The Scientific Glass Blower

Multi-media Designer
April 29, 2013
April 29, 2013

The Scientific Glass Blower

The scientific glass blower manufactures glass instruments and apparatus. These are used both in laboratories and in fieldwork by scientists and engineers in their research, development and tutorial duties. Scientific glass blowers also work in industry, particularly in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.
Scientific glass blowers are often required to assist in the design of prototype equipment and thus play a major role in the success or failure of a project. The work entails the shaping and forming of a variety of types and shapes of glass according to the specifications given. The glass can be machined, ground, drilled, blown, bent, fused (welded), twisted, drawn and parted.

Satisfying Aspects
– creating needed items
– seeing the finished product
– working with your hands

Demanding aspects
– concentration needed for long periods, due to potential dangers
– possible eyestrain and physical exhaustion

A scientific glass blower should:
– be at least 16 years old;
– enjoy creating things with his hands;
– be able to visualise objects in three dimensions;
– be observant and patient;
– enjoy working with delicate materials;
– be well-disciplined in the use of safety equipment;
– be able to work independently;
– have artistic inclination.

School Subjects
Grade 10 Certificate.
Compulsory Subjects: None
Recommended Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Mechanical Technology


There are three ways to qualify as a registered artisan:

1.    An apprenticeship is a 4-year contract between company and apprentice, comprising a 12-week theoretical training, which includes 4 subjects at national exam level. 
2.    A learnership is a structured learning programme that leads to a qualification in a certain field. The learnership programme includes a theoretical and a practical component. It usually takes about a year to complete. The training takes place on-site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets on-the-job experience whilst training.
3.    FET colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (this NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools. They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a FET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest FET College. FET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MERSETA or CHIETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.

Learners must all receive training in occupational safety and first aid, fire-fighting and preventative security measures. Learners study everything about the installation, maintenance and repair of all electrical equipment. They must also become familiar with municipal legislation relevant to electricity supply and consumption.

– Research institutions such as the CSIR
– Universities
– Sasol
– Pharmaceutical and chemical industries
– Self-employment, doing freelance work

Education & Training

To work as a glass blower, you typically need to:
have a Grade 10 or  higher school leaving qualification; and
complete long-term on-the-job training.

Education after high school
Formal training beyond high school is not required for glass blowers who work in factories.
Some art glass blowers pursue formal training programs. Many schools offer programs in general art. Community and technical colleges offer certificates or associate degrees. Universities offer bachelor’s degrees and higher.
At four-year schools, you can pursue a Bachelor of Art (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.). In these programs, you learn to make functional pieces and artistic pieces. In your fourth year, you may work on developing your art one-on-one with a faculty advisor.

Work experience
Some schools help you secure an internship, apprenticeship, or studio assistantship in the field. These experiences help you learn new techniques, build your skills, and develop contacts in the art world.

On-the-job training
Glass blowers who work in factories receive their training on the job. Training lasts at least one year.
An apprenticeship is an excellent way for glass artists to receive additional training. You choose a glass blower whose work you respect and work with that artist for a period. In some apprenticeships you receive materials, work space, and room and board in exchange for your work in the studio.
Some state arts councils and foundations offer resident artist programs. Types of programs vary widely. Some are for artists who are new to the field. These programs allow artists to create and explore their work further. Other programs are for people who are known in their field. Usually resident artist programs allow you to work with others in your own discipline or from a broad range of art fields. Each program is different in terms of whether glass blowers pay to be involved or receive a stipend. Programs last from one month to nine months.

Fields of Study (What to study to prepare for this career)
Fields of Study listed below to find out more about preparing for this career.
Art and Fine Arts, General
Ceramic Art and Design
Precision Crafting and Repair

Helpful High School Courses
You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state’s graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.
Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this occupation include:

Drawing and Painting
Many glass blowers are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:
Introduction to Business

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career.

On the Job


Glass blowers create artistic or functional objects from glass.

No one quite knows who first discovered glass. One legend states that first century Roman sailors were cooking over sand and stones made of a special soda. As the stones heated the sand underneath them, a strange liquid began to flow. This, of course, would be liquid glass. However, most scholars believe that glass production began about 1500 B.C., much earlier than the legend suggests. Pieces of ancient blown glass were found in Palestine and Syria, which at the time were part of the Roman Empire.Today’s glass blowers begin by preparing the glass. They determine the type and amount of glass necessary to make products.

