Portable Studios

2003-05-05 Rev. 2003-08-17, -10-03, 2008-07-25, 2009-06-25

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  As I think about the reply (right), I realize that many of the considerations of a portable rig are the same as first building a studio on the cheap, with the added factors that the equipment must stand up to moving and be able to be moved.

  Insulating castable and insulating fire brick are lighter than the hard versions, but they are still heavy in bulk and they are fragile.  The steel added to hold them together adds weight.
  If the equipment is given wheels, it must be moved gently and if it is to be hoisted, the lift or crane must work smoothly and be strong.  The springs on the trailer or truck must protect the equipment, especially if driving any distance where slower speed to protects against bounces is not an option.
  I believe the result is the same as my first reply: frax for insulation.
  Is it possible to make a portable glassblowing rig for use at Fairs, etc.?
 Yes it is possible, the most critical choice being the annealer - are you going to save the glass you blow in the demo? I intended to build a portable site, but found my gloryhole weighed almost 200 pounds! By making the glory hole and furnace (perhaps combined) of fiber blanket, and a frax annealer, it is possible to save the glass. Either the annealer has to be fairly low power (my 2 cu ft one is 1100 watts) so it can be plugged in or there has to be a generator. I planned on a generator. I was going to put frax blanket or board in the annealer box to keep the glass from banging into itself and run the generator on a trailer to take it home or anneal overnight. Another choice would be to unplug the annealer, take it home hot, reheat to annealing temp and take it down from there.


Save the glassware blown?    Need an annealer, need electricity probably.
Electricity from local power or from a generator  (glass work outdoors needs long extension cords or generator)
How much glass to melt?  How many days to melt?  Lose crucibles due to fast heating and cooling?


A number of portable rigs have been built, usually involving working on the ground either by unloading the trailer or standing beside it. There is a legendary rig that a guy built wherein photos exist of him working the glass from the furnace while in motion (about 25 mph) on the trailer. The best known "portable" rig is Aunt Alice (right) from Southern Illinois, which is very heavy, built on a double axle horse trailer chassis and requires a 250# propane tank be put in place and a high kilowatt power connection be made (100 amps plus) "Aunt Alice" mobile rig from Southern Illinois U.

 This is the astounding traveling rig of the Corning Museum of Glass as set up at the GAS Conference in Seattle in 2003.  It is supplied with a lot of power and industrial strength natural gas.  When at home, it is installed in a prepared space and becomes the summer/outdoor demonstration studio for the Museum.

The full width of the rig is not shown in the picture, extending more to the left, so when the light bar is retracted and the upper roof lowered and the lip of the stage raised, it becomes a standard sized over the road semi-trailer.  The hand rail conceals the fact that the whole front is thick glass panels for visibility and safety.  There is also a video screen, used with portable cameras. 2003-08-17

Astounding Corning Museum Portable studio rig


Corning has apparently parked the rig above most of the time, using it for classes and demos, while coming up with a set of equipment that they can configure in various ways and take out on the road in a less massive transportation operation. Called the Hot Glass Show Ultralight Hotshop [http://www.cmog.org/dynamic.aspx?id=6242]  As shown on the site, it includes propane and electric glass melt and propane based glory and garage, everything on large enough wheels to make movement easy and safe..  2008-07-25

 The ultimate in portable rigs - if you own a yacht or cruise ship - is the studio that Corning has put on a cruise ship which is discussed and linked here

Although it is a skill I have not worked on, it should be possible to build a unit like my Firehole, with glass in a crucible in the bottom and reheat in the space above it. This would allow small demos and if the glass pieces were either kept in a small low power annealer box or thrown out, it could be a small package.


Art Allison's portable furnace/glory used by Matthew Labara Art Allison built a two barrel rig for some demos - glory hole over the glass melt in one barrel and anneal in the other, all frax. (Furnace at right)
General layout of borrowed equipment at Kittrell/Riffkind 98


 Scott Benefeld:
I built another one in a dual-axle horse trailer in 2004. It was designed to be wholly self-sufficient; that is, you could drive it into a pasture or onto a beach and blow glass. The forced air combustion system had a little Ametek blower that ran through an inverter off of a deep-cycle marine battery; the annealer ran off flue exhaust. The propane was carried on the unit. The 100 lb. freestanding pot made pretty good glass, and was accessed from the ramp that extended out the back. The nicest feature was a glory hole that rolled out one of the side doors on an extended track. When everything was folded up it still looked like a horse trailer...with propane tanks... [originally posted to Craftweb, used with permission 2008-11-19]

