FAQ #1

FAQ #1

Post by Paul Wils » Sat, 01 Mar 1997 04:00:00

The following is the revised FAQ for section I submitted to everyone for



This is the first FAQ for the rec.crafts.glass newsgroup which
is currently broken down onto 12 Sections.  A copy of any
section may be requested at any time by email from the current
keeper who will reply by email, not in the newsgroup, so that
the newsgroup is not filled with a lot of repeat messages.  The
current FAQ keeper is:

Paul Wilson

This FAQ will always be a work in progress, almost half of the
sections listed below are finished.

Some are in progress, we are still seeking volunteers for
others.  You don't have to be an expert to contribute, many of
the experts are busy making a living.

The sections are written by different volunteers because they
cover different disciplines.  Individual authors and their email
addresses are listed at the beginning of each section.  If you
have a question about something, please consider asking it in
the newsgroup, rather than in private email as this contributes
to the newsgroup.  If you are afraid your question is too basic,
please consider that there is probably someone else out there
wanting to know the same thing, who also is reluctant to ask.

The various sections of the FAQ's are maintained by individual
authors who have all the copyright protection granted any
author, whether in print, or electronic media.  These kind folks
made contributions of time and effort to improve this newsgroup,
so please don't plagiarize their work.

Currently the Twelve Sections are:

I.    Information and Rules of this newsgroup (this file)  **

II.  Glass Cutting   **

III. Copper-Foil Technique and Soldering  **

IV.  Lead-Came technique  

V.   Kiln Forming or Warm Glass - includes fusing, slumping,
pate de verre, and frit.

VI.  Sandblasting  

VII. Lampworking, including beads, marbles, borosilicate, etc.

VIII Choosing Glass  **

IX.  Hot Glass - glass blowing and other work over 2000 degrees.

X.   WWW Sites   **

XI Tools **

XII Suppliers  (not sure about this one... the WWW sites pretty
much cover it in detail)

** = Completed SECTION



Understandably most people dislike rules.  Since this is
presently an unmoderated newsgroup, there is no mechanism of
enforcement so the rules should be simple and forthright.

A.  Since this is not an alt.sex newsgroup we ask that you
abstain from ***ography and swearing in *this* newsgroup.  

B.  Advertising in small amounts is welcome since it contributes
to knowledge and promotes discussion, however this newsgroup is
not anybody's or any-company's key to commercial success.  A
little restraint is asked for.

C.  This newsgroup is about glass whether it be hobby or
professionally oriented,  long diversions about other subjects
are better off left to email.

D.  No SPAMming.  We are not interested in get rich pyramid

E.  Patience,  we all started out as beginners.

F.  Common Sense.  Anything that detracts from our glass hobby
or profession or this newsgroup is not good.

If there is something you would like added to this section,
please feel free to respond.  My KIS or Keep It Simple concept
may have left out something important.  Paul