They put the proper amount of glass chips in the oven so they can begin to melt. If they want colored glass, they add minerals or other items that add color. Once the glass has melted, glass blowers dip a long blowpipe into it and gather some glass on the end. They quickly scan it for imperfections. If the glass is okay, blowers begin to shape the item. They blow inside the pipe to add air inside the glass gob and cause it to expand. Sometimes they use compressed air instead of their own breath. They also rotate the pipe quickly so the glass spins and the item does not become lopsided. Glass blowers use metal tongs or wet wooden boards to shape some items.

By pinching the tongs around items, glass blowers can create indentations. Once items are done, glass blowers must separate them from the blowpipes. They usually do this by striking the neck of the item so that it breaks. Finally, they smooth the neck and give it the right shape. Examples of items they make are bowls, pitchers, glasses, and vases.

Work Activities

The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
Determine type and amount of glass necessary to make products.
Heat glass to liquid stage.
Set up and adjust machines and ovens according to the type of glass.
Dip end of blowpipe into molten glass to collect gob on pipe head.
Examine gob of molten glass for imperfections.
Blow molten glass into specified shape, using compressed air or own breath.
Strike neck of finished article to separate article from blowpipe.
Inspect and measure finished products using instruments.
Cut glass tubing to proper size, using file or cutting wheel.
Place glass into die or mold to form products, such as drinking glasses or optical blanks.
Develop sketch of glass products. Use knowledge of glass and glass blowing.
Operate electric kilns.
Record quantities, sizes, and types of goods produced.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
Control machines and processes.
Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
Get information needed to do the job.
Handle and move objects.
Identify objects, actions, and events.
Make decisions and solve problems.
Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
Perform activities that use the whole body.
Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
Process information.
Update and use job-related knowledge.
Evaluate information against standards.
Think creatively.
Repair and maintain mechanical equipment.
Estimate sizes, quantities, time, cost, or materials needed.

Teach others.
Establish and maintain relationships.
Coordinate the work and activities of others.
Organize, plan, and prioritize work.

Working Conditions

In a typical work setting, people in this career:

Interpersonal Relationships

Have a low to medium level of social contact. They usually work alone, but may interact with coworkers, depending on the type of employment.

Sometimes work as part of a team.
Are somewhat responsible for the health and safety of others.
Have limited responsibility for the work done by others.

Physical Work Conditions

Always work indoors. Work places may not be temperature-controlled.
Wear gloves or safety glasses on a daily basis.

Are exposed to very hot temperatures on a daily basis, especially when working near ovens.
Are regularly exposed to loud sound and distracting noise levels.

Are sometimes exposed to hazardous situations and conditions that may produce minor burns.
Are often exposed to contaminants.

Sometimes must operate hazardous equipment.

May work physically near others.

Work Performance

Must be very exact in their work and be sure all details are done. Errors could result in products that do not meet requirements.
Repeat the same physical activities.
Must allow the pace of work to be set by the speed of equipment.
Often make decisions without consulting a supervisor first.
Usually set daily tasks and goals in conjunction with a supervisor.
Must meet strict weekly and monthly deadlines.


Usually work 40 hours per week, especially if working in a factory. May work overtime.
May travel to other cities or states to show their wares at art festivals or craft shows.

Physical Demands

In a typical work setting, people in this career:
People in this career frequently:

Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
Stand for long periods of time.
Repeat the same motions.
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
Determine the distance between objects.
Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
Understand the speech of another person.
Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired

People in this career need to:


Listen to others, understand, and ask questions.
Read and understand work-related materials.
Express ideas clearly when speaking.

Reason and Problem Solve

Concentrate and not be distracted while performing a task.
Notice when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong.
Understand new information or materials by studying and working with them.
Develop rules or follow guidelines when arranging items.
Analyze ideas and use logic to determine their strengths and weaknesses.
Identify problems and review information. Develop, review, and apply solutions.
Use reasoning to discover answers to problems.

Manage Oneself, People, Time and Things

Check how well one is learning or doing something.
Manage the time of self and others.
Obtain needed equipment, facilities, and materials and oversee their use.

Work with People

Use several methods to learn or teach others how to do something.
Change behavior in relation to others’ actions.

Work with Things

Determine the causes of technical problems and find solutions for them.
Determine the tools and equipment needed to do a job.
Maintain equipment on a routine basis. Determine when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
Test and inspect products, services, or processes. Evaluate quality or performance.
Repair machines or systems.
Watch gauges, dials, and output to make sure a machine is working properly.

Operate and control equipment.