---- Original Message ----- From: Kika To:mikefirth Sent: Tuesday, July 30, 2002 11:00 PM Subject: Aloha from Hawaii!
Aloha Mike! My name is George Nixon and I manage the Live Arts Gallery Glass Blowing Studio in Honoka'a, Hawaii (Big Island).I am looking for a way to build a mobile furnace. This will enable our artists to travel to different parts of the Island and put on live glass blowing demonstrations at Festivals and such. Have you ever heard of any such thing? We have the capability of building our own - but I'm just not sure how to go about doing it. We built our entire studio here - 1 large furnace, 3 glory holes (various sizes), one glory hole for our student class with 4 portals available for use. Two garages (one large) one small. we currently have 3 annealers (of pretty good size), all benches and marvering tables were built here on site also.
If you've ever heard of a mobile furnace - or have the plans for such a thing - can you please contact me at
George Nixon
The Live Arts Gallery
PO Box 189
Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727
(808) 775-1240

I know of several mobile furnaces and show a couple on my web site, besides having thought of doing it myself..   My experience is that unless you are willing to make a major serious investment in a trailer, it is best to build the equipment of frax fiber and live with the disadvantages of that.  Art Allison made small demo units to put in the back of a pickup.  SIU has a heavy rig taken to GAS conferences.  There is a legendary rig shown in slides at GAS of a guy blowing glass on a trailer while it is moving.   The first choice to make is whether you are going to try and keep the pieces made.  If not, you will need no annealer.  If so, you will either need to leave the annealer plugged in until the cycle is done, provide a generator to power the annealer as you bring it back, or make the annealer thick walled enough that you can bring it back without shocking the glass, reheat and anneal properly.  In any case, if you move the annealer with glass in it, you will need spare frax blanket for padding.  
This page
gas97-p2.htm shows Aunt Gladys, the Southern Illinois University traveling rig.  But it is taken out out only a couple of times a year, requires a major electrical connection (it was hardwired to the theater electrical panel in Asheville) and a 250 gallon propane tank set in place locally (in Asheville) or industrial pressure natural gas (in Tucson).  It is very heavy and required reinforcement of the trailer and uses a heavy duty pickup to pull it.  I think everything on it was made of castable or insulating firebrick.  Two glory holes, serious furnace, 3-4 moderate annealers, digital controls, etc.  
When I began building my outdoor equipment I planned to be able to take it apart into strong reasonably sized modules and move it to other locations, including setting it up on a 5x10 foot trailer I owned.  When I got the insulating castable shell glory hole done and considered moving it to show people at a meeting, it was way heavier than I expected and when I calculated it out, it is about 200 pounds (I haven't actually weighed it, I have no method.)  My 2 cubic foot annealer, on the other hand, is light enough that I can carry it alone, although very awkward and I usually remove the lid.
annealer.htm   Art Allison built a furnace/glory hole in a 55 gallon drum with enough space above the glass to work the glass. It is all frax so it is light and heats fast.  At least the first time he used it, he used the crucible recipe I have on my site because it takes fast heating.  crucible.htm  He uses high pressure propane and venturi burners so does not need electricity for the furnace. His rig is the one used at the blowout shown in kitrif98.htm  He took a second barrel and lined it with frax and used a 120 volt electric element so he could save some pieces.     I have thought of making a rig to do demos at craft shows, music festivals, etc.  My thoughts start with a generator, about 5000 watts, gasoline powered, as quiet as possible.  I would allocate 2000 watts to an annealer as this would let me plug it in (in many places) if I had to.  I would use the rest for lighting for night stuff, running the blowers I prefer, digital controllers, fans for cooling, etc., with the possibility of reconfiguring for a second annealer.  A 2000 watt annealer could be on the order of 4 cubic feet with 4" of insulation all around.   Next I look at the two 100# propane tanks I use in my back yard and consider OK.   It might be possible to rig a bigger one permanently if I wanted to dedicate the trailer, but loose tanks can be moved places the trailer can not.  I would get made some propane proof hoses to run from the tank 50-100 feet at 12 psi when needed.  I would make the glass melter from a 55 gallon drum in two parts, the lower part to hold the pot, free standing, the upper part to hold the burner (horizontal wraparound flame) and access door.  I would seriously consider having two different tops, one with a larger upper and door to act as a combo glory hole and a second one with much smaller upper space and smaller access door if I were running a true glory hole.  If I had a true glory hole, I would build it in a 30 gallon barrel (as I did in my yard) but pack the walls with frax only for lighter weight.   I would invest in some kind of lifting device - like an engine hoist - to get stuff on an off the trailer and a hand truck with big squishy tires to handle soft ground because the propane tanks weigh 180 pounds full and the furnace is still likely to weight 120-150.    I would make my own cullet by cooking Spruce Pine Batch and scooping it out into water tanks (or collecting the the last of the furnace before refill over the months) so that I could melt clean consistent good working glass without having to even think about melting batch on site.


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