Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ornament Class Docs (2012)

Below is the documentation I used for an ornaments class at St. Nick's Tourney/Toys for Tots, in the Barony of the White Waters late 2012. The safety section, most of the first page, is intentionally dark. It is based off of the safety section from How to Work in Stained Glass by Anita and Seymour Isenberg, which made me laugh for hours (and, as a result, I've never forgotten the rules). I've taught the class three times, but only decided to write docs for the third time, since it was at a significant event. I was a little nervous when HRM AnneMarie took a copy of the docs, and I had to quickly explain. Fortunately she said she likes dark humor.

I reference a story in the docs, about the first ornament I made. I originally learned this technique at Chicago Hot Glass during a 2-hour mini-class. When you blow the bulbs too hard it gets so thin it has the consistency of saran wrap.... very thin, sharp, and hot. That glass breaks into dust and flies away easily. I learned this first hand when I made this mistake, aimed at my neighbor's face.... fortunately no one was hurt!

PDF available upon request.


Glass Ornament Blowing


Closed-toed shoes required! If you are wearing anything less and there is an accident, how will you count to 20 for the rest of your life?

Don't chase glass! Try and imagine a beautiful glass ornament you've worked hard on for 20 minutes. Imagine it slipping out of your grip and tumbling through the air, glittering as it goes. Imagine it shattering on the floor. Imagine getting over it! It doesn't matter how good your medical insurance is, a trip to the ER for stitches and burns is not worth a few dollars in glass and fuel! This is a cardinal rule of glasswork of any kind! Besides, you'll have more fun making it again after we sweep up the shards.

Party like it's 1099°... Glass doesn't begin to glow until around 1100 °F (or hotter!). Unless you are very sure how long a piece of glass has been cooling, assume it is 1000° (and remember skin sublimates at 800°). Use tools and gloves to handle dubious glass.

Lead Poisoning is very period, but let's overlook that at the torch. If you are working with glass powder or very fine frit, inhaling it could lead to lead poisoning (death), silicosis (death), and wasting glass (worse than death). Use these substances in a well ventilated area, ideally a fume hood! This should not be a problem while making ornaments, but its worth mentioning anyway!

Eye surgery is $5,000. A Braille machine is $2,000. A pair of quality lampworking goggles is $40. A pair of capable sunglasses is $10. While looking at a torch for an extended period, even while just observing, you need to protect your eyes. Eye protection is provided. If available please use the Didymium/ACE 202 glasses (Big, purple lenses). If they are being used, please grab a pair of sunglasses, they are better than nothing and will catch your neighbor's mistakes! If nothing else, for the short time we are working, not wearing glasses shouldn't cause any permanent harm. Ask Brynn about the first time he made an ornament...


The history of glass ornaments is almost as brief as this paragraph, relatively speaking. Unfortunately ornaments are NOT period, but they are a fairly safe introduction to lampworking, which is. The first glass Christmas ornaments were made in the area around Lauscha, Germany in the mid-1800s.

The first ornaments were made to resemble fruit, nuts, and other natural items that families were using for 50 years to decorate their trees. The ornament makes discovered a huge market for their wares and in the 1880s and 1890s W.F. Woolworth began importing glass ornaments. He was selling $25 million worth every year. (Source:

1 – MAPP Gas Tank (MAPP-type gasses burn around 5,301°F, compared to Propane which, at best, reaches 3,623°F)
2 – Hot Head torch (This is a cheap entry-level torch. Contrary to what some will say, it can do almost everything dual-gas torches do for beadmaking)
3 – Didymium Glasses (The best choice for “soft glass” work. For a short period of time they aren't needed but recommended!)
4 – Flint Striker (The lighter of choice for torches)
5 – Sample Ornaments (The finished product. It can be 1 color or many, melted in (like the green) or grainy (like the other two))
6 – COE 90 Rods (For “wrapping” around the outside, of you choose.)
7 – COE 90 Dichroic strips (Also for wrapping. Dichro-side down!)
8 – Speedy Sharp Carbide Cutter (Made for sharpening knives, it works well at cutting glass tubing)
9 – COE 90 Frit (The color to our ornament!)
10 – Glass ornament bulb/glaskolben (A pulled glass “point” we will fill with frit and melt and blow)
11 – Ornament cap/hook (to hang your ornament with!)

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