Mike Firth Glass and Related Projects

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This page shows a few samples of glass and and other projects. It will change periodically.
6/20/99, 4/19/2000 ... 2003-01-19, 2003-04-17, -05-11, -06-29, -07-25, -09-23, -10-26
2004-04-03 (tuning), 2006-02-13, -11-09, -11-26, -12-10, 2009-06-18, 2010-08-20
[Search on date pattern to find latest changes, more than one may be found.]

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Fused & Blown Vases & Weights Punty Goblets1  Goblets2
Ornaments Cabinet Knobs Door Knobs Fused Tempered Fragments
Fritz Dreisbach Workshop Swords   Fused Thick Glass
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Tool Making

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Non-Glass Projects


Hanging glassFUSED & BLOWN - These four pieces hang from a board in the window over the kitchen sink, visible the length of the house. Two of the pieces are blown ornaments, not the best I did, since those went to friends and relatives, although the left one is kept as an interesting event since it has a partition across the middle. The one on the right is just a curved fused piece done on a curved clay mold. The green piece is an example when I was cutting apart Coke bottles, rearranging the pieces and fusing them into clay molds, this one done into clay molded on a petite cookie sheet. I sold the ones that had words from the Coke labels. To avoid putting a lot of holes in the window frame, I put just two hooks there and then hung a board flat from them, installing small link chain across the board so I could hang many pieces in various places. All of these were made fairly early, 1991-92 etc.

Shelf of Mike's GlassVASES & PAPERWEIGHT - The mantle of the false fireplace in my living room has a bunch of glass, some of it Steuben Crystal from the 50's, some of it gifts (the blue in the center of the picture is the base of one) and some of it my own. A timer turns on a small halogen flood light each night and morning to make it more enjoyable. The piece in the center front represents what I like in glass I make: good clear glass with a decoration that is both visual and tactile. The piece behind the red one is the first good piece I made casually - I call it a Shmoo vase after the Al Capp characters and it has three nice little feet, is fairly thin, and declares "I was hot." The two pieces to the right are "weights" made from OPC (Other People's Color) where I take fragments of broken pieces and work the color. The piece to the right is very upright and looks mostly like frozen melted glass. The red piece was "air marvered" (dipped in glass and maneuvered without touching it) and glows with astonishing brightness. The piece to the left has flat bubbles worked into the skin. All the glass shown was worked from Spruce Pine Batch. (Made in 1990-91, except for the weight, about 96)

Whirly Jig information now has its own page


Air marvered paperweightThis is a much better (and bigger, click for larger) shot of the paperweight in the mantle image above. It even captures some of the bright light quality of the piece. Some of my favorite weights have been made this way - air marvered - that is, not touched by paper or block after the last gather, but turned on the punty as they cool to give an undulating surface that plays a lot with light. Some end up as mushroom shapes. This one has irregular air bubbles and red and black color twists. All were created by picking up some broken color scraps, adding some clear batch and inserting tweezers to twist the color and make spaces for the bubbles.

Below is a clear item, roughly made.

Clear glass MF paperweight with bubbles

This Wire stemmed goblet, #2is the first great piece I have planned and made in my backyard setup. I really like it as a starting point for future work. As a gauge of the size, the wire is 3/16" inch and the height of the piece is 8.5" (21.6 cm), so it is a very hefty goblet - it holds about 20 oz up to the base of the flare of the lip. For me, it also is a triumph because, as planned, it was worked at the glory hole after blowing. To do this, I made a special punty, shown below. Although it isn't talked up a lot, exploring pictures of old glass workers shows that many special punties were made - I have seen padded cones that fit inside vases for working the foot, pronged units for holding the foot on small goblets and a padded tube for holding bottles for neck work.

Metal plate with 7 holes for twisting smaller wire into wire rope.Wire plate for twisting smaller wire into rope.

3rd goblet blown to wire, shown as blown, before cutting and trimming wire base.Third blown wire goblet, attempted with smaller wire and not bending foot out to final form, not a good idea, wobbled too much, needed smaller center hole and spread of feet. As with wire rope, braised with brass to hold twist together.









