Lampworking is the use of concentrated heat, usually in the form of a flame produced by a torch (lamp), that is used to soften, melt and fuse glass so that it can be formed into a desired shape. The history of lampworking is believed to date back some 5000+ years.
Borosilicate, or boro glass, is often referred to by its brand name PYREX. However, there are several other brands. Boro is a high temperature, highly insulating glass that lends itself well to lampwork bead making, sculpting and small blown vessels. Boro has a "melting" point of approximately 1550 degrees Fahrenheit, and is usually worked at temperatures far exceeding 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Soda Lime glass is often referred to as soft glass, and is most often used in offhand glassblowing (furnace work), and in the creation of lamp worked beads, as well as numerous other industrial applications. It has a much lower melting and working temperature than boro glass, and thus has a much greater pallet of colors to chose from. It is however not as thermally stable as boro, and therefore more prone to thermal shock and cracking.
Lampworking requires extremely high temperatures and highly focused heat. In order to achieve this, we use specialized torches that use a combination of oxygen and propane. In our shop, we currently have three glass torches, one Carlisle C.C., one Carlisle C.C. Mini, and one Nortel Minor Burner.
With all the high temperatures, the tools for working hot glass are rather limited. A main tool material for shaping and manipulating hot glass is graphite. Graphite is a form of carbon and as such it is extremely resistant to high temperatures. Many tools are formed from solid graphite, such as reamers, pushers paddles and molds.
Other tools used in lampworking can include various claw and ball holders, tungsten picks, assorted tweezers, molds and shears. However, the two most important tools in lampworking include an annealing oven, which is critical in keeping the glass (and lampworker) happy, and the glass itself. Glass rods called punty's are necessary to manipulate, hold and transfer the glass piece being made.
Thank you everyone for coming out and enjoying the markets every weekend. The season is winding down with only two Saturdays left. We'd love to see you before the market is done for the year. Have a great week and we'll see you Saturday, September 18th at the Spenard Farmers Market.