Glass Making Tools and Methods
Glass Making Demonstration Below
Below you will find a simplified list of tools and equipment used in glassmaking and their explanations. There are many more tools and procedures than we have listed here. Glass factories of the 1800s had many skilled workmen and much of the work was completed by hand. However their tools, machines, molds and procedures were in most cases more complicated than illustrated here. Today glass factories are highly automated and not within the purview of this website. This demonstration is just to supply the reader the simplest explanation of glassmaking. Hopefully it will produce an appreciation of skills of the glassworkers of the 1800s and early 1900s.
At the end you can click on a glassmaking demonstration. Many of the tools explained below are seen in that demonstration. Please read about the tools and their explanations first. You will then more fully understand and appreciate the demonstration.
Pot: In a historical glasshouse it is an area within the furnace (in which there were several pots per furnace often 8 to 14) where raw materials were melted to make glass or molten glass of different colors or formulas. The glass was keep hot for working by the glassmakers. In a modern glass studio, they may be stand alone and rather small holding less than 100 pounds of glass and only holding one color of glass at a a time.
Tanks: Tanks came into use in the late 1800s in high production capacity glasshouses. They are basically the same thing as a pot except much larger. In some cases tanks held 4 tons of glass. Glasshouses might have only one tank but eight to 12 pots.
Glory Hole: Historically in a glasshouse, it is an area within the furnace for reheating glass pieces as they are being produced. In a modern glass studio, they are stand alone insulated heated box with a round opening again for reheating the piece of glass being produced.
Lehr or Annealing Oven: In historical glasshouses, lehrs or annealing ovens were boxes or chambers 6’ wide by 55’ long to as much as 90’ long for decorated pieces. They are used for controlled cooling of glass. A late 1800s or early 1900s glasshouse might have 6 lehrs on site. In a modern glass studio a lehr would be the size of a horizontal home freezer. It would be heated up to 580 C then allowed to cool over several hours.
Blow Pipe: A blow pipe is a hollow iron, bronze or brass tube varying in length from 2.5’ to 6’. At one end a gather of molten glass was attached at the other end was a mouth piece where a glassmaker would blow air from his lungs to expand the glass bubble.
Pontil or Punty Rod: Pontil or punty rod are usually the same lengths as the blow pipes; they can be either solid or hollow and usually have a bulge at one end and are made out of iron. Once the glassmaker is done blowing the glass object, the glassmaker will separate the piece of glass from the blow pipe and then attach it to a punty rod for additional work. He attaches it by taking a small gather of glass from the pot on the punty rod roll and shape it, then sticks the gather on the bottom of the piece that is being produced. This allows him to continue to shape, reheat or generally work with the glass object. The punty rod is removed once the piece is ready for the Lehr.
Marver: A maver is made of a polished steel surface attached to a table. A hot piece of glass is rolled on the marver for three reasons: controlling temperature, adjusting shape and mixing in different types of glass. An example would be frit glass of different colors rolled on or worked into the gather by means of a the marver.
Bottledore: A bottledore is a flat wood paddle with a handle that is used to flatten the bottoms of a glass object when hot.
Lipper: A lipper is a wooden tapered or conical shaped device used for forming the wide lips on pitchers.
Block or Cup: A block or cup is usually made of wood and it is dipped in water so the intense heat of the glass does not burn the surface. It is used in the early stages of shaping a glass object.
Dip Mold: A dip mold is usually a one piece mold made of metal, in which molten glass was blown. The mold would impart its pattern onto the outside of the glass object. The pattern could be simply decorative or it could be an Optic, external or internal.
Pucellas or Steel Jack: A pucellas or steel jack is a steel tool used for shaping and elongating stems, spreading the tops of bowls and or reducing diameter.
Steel Calipers: Steel calipers are used in measuring the diameter of a glass piece.
Steel Compass: A steel compass is used for layout or measuring the height of a piece of glass.
Shears: There are a wide variety of shears of different sizes shapes with many different uses. They were used to cut blobs of glass, cut glass rod without flatting the rod and even in forming handles in some cases.
Metal Tongs: Metal tongs are used as pincers for applying handles.
Wood Jack: Wood jacks were invented the mid 1800s and are a metal tongs with wooden tips. The wooden tips were not as likely to mar the glass surface of hot glass. They could be used to produce manual crimps or lips on glass in place of a specialized crimping tool.
Holding Tongs: Holding tongs they are metal tongs historically with wooden tips or blocks used to move the hot piece of glass to the Lehr.
The glass making demonstration is supplied courtesy of Mr. Dave Fry. Mr. Fry is a second generation glass worker who apprenticed under his father. He worked for Fostoria Glass in Moundsville, OH until it closure in 1982. Since that time he has worked for Lenox Crystal, Louise Glass, and Beaumont in Morgantown, West Virginia. He currently has a private glass studio in Shadyside, OH where he produces custom glassware. To visit his site please click on this link: Fry Glass.
© 2008 the antiquarian, All rights and media reserved.