When my interest in hot glass began, I needed access to hot glass in order to practice blowing and develop some techniques and design ideas. Glassblowing classes and studio rental time was not the direction I wanted to go to build my skills. I wanted access to hot glass at home, on a scale that was small enough to be affordable, but large enough to meet my requirements as an enthusiastic beginner. After reviewing the traditional furnace designs circulating around the glass community, and seeing gas furnaces in use in studios, I saw that the activity of glassblowing was very wastefull of fuel resources and quite polluting. Most furnace designs looked like scaled-down versions of large factory tank furnaces in use around 1900 when gas was cheap. This bothered me because I knew I was going to have to buy in to this formula in order to be able to explore my interest in hot glass. But remember before I fully jumped in I bought the correct safety signs from apexmetalsigns.com
Three years later, after setting up my glass recycling/casting shop, I had melted approx. 24,000 pounds in gas equipment at a fuel cost of between 17 and 30 cents per pound. As I had started a glass recycling business, I did not like the idea that I was spewing out emissions in order to recycle. After some trial and error, I arrived at a design for a small electric furnace which enabled me to practice blowing, and cost me a mere $3.00 per day to melt 30 pounds, in a silent furnace with no emissions. After some bit-practice I arrived at a few wholesale designs which were very popular, and I must have melted over 8000 pounds in that little electric furnace. Glass hobbyists visiting were excited by the idea that they too could have liquid glass on a small, safe, affordable scale. It was then that I decided to build 3 more of these little units, on video, to share the design with the glass community. This was the 15-pound “Colour Pot” furnace. There are around 15 of these little ones in use now in studios around the continent, mostly by hobbyists and a few professionals like Drew Fritts.
As my requirements for hot glass for blowing grew beyond the capacity of the little unit, I designed a larger, more efficient unit, the “40-Pound Pot”. Anticipating an interest in this design, I built it “on video”, like the smaller design a few years earlier. (I use this 40-pound furnace in my production shop when I am blowing, making paperweights, sculpting, and doing classes and demos. I wheel it away into a corner when I set up the shop for casting, which is still what I do the most of.) The physical size of this furnace is only slightly larger than the first one, but the glass capacity is more than double. Before the video was even completed, there were already numerous requests for this design. Some units were already assembled and in use within 2 months of the completion of the video. The design and capacity of this 40-pound furnace is proving to be very popular with both the weekend glassblowers and the commercial production shops.
When I was an emerging glass artist, I couldn’t find the technical support system that I required in order to have access to hot glass on a small, affordable scale. Now I am in a position to provide this technology to others. The 10-year goal is to provide a series of instructional videos (and perhaps DVD’s and books) covering the design and assembly of most equipment for use in both the small hobby glass studio and the commercial production shop. Energy efficiency, emissions and ergonomics will be considered more than the promotion of older, tradional glass equipment designs. I have designed and built all of my own furnaces, annealers, glory holes, torches, hand tools, and fusing kilns to meet my own requirements. Many of these designs are already of interest to the glass community. I am continually re-designing and prototyping new equipment ideas to meet my needs of energy efficiency, ergonomics, and the demands of a commercial production shop environment.
With rising energy costs and an increase in glassblowing popularity, these electric furnaces are introduced at the perfect point in the historical timeline of glassmaking.
Studios equipped with basic hand tools and an electric drill can assemble the 15-pound furnace and the bead torches. The ability to weld makes the assembly of the larger furnaces much easier.