Glass blowing is the art (and science at the same time, as it follows precise steps and techniques) of making glass objects for decoration or for practical use (vases, tumblers, test tubes, etc.) by using a pipe to blow a bubble into a chunk of molten glass, then acting upon the molten glass with various tools to obtain the desired object.
This is, in a nutshell, how glass blowing works, but there are differences between working the lump of molten glass at home (with a blowtorch) vs. working it in a studio by employing the furnace method.
Most exhibitions today are showcasing a lot of blown glasswork. Lately, this new trend has gained unprecedented popularity because the making of art glassware is no longer restricted to the studio. The making of glass ornaments and other small scale objects like vases, beads, or pipes has introduced glass blowing at home.
How To Start Glass Blowing At Home
The process of glass blowing at home starts with gathering the ingredients. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve different ingredients and tools will be required to create different objects.
Next, is making sure you have everything ready and functioning properly, all of your tools, supplies and safety gear, because glassblowing is a delicate and time sensitive art, and you don’t want to rush things, skip steps or not be fully stocked up on perfectly working tools and supplies when you’re in the middle of a project.
When you have everything ready and you are certain that they are in good conditions it’s then time to blow glass by following simple techniques of shaping glass, creating handles, decorations, and so on.
So, what is your typical home glass blowing setup? Which items do you need to get started?
Well, glass and sand are the main ingredients in glassblowing, and this might form an image in your mind of someone scooping sand on the beach with a bucket. However, this is not the case as the sand on the beach has too many impurities to be used in this form of art.
A special type of sand is what you’re going to use, which is called silicon dioxide. However, due to its high viscosity and equally high melting point you cannot use silicon dioxide (also known as silica) and glass alone. Other items will have to be included in to the mix to obtain the desired effects, such as…
- soda lime, to lower the melting point of the glass;
- alumina, to strengthen the glass, making it more durable;
- zinc oxide, to add sheen to the piece of glass you are working on.
These are, generally speaking, the key ingredients in making glass objects, but other items might be required based on what you’re trying to create.
As for the equipment, generally speaking, you will, at the very least, want to have these tools nearby and ready to be used regardless of the project you are working on:
- a blow pipe;
- annealer for glass cooling;
- a marver (metallic table, preferably steel) where you will shape the glass on;
- tweezers and wooden blocks for cutting and shaping the glass;
- a furnace (for studio glassblowing), or blowtorch (for home projects) to heat and melt the glass;
- a glory hole where the glass will be reheated after shaping;
- a punty for adding extra pieces of glass to the glass piece you are working on;
These are not the only tools you will ever need to make glass art. These are just the bare minimum and several of the most important ones you will be using over and over again in most of your home-based projects.
How To Blow Glass At Home
Once you have all of your tools and ingredients ready it is time to start “blowing” the glass… without actually blowing it, that is. You see, unless you have a furnace installed in your home that you can melt glass into – in which case you will want to follow these steps – you will most likely not be able to blow glass in the literal sense of the word, simply because you don’t have a blowpipe to blow into.
As such, a different technique will be used, which is called lampworking and which uses a blowtorch to melt the glass as it’s a more convenient tool to use at home than furnaces.
Learn How To Blow Glass At Home
And while lampworking is a simpler way of making art than using furnaces, the techniques, ingredients and equipment you are going to use for each project will vary from one project to another. All of these methods, different supplies and equipment, along with instructions on how to use them properly take up more than a few paragraphs to describe, which is why we have allocated an entire section of this topic in our Introduction to Glass Blowing course that you can find by clicking here.
Inside of this beginner-friendly course you will learn everything you need to know about making glass art at home, along with detailed explanations of what each tool does and how to use it, a short history of glass blowing, as well as step by step instructions on how to make pipes, beads, vases, and more. Give it a try! It will really turn the finicky art of glassblowing into a true DIY project.