Special punty for wire stem gobletsThis punty is fitted to the end of 1/4" standard pipe size (just over 1/2" true outside diameter) already threaded from the store. A connector, threaded all the way through, leads to an all thread nipple used in lamp making (the standard, more common, stuff is 1/8" IPS, about 3/8" OD.) The jam nuts also come from lamp supplies. The plate at the end is a plumbing floor flange, in this case not a common cast unit, which should work, but a stamped metal disk, punched through the center and tapped through inside, which allows turning it down the all thread if I wish. Having used it once, it needs another set of jam nuts, these work loose.

Not shown is a hole drilled at an angle toward the end, so a wire can be looped over the leg of a goblet base and run down the length of the pipe for a quick release or connection to a threaded rod to pull it tight. As it happens, for the piece above, I just twisted a short length of wire through the hole and around one leg, cutting it free with diagonal cutters before annealing.
Also not shown is the outer end which has been braised in and drilled to only 3/16" (4.76 mm) to center the wire.


Wax originals for brass goblet forms.These are dribbled molding wax, put over shapes for the purpose of making cast brass goblet stems (to be added before brass casting) into which glass shall be blown. 2002-02

melt metal page
goblet casting page

And here is the first result


Goblet #1 [Image 1128] First cast brass goblet with blown glass insert.
[Image 1129] MF Goblet #1 as blown
Goblet MF#2
First glass blown into metal shape
First blown attempt with larger cast brass goblet base
Goblet #2
Donated to Goblet Grab at G.A.S. Conference in Seattle 2003


MF Goblet #2 second glass blowing
MF Goblet #3, first blow [image 1389]

The goblet  is blown in the second casting of this type.  The cone shaped puffer was used to form the lip and fill the top of the casting.  I like the shape and am casting a bigger one.

MF Goblet #1

 A medium sized goblet, MF#4, with the first blow of worked glass, loose in metal 2006-10-03


Cast brass goblet base and first blown glass

First blown attempt with larger cast brass goblet base
This larger cast goblet base was also blown 2003-04-13 and clearly needs a bunch of refining.  The glass was not trimmed enough above the goblet and an attempt to work the longer material obviously twisted the glass and worked toward uneven.  I tried harder to get the glass to stay in place on its own, but it still pulled in from the sides and wobbled.  I will probably break the glass out of this one and try again.

For techniques on how this was made go here.

And below is the re-blow into the same casting.  Somewhat nicer lip, still a bit much.  Because of the next piece below, I am casting a bigger puffer head to help shape.

Re-blown goblet into larger casting.


Wire goblet stem MF Goblet wire base
Aluminum cast base MF Goblet aluminum cast base


Ornament hung on home made wire frameI made made a bunch of ornaments last year. This year I made a couple and for those I gave them to, I bent up wire stands to hold the ornament. 2002-02









Bowl blown with frothy glassIn the glassblowing session of 2002-01-30, did a fast evening session, starting to blow the glass as soon as it was workable without waiting for full heat or making any attempt to get bubbles out. This is the first piece made, showing the color of the scrap contributed to the pot.

Donated to the Empty Bowls project.





Samples of bowls blown over several sessionsThese bowls were blown over several sessions.








Bowl blown with rod optic with 5 rodsThis is a 5 lobe piece made in the rod optic, top view shown in the inset. The piece was trimmed before working the lip. It was blown later in the same session as the cloudy piece above. 2002-01-30









Clay mold with grey window glass sagged into it. Two fused bowls made from roughly cut scalloped edge blank. The bowls were made for the Empty Bowls project as back up for blown work and as part of ongoing work to make glass for whirly jigs. 2002-02-07







Glass work for tumberler shape, not tall or thin or square enough, swirls of color from mixed culletAttempt at glass tumbler from mixed cullet, early in run. Not square enough bottom and not thin or tall enough, but a good clean punty, usable out of the annealer. Photographed under fluorescent light at work.

