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See the Sleeving Guide

Tube cutting techniques are demonstrated here. Click the video to see how.
Thermal Shock is another method for cutting tubes.

 

Beginners Guide to Flame Working

Warning: The first rule of glass blowing is that glass cuts and hot glass burns!

There are a lot of questions one must ask in order to devise a plan of action. I would like to suggest a simple approach that will save you a lot of money, energy, and most important time. First define and understand what borosilicate lampworking is. Find someone with a torch that will let you get on for a half an hour to an hour at a time. Ask them to see their scrap bin; generally they will give you whatever you want from it.

I think the best approach is not to have any preconceived notions of having to make anything useful or describable. The idea is to play and get a sense of how the glass reacts to different levels of heat (see Universal Glass Concepts). Take some rod and melt one end and you will see if it cracks and how it melts. Once you get a small molten bead begin spinning and observe, take it out of the flame and stop spinning observe how the rod reacts. Start welding pieces of rod together, have some fun and thank your host.

Once you get some time to yourself then you can ask some important questions. I think the number one question you should ask yourself is how badly do you need to blown glass? I for one couldn't see myself not doing it every day. Then ask yourself is this something I want to do as a hobby or a career? Do I want to be an independent contractor or work for someone else? Once you decide on a general direction you can consider your equipment budget.

What torch do I need?
There is a relation between the level of equipment an artist chooses and the potential outcome of the art. Smaller torches will give you a smaller spectrum of possibilities pertaining to scale. A larger torch will provide more versatility and a larger spectrum of possibilities; you will be able to get more glass hot. This does not mean that you can't get creative with a small torch; it will just be on a smaller scale. When buying a torch don't look for the best deal, buy a good product. When it comes to tools you can shape glass with a butter knife.

Where can I rent shop space?
See Studio Profiles for reliable shops that provide a professional environment. If you've seen lamp working, you may know where to ask. Remember you will generally need your own torch and tools if you want to do your own thing. There are pro's and con's to renting rather than having your own space. For beginners it would undoubtedly help to be around other artists.

Do I need ventilation?
The answer is absolutely! You also need to provide an adequate amount of fresh air. A rule of thumb with ventilation is the fans pulling the air out should be slightly stronger than the fans bringing the air in the room. This creates a negative air pressure in the room and is called a makeup air system.

Where do I buy supplies?
There are many suppliers for glassblowing articles, it is important to understand the difference between traditional glass blowing, and flame working, fusing and slumping. If you are interested in flame working there are 3-4 main suppliers that have pretty much everything you need to begin. Begin by visiting the Web site listed below:
www.winshipdesigns.com
www.abrimagery.com
www.glasscraftinc.com
www.arrowsprings.com

What tools do I need?
Rule number two of glassblowing: Gravity is the best tool we have, it's free.

The tools you will want to purchase will depend on the type of work you think your most interested in pursuing. The absolute bare minimum list for all flame work is as follows:

  • A location suitable for this type of work,
  • Torch, Kiln, Ventilation hood with a fresh air source,
  • Tanks Oxygen and Propane (5gallon tank from bbq),
  • Regulators, Gas hose (Type T welding hose, red and green), Hose clamps, Flashback arrestors (Keeps gas from igniting and getting back into the tank),
  • Glasses rated for either soft glass or borosilicate (shields eyes from UV rays),
  • Tube and rod, Lighter or sparker,
  • Claw or grabber.

This list only allows you to start to melt glass. It doesn't include any tools for the purpose of shaping. As your ideas about glass grow so will your need for more advanced tools.

What size tubing and rod should I buy?
The size you choose will depend on the items you want to learn to make. The most common sizes of tubing used by flame workers are 19mm, 25mm, 32mm, 34mm, 38mm. Start off with smaller sizes and work your way up. Clear rod is essential to almost everything you do as a flame worker. Usually 5 or 6mm rod will do fine.

Once I get my shop together where do I start?
Start by blowing bubbles lots and lots of bubbles, study the universal glass concepts. Blowing bubbles and gathering glass are the most essential skills in glass blowing. The shape and continuity of glass are something you can practice on everything you make.

Who will I learn from?
Torch Life is here to assist you on this journey, but you must seek your own training and ask lots of questions. Be wary of teachers that get mad when you ask a lot of questions, or tell you that there’s one best technique.

Good luck... Styles, Torch Life!

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