Lampworking is a hot glass technique where glass rods are slowly melted in a flame (usually fueled by a propane and oxygen mix). Temperatures range from 500 - 2,000 °C. The molten glass is shaped and manipulated using tools, gravity, centrifugal force, and temperature control. Once the glass is formed, it is annealed in a kiln overnight to stop the glass from cracking.
Beads are made around a steel rod that has been dipped in a ceramic slip. This stops the glass from sticking to the steel and creates the hole through the bead. Once cooled, the bead is cleaned.
Molten glass is kept in a furnace at around 1100°C, and has a consistency of runny honey. A metal tube (blowing iron) is used to gather the glass by dipping the end in the furnace and turning. - Just like dipping a spoon in that honey.
The glass is then shaped with wet newspaper or wooden blocks while sitting at the glass blowers bench, constantly keeping the iron turning. Blowing down the iron creates a bubble of air in the glass that can be shaped further using various tools, the marvering table, gravity, centrifugal forces, temperature control, and by blowing more air into the form.
A heating chamber is used to put more heat back into the glass to keep it malleable. When the shape is ready, the piece is then transferred onto a solid iron, flipping the glass 180 degrees so that the top of the piece can be heated and worked on. Once the piece is finished, it is knocked off the iron at around 500°C and cooled down in a kiln overnight to take any stress out of the glass (annealing) and stop it from cracking.
Colour can be added to the clear furnace glass in several forms: powder, chips, stringers, cane, and solid colour bars; each of these give different resulting looks depending on which stage of the making process they are used.
Protective arm sleeves are often worn in the studio as even just the heat radiating from the glass can cause burns. Safety spectacles are also important.
Sterling silver sheet and wire can be cut, hammered, and filed into the desired shape using different tools. Additional silver components can be fixed together by soldering the joints using a flame. The piece then has to be cleaned of any flux residue and fire stain (which leaves a black surface on the silver) by pickling it in acid. Different abrasives and polishing compounds are used to bring the mirror shine back to the silver.
Sterling silver is made from 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, which makes it stronger than fine silver but still with a high enough silver content for hallmarking.
Coldworking is a very time-consuming way of working with glass, but you can achieve some beautiful finishes not possible by working soley with the hot material. The glass can be cut, ground, carved, etched, drilled, and polished when it is in its cold state. Water is used to keep the glass from over-heating and cracking. Various pieces of large equipment and a lot of elbow grease is uaually required.
Find out how the pieces at elk Studio Glass are made, and the processes involved.
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