Complete List of Glass Blowing Tools, Supplies & Their Uses (Updated)
Glassblowing is an ancient glassforming technique that involves inflating and shaping hot glass into a variety of objects such as art pieces, drinkware, and glass containers. Glassblowing is an important form of art and is vital in the making of glassware used in a variety of industries, such as the laboratory sciences.
Glassblowing takes years of practice and dedication to master, as well as specialized tools and equipment. Below is a comprehensive list of the tools glassblowers use to make the many products found on the market today. While a glassblower’s process may vary slightly depending on the items being created, most craftspeople rely on these common tools to perform their work safely and effectively.
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- Please use saftey lenses and adequate ventilation when lampworking.
Large Equipment Used in Glassblowing
There are several key pieces of large equipment used in glassblowing studios: furnaces/glory holes, annealers, benches, and yokes. These items are essential to the glassblowing process and serve important functions from the start of a project to the end.
Because of their size and cost, most small or moderately-sized studios or workshops will only have one or two of each of these items, which are shared between artisans.
1) Furnace/Glory Hole
Most glassblowers rely on furnaces as their sources of heat. Furnaces used today are typically gas-powered and reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Each furnace has a glory hole, an opening in the furnace where glass is gathered and reheated.
The bench is the place where a glassblower performs much of his or her work. Benches are usually made of a mix of wood and metal. Benches have arms to support the blowpipe and glass project and hold the other small tools glassblowers use through the glass making process.
A yoke is a stand that is placed in front of a glassblower’s furnace to support pipes as they enter the glory hole. The pipe is set on the yoke to keep it steady and guide it into the furnace to gather glass.
An annealer slowly cools a finished glass product so it does not shatter. The annealer creates a controlled environment in which the glass can very slowly cool and harden to room temperature. Without the annealer, glass would cool too quickly and break. Annealers can be compared to kilns used by pottery artists.
Small Equipment Used in Glassblowing
The precise nature of glassblowing requires many small tools with unique functions. Depending on the type of item being created, only a few of these tools will be used at any given time. For more detailed glass blown products, artisans may rely on many of the following to achieve the desired outcome.
Most glassblowers are familiar with a wide range of tools and how to use them. The more experienced a glassblower is with different tools, the more items he or she can create and the more valuable he or she is within a studio or workshop. The following is a comprehensive list of the most popular small tools used by glassblowers and lampworkers.
A block is a wooden tool used for shaping gathers of glass. After a glassblower gathers hot glass from the glory hole, he or she takes the glass over to a bench to begin working it. Blocks are soaked in water to create a layer of steam when in contact with hot glass. They help form glass into a rounded, even shape to prepare it for inflating and further shaping.
Blowpipes are used to blow air into glass and inflate it. Used during the beginning and middle stages of the glassblowing process, blowpipes are hollow and metal with a mouthpiece on one end and a place for hot glass to gather at the other.
Torches are the equivalent of furnaces for lampworkers, but can also be used in glassblowing while moulding the workpiece.
In terms of lampworking, because they work on a much smaller scale, lampworkers rely on the heat of torches to soften and shape glass. While any torch technically works for lampworking projects, serious artisans use torches specifically made for glassworking. These torches have more precise flames and heat to the appropriate temperatures.
Jacks are a pair of metal blades held together at the end with a curved handle. They look like large tweezers and are used to shape glass as it is rotated at the workbench. Jacks can be used to shape glass as it is being inflated, separate glass from the blowpipe towards the end of the work process, and widen the opening of glass vessels.
Shears are used to cut or constrict hot glass. They come in two types: straight and diamond. Depending on the type of project being completed, glassblowers will favor one over the other.
Made from wood with a handle at the end, paddles are used to form the bottom or other flat edges of glass pieces. The glass is carefully pressed onto the paddle to create a flat surface.
Molds are used to shape glass into preset shapes and items. Molds are generally made from brass or wood and can be custom made to suit the needs of individual glassblowing projects.
A crimp is a metal device that looks a bit like a pair of kitchen tongs, but has a textured surface. This tool creates a decorative design and texture when glass is squeezed between it. Crimps come in a variety of sizes, with different patterns to suit your specific needs.
A marver is a table or surface on which glassblowers shape hot glass. Marvers are made from steel, brass, or graphite and were originally made from marble, which is how they got their name.
A parchoffi is similar to the jacks discussed above, but they have wooden blades instead of metal ones. Wooden blades are more rounded and therefore do not leave any marks in the glass when used to flare or shape the opening of a vessel. A parchoffi is dipped in water prior to using it to help it glide across the surface of the glass.
Used after glass has been inflated, a punty is a small metal rod that glassblowers transfer their work to in the finishing stages of the glassblowing process. The punty is carefully attached to the bottom of an inflated glass piece so the glassblower can work on the top of the item.
A pyrometer is a remote-sensing thermometer that records the temperature of annealers and furnaces. This tool is helpful in ensuring that glass is heated and cooled down properly.
17) Safety Glasses
Wearing high-quality safety glasses is extremely important when glassblowing. The work environment is dangerous due to the amount of heat and delicate glass being used. Some risks to glassblowers’ eyes include: shattered glass, sodium flares from the heating compounds found in glass, UV light, and infrared light.
Proper safety glasses protect the eyes from these dangers and allow glassblowers to see their work properly despite strong light.
If a glassblower needs to inflate a piece more after it has been taken off a blowpipe, he or she can do so using a soffietta. This tool features a metal tube with a conical nozzle at the end. The cone is placed at the opening of th glass and air is blown through the tube to further inflate the glass.
A taglia is a steel knife with a squared-off end that is used to shape molten glass. Taglias can be purchased with sharp or rounded edges depending on the needs of the glassblower.
The tweezers used by glassblowers look like household ones, but they are much larger and are used to transfer glass to the punty rod.