How-To Hump Day: Kick-starting a glassblowing hobby
Happy Hump Day, everyone! If you’ve been following our blog, either here or on the Lazydaze site, you know that we usually do ridiculous DIY projects on Wednesdays for our your amusement. We’re going to start taking a broader approach to our mid-week craftiness, exploring any number of ways to get more hands-on in whatever part of counterculture you’re interested in.
With this weekend’s grand opening of Lazydaze’s downtown store/glassblowing studio hybrid, I thought I’d get a feel for exactly how viable glassblowing is as a hobby. Flame worker Jared Hammond started working with glass three years ago and now has his own shop, Rebelz Glass, in Austin, and it could all be traced back to his pipe collecting.
Like any hobby you take up, there’s definitely a monetary investment. But, if some people are willing to shell out $300 for a guitar if they feel passionately about learning, it’s definitely feasible to invest in glassblowing if you want to take a glass hobby to the next level.
So, what do you need to get started? Well, if you’re learning to manipulate glass for the first time, you should, and I can’t stress this enough, be working in a controlled environment with an expert or professional. We’ve seen some pretty gnarly injuries in our day from glassblowing.
Dripping molten glass on your foot and setting your house on fire?
That said, if you’re taking lessons, the studio will probably equip you with most of the supplies and safety equipment. It’s good to be prepared, though. According to Jared, the absolute first thing you need to get yourself is a pair of Amethyst Contrast Enhancer (ACE) Shade 3 welding lenses.
“The amethyst in the lens keeps all the sodium flare down from getting in your eyes, so basically you can see what you’re doing and it doesn’t look orange when you’re looking at the fire,” Jared explained.
You’ll hear these referred to as Didymium lenses, even though the actual Didymium lens isn’t sold much anymore since they didn’t offer infrared protection.
Naturally, after you get your welding lenses, you need to get yourself some glass. Now, don’t go melting down your mom’s fine china, OK?
Your smoking habit’s already killing her.
Give your mom a hug and get yourself some glass canes in a color you dig (Austin Flameworks sells canes here. You’re welcome). At this point, the other tools you procure really depend on what you want your first project to be.
“I would recommend maybe somebody starting off with something simple like a pendant, just to get a feel for glass,” Jared said. “Then, if you want to blow or if you want to get into smoking accessories, maybe start off with a small spoon, which is just a general-shaped pipe without any kind of work on it.
Both are easy shapes, and once you master the latter, you’re one step closer to making your own smoking device. For these two projects, all you need are the aforementioned glass and lenses, a torch (presumably provided by the studio you’re learning from), a bowl press (graphite, since it doesn’t stick to molten glass) and your own two hands.
“Sometimes, at first, you kind of just work with what you’ve got—a basic tool set and a few other things,” Jared said. Then, as you progress and you start experimenting with different types of projects, “you’ll start kind of customizing and getting into what tools you like better.”
Claw-grabbers, tweezers, glass scorers, tungsten picks, reamers and graphite paddles are all some tools at your disposal.
“Not everybody makes pipes,” he said. ”Some people just like to make pendants, some people just make water pipes [and] some people just work on lathes; they don’t even blow glass with their hands.”
With so many directions in which to take flame working, it’s definitely a viable hobby for those who loves working with their hands and breaking a sweat. Lazydaze Flameworks is going to have their first official glass workshop in two weeks, so we’ll keep you posted—it might be the perfect introduction to your new hobby.