What is the best location for my studio?

From an e-mail question:

I am moving into an apartment. I’m interested in setting up a small glass studio, the room is pretty big and has a large window along one wall, and the other side is a patio where I could put the oxygen and propane. My main concerns are: space, the carpeting and ventilation. Help!!

Apartments are problematical. First of all, you cannot legally store propane on an outside balcony above the ground floor. So if your apartment is located above the ground floor, about the only torch you can safely use is the Hot Head torch with single one-pound bottles of fuel gas.

Now, assuming that you are on the ground floor, and your landlord approves of your studio (you did tell them your plans, correct? If not, that should be the very first thing you do. There are safety issues here that affect the entire building that the landlord and perhaps the building owner need to be aware of before you even consider a studio in your apartment!), I would suggest that you consider a small torch, like the Nortel Minor or similar, a propane tank outside on the patio, and an oxygen concentrator. You really don’t want to be messing around with oxygen tanks — they are heavy, awkward, and to move them safely any distance will require the use of a hand cart.

To protect your carpeting, there are a couple of different things you can do, but what I recommend is a multi-layer approach: First, lay down some red resin paper. This is a heavy weight construction paper that flooring professionals use to keep layers of flooring from squeeking. For our use here, it protects the carpet from the wood layer above and provides a last-ditch collection place for any glass or wood slivers that may sneek between the cracks. Overlap the layers by about 6″.

Next, lay down several sheets of 4′ x 8′ 3/4″ thick particle board. You can also use chip board or composition board. The actual material doesn’t matter all that much as long as it is at least 3/4″ thick. The thickness of the board will provide an even supporting surface for the benchwork and your chair without bowing. Use duct tape to keep the sheets locked together. Then lay down another layer of red resin paper, overlapped by 6″.

For the top layer, I recommend using 1/4″ tempered hardboard. This material is often used as a top layer on bench tops. It has a very smooth hard wearing surface that chairs will easily slide across.

Caveat: these are wood products, and if hot glass is dropped on the tempered hardboard and left there, it will ignite. Since it is considered good practice to always pick up your hot glass, this should not be a problem. You will have some burn marks and perhaps some scorching, but the tempered hardboard is tough stuff and takes a lot of abuse. I used this material in my commercial studio and it survived 3 years of students (and myself) dropping hot glass — and all without starting a fire.

I don’t recommend the use of concrete backer board for a couple of reasons: first of all it is very heavy stuff, the edges are prone to breaking off, and under traffic, it will crack and create some very hard to clean up dust.

From another e-mail:

Where in the house would you recommend I put my glass studio? I have several options availble to me: a bedroom, the basement, part of the dining room and a section of the garage.

First of all, I don’t recommend using part of the dining room or the kitchen for glassworking of any kind. There are just too many ways that these areas can get contaminated with glass particles, and since these are food preparation and consumption areas, food and glass particulates do not mix.

— more later…

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One thought on “What is the best location for my studio?

  1. After having my studio inside my house for five years, I have finally moved to a house where I can put my studio in my garage. Here are some of my personal observations –

    I totally agree with your post about using hardi-backer board (concrete). I used that for several years on top of the carpet in my utility room studio, and after about two years of use, the top of it started to crumble, and left pieces of the board and dust I had to clean up after every use. It was a total pain.

    Being in the garage is much much more convenient and safer for me. It’s a lot easier to ventilate, and it has a cement floor that won’t burn when I drop hot glass. I hated worrying about the carpet in the house – and even though I had hardibacker board down, I did end up burning the carpet a couple of times when hot glass went flying.

    Thanks for the wonderful post, Mike!

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