Glassworking, an expensive hobby

These are some thoughts I’ve had over the past (mumble mumble) years about glassworking — the sort of things your teacher (or local studio) may be afraid to tell you — that might scare you away. I certainly don’t want to scare anyone about glassworking, but I think the time has come for everyone to be honest about what it takes to “do” glassworking. Perhaps this document can start a dialogue. It certainly can’t hurt! (Note that some of the things written refer directly to posts I’ve made here on my blog.)

Glassworking is a hazardous hobby. It is also an expensive hobby. This blog will help you to minimize the hazards in your personal home/studio, and maximize the money you spend to help you become a better glassworker.

I mentioned above that the hobby is hazardous. You may be asking yourself (if you don’t already know) how hazardous? Well, consider just this one thing: you are going to be working with hot glass. Not only does glass break and cut, but hot glass burns, and the glass you will be working with is over 900 degrees F. A burn can be a very serious problem if you don’t know what you are doing.

In this blog, I aml also going to try to deal with “misnomers”, “urban legend”, as well as “myth” and “superstition”. Some times the things we do as glass workers are done ‘because that’s the way I was taught”, not necessarily the way “it should be done”. Especially when it comes to safety related issues, such as the safe use and storage of fuel gasses, ventilation, and eyewear, there are right ways to do things, and very definitely, wrong ways as well. I am going to stive to tell you what the ‘the right way’ is. There may be some alternatives as well, and those will be discussed when it is safe to do so.

I am also going to make it clear to you: if you want to be a professional, and sell your work, you have to have a kiln of some sort to anneal your glass. You cannot safely sell what you make unless you have a kiln, either with an infinite control or a digital control, to anneal your work in. There is no place in the market, anywhere, for glass pieces that are not annealed.

So, let me get right to the meat of the issue: Money. Everything relating to this hobby comes down to money. Let’s face it – if you can’t afford the basics, please consider a different hobby. How much money does it take? At a minimum, to create a basic one-person studio with a air-propane torch (such as the HotHead torch), with a kiln, a basic set of tools, and some glass to get started, plan on spending at least $750.00 (and most of this will be spent on the kiln). For those who want to start with an oxygen-propane torch (such as the Nortel Minor Burner), the price goes up to about $1,000.00.

I am are going to provide you with the information you need to not only be safe in your studio, but also how to be smart about what you are doing. There are plenty of books and videos out in the marketplace on design and style, you won’t find that here. What you will find is a complete and concise source of safe techniques, tried and true, to help you build a safe studio.

9 thoughts on “Glassworking, an expensive hobby

  1. Glad you’re saying it like it is.

    I have built my wife a nice bead-making area, which includes a dedicated table with torch, ventilation, and OxyCons.

    Add the above items with the specialized tools, glass, and tank refills…and you’re talking mucho, mucho, shekles!! (And since I am designing and making everything myself, I am cutting a lot of the cost. But the materials still burned a nice hole in my pocket).

    A decent lampworking area is NOT for the faint-hearted, or the financially strapped person.

    Good article, Mike.

    In Christ: Raymond

  2. well don’t call it a hobby!
    It is a proffession and a lifestyle.
    Atleast the real glassblowing. Beadmaking and flameworking can be hobbys.

  3. good morn Mike…
    just came across your wonderful blog…

    thanks for all you have to say… listening intently..

    mona & the gaffer girls

  4. Good job, Mike. The most annoying thing to me is for someone to come into this great art form and ask, what is the cheapest….xxx (kiln, torch, glass, tools, etc)… I can buy. If you have to look for the cheapest instead of the best, you should probably look for another way to express your art. Lampworking is expensive, there is no way around it.

  5. I decided about six months ago i wanted to start making glass beads, and after doing alot of on/offline research i have to agree that you are right, this is a very expensive hobby to get into but i do believe that doing anything well involves effort.

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