Safety Emporium for all your lab and safety needs
Safety Emporium for all your lab and safety needs

*The Glassware Gallery*

Glassblowing

Index  

Introduction

Ways to endear yourself to your local glassblower

  1. ALWAYS bring CLEAN glassware free of ALL chemical residues. Most glassblowers will refuse to work on a dirty piece of glass; many are insulted by someone who asks otherwise. Think about it; the glassblower will be blowing in and out of the hot pieces of glass to work the repair. Would you be willing to inhale unknown toxic substances and their combustion products?

  2. Realize that not every piece of work qualifies as an emergency rush job. Everybody with broken glassware would like to have their repairs made immediately. However, most glassblowers are backlogged and service is generally on a first-come, first-serve basis. Sometimes, a glassblower will help you out in a special case or give priority to teaching laboratory items, but that is up to him or her.

  3. Provide a GOOD measured drawing and discuss the repair or item to be made with the glassblower. Your glassblower is not a mind reader. Take suggestions from your glassblower on how to improve or simplify the design so that it is less prone to breakage and easier to clean.

  4. Some glassblowers appreciate it if you order the required parts, especially if they are expensive TeflonTM stopcocks rather than commonly stocked items such as joints. But note: glassblowers often get steep discounts on parts, so be sure to check with your glassblower and/or business office before placing an order for parts.

  5. Realize that some items are not repairable or salvageable. For example, a joint that has a crack running through it must be replaced. A fritted funnel with a crack running down the entire length is also generally not salvageable.

  6. Consider buying inexpensive items. It is a general waste of your glassblower's time and skills to have him save 30 cents each on four dozen low-cost items by, for example, ordering joint and flask blanks to make your own round bottom flasks.

  7. Annealing is critical to relieving stress. Glassblowers must place each piece in an annealing oven overnight to work out the stresses in the glass that can lead to catastrophic failure (take a look at Joe Walas's page for more on strain and annealing). Don't insist on having a piece as soon as the glassblower is "finished blowing"; a piece isn't finished until it has been annealed.

  8. Treat the glassblower with respect as you would any other staff member or colleague. Glassblowers go through years of apprenticeship training; it is much easier to hire a new professor than a new glassblower. In fact, some glassblowers earn more than some professors!

Doing it yourself

    Remember that your glassblower won't always be around to make repairs or create an adapter that you need right away. Moreover, if you perform sealed tube experiments, being able to seal a tube on a vacuum line is valuable skill to know. Some research groups like to seal NMR tubes to joints; you can have your glassblower do this, but if you need one in a hurry nothing beats doing it yourself.

    You can learn elementary glassblowing on your own. All you need to do is get a bunch of tubing ranging from 5 to 15 mm in diameter (which is rather inexpensive) and practice. A little coaching from someone who is familiar with glassblowing also helps.

    The most useful site on the web to teach yourself basic scientific glassblowing is Joe Walas's (East Carolina University) extensive and comprehensive page on Scientific Glassblowing Basics. Definitely check it out and print out the tutorials.

    Always remember the first rule of glassblowing: Hot glass looks just like cold glass. That's one that you'll learn the hard way, someday. Guaranteed.

adapter

Safety Emporium carries all kinds of adapters for your laboratory needs.

Stuck joints?

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This page was last updated Friday, October 22, 2010.
This document and associated figures are copyright 1996-2014 by Rob Toreki. Send comments, kudos and suggestions to us via email.