Using a glass lathe is just one of the methods of glassblowing, and each can produce an amazing variation of glass items. This article will help explain how you can use a glass lathe along with going over the different methods of glass blowing, types of lathes, and how a glass lathe works.
Most people are familiar with the traditional furnace method of glass blowing. It involves inserting glass into furnaces of varying degrees, and shaping the glass by introducing a small amount of air through a blow tube. This method can also be used to blow glass into a particular mold. Blowing glass on a lathe makes it easier by freeing up your hands because the lathe is holding up the piece of glass you are working on. This allows you to use an additional torch or blow pipe to form the glass if you choose.
Types of Lathes
Lathes are a common tool used for machining. There are several different types of lathes, including glassworking lathes, woodworking lathes, and metalworking lathes. The basic design is the same for all three types. The lathe is either it's own bench style platform, or a smaller version that can be placed on a table. There are two upright pieces on either side of the lathe, called the headstock and tailstock. The headstock is stationary and will be the section that has all of the power controls. The tailstock is a mirror image of the headstock, but it is mounted on rails. There is a large wheel that you turn in order to move the tailstock closer or further away. There is a second smaller piece on the rails in between the headstock and tailstock, and that is called the carriage. Whatever material you are working on is mounted on a spindle and held by chucks. Chucks are basically metal pieces that have small arms called jaws that hold the material you are working with.Glassworking lathes are extremely common in the scientific community. They are used to make all of the glassware that chemists use. Nearly every major university will have a glassworking lathe as part of their Chemistry department.
Glassworking on a Glass Lathe
Now that you are familiar with lathes, the function of a glassworking lathe can be described. The first step is to place the glass piece you will be working on on the lathe by holding it with the chucks on the headstock and tailstock. The carriage part that was mentioned earlier can be fitted with a burner for glassworking, called a carriage burner. There are also circular burners that can be used in this same area. You place the carriage burner under the glass piece and heat it to the degree necessary for the type of glass you are using. You can use the rails to slide the burner up and and down along the entire piece you are working on. The tailstock can be slid back and forth during this process to add material to the glass, or to take some away. You can also use a handheld torch for more intricate work if you prefer. Of course, as with glass blowing by hand, the best method for shaping the glass is introducing air or gas. With many glass lathes there is a tube that is fed right through the spindle that allows you to introduce gas into the glass piece as it is spinning on the spindle. Depending on the type of glassware, the types of gas will vary, be sure you are following the directions specifically for your project. In addition to the tubing, you can also use a handheld tube to introduce air yourself.
The glassworking lathe is limited to producing products of a certain size based on it's spindle. Larger lathes can make larger apparatuses. The number of different types of glassware that can be made with a glass lathe is only limited by it's spindle size and your imagination.