Tools of the Glassmaker
Tools of the Glassmaker
Pictured below are the basic tools used by glassblowers working "at the furnace" (as opposed to those working "at the lamp"- "flameworking" or "lampworking"). They are pretty much unchanged since the first century AD. Incredibly, a Roman-period worker could walk into a small glassblowing studio today and , with little adjustment, begin working successfully, immediately. Not pictured are three other essential "tools" of the glassblower used to shape the glass in its molten state: gravity, centrifugal force, and well-developed lung-power!
People unfamiliar with glassworking are often amazed at how simple and few these tools are considering the intricate complexities of , say, Venetian glass made in the seventeenth century. But whether working in antiquity or today, a glassblower’s skill-always long and hard won- is his or her greatest ally in taming the unruly molten glass.
Certainly reliable, well-made tools are a must in glassblowing. However, there is a saying in Murano, the "glass island" next to Venice: "Good tools are nice…but good hands are nicer!"
Block: A %%block%% is a wooden tool used to smooth and shape molten glass into a spherical shape. Blocks are soaked in water before use, creating a layer of steam as the molten glass is shaped. This tool is used at the beginning stages of glassmaking, before the glass is inflated.
Crimp: A crimp is a tool used to add decorative elements to glass. Crimps are available with various patterns and textures. Hot bits of glass are squeezed between the textured surfaces of this tool, leaving patterned indentations.
Tweezers: Tweezers are a pair of %%metal%% squeezing tools with pointed tips. The tool is used to grasp and stretch glass.
Jacks: Jacks consist of two metal blades joined by a spring-like handle. The glassworker controls the distance between the blades to change the shape of the glass as it is rotating. Depending on the angle at which the blades are held, jacks can be used to: shape the vessel as it is being inflated, create a constriction to help separate the glass from the blowpipe, or flare the opening of a vessel.
Diamond Shears: Diamond %%shears%% are a scissor-like tool with a diamond shaped blade. The four-sided blade allows for a more compact and round cut of hot glass, leaving less of a tool mark than a two-sided, straight shear.
Soffietta or Puffer: A soffietta is a metal tube attached to a conical nozzle. After a vessel has been removed from the blowpipe, the cone can be placed into the opening and used to further inflate it.
Paddle: A paddle is a wooden board with handle used for flattening glass, particularly the base or foot of a vessel. A paddle becomes charred with use against hot glass. Occasionally, a glassmaker’s assistant will protect the glassmaker from excess radiant heat by using the paddle as a shield.
Parchoffi: Parchoffis are jacks with blades made of wood. The wooden blades are soaked in water and more cylindrical than the blades of metal jacks. This tool is used to shape a vessel without leaving distinct tool marks.
Taglia of "Tag": A %%taglia%% or “tag” is a square-ended knife used to shape or sculpt molten glass. The edge of this steel paddle may be slightly sharp or rounded, providing more shaping surfaces.
Straight Shears: Straight shears are a forged %%metal%% tool used to cut hot glass.