Short rod optic tri-lobe These two pieces were intentionally made as gifts for Noe Tovar & Monica Potaca at work as they were leaving the store. Blown into the three rod optic. The two have the same base size so the right one is taller - about 6 inches vs 3.5" on left. Noe got the short one and the cup above. Three rod optic piece given as gift.


This is my first attempt at making a traditional glass fishThis my first attempt at making a traditional glass fish - traditional in the sense that is what modern glassblowers make when they want to make a fish. Usually the fins are different colors as are the eyes and a wrap is applied to the mouth to disguise the sharp edge, but what the heck, it's my first one. I do like the little squiggle on the top fin.





Seond fish attemptedSecond Fish - Eyes a bit more awkward, but no sharp points, tail curved nicely. Back fin made in loops, so different and Ok only






Cabinet Knobs
A customer came into the Store with some thin (3/16") tubes threaded 8-32 being sold with a mandrel for $45 for ten or a dozen for making knobs with a torch. I thought the idea was neat, but looking in MSC nothing smaller than 1/4" was offered in stainless steel. After some thought, I decided to try it anyway. The basic mandrel is a piece of SS all-thread (threaded rod), a length of K&S 1/4" SS tubing from the hardware store, two stainless steel 8-32 nuts, a SS fender washer and an internally threaded SS standoff. 67721647


After trying it, I got a couple of awkward off-center knobs that survived the annealing (none failed) and a bit of promise if I want to keep on with it.

As you may be able to tell from the heat discoloration (compare the unused standoff), the whole intention was to gather glass directly from the furnace. This meant that I had to have much more than a short SS mandrel to hold in a torch flame. So I extended my idea of the wire goblet punty above as shown below. It will take some work if I want to make a set of similar knobs, symmetrical or controlled shape, with color wrap, but I am happy with the first try.

More detailed steps in making the punty

Knob for cabinet made on punty.

Disassembled knob punty with knob

Door Knobs
 "Several points here.
As a seven year veteran of a BIG hardware store, it is not possible to get the mounts for glass door handles, I have tried. Most are made in India, etc., and don't come here.
I have actually considered casting these things and own the tap (3/8-20) needed to thread the things on standard old shafts.
Henry is partly wrong in his description. Yes the metal edge is crimped onto the glass, but it is to the cast rim. The bottom of virtually all the dozens of glass handles I have looked at is a molded star pattern that is silvered on the back. If the shaft is screwed in too far, it can touch the bottom of the glass and damage it."
The guy at Galveston Glass has a paperweight style door handle on his main entrance - he took a glass knob and sliced the knob off, gluing his work to the glass surface.
There is a considerable amount of copper in various pieces of glass, so I hope it is compatible.
But since I have been typing this, and have worked glass cabinet knobs on stainless steel inserts and I think I might try to drill and tap a chunk of stainless rod (or tubing) and try building a door knob on it (except for a set screw to keep it from turning .... hum.)
Following on from the comments to the upper left, I built a punty mount for making a doorknob.  My standard building base is 1/4" water pipe, which has just under a 3/8" ID and just over 1/2" OD.  In this case I took a 4" nipple and threaded the inside with the 3/8-20 knob thread and, after coating it with graphited oil, threaded in the knob stem.  The knobs we sell at work most often end in 5/8" cylinders, so I took a 2" piece of 5/8" stainless from my punty/pipe work and drilled and tapped it for 3/8-20 threading, then side drilled and tapped it for 1/4-20, a machine screw now, a set screw later.
  As shown, the punty was preheated to red and then dipped in molten glass, a bit too far, and roughly worked. For the heck of it, I went back in to a small cup of molten deep blue and put a cap on the top.  After rounding it a bit, I used pliers to unthread the stem and put the whole thing in the annealer.  I soaked for an hour and used a longer than average anneal (7.5 hours for 890 to 550 instead of the more usual 4 hours from 890 to 650.)  It seems to have held up nicely and I will try it on one of my doors. 2003-09-23. [Still in use on the bedroom door 2007-11-26 and on 2010-08-20.]


