St. Louis Glass Class Bench Photo

St. Louis Glass Class Bench Photo Third Degree Glass Factory in St. Louis

Beginning Glassblowing Syllabus  



Contact Info  

Third Degree Glass Factory in St. Louis

5200 Delmar Blvd.

St. Louis, MO  63108




      Doug Auer

      Jim McKelvey

      Mike Hayes

      Nikolaj Christensen

      Dave Montez



We have space on the street and in the lot. You may also park in the lot to the west side of our building.


Delmar Lee's  

Lee sells soda and very good Urban Asian Cuisine.  You may eat dinner during class


What to Wear  

      Nametags on back

      Natural Fibers better than Synthetics

      Glasses with UV and Infrared Filters (available for use for free-NO sunglasses)



      NO LOOSE ITEMS (hanging watches, for example)


What to Bring  

      Beverages (sodas can be bought from Delmar Lee and we have a waterfountain)

      Old Wall Street Journals or New York Times – REMOVE COLOR PAGES

      Snack Food/Dinner (Delmar Lee sells a good meal for under $4)

      Your favorite Music CD

      Notebook and Pencil (IMPORTANT if you want to get the most out of the class)


Recycling Drink Bottles
Cans and plastic/glass bottles should be places in the green bin near the main garage door.  Please empty and crush cans first.


Recycling Glass

CLEAR glass that has not got any color, refractory or dirt on it should be placed in the large drum (Recycling clear glass actually helps make the new glass melt better). Puntys and otherwise dirty glass goes in the bin marked –you guessed it- “DIRTY.”



Liability Waiver

All students should know the risks of glassblowing.  We attempt to run a safe shop, but cannot protect you from everything. With over a dozen people working simultaneously, we must control the behavior of the students for the safety and enjoyment of all.  We will warn you once, at the second instance of bad behavior you will be asked to leave.


Alcohol Policy  

Do not blow glass if you have been drinking or have consumed anything else that would impair your coordination, judgment or balance. Everyone in the hot shop (the area beyond the yellow line) must be sober, properly dressed, and have signed the Liability Waiver.


Burns & Cuts  

Students might receive minor burns or cuts as a natural part of learning to blow glass.  Report all burns and cuts to a staff member.  We have a first aid kit available.


Unannealed Glass

Shards and other pieces of unannealed glass can be extremely dangerous and may explode without warning.  Under no circumstances should ANY piece of glass be removed from the studio unless it has been properly annealed.  


Everything is Hot  

Assume that all surfaces are hot!  Even surfaces (such as the rails of the bench) not directly in contact with the glass, can reach several hundred degrees.  



We blow glass in teams of three.  The person making the piece is in charge of the team and is known as the Gaffer.  The two assistants help the Gaffer by getting pieces of glass, arranging tools, providing bench blows, etc.  Gaffers will not always need 2 assistants, allowing time for one assistant to rest. Team members should take care of each other.  Help your fellow students to follow the rules of safe behavior and not work beyond their abilities.


Moving in the Studio  

At any time up to half a dozen people are moving around the studio holding 2000 Degree objects.  To avoid branding each other and having to reread the liability waiver, move slowly and let a person who is holding glass know that you are passing them (especially from behind).  Many people place a hand on the back of a person when walking behind then, ANYONE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH BEING TOUCHED IN THIS MATTER SHOULD LET THE STAFF KNOW. Addressing a person by name is very helpful.



Molten glass that falls on the floor needs to be moved immediately, which is usually done by kicking the blob.  When kicking a blob, direct it away from the other people and attempt to move it only a foot or two.


Steaming a Pipe

Never place a pipe in water without capping the end.  If you forget to do this, a column of ultra-hot steam will surge up the pipe and remind you of the worst way to get burned.


Sharing Blowpipes

The Gaffer and assistants will take turns blowing on the pipe during the course of a piece.  If you are uncomfortable with this communal contact, the best remedy is to purchase your own blowpipe and use a blow-hose. We clean the pipes between classes, but not in an autoclave.  We have alcohol-based wipes to use on mouthpieces if you so choose. 


Reckless Behavior/ Outbursts of Anger  

Disregarding the safety of the other students or the fragility of the equipment is grounds for immediate dismissal.  If you do not know how to operate a piece of equipment, don’t hesitate to ask one of your team members or a staffer. Glassblowing can be frustrating, but please restrain from angry outbursts or vitriolic tirades.  NEVER throw or slam an object in the studio.



