the problem of supporting the element while it loses strength with increased temperature and getting the heat to the glass. One of the arrangements Lundberg is using puts several of these pots side-by-side in a long box, sharing the outside insulation, for melting several colors.

CANDLE WICKS - While visiting in Austin, I noticed that Fire Island was selling oil lamps, basically ornaments without a hook and with the bottom flattened to sit still. They were using a glass tube with a collar to hold the fiberglass wick, telling me that they could be bought next door at Armadillo Clay [3307 E. 4th St. Austin 78702 512-385-7311] although FI prefers to use a version with a smaller collar that they have made a couple of hundred at a time from Pyrex by a lampworker. Armadillo stocks 3/16" wick to fit the tubes which are 1" below the collar; 1/4" above; 1/4" OD tube with 1/2" OD collar 1/16" thick. Armadillo is owned by Craig Freiburger who was in my first glassblowing glass and who blows occasionally at Fire Island. 9/11/95

PVC PIPE CONTAINERS - Containers made from PVC pipe are handy for holding long thin items, including blades, rod, pipes, and STRINGER! PVC pipe comes in two thicknesses, Schedule 20 and Schedule 40, the latter being much thicker and probably unneeded except for the 4" size, which I haven't used. [20 is for drains while 40 is approved for pressure water. MF]
The outside diameter of each size is the same, so the same fittings are used and 20 gives more space inside. The pipe can be used in several ways, the simplest being to simply stack a set of tubes against a piece of wood, gluing them together with PVC cement and/or epoxy. I have used this arrangement to hold screwdrivers, chisels and drills. If the tubes are to fit smoothly together, it may be useful to cut wooden disks to fit inside the tube, which allows picking a single one up.
Standard PVC fittings can be used to make the tubes more useful. Each size has a cap that can provide a bottom end for a tube. Because these fit over the pipe, it may be useful or necessary to use a connector on the open end to provide an even diameter. The ultimate package is a threaded fitting on one end. There are two choices: a male threaded adapter with a threaded cap and a female threaded adapter with a plug. The latter is a better choice because of a curiosity of construction. The inside diameter of the male fitting is considerably smaller than the female (it has to be if you think about it, for the male thread to fit in the female thread) so access to material is easier with the plug. A word of caution: some stores, including my favorite Home Depot, fail to carry plugs in all sizes.
One case where Sch.40 pipe might be used is when a mixture of items are stored. Because the ID of the 40 pipe matches the ID of the fitting, all the material will slide out for selection, while Sch.20 may let some catch on the ridge, which doesn't matter if all the stuff inside is identical. I am currently using capped tubes to store color stinger, saber and recip saw blades, and brass brazing and steel welding rod. I am using open tubes to hold short and longer pieces of steel bar stock for smithing, short scraps of angle, PVC, wood, etc. The former tend to be moveable standing in a corner, while the latter lay on shelves to keep stuff together. Although not built yet, a 4" pipe with threaded cap will probably be made for holding pipes and punties. 9/22/95

LAMPWORKING BOOK - Being strongly recommended on CompuServe and described in a flier mailed to me, is a new book, Contemporary Lampworking by Bandhu Scott Dunham [Salusa Glassworks, P.O.Box 2354, Prescott AZ 86302] $35.95 (add $2 only if want Priority Mail shipping). 272 pages, ISBN 0-934252-56-4. Instruction (280 illustrations) and work of 48 living and historical lampworkers, 23 color pictures. 9/22/95

MARBLES - An interesting thread on CompuServe's Handcrafts Forum, Glass Section, makes it perfectly clear that in making marbles, it is not necessary to have a set of matched hemispheres to the size of the glass, although having that apparently allows working the glass hotter. It is perfectly possible to work to round on a ring (which is what started the thread) or to make a 4.5" "marble" in a 2" mold because the work can be done on the rim. Among other things, that makes it easier for me to think about trying stuff, if I don't have to have a precise set of working holes. 9/24/95

CASTERS - Both places I go to get surplus steel have a box full of surplus casters that are sold at $1 or $1.50. These are good sized casters, 3"-4" wheels in some cases, and worth far more than that. If you are building and haven't checked out surplus metal places, look one up. 9/25/95

WANDERED WEST today, picking up some insulating castable at Thorp for the glory hole, then on to the University of Texas at Arlington to see the newly arranged glass studio in the art department. As I have reported previously, Jim Bowman is teaching a class this fall with another planned for spring. Sixteen people in class, self-scheduled in pairs in three hour blowing blocks, two or three a week. The studio is very open with all the equipment along one wall and the two blowing stations out in the middle. Jim showed me the results of one bad experience: an annealer built with 2" of mineral fiberboard and 2" of frax gave off so much carbon (from the board) during the first heating that elements shorted out and burned through. Getting rid of the carbon, which is apparently conductive, will be a problem. The lid was closed at the time. Dudley Giberson tells Jim he has heard of this happening before. Then I went down to the North Texas Enamelist Guild meeting at the Arlington Gem and Mineral Club for a presentation of two Dale Chihuly tapes by Peter Girardot, whose son-in-law worked in the shop, and my contributions about hot glass work in Texas. 9/26/95

