Talk Like a Gaffer with a Glass Blowing Glossary

Talk Like a Gaffer with a Glass Blowing Glossary

Posted by 2BGlass on Dec 29th 2023

The beautiful form of artistry known as glass blowing combines craftsmanship with precision and creativity. Glass artists, also known as glass blowers in the industry, possess an extensive vocabulary specific to their craft. Take a look at this glass blowing glossary from 2BGlass to hone your glass blowing art vocabulary! Whether you are new to the special art or a seasoned enthusiast, you’ll soon be able to understand the terminology associated with this captivating art.

  • Marver - A marver is a flat, usually metal, surface used in glass blowing to shape and cool the molten glass. Glassblowers roll the glass on the marver to create specific shapes and textures.
  • Glory Hole - A glory hole is a type of reheating furnace that is used in glass blowing. It provides a controlled source of heat to reheat the glass piece during the creation process, allowing the glass artist to work with the material effectively.
  • Gaffer - The gaffer is the head glassblower in a glass studio. This individual is responsible for overseeing the entire glass blowing process, making important decisions, and ensuring the high quality of the final product.
  • Furnace - A glass blowing furnace is just what it sounds like… a high-temperature oven used to melt glass batch materials into a molten state. This provides a constant supply of hot glass for the artist to work with.
  • Annealer - An annealer is an oven that is used to gradually cool the finished glass pieces which helps to prevent stress and cracks. It allows the glass to cool slowly, ensuring both durability and stability.
  • Hot Popping -This is a special technique used often in lighting and glassware and is performed when cold working a piece. In order to properly perform hot popping, the glass must be placed on a lazy susan at room temperature. It is then scribed with a glass knife, and using heat, is “popped” at a specific location in the glass called either the “scribe” or “stress” point.
  • Fire Polishing - Fire polishing is a specific finishing technique where the glass piece is briefly reheated to smooth and polish its surface. The fire polishing process removes imperfections and sharp edges, giving the glass a glossy appearance.
  • Diamond Shears - Diamond shears are specialized tools used in glass blowing to cut or shape molten glass. They have diamond-patterned blades, hence their name, that create unique textures on the glass.
  • Blow Pipe - The blowpipe is a hollow metal tube that is used to gather molten glass from the furnace. Glassblowers blow through the pipe to inflate and shape the glass as they work.
  • Punty - A punty, which is also known as a pontil or ponty, is a solid rod used to hold and manipulate the glass piece when it needs to be worked on from a different angle. Glassblowers also use it to complete the bottom of a vessel.
  • Blocks - Blocks are wooden tools that come in a variety of sizes. They are used to smooth and shape glass before it is inflated or “blown.” Because blocks are made of wood, they can absorb water. They are soaked in water in order to create a layer of steam when they touch the hot glass. This prevents them from sticking to the heated glass and provides an excellent surface on which to shape the piece.
  • Jacks - Jacks can be described as a larger version of tweezers with a springly handle that allows you to control the space between the blades as you work with the glass. Jacks have many purposes from creating openings in glass vessels to shaping glass or separating it from the blowpipe.
  • Tweezers - Tweezers are exactly what they sound like. They are larger versions of the tweezers used at home that can manipulate glass by grabbing onto and pulling it.
  • Tagliola (or tag) - A tagliola, most commonly referred to as a “tag,” is a glass sculpting knife with a square end. Found in a variety of sizes they have rounded edges and sharp ones to meet many of the gaffer’s shaping needs.
  • Paddles - Paddles are simply boards made of wood with handles that are used by glassworkers to shape glass. Sometimes the gaffer works alone and other times an apprentice or assistant holds a paddle to block the gaffer from the intense heat created while working with the glass.
  • Soffietta - A soffietta is a straight or bent tool that is often colloquially called a “puffer” because the gaffer uses it to blow air into the glass piece they are working with. Its bent shape gives the glass artist the ability to inflate it without the help of an assistant and he or she can also use it to blow cold air to cool down a particular part of the glass.
  • Batch - Batch refers to the raw materials used in glass production, including silica, soda ash, and other components. The combination of these materials is melted in the furnace to create the molten glass the artists work with.
  • Charging - Charging is the process of adding these raw batch materials into the glass blowing furnace to replenish the supply of molten glass as it gets used up during the blowing process.
  • Overlay - Overlay is a specific technique where a layer of molten glass is added over an existing glass piece to create color or depth. It's a method that allows for intricate and multilayered designs.
  • Yoke - A yoke is used to extend the punty and/or pipes into the glory hole for reheating the glass. It is a Y shaped metal stand on wheels that rolls along a track, allowing one to keep a safe distance from the glory hole heat. The end of your pipe is set in the crook of the Y and guided into the glory hole via the wheel/track system.

By understanding the specialized terminology, glass artists and admirers of glass blowing alike will gain valuable insights into the language and techniques that make this art form so unique and captivating. From marvers and glory holes to gaffers and punty rods, each term contributes to the rich history and colorful tapestry of glass blowing, making it a truly remarkable and unique timeless art.

Come Visit Us at 2BGlass and See These Tools in Action!

At 2BGlass we host a variety of in-person events and classes at our beautiful studio space in downtown Sacramento. Access our list of upcoming classes here and be on the lookout for our specialty pop-up shops like our glass pumpkin patch! You can shop online to purchase some beautifully handmade glass products or even work with one of our artists to commission a unique and personalized glass gift. You can reach us at (530) 417-1998; we can’t wait to see you in the studio!