Sunday, December 23, 2012


81. Learn how to blow glass. 

I am SO excited that I got to cross this item off. We have a fabulous glass factory in St. Louis - located in the Central West End. It's called Third Degree Glass - and in addition to having glassblowing/kilnworking shops, they have classes in said items and "Third Friday" free celebrations with music, art and firespinning. You've seen the firespinning and firebreathing on this blog before, I think.

When I got the email about the ornament class, I signed up as soon as I realized that I didn't have to work and that I could achieve my life list goal. I had no idea what it was going to be like, but I knew it happened in a half hour and if they let kids do it, it must be safe enough for someone who is a bit afraid of heat and fire. So not only was this about crossing something off, but conquering a minor fear of extreme heat and flame.

We had three great instructors: Jon, Mike and Addison. That allowed two teachers to guide two pupils at once, and the third was on "loop" duty - creating the final top loop to the ornaments that we were making.

They were kind enough to allow me to take pictures - most of them are from other people's experiences [with permission] because obviously my hands were full during mine. It was a lot to remember - they review a lot of safety, do a demo of how it all happens and then let us do it. I think I've remembered everything properly - but it kind of happened quickly and you're guided fully at every turn.

It starts by dipping the blowpipe into the glass from the furnace. It's almost like honey. Molten honey, that is.


Then we put it in the "glory hole" and warm it up a little before dipping it into the glass bits that provide the color:



Then you stick it back in the "glory hole" and melt the glass on there. One thing you must know is that you are constantly rotating the pipe. Constantly. It's hard to remember sometimes - but you can correct it by letting it sit and un-droop.


Then when the glass is melted on, you use this wooden block to shape it. It's soaked in water. Sometimes sparks come up off of it, which is kind of fun.


This is what it might look like after that:


Then, you puff just a little bit of air in there and plug the back of the pipe with your thumb (this is done by the pros) and that pressure causes the end to bubble just a bit. I think that's what has happened in this picture:


Then it's back into the fire while you (the student) get the tubing ready to be connected so you can actually blow the glass.

Then the instructor sits down at the bench and grabs a tool (I didn't get the name of it) and coaches you on the pressure and rate of breathing in order to blow the glass to the proper size:

3rd Degree Glass - Ornament   3rd Degree Glass - Ornament    3rd Degree Glass - Ornament    20121222-IMG_0199

Then it's back into the oven again while the other instructor preps the other glass for the hook:

3rd Degree Glass - Ornament

This is what the ornament looks like when it is set down in the holder:

3rd Degree Glass - Ornament

Then it is separated from the pipe:


And then the glass added on top:

20121222-IMG_0073   20121222-IMG_0075   20121222-IMG_0078   20121222-IMG_0079   20121222-IMG_0082

Then it goes into another oven to "cool" because the glass and temperatures we were working in were 2000° - so room temperature is too great of a shift.

I'll update the post when I get mine back - I am really looking forward to seeing the fruits of my labor. I may have found a fun new hobby  - especially since I discovered that I didn't get burned or even close to it. The instructors were awesome - they explained everything, answered my questions, were good at instructing and yet laid back enough to not make you totally nervous. I look forward to learning from them again. This isn't the last-time I'll be at Third Degree... that's for sure.

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