Introduction: Glass Blowing a Christmas Ornament--For Beginning Gaffers

Picture of Glass Blowing a Christmas Ornament--For Beginning Gaffers

This project is ideal for beginning gaffers. Though several tries may be necessary, this project is a great learning tool and an excellent gift to give. Expect to take about 20-30 minutes in the studio.

List of Tools and Materials:

  • Safety Glasses
  • Closed-toed shoes
  • Desired colored frit
  • Insulated bowl
  • Size four and five blocks
  • Edge jacks
  • Tweezers
  • Blowtorch
  • Diamond shears
  • Punty
  • Clear glass from a glassblowing furnace
  • Marver
  • Blow pipes
  • Access to a glass blowing studio with the following equipment:
    • Gloryhole
    • Pipewarmers
    • Annealer

Safety:

These instructions for creating a glass ornament are meant for a beginning glassblowing student with a basic understanding of glassblowing and its dangers. Specific procedures may differ for different studios, as well as the tools available.

Safety glasses and closed-toed shoes must be worn and precautions taken to avoid burns. Be sure to locate emergency shut offs and first aid kits before beginning.

Step 1: Equip Safety Glasses and Safety Clothing.

Picture of Equip Safety Glasses and Safety Clothing.

Closed-toed shoes and pants are recommended to avoid burns from dropping glass.

Step 2: Set Out Colored Glass, an Insulated Bowl, the Size Four Block, the Size Five Block, the Edge Jacks, Tweezers, Blowtorch, and the Diamond Shears.

Picture of Set Out Colored Glass, an Insulated Bowl, the Size Four Block, the Size Five Block, the Edge Jacks, Tweezers, Blowtorch, and the Diamond Shears.

Scrambling for tools is stressful and dangerous while working with glass.

Step 3: Start Up the Gloryholes and the Pipewarmers.

Picture of Start Up the Gloryholes and the Pipewarmers.

A) Flip the gloryhole air switch on

B) Light a shred of newspaper with the blowtorch.

C) Insert newspaper into the gloryhole

D) Turn the gas lever parallel to the pipe to open the gas flow, starting the gloryhole

E) Turn the pipewarmer gas lever parallel and light them with the blowtorch.

Step 4: Stock the Pipewarmer With a Pipe and a Punty.

Picture of Stock the Pipewarmer With a Pipe and a Punty.

Step 5: Gather Glass Using the Warmed Pipe.

Picture of Gather Glass Using the Warmed Pipe.

Step 6: Shape the Gathered Glass With the Size Four Block.

Picture of Shape the Gathered Glass With the Size Four Block.

A uniform egg shape is desired.

Step 7: Blow a Small, Approximately Two Millimeter Bubble in the Glass and Let Cool Until Colorless.

Picture of Blow a Small, Approximately Two Millimeter Bubble in the Glass and Let Cool Until Colorless.

Step 8: Gather Glass a Second Time Over the Shaped and Blown Glass.

Picture of Gather Glass a Second Time Over the Shaped and Blown Glass.

Step 9: Roll the Glass Over the Marver to Quickly Shape and Cool the Glass.

Picture of Roll the Glass Over the Marver to Quickly Shape and Cool the Glass.

Glass too hot will drop too quickly to collect color in the next steps.

Step 10: Spin the Glass Into Colored Frit, Collecting It on the Glass.

Picture of Spin the Glass Into Colored Frit, Collecting It on the Glass.

Step 11: Insert Glass Into Gloryhole to Melt the Frit, Turning Constantly.

Picture of Insert Glass Into Gloryhole to Melt the Frit, Turning Constantly.

Step 12: Shape the Glass Using the Size Five Block.

Picture of Shape the Glass Using the Size Five Block.

Again, a uniform egg shape is desired.

Step 13: Use the Edge Jacks to Jack the Top Edge Off of the Pipe.

Picture of Use the Edge Jacks to Jack the Top Edge Off of the Pipe.

If this is not done the piece will be nearly impossible to break off later.

Step 14: Warm the Glass in the Gloryhole for Approximately 25 Seconds

Picture of Warm the Glass in the Gloryhole for Approximately 25 Seconds

Step 15: Blow the Glass Into the Final Desired Shape

Picture of Blow the Glass Into the Final Desired Shape

Step 16: Jack the Neck of the Piece Again Until the Piece Has Cooled.

Picture of Jack the Neck of the Piece Again Until the Piece Has Cooled.

Step 17: Break the Ornament Off the Pipe Into the Insulated Bowl.

Picture of Break the Ornament Off the Pipe Into the Insulated Bowl.

This can be done with tapping the pipe with the back end of the tweezers.

Step 18: Set the Pipe Aside and Use the Punty to Gather a Large Amount of Glass.

Picture of Set the Pipe Aside and Use the Punty to Gather a Large Amount of Glass.

A partner is recommended for gathering glass on the punty while you work. If no one is available, set the pipe onto a holder.

Step 19: Stick Glass From the Punty Onto the Unfinished Glass Ornament.

Picture of Stick Glass From the Punty Onto the Unfinished Glass Ornament.

Step 20: Hold the Punty Vertically and Pull Up Once the Glass Sticks to the Ornament.

Picture of Hold the Punty Vertically and Pull Up Once the Glass Sticks to the Ornament.

Step 21: Cut the Drawn Section Using the Diamond Shears.

Picture of Cut the Drawn Section Using the Diamond Shears.

A partner is recommended to hold the punty while you cut.

Step 22: Set the Punty Aside and Use the Tweezers and Blowtorch to Create a Loop From the Drawn Glass.

Picture of Set the Punty Aside and Use the Tweezers and Blowtorch to Create a Loop From the Drawn Glass.

Melting the drawn rod section in the middle and letting it drop onto the tweezers will give a workable loop.

Step 23: Place the Finished Piece Into the Annealer Using Gloves or Insulated Holders.

Picture of Place the Finished Piece Into the Annealer Using Gloves or Insulated Holders.

A partner is recommended for this step to avoid potentially dropping the peice.

Step 24: Remove From Annealer After Running a Full Annealing Cycle.

Picture of Remove From Annealer After Running a Full Annealing Cycle.

Step 25: Conclusion

Picture of Conclusion

The ornament is now complete. Be sure to shut down any equipment you used and clean-up any dropped or broken glass. Dip the pipes and punties used into water to allow for the removal of glass and replace tools to their original positions.

Unfortunately if something goes awry with the project there is little that can be done. Ornaments tend to be very thin and hard to repair once the glass solidifies. Several attempts will likely be necessary. Working with an experienced gaffer is recommended if the project becomes frustrating.

Comments

craftclarity (author)2014-05-08

Glad to get a peek into a glass studio! I've always wanted to try that!

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