Door knob built on 5/8" SS shaft
Wine Bottle Stopper
This is here not because I have done it but because it is so similar to the two items above.  When CraftWeb started discussing putting glass on wine bottle stoppers, a lot of suggestions came up.  So I visited the sites and the links with comments are below. 2007-11-26
Tom Fuhrman says "I buy them by the 100's. I find that I have to rough up the top of the stopper with a small engraver to give it a "tooth" for the adhesive to grab on to. I use the #6108 adhesive from Tangent Industries. I've only had about 2% failure rate over the course of 100's. The bottom of the glass must be ground very flat and have a a surface that is still rough, i.e. 220 or coarser.
Buy these and unscrew heart from top, cheapest source.
I started hacking around with a clunky marble I made and came up with this pathetic bird on a globe. I made a second one on 2002-06-24 with rather nice wings and managed to knock it off going back to the glory hole. I will try some more. First bird on a globe.
Three bowls made for Empty Bowls project.  The two on the left are heavy bottomed, carefully made with 3 flattened sides, a technique I will continue with. 2003-01-19 Three blue glass bowls, 2 with 3 sided bottoms, for Empty Bowls project
Five more pieces made for the Empty Bowls.  The blown one at right shows clear glass I specially melted - lots of bubbles, with hot bits, one of which covers a crack that appeared when punty applied.
Four below were fused using 1/4" plate from a broken table top I found at curb.  Two at bottom are just rough cutting a blank to mold, one mold with rim, other without, although triangle is a whim.  The two immediately below are more complicated. The one just below (B) was sagged on a deep mold to 1400F and didn't drop much.  When redone, the cross piece was added, but it still has not touched bottom, so is rounded and will not sit up.  The one at right (C) was result of initial failure of the one below it. (E)  I planned on legs drooping down on 3 corners, but they broke on the mold, so I trimmed it to the mold shape and re-fired.  Then I took a brunch of fragments and put them in the mold for (D), with a trimmed center bottom piece and the others leaning.  The tip at the top was actually supported on the kiln wall. 2003-02-11

Blown bowl with 3 hot bit trails for Empty Bowls project 2003A

Funky round bottom fused bowl with accent for Empty Bowls 2003B

Fused from fragments of table top glass for Empty BowlsC

Simple sagged bowl from table top glass for Empty Bowls 2003D

Rough cut bowl with triangle accent, sagged and fused for Empty Bowls 2003E


Two pieces from session 2003-04-13, including first successful from cast optic.2003-04-17  These are some results of a good session on Sunday, 4/13.  The piece on the left is the first good one out of the second version of the home cast optic, after carbon coating it with acetylene flame. 

I also did a three lobe mini-vase with an edge pulled at each of the lobes, but I gave it as a gift to the guy who cut my pipe ends at work.




The glass below is from one session and shows the use of a home made optic (left), a rod optic (lower right), and shaping the piece on the marver to three sides.

Three worked pieces for special shapes.


Fused saucers from tempered glass
These two images show five "bowls" fused from tempered glass shoveled up from the street after someone put out a tempered panel and it got broken before trash got it.  The glass has pebbles, etc. to be picked out.  The first made, lower left of the 3, has the most sparkle, but barely holds together.  The others have a softer tone, devit? plus partial melt. 2003-06-01

