Glassblowing is a fascinating process with utterly unique and often gorgeous results. If you’ve watched the Netflix hit show Blown Away, you are familiar with some of the terms used by these crafters of the most delicate matter. This is not a comprehensive list.
Speak like a glassblower
Annealer/annealing oven: an oven that is used to cool the glass slowly. The annealer sits at around 482°C and is brought down to room temperature overnight so that the glass does not crack under stress.
Assistant: the person or people helping the gaffer make a piece.
At-the-Fire: the process of reheating a blown glass object at the glory hole during manufacture, to allow further inflation, manipulation with tools, or fire polishing.
Bar: a single piece of glass formed by fusing several canes or rods. It can be cut into slices to be used as inlays or appliqués, or in making mosaic glass.
Batch: the raw components to be melted into glass. It can be purchased through various manufacturers, but many artists prefer to mix their own batch to have greater control over things like purity, colour and melting temperatures.
Battledore: a glassworker’s tool in the form of a square wooden paddle with a handle. They are used to smooth the bottoms of vessels and other objects.
Bench: the bench is the centre of the hot shoppe where the artist works a piece. All the tools are kept here, and the bench has two rails spaced on either side going perpendicular to the seat, that are used to roll the glass pipes on.
Blowing: the technique of forming an object by inflating a gather or gob of molten glass on the end of a blowpipe. Traditionally and in modern furnace working, the gaffer blows through the tube, slightly inflating the gob, which is then manipulated into the required form by swinging it, rolling it on a marver, or shaping it with tools or in a mould. It is then inflated to the desired size. In flameworking, one end of the glass tube is heated and closed immediately, after which the worker blows into the other end and manipulates the hot glass.
Blocker: the glass worker that actually “blows” the first bubble through the blowpipe and then subsequently transfers that blowpipe to the gaffer.
Blowpipe: a hollow steel rod, with a mouthpiece on one end which the artist blows through to expand a bubble through the hot glass.
Cane: a cross section of glass made by pulling and stretching molten glass from both ends. Several colour pattern and designs can be created.
Charge: to fill the furnace with glass, depending on the type of furnace this could take up to a few days.
Colour: available for sale from several manufacturers, comes in either 2.5 cm-diameter rods, powder, different size frits (chips), canes, or sheet glass.
Crackle: dipping a piece while hot into a bucket of cold water will shatter the outside of the glass while leaving the inside intact, thus give the appearance of cracked glass.
Crystal: lead-based glass that is particularly well suited for grinding and engraving.
Encased glass: an object, such as a paperweight, that is covered with a layer of colourless glass.
Firing: the process of (1) heating the batch in order to fuse it into glass by exposing it to the required temperature in a crucible or pot, (2) reheating unfinished glassware while it is being worked, or (3) reheating glassware in a muffle to fuse enamel or gilding. The melting of the batch may require a temperature of about 1300° – 1500°C, whereas the muffle kiln may require a temperature of only about 500°-700°C.
Flameworking: using a tabletop torch and cold canes and tubes of glass in order to make a variety of glass objects.
Furnace: an oven that holds liquid glass. Generally able to be opened and closed as more glass is needed. Sits around 1200°C.
Gaffer: the main team member of a glassblowing team; the person in charge of the project.
Gathering: the process of collecting the liquid glass from the furnace on the end of a blowpipe or punty. This is done by slow rotation in the glass.
Gloryhole: the oven that is used to reheat glass as it is being worked. Usually, the front is open for easy access during the working of a piece. Sits around 1200°C.
Handblown: a glass project is handmade and was not assisted by machinery.
Inclusions: a collective term for bubbles, metal and glass particles, and other foreign materials that have been added to the glass for decorative effects.
Inlay: any object embedded in the surface of a larger object.
Kevlar gloves: high heat resistant gloves or big mittens that are used to carry the glass from the knock off table to the annealer.
Kuglar oven/pick-up oven: a small oven similar to the annealer that colour can be preheated in prior to being used by the artist. Kuglar is a popular brand of colour.
Marver: (Noun) a smooth, flat surface on which softened glass is rolled, when attached to a blowpipe or pontil, in order to smooth it or to consolidate applied decoration. (Verb) to roll softened glass on a marver.
Muffle kiln: a low-temperature kiln for refiring glass to fuse enamel, fix gilding, and produce lustre.
Pegging: the process of pricking molten glass with a tool that leaves small, air-filled hollows. When the glass is covered with a second gather, the hollows become air traps. This technique is used to decorate knobs and paperweights.
Pipe warmer: a small gas oven that is used to preheat the steel pipes. Many gloryholes have pipe warmers built into the side.
Pontil, Pontil Mark: the pontil, or punty, is a solid metal rod that is usually tipped with a wad of hot glass, then applied to the base of a vessel to hold it during manufacture. It often leaves an irregular or ring-shaped scar on the base when removed. This is called the “pontil mark.”
Punty: a solid steel rod that is used for bits and for the transfer process of the piece from on the blowpipe to the “punty”.
Pyrometer: a high heat thermometer used to measure temp inside furnace or gloryhole.
Rag: thick layers of wet newspapers folded to provide a cool safe pad for the glassworker to shape the hot molten glass.
Reheat: to heat the glass back to a molten state; usually done in the gloryhole.
Sintering: the process of heating a mixture of materials so that they become a coherent mass, but not melting them.
Thermal shock: caused by a sudden shift of temperature, hot or cold, causing the glass to break, crack, or shatter.
Contact Shades of Ngwenya today
At Shades of Ngwenya, our dedication to the art of glass blowing has allowed us to create beautifully decorative objects for important celebratory occasions. If you would like to commission custom-made trophies, get in touch with us today.