Learning how to blow glass is not hard, but it does take a certain understanding of this craft, as well as a lot of practice before you can consider yourself a true gaffer.
For your convenience, the glass blowing process is outlined below in clear steps, but before you rush over to the first store to acquire tools and supplies you need (like in, REALLY need) to learn about the safety rules first so that you won’t injure yourself, others or burn the whole place down.
Also, if the phrase above made you question whether or not glass blowing is for you, don’t worry because… yes, glassblowing is for you, and for everyone else who follows the rules of this gorgeous, but tricky art.
If you wish to learn how to tackle this art to make beads, pipes, vases and more, read this beginner’s guide that we’ve put together for you. It will teach you everything you need to know about making glass art, including the very important safety rules, a quick history of glass blowing, beginner tips, as well as simple techniques for shaping the glass, spinning the rod, creating handles, or adding colors to your objects.
The process of blowing glass at home is a bit different to the one performed in a studio/workshop, because at home you most likely don’t have enough space to install a furnace and the required annexes. Therefore, the tools and methods used at home will be slightly different to those used in a studio and thus, the types of pieces you can make at home are also limited in variety.
This is why home glassblowing is usually perfect for creating small / simple objects like beads, small ornaments, vases, mugs, bowls, pipes, and the alikes. If you wish to create larger, more intricate objects your home will probably be too small to accommodate you, and so you’ll have to move to a studio.
When you break it down, the process of glassblowing is quite simple and tends to follow these steps:
- Create a pile of molten glass by mixing some ingredients (usually filtered sand, potash, soda ash, and limestone, but other ingredients may be used as well, depending on the object you’re trying to make);
- When this mix has reached its melting point (usually 2000 °F, or 1100 °C) collect some of it with the help of a special rod called the blowpipe, by dipping it (multiple times if needed) into the pile of molten glass. Again, the quantity of gathered chunk depends on what you’re trying to create, so 2 or more gatherings may be needed if you’re working on more complex objects which require a bigger quantity of glass;
- After you’ve gathered enough molten glass on your blowpipe you blow air into the newly gathered dollop while constantly rotating the blowpipe on the marver. This continuous spinning of the blowpipe on the marver, combined with blowing air into the chunk of molten glass allows you to create a very basic shape of what you want, whether it’s a vase, bowl, mug, or an abstract object. In this step you can also tweak the shape of your object by pulling at the glass with specialized tools;
- (Optional) If you wish to create colorful objects now is the time to do it. At this point in the shaping and air blowing process artists usually add colors to their objects, creating visually pleasing pieces. Adding colors can be accomplished through several different techniques that allow you can create thousands of different hues and textures;
- When the desired shape has been achieved, and the colors have been added in, the next step is to transfer the shaped glass onto a different rod (which is usually made of graphite, or stainless steel). This special rod serves quite a few purposes, depending on the project you’re working on, but most of the time it allows you to work on the top of your piece by keeping the bottom stuck to the rod. This tool also facilitates the creation of handles, and adding decorations to your object;
- After all of these steps have been done correctly the piece of glass is then inserted into the glory hole for further heating (reheating the object in the glory hole will keep it from breaking or shattering) and to be prepared for the final stages;
- The final stages include adding last minute details or shapes to the glass, adding handles (if you’re creating vases for example), and other decorations;
- Lastly, the finalized piece is then inserted into a special oven where it’s gradually being cooled down to avoid breaking.
This is, in a nutshell, how glassblowing works. However, depending on the piece you’re making other simpler, or more complex tasks will be included in the basic process, or adjusted according to the specific techniques used in creating that particular object.
Additionally, other ingredients may be also included in the basic setup, or added as an extra, as some projects need a different setup, require different supplies, or a different sequence of tasks to be performed.