Perceive and Visualize
Quickly and accurately compare letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns.
Imagine how something will look if it is moved around or its parts are rearranged.
Identify a pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in distracting material.

People in this career need knowledge in the following areas:
Production and Processing: Knowledge of how products are made and supplied.
Mechanical: Knowledge of designing, using, and repairing machines and tools.
English Language: Knowledge of the meaning, spelling, and use of the English language.
Customer and Personal Service: Knowledge of providing special services to customers based on their needs.
Administration and Management: Knowledge of managing the operations of a business, company, or group.
Education and Training: Knowledge of teaching and the methods involved in learning and instruction.


People in this career are people who tend to:
Consider relationships important. They like to work in a friendly, non-competitive environment. They like to do things for other people. They prefer jobs where they are not pressured to do things that go against their sense of right and wrong.
Consider support from their employer important. They like to be treated fairly and have supervisors who will back them up. They prefer jobs where they are trained well.

Consider independence important. They like to make decisions and try out ideas on their own. They prefer jobs where they can plan their work with little supervision.
Consider achievement important. They like to see the results of their work and to use their strongest abilities. They like to get a feeling of accomplishment from their work.
Have realistic interests. They like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like to work with plants, animals, and physical materials such as wood, tools, and machinery. They often prefer to work outside.
Have conventional interests. They like work activities that follow set procedures, routines, and standards. They like to work with data and detail. They prefer working where there is a clear line of authority to follow.
Have artistic interests. They like work activities that deal with artistic forms, designs, and patterns. They prefer work which allows for self expression.

Tools & Technology for Glass Blowers, Molders, Benders, and Finishers
Air compressors
Blow pipes
Glass blowing pipes
Blow torches
Propane torches
Dial calipers
Drilling machines
Drill presses
Hand files
Gas burners
Meeker burners
Glass cutters
Glass knives
Safety goggles
Lapping wheels
Grinding or polishing machines
Hold down clamps
Holding clamps
Induction heaters
Kilns for firing ceramics
Electric kilns
Engine lathes
Glass lathes
Hand held magnifiers
Digital micrometers
Milling cutters
Cutting wheels
Notebook computers
Laptop computers
Personal computers
Pneumatic sanding machines
Power buffers
Polishing wheels
Power saws
Glass saws
Protective gloves
Safety gloves
Protective respirators
Precision rulers
Safety glasses
Glass tongs
Vacuum ovens
Annealing ovens
Vacuum pumps
Spot welders
Accounting software
Billing software
Electronic mail software
Microsoft Outlook
Inventory management software
Inventory control software
Spreadsheet software
Microsoft Excel

There are a wide variety of laboratory supplies that are used to carry out different types of scientific experiments. Many of these supplies fall under the category of laboratory glassware, despite the fact that they don’t necessarily need to be made of glass. Two of the main branches of science that utilize this equipment are chemistry and biology, which traditionally use equipment made of glass for several reasons. Laboratory glassware comes in many different forms, colors, shapes and sizes. These variances cater to particular needs within many laboratory settings and experiments.

One of the main reasons glassware is used in laboratories is because of its durability and ability to withstand heat, cold and other rigorous activities during experiments. Some types of glass are more resistant to scientific experiments than others, such as Pyrex®, a heat resistant brand of glass that is popularly used by chemists. Another type is quartz glass, which is known for its purity and the high level of visibility that results from it. Glass is also transparent, which can make it simpler to observe whatever is being studies, and it is also relatively inert, so it has a low probability of reacting with chemicals.

Glass production is generally broken down into two main categories, namely those processes used to manufacture plate, and blown, or molded, products. Although each category features a multitude of separate, specialist products, the basic glass production line layout for each remains similar for most products. Plate, or float, glass is a flat sheet product primarily used for glazing products such as window panes and partitions. In these factories, molten glass is passed across the surface of a bath of molten tin producing a sheet of finished glass of predictable thickness and excellent surface quality. Blown, or molded, glass facilities manufacture bottles, jars, and decorative items from small pieces of molten glass that are either blown manually in the open or mechanically into molds.

Glass is a hugely prolific product encountered in a host of different forms in everyday life. It is, however, generally encountered in only one of two basic forms — flat plate glass in mirrors, partitions, and windows, and a multitude of containers and ornamental items. Glass products are made using either float or blown glass processes, each of which features a large number of specialist procedures for the manufacture of specific products such as impact- and heat-resistant or self-cleaning glass. The float glass production line is used to make the flat glass sheets found in window glazing and other plate products. Blown glass facilities make bottles and ornaments either manually or by automated glass production line methods.