Fused saucers from tempered glass


Fritz Dreisbach Workshop 2003

glass blown in Fritz Dreisbach workshop

Dog head stamp impressed in glass

The image above includes virtually the work I did in the workshop at Seattle Glassblowing Studio with Fritz Dreisbach.  It is all heavy and fairly clunky.  The glass is Spectrum Cullet and has a distinct green hue that was visible in the huge delivery bag.  Not sure if all like this since the bag at Spectrum looked whiter.  Fritz asked for small pieces with hot bit details and most people did bigger pieces than this with near a dozen details.  I tried to match the first bit (handle) with the size and shape of the placing of the second.
  The two pieces below are exactly what I wanted to make, if not perfect.  They are simple bowls with handles and once the first handle was applied, making the second and third as much like the first as possible.  Since the first was not planned with a clear image in mind, the result is low style.  Very good punty, using technique Fritz gave.
I brought along the cast dog and cat head stamps I made.  And made four attempts at using the dog.  The first, in the cup upside down in the picture at left, melted out to a formless bubble.  The other three are above, a bowl and two weight cores the best being the upper right.  The proper process is to thoroughly chill the hollow with an air stream before continuing.  The clearer head - upper right - was pushed into a blob on the punty, the other - pushed into a cookie - has swirl lines; either would have been better if I had cased and completed the weight.
  Below is the optic piece I tried.  When I blew into the small diameter, tall optic, I blew out the bottom so I had my team member make a cookie and went into it, carefully shaping it to a rounded triangle.  Using the same optic, they pulled a bit to make the heavy wrap and then we did a handle.  Although it looks almost okay here, it leans a lot.
handles mug made with optic



Sketches in planning sword handle in steel and glassA while back I forged (pounded) a steel plate to hook over my right shoulder and fit across my chest to my left hip, and welded short pieces of rebar to it so it looks like a long piece goes through my body. [A & C below]  I wear this on Halloween at the store and while giving out candy at home. I have for some years wanted to replace the rebar with a sword handle and tip, but I always delay making the parts. This year, I decided to get it done and to make a glass sword handle and tip with a steel version for practice and size.

The sketches at the right (very small in the original), are notes about size.  I made a fist on a ruler like I was holding a sword and measured the 5".  I took a piece of scrap paper and arched it over the fist to estimate the length (8-9") and sketched an outline.  Having messed up a wing in the past, I sketched how I would build the shield with a notch around the glass handle and sketched how the glass might fit in a side view.

Reproducing the 2nd sketch larger on a piece of paper, I cut it out and found it too small.  So I drew a larger version, cut that out, found it seemed to fit and slotted it to fit on a yard stick.  When this worked, I took it home and cut the same shape out of thin flashing aluminum [B] to avoid the problems of oil and hot glass on the paper.


Views of sword related stuff, glass and metal handles and chest mount.I first forged a sword blade blank and a hand shield using the glory hole as a heat source (A&C).  This would serve as a backup and dummy for the glass one. 
  To make the glass handle, I first modified the 1/4" NPT pipe punty with a nipple with a set screw in the side to secure a piece of 5/16" OD stainless steel tubing.  The tubing projected about 3" and bent under the weight and heat.
  In making the sword handle, I used the garage for the first time.  I gathered glass on the tubing and squared and extended to shape and length and then garaged it. It seems to hold about 1050 all by itself, without a controller.
  The first time I made the hand guard, I gathered glass and began thinning it down and spreading it.  That was a bad move as it left it very thick near the punty, the coldest area, and hard to work with the floppy thin further out.  For various reasons, including over chilling while necking, it ended up a floor model.
  The second one was kept thin from the start and built up with gradual thin gathers on the outer edge.  Working alone and fitting the cut notch around the handle was a juggling act, but the thin tip snapped off nicely and I think it came out rather nice for a beginning try.  As I learned from watching Fritz Dreisbach and Karen Willenbrink, besides making the project, getting back in shape as it sags with heat is a continuing aspect of the work.  I pulled the sword tip [E] separately.  2003-10-26

  I have been thinking of swords and knives and handles (and blades?) made by laying down layers of thin color (laminating) for more texture.   I wonder if I could turn the sword/knife shape into door handle shapes? 2003-11-11