FAQ #1

Post by mikefi.. » Tue, 04 Mar 1997 04:00:00

   *  IX.  Furnace working - Glass Blowing, Sculpting,
Paperweights, Casting
  Furnace working of glass involves melting the glass to a
honey like liquid in a furnace and then manipulating that
liquid with heat resistant tools or pouring it into molds.
                   A. What it costs.
    Furnace working is the most expensive form of glass
working.  Because of the effort involved in heating the
glass it is necessary to have an annealler large enough to
hold several hours work, which usually means serious
electric power requirements.  To be practical, five major
pieces of equipment need to be built before a single piece
of glass can be blown and several tools obtained which can
easily add up to $500 or more.
  It is possible to blow a piece of glass having spent as little
as $400.  I did it.  It is much more logical to build
equipment that will last longer.  That will run the cost
closer to $1200-2000.  Always remember that these costs
assume a suitable place to set up.  The lowest cost I have
heard for starting with a bare piece of land and building a
structure and equipping it for production blowing was
  The five pieces of equipment needed for a furnace
working studio are an annealer for properly cooling the
glass, a furnace for melting the glass, a *** for
reheating the glass, a work bench, and a marver, a flat
heatproof surface for rolling out the glass. Most hot glass
workers will also need at least one grinder to cold work the
bottoms of pieces.   It is possible to combine, in some
cases, the furnace and the *** and the marver and
the work bench, to avoid building extra structures, but not
in the long term.
   The tools needed for working the glass include pipes to
inflate the glass, punties to handle glass off the pipe, jacks
to shape the hot glass, and shears to cut and form,  Roughly
speaking each one of these costs about $100 and most
furnace workers have at least two of each.  Some gaffers
(the title of the person responsible for working the piece)
prefer wet wood blocks for shaping the glass, another $50-
100, but many use wet newspaper held in the hand, by far
the cheapest item on the list.
  The real problem in stating costs is the huge variability in
each item in the list.  Almost all furnace working
equipment is built by the glassblowers, although much can
be bought for high fees, while almost all tools are bought,
though they can be made.  The following paragraphs
discuss the ranges of cost.
  The site to blow can range from a bare concrete pad open
to the air to an air conditioned building.  In most parts of
the pure country open air is not an option although I do it in
Texas and summer camp schools often have open walled
structures.  Wood floors are not an option.  Dirt floors get
muddy and won't take the weight of wheeled furnaces.
Most glassblowers use existing old warehouse style
structures in areas without strict zoning.  The second most
important requirement is a ceiling 10 or more feet tall to
allow swinging the glass and to allow hot air to dilute with
vent air.  A studio should not be under the same roof as a
residence or shop containing valuable equipment.
  Most studios are not in buildings with air conditioning,
but all must have good ventilation, usually by large
openings in walls - garage doors - and large exhaust fans.
The latter are often scrounged as they can be expensive.
Usually the hottest items - ***s and furnaces - are in
a line with sheet metal walls forming an area to catch the
heat and be separately vented from the working area.
  Furnace glass blowing requires a considerable amount of
gas - natural or propane - and enough electricity to be a
nuisance - 220 volts at 40-100 amps.  At some sites,
including many homes, there is not enough natural gas
capacity - pipe size or pressure - to run a *** and a
furnace.  Changes can be expensive - $500-2,000 to hire
someone to do it.  Propane tanks are usually provided by
the delivery company and the cost may be low once they
see how much propane is being used.  Electricity wiring is
not difficult for the worker to do, once the code rules, are
learned for safety's sake.
  The first equipment usually an annealer, since no glass
can be saved unless the annealer is working.  The annealer
consists of a box and a controller.  The cheapest solution is
to already own an electric pottery kiln with a usable
controller, but these often too small in the long run.  Most
annealer boxes are built by the worker because they are big
and bulky.  An annealer is a metal box with insulation
inside.  Often the metal box was once a refrigerator or
freezer although environmental rules on freon and its safe
collection have made this choice more expensive.  The
insulation can be ceramic fiber and fiberglass, ceramic
fiber board, and insulating fire brick.  If the box is only
used as an annealer - max temperature 1000F, brick need
not be used and nichrome dryer heating elements can be
used.  If it is used for slumping (1300F), fusing (1600F
max) or casting (1800F) also, different choices must be
made, including Kanthal for elements and providing a lot
more electricity.  Lowest cost of an annealer container is
about $150 for blanket, shell, and element.  Highest cost is
about $1,000.
   Controller costs range from almost nothing (with a lot of
time and attention while annealing) to $2,000.  Most glass
workers use Digitry or competing programmable
controllers.  Digitry's GB-1 controls one device and costs
about $700 per device.  Their GB-3 controls up to 5 devices
and costs about $1500 plus about $100 per device for
relays (solid state or contactor) and thermocouples.  At the
low end, a knowledgeable person can make a ramping
controller for about $20 from digital chips, plus about $30
for a voltmeter, $20 for a solid state relay and $20 for
thermocouple. (Old timers used Variac transformers, but
cheap high amp Variacs are not easy to find any more.)
Almost anyone can buy a digital, single ramp, learning
controller with display for $200 plus $20 for thermocouple
and $50 for solid state relay.  There are also systems which
work with old personal computers and cost about $800
(plus $100 per unit) to control up to 8 units.  Most
glassblowers have 4-5 units requiring temperature control -
perhaps 2-3 annealers, a color kiln, and a garage.  Some
control their furnace.
   After the annealer, the next device is a ***, which
is either a barrel lined with very high temp insulating
material or a box lined with insulating firebrick.  Money
and space may be saved by building a furnace with a big
enough opening to reheat the working glass over the melted
glass, but that is unsatisfactory because the melt gets too
hot and the glory is not hot enough.  A 12" opening glory
hole made of a 30 gallon barrel, using vermiculite,
insulation board, and castable insulation with an iron pipe
burner will cost about $175.  Using one of the ceramic
head burners (Giberson or Wilton) will add about $130.
The unit will weight 150-200 pounds and will require a
frame that has to be welded.  Cost can range from $30 with
self-welded s***steel and no wheels to $200 with hired
welding and good casters.
   A marver is a flat piece of material, usually steel about
1/2 to 1" thick, set on its own frame or on a table at about
hip level.  Getting a good piece of steel can be a matter of
cheap luck at a surplus steel place or costly investment at a
machine shop.  It needs crisp straight edges. 1 x 2 feet to
2.5 x 5 feet, $10 to $200.
   A work bench for furnace glass working is built of steel
angle or tubing or of wood with steel edges on the long
arms.  Most glass workers follow the model of the one they
learned on.  Bench materials cost $20-40.
   The furnace can be built with a large door for use as a
*** or with a much smaller gathering port just big
enough to get in and out with the last gather made, 6" max.
In the long run, it is best to have a separate *** so
the furnace can be as efficient as possible and the glass
held at the best working temperature.  A furnace may be a
tank furnace or a pot furnace.
  A tank furnace involves very high temperature glass
resistant hard fire brick backed by insulating brick, bound
together by a heavy steel frame.  Some of the individual
bricks can cost $25+ each.  A tank usually holds 200 - 500
pounds of glass and is used where many gaffers are
working (student teaching) or when large amounts of glass
are needed for casting.  Such a furnace can cost $1500 or
more.  Often regulations require industrial gas controllers
that can easily add $2000+.
  A pot furnace contains one or more ceramic pots which
may be free standing or invested and 125 pounds is a
common capacity.  The most common is invested where
the pot is bedded in insulating castable to reduce thermal
shock and so that when (not if) it cracks, it can be used
longer.  Glass melting pots have to be formulated so they
can stand the heat and won't dissolve in the glass or throw
chunks into the glass. They can be fragile.  Commercial
pots require careful slow heating to avoid cracking.  The
pot costs $100-200 and shipping can double this.  The
furnace is usually cylindrical and can be built in a 55 gallon
drum or with sheet metal forms.  The top is cylindrical or
domed and covered with added insulation.  Cost beyond the
pot is about $200.
  A durable burner costs about $150.  Since the furnace
usually is run for weeks or months at a time, common sense
as well as regulations will require some form of safety
equipment to cut off the gas if the electricity fails and
perhaps restart the furnace if conditions are correct when
power returns.  Solutions range from venturi burner with
high pressure propane (no power to fail), add $75, to a
simple cutoff of gas and electricity to a blown burner, add
$100, to a trigger restart with sensor, add $200, to a
controller that maintains precise temperature and safety,
add $1-2000+.   A Charles Correll

