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The future of Borosilicate—2010

posted June 13, 2010

With our roots in traditional furnace glass, boroscilicate has come full circle. The advancement of boro furnaces have added a new level of artistry and complexity to the game. The stated life expectancy of these furnaces is 3-5 yrs., with approximately a $2,000 minimum investment, and will melt 30-50 pounds of boro to the liquid state. The furnaces largest con is the need to be continually monitored for damage. The cost of rebuilding the elements and yearly maintenance costs can easily reach between $100-$400 above the cost of the furnace, glass, crucibles, and electricity. Borosilicate is a resistor in its natural state, but when molten it becomes acidic and will eat through the kiln bricks, it is very important to keep glass off of the brick and elements.

Experience also has shown us that elevated temperatures above 2300 degrees will have detrimental effects on the elements of the furnace. At 2400 degrees you will be guaranteed to burn up one or more of the elements—they will actually disintegrate. Every 100 degrees over the 2,000 degree mark will drastically reduce the life of the heating elements. This is something to consider with a boro furnace. Understanding or learning how to rebuild a furnace is essential if you purchase a boro furnace. A common practice in soft glass is to place sand in the bottom of the furnace to help contain drips of glass. All of us have a ton of clear scraps sitting around the shop, one of the most economical uses for the furnace is helping to recycle it. The added bonus is the scraps won’t be wasted by being thrown in the landfill. A furnace is a major commitment yet has potential for major reward. It will allow you to easily encase, and make tons of prep-work very quickly.

When considering the purchase of a furnace remember this is cutting edge technology in the world of boro. This will allow artists to reevaluate traditional hot shop techniques and apply them to the world of boro in a team environment. The future is infinite.

The Eugene Glass School
The Eugene Glass School (EGS) is currently restructuring and re-evaluating how it does business. The glass school has been open for ten years operating as a non-profit company. The current EGS board and management held a members meeting and allowed TorchLife to participate though not a member of the school. There are currently openings for a couple board positions. EGS board hopes to fill the positions with individuals who have a legal and, or a financial background. The board shared with us the financial status of the school. EGS is currently $166,000 in debt, about 20% of which is credit card debt.

The stated new goals are to restructure the management of the school, reevaluate all programs, improve accessibility to the board, all while reconnecting with glass community. The current board members are president Saeed Mohtadi, vice president Mike Plane, Dave Winship, Chris Jenkins, secretary Patty Lomont, treasurer Beverly May, executive administrative director Samantha Prictchard, facilities director Emerich Stovel. Saeed Mohtadi stepped down as treasurer with new board member Beverly May filling that position.

The restructuring at the EGS seems to have created a more active environment, with the new policies in place that will help to realign the organization's goals with the community. One fact that must be stated is money doesn’t solve money issues. The school needs our help, along with the renewed effort by the management, should help solve this crisis.

Glasscraft and Winship Merger
As we near the halfway point of 2010 the prevailing winds have shifted in the American boro supply chain. These developments will effect most of the flameworking community one way or another. The two largest raw material distributors in the flameworking community, Glasscraft and Winship have merged of into one company. TorchLife spoke with Dave Winship (Glasscraft president/partner) about this merger and what it means for the average professional flameworker.

TorchLife: Are you aware that Glasscraft customers have been without a website and a accurate price list for almost a year?

Winship: Yes, I turned it off it’s in a static state.

TL: When will there be a new website, with a price list for your customers?

Winship: We’re shooting for June for the site, not sure about a price list. We tried to merge the two computer systems and stumbled. We hope to have it worked out by June.

TL: How will the average professional flame-worker benefit from this merger?

Winship: This should provide longevity and stability with consistent service and professionalism across the board. Your service shouldn’t depend on one particular persons skills, or personality with in the company.

TL: Are groups other than the Glass School eligible for volume discounts?

Winship: That would be handled on a case by case basis. You can become a member of the Eugene Glass school, or purchase your discount based on volume by joining the best price club.

TL: Who are the current owners of Glasscraft? What is the vision of the future?

Winship: Andy Limes, Chris Bouck and myself. I’m the managing partner—our mission statement is our goal.

Here is the Glasscraft mission statement:
Glassscraft offers a complete selection of quality products at affordable prices to both the professional and hobbyist glassblowers in the flameworking industry. We are proud to support flameworking education, innovation and opportunities that unite and build our community. 12/9/2009

Glasscraft is now the largest distributor in the U.S. of raw borosilicate for the flameworking community. If you use Pyrex, Simax, Schott, or Kimble, this merger may not have adversley effected your supply chain. On the other hand this merger has also given Glasscraft the lions share of the raw Chinese boro market in the United States. Glasscraft has re-evaluated their accounts and volume discount policies. TorchLife researched the effect of this merger by interviewing Glasscraft customers; while these customers were willing to give their opinion they wished to remain anonymous.

Customer 1: “Basing my business on constantly fluctuating prices doesn’t work for me—and I only shop with them when necessary. I won’t pay for the best price club, and I don’t care to support the EGS.”

Customer 2: “Glasscraft being here in town (Eugene, Oregon) is convenient, but I can generally have cases of glass shipped across country including the shipping for less than Glasscraft's base price.”

Customer 3: “ Currently my supply chain has remained unchanged, I would like a new Web site with prices.”

Whether this merger has effected your supply chain directly or indirectly it is clear that change is the only constant we can count on. It seems that there is an opening for a competitor to step up, now that the top two competitors have merged.

These and other factors will continue to effect how we as artists, suppliers, teachers, and students will create our art in the coming years. The world of boro will definitely be exciting in 2010…may the rest of your year be prosperous.

.... Styles ***TORCHLIFE***

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