GLORY HOLE IV - Although I missed mentioning it here (how? how? how?), during the past week I welded an angle iron frame around the mouth of my 30 gallon barrel, just behind the lip. I will put a second frame 24" from the first and connect the two by angle. This will form the support (which is why the 24" spacing, standard under framing) and provide places to fasten the burner mounting brackets and the door fittings. Earlier in the week I poured in 2 cubic feet of vermiculite and stirred in sodium silicate (water glass) until it was sticky (about a quart) and tamped it gently. Over the next day it set up so I could tip the barrel without having vermiculite all over everything. Tonight I cut a thin plastic disk to keep moisture from draining into the vermiculite. Using the plastic mixing barrel mentioned above, I dumped in one 50 pound bag of the RC 25 insulating castable I bought yesterday and added the minimum suggested water (1.5 gallons.) That was far short of what was needed and the barrel was too full to mix properly. Next time, I will start with about half the bag in the barrel with most of a gallon of water. I had to do repair mixing, which went well in the barrel when less full. The full bag gave me 4.25 inches in the 30 gallon barrel, which I decided was too much. I cast a disk of some already poured and tamped and smoothed both. I'm not sure what the disk will become, maybe a torch working backup. If I had anticipated, I might have cast a door, but I calculated about 3" thickness from 50#. This mix is more like mortar mix than the concrete or plaster of earlier experience. More later. 9/27/95

GLORY HOLE STYROFOAM - Yesterday I mounted the Styrofoam block on the bolt of my grinder and used a rasp and saws to carve the round tapering cylinder that will form the core of the glory hole. I relearned an important lesson: Carving Styrofoam produces a snow storm of white particles that blow and get into and onto (via static electricity) everything. Rather too late I remembered the need for a ground cloth to catch a majority of the trash. Today, while pouring the last of the concrete for the garage rehab, I hand carved some Styrofoam inserts for the base of a fountain and poured some of the concrete in a sheet metal form. Had to put a lot of weight on top to keep them in place. Will have to bolt and clamp the core very carefully.
I learned the difference between the two kinds of Styrofoam on my way to Arlington. I stopped at a foam fabrication company with samples. The stuff I was familiar with is florist foam or extruded polystyrene and has visible holes and a rough texture. The stuff I bought is expanded polystyrene, made by heating little pellets. The edges of the pellets can be seen but no visible bubbles. The latter is much easier to work with and there is currently no manufacturer of extruded in the D/FW area. 9/29/95

GLASS STORY - My college alumni newspaper, The Iowa Stater, came and I almost threw it out quicker than I usually do, being busy, when I flipped it open to find the front page headline is, "The Glass Masters." It is an upbeat story with some very nice photos of people doing glass, color on page one, 3 B&W later, including John Rundle blowing a super big (super thin) blowout. There are a few errors in the story ("3000.F liquid onto his pipe") but the most interesting thing is that the Gaffers' Guild is actually part of the engineering facility and was started by David Martin, professor of materials science and engineering, in the mid-60's. I was at ISU 62-65, 66-67, and 69-70 and missed seeing it. (But then ISU departments were not much on sharing when I was there, a distinct contrast with MIT where I started my college career.) Apparently it is fairly public now with demos, bleachers, etc. 9/29/95

MOIEL - A brief conversation with Dick Moiel in Houston working with Bob Mosier - They have gone through a cycle of problems with their furnace. The flat top broke and while recasting they reduced the sized downward with domed roof. Using a free standing, 120 pound crucible. On the last run heat is coming back out burner port, which they think is from the flame hitting the pot pedestal shifted when they set up the tilted pot. They used Potters Grog in on the floor of the frax glory hole making a crusty shell that is easy to clean. Mosier is to have a show in Feb. at a local college. More later. Moiel reports that Gene Koss's casting group going to San Antonio at the invite of Robert Willson. 10/6/95

North Texas Notes

NON-PROFIT GUILD - Response to my note in the last issue about the International Guild of Glass Artists local chapter program has been nil, so we will let it lay there. 9/26/95

UTA GLASS - Jim Bowman is teaching a glassblowing course at the University of Texas at Arlington. See the vist report above Contact the UTA Art Department at metro 817-272-2891. 9/30/95

DIVAS ART GLASS - Expects to fire up next week with classes costing $300 [$400 last issue was my typo] (4 people max) scheduled in late November and early December. Divas is now selling a product they have been using: cast metal cups, looking not unlike large avacado halves, as shaping cups and for applying powder. The three brass shaping cups are 2 3/8", 3 3 1/4", 3 3/8" wide, the small increase in width of the last disguising a change in profile. The set costs $250 and each can be bought individually. Contact Divas south of Ft.Worth at 817-293-0190. 9/30/95

MORE DALLAS GLASS - Hugh Erwin, Ron Marrs, Chris Mancil, and Jim Bowman, hopes to be online by Oct. in a setup not far from Fair Park have hit a slow down because of problems with utilities, etc. Progress is being made, but slowly.


Blow good Glass

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