read more »


FAQ #1

Post by gla.. » Sun, 09 Mar 1997 04:00:00

Dear Mr. Firth,
Your description of the glass studio is from the days of Barney Rubble and
at best is extremly misleading, highly inaccurate and can be very
dangerious. I would not suggest that anyone in his or her right mind
follow your suggestions. I would suggest that anyone interested in
constructing a studio visit a reputable studio and speak to established
glass artists or purchase Glass Notes to get correct information.

Henry Halem
Franklin Mills Press


FAQ #1

Post by mikefi.. » Sun, 09 Mar 1997 04:00:00

>Your description of the glass studio is from the days of Barney Rubble and
>at best is extremly misleading, highly inaccurate and can be very
>dangerious. I would not suggest that anyone in his or her right mind
>follow your suggestions. I would suggest that anyone interested in
>constructing a studio visit a reputable studio and speak to established
>glass artists or purchase Glass Notes to get correct information.

 Well, Henry, I am sorry you feel that way.  I will have to look at your book again and see what you have to say about safety and control systems and cost of building.
  What I am describing is what I have seen in the 25-35 studios I have visited in the
Texas, Toledo Ohio and Asheville North Carolina areas and in New Orleans and a
couple of other cities.  If these locations are behind the times, so be it.  The best
studio I have ever seen was at Bowling Green State University, not far from you,
and met all code and industrial standards.  It also cost about $4,000 per furnace or
***, well outside the range of most artists.  The standard studio I am
describing is used all over Texas and North Carolina by what I take to be
'reputable' artists, including one that is a huge defender of you and from whom the
most basic ideas have come, although he thinks I have slighted you and thus won't
let me use his name publicly.
  I am certainly not an established artist and never have pretended to be more than a reporter of my own experiences and a compiler of information from other sources as filtered by common sense.
  I look forward to your insightful contributions to the discussion of building glassblowing studios within the reach of individual artists.

 Mike Firth, Hot Bits furnace glassblowing newsletter

  Home Page: http://www.FoundCollection.com/


FAQ #1

Post by Roger Peterso » Sun, 09 Mar 1997 04:00:00

Dear Mr. Halem,

I find your comments on the FAQ IX originally submitted by Mike Firth
themselves misleading and inaccurate.  As I know you are aware, like
many of us Mike has been working in hot glass for several years.  He is
one of the few people such as yourself that have direct, hands-on
experience in building and operating glass furnaces.  