Furnace at Third Degree Glass Factory in St. Louis


The furnace holds 300 lbs of glass at 2100 F.  It runs continuously and is very fragile.  Students need to receive special instruction before removing glass from the furnace.


Gloryholes at Third Degree Glass Factory in St. Louis

Glory Hole

Glorys are used to reheat glass and run at a temperature of 2500 F.  The doors are fragile and should be operated only with the appropriate tools (never the hand, foot or blowpipe).  When you accidentally drop a piece in the glory hole, use the pipe or punty that it fell off to immediately retrieve as much of the piece as you can.  Pay particular attention to avoiding collisions with the doors.



The main work area, the bench combines two areas: a seat with rails and a tool stand.  In our studio, these elements may be separated to allow greater flexibility in manipulating large pieces. A word for the lefties… learn to blow right-handed.  Just like the guitar, both hands are important and do different things and although our benches can be set up right or left-handed – almost every other bench in the world is right handed.



Annealers (aka Lehr ovens) are used to safely cool glass from final temperature (890 F) to room temperature.  Our annealers are computer controlled and programmed to accept pieces up to one inch thick.  Thicker pieces will require special programming and should not be made without the consent of a staff member.  Annealer doors are fragile and must be closed slowly and firmly.  Beware!- their surfaces can get very hot.


Pipe/Color Warmers

Glass will not stick to cold objects, we therefore preheat our pipes and puntys. A pipe is hot enough when it has a very slight glow (actually, even pipes that don't glow may be hot enough, but it's harder to tell).  Do not use a pipe that has not been heated as bits of glass on the end may explode violently when rapidly heated. You can see the pipe warmers in the photo below, located underneath the color ovens.


Color Ovens at Third Degree Glass Factory in St. Louis

Color Pre-heaters ("color ovens")

Colored glass will crack unless preheated to 1000 – 1100 F.  We have two boxes for this task located above the pipe warmers.



The marver is the most powerful method of shaping glass and also the most difficult to master.  When marvering glass, remember to support the weight of the piece and only allow the area you are working to touch the surface.  The marver is an excellent tool for removing heat from an area of the glass. Marvers must be clean.  Never set any object (especially a wet object) on a marver.  It is a good habit to wipe the marver down before each use.

Optic Molds  

When a HOT bubble is inserted in an optic mold and inflated, the profile of the bubble is distorted into optic ridges. Used for decoration on both clear and colored vessels.


Blocks & Paddles

Wooden spoon-like "blocks" are used only to shape very hot glass (usually out of the tank).  Blocks should not be used on glass that is not moving as they will simply scum the surface and damage the block. Blocks should be used wet, but not with pools of water.  If a block begins to smoke, rather than steam, IMMEDIATELY REWET IT! Paddles are used primarily to flatten the bottoms and lips of pieces. They do not need to be wet.


Jacks & Pacioffis

This versatile tool for shaping glass has two working surfaces, the blades and “backs” (the flat section near the bend).  Assume both are hot and only grab the jacks by the handles. A pacioffi is basically a jack with wooden blades and needs to be kept wet. Metal jacks should have a fine coating of wax on the working surface.



Tweezers should be free of wax and are used for any number of activities: “plucking” the glass, guide puntys into place, etc.


Paper/Graphite Pad

About 10 layers of wet newspaper will protect you from the glass even straight out of the furnace.  Newspaper and graphite pads should be treated like blocks and always used WET on MOVING glass.  We use newspaper without colored inks (for health reasons).


Diamond & Straight Shears

Shears are used for cutting glass. Straight shears are used like scissors to slice through glass and diamond shears are used to cut to a single point. NEVER use shears on cold glass. If you catch yourself using much force with shears, you’re doing something wrong and most likely damaging them!  



Blowpipes cost $150 each and are provided for student use.  Shop pipes should be treated gently, especially when hot. THEY WILL BEND with excessive force! Our pipes have fancy plastic mouthpieces rather than the traditional metal bits.  This is for safety reasons as plastic is much less likely to knock your teeth out.  The plastic pieces are more delicate and scratch easily especially when spun on the floor.  If you are inverting a pipe, protect the mouthpiece (and the next user's mouth) by spinning it on your shoe (not a beginner technique).


Puffers & Steam Sticks
Puffers, either bent or straight, are used to inflate a blown vessel while it is on the punty. “Steam sticks” are wet wooden cones and have a similar function.