The float glass production line typically starts with a batching process where raw materials, such as soda lime, silica sand, and calcium oxide, are mixed with cullet, or re-cycled glass. This mixture is then send to a multi-chambered furnace where it is heated to approximately 2,732° Fahrenheit (1,500° Celsius), reducing it to a molten state. The molten glass is then floated out onto a bath of molten tin at a temperature of approximately 1,832° Fahrenheit (1,000° Celsius). As the tin is highly fluid and the glass highly viscous, the two don’t mix with the glass, forming a perfectly flat sheet of between 0.11 inch (3 mm) and 1 inch (25 mm) thick. Once the glass sheet passes over the tin bath, it has cooled enough to be sent into a annealing oven, or lehr, to remove heat stress, after which it is cut and stored for distribution.

A blown glass production line differs in layout according to the intended end products involved. Ornamental items are typically hand blown by picking up a lump of molten glass from a furnace on a blow pipe and physically blowing air into it to form the rough item. The glass blower turns the item constantly, adds or cuts off pieces of molten glass, and flattens or bulges certain sections to form the finished product. Utilitarian glass jars and bottles are generally made on large, automated glass production lines that blow regularly-sized pieces of molten glass into molds. These products are passed through several annealing, embossing, and forming processes to toughen the glass, to add decoration, or to shape screw cap threads before completion and distribution.

Workmanship generally refers to the quality of work evident in a particular object or crafting project made by a craftsman. There are many dimensions, depending on an object’s purpose, that contribute to the general notion of the “quality of work” of an object. In many cases, the practical utility of an object is of the foremost importance, and workmanship is judged almost entirely based on how well the object serves its intended function. In other cases, artistry is at least as important as, if not more important than, practical utility. “Workmanship,” then, cannot be considered a completely objective measure, as it depends heavily on the needs of the individual who is to use the crafted object.

A high level of workmanship is not always the goal of an assembly process, as high-quality work tends to cost more money than work that is merely usable. In many cases, quality and price are directly correlated, and less expensive work costs less. It also tends to be much easier to maintain high levels of production if quality standards are not extremely high. Various automated industrial processes can be used to mass-produce works of reasonable quality, but the highest standards of workmanship are generally produced by hand over longer periods of time

First day safety.

While in the studio, safety is a great importance, to the artist and the bystanders. While in the studio you are working around sharp glass, and hot flames so you’re really going to need to be careful. For anyone interested in learning the art of glass-blowing here is a list of rules that you should keep in mind before getting started.

1. Train with an experienced glass blower. Someone should never try and do anything in the studio without proper training, this will most likely lead to serious injury.
2. Pay attention to EVERYTHING! You have to be extremely alert while blowing glass to avoid injury to yourself and those around you, and also to make sure you don’t mess up on your art piece.
3. Always use the proper safety equipment. Be sure you’re wearing your safety glasses, gloves, flame resistant apron, and work-boots to avoid unnecessary injury.
4. Be cautious of hot objects. Even items not in direct contact with the torch or the kiln can sometimes be hot enough to cause a severe burn.
5. Unfired glass can explode at any time. Keep in mind that until the glass piece is fired in the kiln it could still explode, so be cautious and always wear the proper protection.
6. Do not wear synthetic clothing in the studio. Synthetic materials are highly flammable, and can cause severe burns or melt onto your skin. Thick cotton or wool are a good alternative.
7. Don’t wear jewelry or watches. Metal can heat up extremely easily and cause burns, and synthetic jewelry can melt into your skin.
8. Stay hydrated. Working around the torches and the kiln can become exhausting because you are working in a way hotter environment then your body is used to, it is very important to stay hydrated while working in the studio.
9. Always be prepared for an emergency. Be sure you have a first-aid kit that is filled with essentials that are needed to take care of burns or cuts, accidents are bound to happen while working in the studio.
Before getting into the art of glass-blowing you should learn the basic safety rules and apply them to your learning.


My name is Refiloe Mafura and I am 18 years old. I am currently doing Matric at Ebenezer Maranatha Institute. I would like to be trained as a glassblower. This is something I have wanted to do since I visited my aunt at a glass blowing company. I never knew that glass could melt and shaped into different things. I didn’t even know there was a career like glassblowing but that day when I worked into the factory and saw all the people working on different types of glass and in different ways I just felt that this was something I could also do.