The heat required for glassblowing is mind blowing: the blow pipe used to fashion blown glass is heated in a crucible that reaches approximately 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that into perspective, that is approximately as hot as lava rolling down the sides of a newly erupted volcano.
Once the blow pipe is heated, the glass smith daubs their blow pipe into molten glass until they gather a ball of molten glass at the tip of their pipe. Using a flat steel surface, the glass smith quickly shapes the ball of molten glass into a smooth, even shape. Now it’s time to blow.
The glass smith will either implement a mold, or they will rely on skill alone as they meticulously and expertly use their own breath to breathe life into their glass creation. The trickiest aspect at this stage of glassblowing is maintaining the correct temperature.
At regular intervals, the glass smith needs to reheat the glass so as to be able to continue shaping it. At the wrong temperature, the glass smith risks losing their work. If they overheat their work in progress, they melt the glass back to liquid and have to start over. If they over-cool the glass, they run the risk of cracks in their work.
The next step in the process is to use a series of wooden blocks soaked in water to even up the sides of the glass and smooth out any roughness. Once that is done, the glass smith takes a pair of tongs and delicately forms the lip of whatever they are crafting – typically a bowl or vase. They then continue to apply heat and rotate the glass to widen and shape the opening to perfection.
From there, it’s out of the fire and into the kiln. The glass is placed in a still scorching hot environment of 900 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives it a “warm” environment – compared to the 2,200 degree environment it was formed in – to cool and harden gradually. If cooled too quickly, it will crack, and all that hard work and sweat would be lost.
Glass blowing is a time-honored tradition, and the craftsmen who accomplish it are revered and respected in both tool and art trades alike. Thanks to centuries of trial and error, modern-day glass blowing is an extremely reliable and durable way to make glass goods.
A popular glass blown item aside from the typical fare of vases and bowls is, in fact, the glass bong. Whether created by way of mold-blowing or free-blowing, glass bongs are not only practical, but they are also stunning to look at.