Demonstration of a cup
Team Selection
Pipes/Puntys - Basic Exercises


A Note on Gathering

We purposefully do not teach gathering at the beginning of the class for several reasons.  First, most students are intimidated by the heat of the furnace and are likely to forget to turn the pipe unless constantly reminded (in which case they aren't concentrating on the gather).  Secondly, the gathering process is taught in teams initially and we want to wait until students have some comfort with their teams.  Thirdly, we want you learning the other skills on relatively symmetrical gathers (your first gathers won't be this way).  Finally, the furnace is extremely fragile and must never be hit with a gather of glass, so we don't want newbies gluing the door shut with a bad gather.  We will teach you to gather as your skills warrant


These exercises are designed to teach you the basic elements of glassblowing in such a way that you can concentrate on a single skill before adding the next skill. We begin with safety and basic pipe handling skills.  Once these have been mastered, we move to solid body (no bubble) work.  Next we add the element of a bubble.  Finally, we teach you how to put them all together and make a shot glass!


Although the exercises in this section are generally pipe handling exercises, we place them under the heading of safety because most students burn themselves with the pipe and other tools – not the glass itself.  For this reason, these exercises are done cold – without any glass or heat.

Pipe Turning Standing:

Holding the pipe correctly, students should learn to rotate the pipe smoothly in both directions.  The instructor may wish to chalk the tip of the pipe to see if the rotation is smooth.  Skill learned:  

·        Pipe turning, either using one or two hands. 

·        Left or right-handed stance. 

·        Sliding hands up the pipe instead of just grabbing (avoids a nasty burn).

·        Pipe/Body positioning (no fishing poles!)


Roll the pipe on the marver from one end to the other and back again.  Skills learned:

·        Body position at the marver. 

·        Continued refinement of pipe rolling skills.

Marvering in the Air:

The student rolls the pipe over the marver at a constant height of two inches. The rate of rotation should match the rate of lateral movement. The pipe should not bounce up and down since the purpose of this exercise is to teach you to support the weight of the glass and still make even contact between the marver and the bubble.  Skills learned:  

·        Rolling the pipe while supporting its weight.

·        Proper pipe handling


Sitting at the Bench:  

Approach the bench and sit down. Hopefully, the correct way to sit will become ingrained in you during this exercise so that when you are working with hot glass, it won’t be something you will have to think about. It is VERY important for you to learn to sit and stand correctly.  Skills learned:

·        Getting around the pipe (sliding or hinged door). 

·        Avoiding grabbing the pipe with the right hand (MAJOR source of burns). 

·        Sitting to the far right of the bench (from the gaffer’s viewpoint). 

·        Grabbing the jacks.

·        Using both hands in conjunction to manipulate the pipe.

Turning the Pipe at the Bench:  

After sitting down, the student should be able to roll the pipe the length of the bench in both directions.  Skills learned:

·        Proper body position at the bench

·        Pipe rolling with the left hand.

·        Smooth switching of direction (out and back and vice versa).



In these exercises, the instructor will get ONE gather which will be recycled for the entire team.  When one team member completes the exercise, he or she simply mashes the completed form into a mess for the next person to straighten.

One and Two Gather Caterpillar:  

Using the marver, students roll the glass into a cylinder.  Then at the bench, they shape a caterpillar with several sections by cutting in jack lines. The focus is on making a number of straight, sharp jack lines with no reheats.  Skills learned:

·        Marvering (specifically while supporting weight of glass for larger ‘pillars)

·        Scraping glass off a punty

·        Sitting at the bench

·        Jacking a piece

·        Basic glass balancing

Punty Relay:  

The instructor makes a solid bubble and gathers two puntys.  Two team members each take a punty and transfer the piece from one to another.  The cycle continues.
Skills learned:

·        Teamwork

·        Temperature Control

·        Balancing a piece on the punty



Most glass is made from the same basic Q-tip bubble shape.  For instance…

·        Vase – a stretched bubble

·        Cup – a stretched bubble with a flat bottom

·        Bowl – a partially opened bubble.

·        Plate – A fully opened bubble  

·        Sculpture – a messed-up bubble  

Blowing at the Marver/Bench:
The student blows a one gather bubble and jacks it off the pipe. The piece should be released from the pipe with only a slight tap from the back of the tweezers. When done at the bench, the process is the same but it is done with the assistance of another team member doing a bench blow.

Skills learned:

·        Blowing

·        Pipe Rotation

·        Teamwork

·        Jacking

The Shot Glass and Drinking Glass:  

Make a one-gather shot glass, then a 12 oz. drinking glass.  Skills learned:

·        Application of all basic skills

·        Flattening the bottom of a bubble

·        Opening a piece on the punty

·        Marvering two gathers

·        Papering/blocking

·        Heat Control of larger vessels


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