I have not done a lot of glass blowing this fall, winding down my employment at Elliott's and coping with a lot of rain.  In recent days, I have fooled around a bunch with fusing bowls for Empty Bowls, in particular shattering thick glass and using the shapes. I have not had much luck cutting the 1/4" window glass.  I have also sagged flat some glass from bottles or blown shapes.  Having the label on the bottom is easier for flattening, but when it was in the kiln taken to fusing temps, it pulled the kiln wash right off the shelf and blurred the print due to the wash texture.  It might have worked better at lower temp or with the inside of the bottle facing down. (click on image for larger view) 2004-12-10 Fused bowls from broken thick window glass.
Sagging bottle to flat, label to kiln shelf, high temp for fusing (1450F)

I have continued doing thick glass fusing during 2007 and, in fact, today picked up some 1/2" scrap plate from Mann Glass to fool around with. The glass to the right is 1/4" plate collected from trash put out at curbs and made into water features and sun catchers I hope to sell on eBay. More 2007-10-30 Light water feature view of grid and water in basin.
The piece at right was made from thin glass from a popcorn popper, the glass walls of the popping area.  When I attempted cutting, it would not break straight, so I made lemonade by breaking it into curvy pieces and fused it on a clay base with concentric rings. More 2007-10-30 Fused window glass photographed in a window
This montage shows a failure that is interesting for as long as it survives.  It began by using the clay mold used to make the piece above and its inverse and placing thick glass triangles on each of them and stacking on 2" spacers to save kiln floor space. Evidently heating was too fast and the top base piece shattered with enough force to push the tip off the edge of the mold plate.  But it didn't fall. Next the tip sagged, holding a fragment of one of the add-ons (not really visible) that fused and slid on the upright which finally fused to the lower piece at the end.  But further problems - the lower piece with add-ons is about 1" thick and annealing was too fast so it is cracking internally (upper left) [click to enlarge] 2007-12-10 Fusing failure with thick glass, montage
To the right is the glass from the pentagon mold. The piece was not properly reheated out of the mold before puntying and cracked all over the place while working, but I was able to keep it together for the best image.  The far corner visible right through the opening is actually broken open and other cracks circle the bottom and halfway up the flat sides.  2005-02-15 Cup blown in pentagon clay mold

Mold blown in a square clay mold.  The bottle has a crack across the bottom and up the sides from the punty mark. 2005-02-15

Bottle blown in square clay mold
These are two other pieces of glass that were done during the session yesterday.  The one below is from the optic I made where the core tilted, so it is a bit awkward to use. Twisted after out of the optic.  Otherwise the shape is okay (unlike earlier casting attempts with a flair at the bottom which prevents removing the glass).  The piece at right is a first attempt and making bowls for spilling water from one to the next.  This is about 6" long.  I did one that is about 8", but it came off the punty and is malformed. 2005-02-15 Bowl blown into indented wood plate and edges folded
Glass blown in MF optic mold and twisted  


Copper tube waist for goblet.  An ongoing project is to blow glass into a tube using the tube as the waist of a  goblet.  This copper shape started a piece of copper water pipe, 1.5".  The first requirement was heating to soften the copper, as it was too hard to hammer into shape as manufactured and sold.   Once softened the metal was worked on the point of my anvil, flaring out and working.  The piece had to be reheated to anneal it for further working.  Later I may do other shapes and piercing.
  In order to blow into it and give me the glass shape I want the glass has to bulge out the bottom, so the copper has to be propped up off a marver surface.  If I were making a lot of the same shape I could make a more complicated holder, but for this work, a stiff steel wire holder that can be unwound during further working is enough.
   I need a long thin shape with enough glass at the bottom and top necked for release.  Having gotten the shape, I insert the glass and blow it out against the marver and above the top.  A quick reheat keeps the chilled bottom from cracking while a punty is prepared.
  The real hassle in learning is when things go wrong: the bottom too thin, etc.  Then I have to get the glass out of the tube.  But copper shrinks faster than the glass does and even when I have plunged the piped piece into cold water, shattering all the glass, the portion inside the tube is gripped tenaciously.  I then get to take a awl and chip a path through the glass until the ring is broken and the glass can fall inward. 2005-02-23


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