Working Alone

Rev. ... 2002-03-02, 2003-03-01, 2003-02-13, 2006-05-30,
2010-02-01, -02-01, -12-31, 2011-01-01

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It certainly helps, when working alone, if the studio space being used was designed with working alone in mind.

Many standard studios have furnace or especially glory hole doors that are awkward for a person working alone to use because the handles or pegs for opening are short or in the heat so a tool must be used, usually a rod with a ring on the end, that must be picked up and set down while the worker is handling the glass that is too big to go through the door.

There are a number of tools that assist the solo worker. The air hose shown below is a common assist and the swivel joint for the tubing is sold by Wale Apparatus, among others. Dudley Giberson designed an automatic bench to keep the pipe or punty turning (Hot Glass Bits #25 ) using a gear on each tool.  Here is a discussion of a video showing a man making large floats alone.


This thin handle is bolted to the frame of the gloryhole door in the heat shadow of the door with insulating castable between the metal and the fire. The door can be opened with the bare hand when the hole has been on for several hours.  More details and a drawing are shown on the doors page. More discussion below

Also, for working alone, at the right edge of the picture is a shielded yoke, shown in more detail here.  While the center gives ball bearing support to the primary pipe, the rough cut top edge (read notched) has places to rest a punty or hot bit for reheating held with the other hand.  The steel plate provides a heat shadow for the hand, especially if dropped below the pipe/punty. 2003-02-13, 2010-02-05


Glory hole door with cool handle and home made yoke

This image shows the 3rd arm I added for use with my stand up work bench. It is nothing more than an angle iron arm mounted on a base (which is also the crack off box and holder for my pipes and punties, restrained by a ring) adjustable with the clamp used on bed frames (detail). It allows me to rest the end of the punty while centering up.
I lay the pipe with the piece on the arms, lay the punty with the hot tip on the middle and near arm, then pickup the hot end of the punty with the diamond shear tips and maneuver it while rolling the pipe to determine center. Once touched, the punty rolls with the pipe, the softness of join allowing for misalignment.  The arm is slightly lower so the punty needs to be lifted to align perfectly.  Final marking of the glass may be needed, but holding the punty and tapping the pipe usually drops the glass down, leaving the pipe resting on the bench arms.  Depending on awkwardness of the piece, the pipe may be moved immediately or left there while juggling the piece on the punty to be moved after the join is stiff and piece reheated.   2001-09-23, 2011-01-01


Outdoor work bench with third arm and pipe holder
V shaped hanger for placing pipes, shown with and without pipe. The silvery pipe extending up from the frame of the work bench (top center) has a narrow V shape of steel flat (left)
Pipes and punties need collars for hanging and all need to be the same distance from the hot end to make various hanging devices compatible and be located so as not to interfere with rolling on the bench. Collars are barely visible on pipes above, but are in detail left and discussed here. (mod 2010-02-01)
2003-02-13 I was surprised to find the Seattle Glassblowing Studio, where I took a class in 2004, did not have pipe hangers nor did several others that I visited at the time.  Most of the studios in the Midwest and East that I had seen did have them.  Apparently, Seattle studios assume there will always be someone else available to keep the glass working.
This space is part of The Studio at the Corning Museum of Glass and it is used by the man in the picture, William Gudenrath, in making his dragon goblets. Although it is part of a much larger space, which includes the clear glass furnace he gathers from (see other pictures), it has been personalized for his needs and for his working alone. Among points to notice are the air hose to the end of pipe, the small moveable kiln which acts as a garage to hold goblet parts just above annealing temp, and the table for colored powder with the clear breeze shield. Example of a work space for working alone
The flat top T unit in front of the combined gloryhole and color furnace is a pipe warmer that allows him to reuse a small number of pipes. On the floor below the furnace door are two small stainless pans, one wet and one dry that hold pipes until they are put back on the heater.


Marty Johnson working left handed with hot tools to left. Here is one example that not many people will be able to follow - obviously Marty Johnson is working left handed and has her bench built to hold tools at the opposite end from most people. But if you look carefully, you will see there are no wet tools, no bucket. That is because Marty is actually ambidextrous (as I am) and has her wet tools at the other end of the bench, she does wet work right handed and dry work left handed.
Note that Marty likes a high bench that she can sit on quickly and leave quickly. It is so high her heels are well off the ground.


FURNACE & GLORY HOLE DOORS - Most furnaces and glory holes in shops with assistants have poorly designed handles for the person working alone. Many glory holes that use the door within a door design just have a pin that requires a loop or hook be used to open the door. A person working alone should never have to look for a rarely used tool to get the door open on their best big project. The answer is to make the door shield the handle from the heat and extend it out far enough to keep it cool, to make a device that manages the doors especially easily, or to add power assistance. [I am of the opinion that foot pedals, whether they pull cables to move the doors or activate valves for a pneumatic door are a bad idea, because they throw me off balance and because they require looking for them at a critical moment in the process when standing before the high heat of the furnace.] Doors should be easy to move and handles should stay cool.

Balanced door mechanism for working alone with center opening

Dual glory holes with single hand controls

These doors provide the owner of Zero Gravity Glass with center opening doors and a long handle that comes well out front at a convenient level, about head high. The same kind of doors are used on both large and small glory holes. Note the neat layout of equipment.


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