Yes, working with glass in any of its many forms carries with it some
hazard.  And working in hot glass is most likely at the top of the list
of hazardous avocations.

However, you and Mike and others have clearly pointed out here and in
print that hot glass and especially furnace glass is not for the timid
nor the careless.  When a person is dealing with 100+ pounds of molten
glass, every move -- every operation -- must be carefully considered.
To do otherwise would be to risk one's health -- not to mention the
potential of losing some of one's body parts.

If you review FAQ-IX again, you will find that Mike does not supply
specific construction plans.  He has correctly provided sound
information of the costs associated with starting a hot glass studio.
And this is the goal that the full title of his submission states.  

Roger Peterson


FAQ #1

Post by o.. » Mon, 10 Mar 1997 04:00:00


>  Your description of the glass studio is from the days of Barney Rubble and
>  at best is extremly misleading, highly inaccurate and can be very
>  dangerious. I would not suggest that anyone in his or her right mind
>  follow your suggestions. I would suggest that anyone interested in
>  constructing a studio visit a reputable studio and speak to established
>  glass artists or purchase Glass Notes to get correct information.

Gee, oh wise one, how about granting us the benefit of your
knowledge?  Tell us something useful, as Mike tried to do.
Otherwise, attacking the effort of a guy who clearly means
well, and just as clearly knows more than I do, comes off as
a fairly tacky attempt to sell your book.  As a long-time
*** writer with a bunch of books to my credit (or perhaps
to be atoned for), I can sympathize with the wish to unload
a few extra copies.  But as someone who would like to learn
about glass work, your post left me pretty cold.

Owen Davies


FAQ #1

Post by Tom Bellhous » Mon, 10 Mar 1997 04:00:00


> Dear Mr. Firth,
> Your description of the glass studio is from the days of Barney Rubble and
> at best is extremly misleading, highly inaccurate and can be very
> dangerious. I would not suggest that anyone in his or her right mind
> follow your suggestions. I would suggest that anyone interested in
> constructing a studio visit a reputable studio and speak to established
> glass artists or purchase Glass Notes to get correct information.

> --
> Henry Halem
> Franklin Mills Press


I missed Mike's post, so I don't know which parts you found wanting.  

At the original "studio" glass furnace, at the Toledo Museum, where American
glass art was born, nobody knew what they were doing!  Talk about Barney Rubble.  
These guys couldn't even get the glass to melt, and after Nick Labino bailed
them out, and they had hot glass, they didn't know what to do with it!  Cut
to early Penland and its flammable studio, to Billy Bernstein's studio, to a
current one in Spruce Pine that's built in the abandoned projection room of a
drive-in theater.  Cut to Drew Ebelhare blowing in Houston, in the summer, in
a 10' x 10' mini-warehouse.  Or to Tom Patti making art out of an eight-brick
furnace built over a hole in the ground in his back yard.  Then remember the
movie at Corning of the native glassblower, working over a camel-shit fire,
making a perfume bottle while squatting down on the ground and rolling the
pipe on his thighs.  Remember Ritter's first shop.

Yes, things have come a long way.  To some extent that information can be
passed on, and to some extent is has to be rediscovered.  There is sometimes
joy in rediscovery.  Since not everybdy has the skill and money to build a
state of the art shop, we make do.  

My own slant on things is "lo tech."  I won't use a controller unless a project
demands it.  It would be silly to use a controller in annealing beads, for example.  
Another example:  I'm blowing out of a furnace that's an encased crucible, cast
crown, otherwise all-fiber Billy furnace, 30-lb melt, built in a 55 gallon drum.  
Costs $8 per day to run, including a small ***, at retail propane prices.  
Furnace cost about $300, and 1/3 of that was for Dudley's burner head.  The rest
was junk lying around.  I'm hot right now, the glass is clean, and all's right
with my world.  But if my work demanded a high-tech shop, with pinpoint control
over all the variables, that's what I'd go for instead.  The work should dictate
the equipment, and not the other way around.  So a beginner furnace for a beginner
glassblower?  Sure, why not.  

Glassblowers always have been "the truck drivers of the art world."  Improvisation
and "making do" are a part of that.  In that spirit, I hope folks from all levels
of skill and experience contribut to the FAQ's.  I think (or rather, I hope)
that you'll see some really outrageous stuff, right and wrong.  Then we talk
about it, each contributing from his or her own experience.  And I hope nobody
holds off contributing for fear of being wrong.  We're all wrong - take that
as a given.

Best regards, Henry, and a very sincere "thanks" for all you have contributed
to Americal glass art.

Tom Bellhouse, RN