Glass blowing is one of those trades people don’t think much about in the modern-day. In fact, it sounds like something that fell out of favor some time between the Renaissance and the industrial revolution. After all, anything that’s on display at a historical reenactment must have been replaced by technology at some point, right?
Wrong, actually. Glass blowing is something that is still very much alive and vital, both as an industrial trade, and as an artistic one. On the one hand, the tools and processes of glass blowing are more advanced than they were in the days where craftsmen heated glass on the end of a clay rod, and then blew down that rod to shape the molten glass. On the other hand, though, the trade is still something an old-world glassblower would recognize if he saw it.
How Glass Blowing Works
Glass blowing is a very specific type of glass work. First, glass is heated until it’s molten. The molten glass is spooled onto the end of a hollow tube called a blow pipe. The molten glass is removed from the furnace, and air is blown down the tube to shape the glass. The glass may be rolled, bent, and otherwise formed, but one of the key features of the art is using air pressure to balloon the shape of the glass. In some situations the glass may be placed into a mold, and then blown into, creating a hollow container that fits a molded shape.
While artisans now have access to modern machinery, as well as instruments ranging from kilns that automatically maintain their temperature, to blow pipes made from high-quality metal alloys instead of clay, the methods are surprisingly similar to those used by craftsmen from centuries passed. Another thing we have today that glassblowers didn’t have in the past, though, is a full grasp of the dangers of working with molten glass. Fortunately, though, we have developed safety equipment to protect us from those dangers. Even dangers it took use years to fully realize were there.
There are a lot of immediate dangers that come to mind when you think about glass blowing. Molten glass dripping onto unprotected skin, high temperatures causing contact burns, or hot air searing the glassblower’s lips and lungs are just a start. However, even if someone can manage to avoid all of those hazards, there’s still the danger of exposing your eyes to molten glass.
The glass blowing process creates ultraviolet light, infrared light, and sodium flares, all of which are damaging to one’s eyesight over time. That’s why it’s important for glassblowers to wear protective gear that screens out dangerous waves, but which doesn’t cut down on their ability to see the glass they’re working with. It’s also why most glass workers tend to have a variety of safety glasses on hand, so they always have something appropriate for the type of glass blowing they’re doing.
The lenses are the most important part of glass blowing safety glasses, and the specific lenses will vary depending on the type of glass blowing being done. For example, light green lenses will protect your eyes from infrared and ultraviolet light, but not from sodium flare. This makes them ideal for workers who are doing offhand glass blowing, or who are simply doing general kiln work. Dark green lenses tend to be used by those who are working with quartz. Green ACE lenses are dark green, and they’re used when someone is working with borosilicate glass.
Those are just a small sample of the different lenses workers have to choose from. Everything from the type of glass blowing being done, to the type of glass a worker is using, has to be taken into consideration.
The second part of the safety glasses formula is the frames the lenses are set in. While this might seem simple on the surface, there are a lot of options to choose from. For example, glass blowing safety glasses can look like any other pair of safety glasses. They can also come in a full face shield variety (typically used for heavy-duty operations where there’s no manual blowing going on), as well as clip-ons for glassblowers who already wear prescription glasses.
The types of frames a glassblower needs, just like the kinds of lenses in those frames, will vary based on what kinds of glass is being blown, and the type of work being done. It will also depend on a particular glassblower’s physical needs, as those who already need corrective eye wear can sometimes need special glasses.
Don’t Gamble On Your Safety
Glass blowing is a dangerous craft, but it’s also one that can create items of immense beauty. However, glass blowing is also a trade that can take years to master. In order for a glassblower to still have steady hands and keen eyes, it’s important to use the right safety gear every time you fire up the kiln. It’s better to have it, and not need it, than to need it, and not have it.
If you’re in the market for glass blowing safety glasses, or if you need more information about the kinds of lenses and frames that will best fulfill your glass blowing needs, simply contact us today. Phillips Safety Products is here to make your job as safe as possible, and to make sure you can keep coming back to it for the rest of your life.