Glass is a fascinating material that has been around for thousands of years. From windows and the screens on our phones, to the bongs in our homes, glass is an integral part of our daily lives. But what is it and where does it come from?
The history of glass dates back to ancient times, when it was first discovered that certain rocks could be melted down and formed into shapes. The earliest known examples of glass were small beads made by the Egyptians around 2500 BC. From there, the technology spread throughout the ancient world, with the Romans and Greeks developing more sophisticated techniques for making glass vessels, windows, and other objects.
Besides the obvious applications, there are many little known uses for glass, ranging from medical applications to high-tech electronics. For example, some types of glass are used in medical devices such as syringes and surgical instruments because they are sterile and resistant to chemical corrosion. Specialty glass is also used for military applications such as radars and night vision goggles. Glass is also used in electronic devices such as computer chips and touch screens because it is a good conductor of electricity and can be shaped into very thin sheets. Colored glass has been used for centuries in stained glass windows and other decorative objects, and today it is still used in a wide range of applications from architecture to design and fashion.
Glass is made using a variety of ingredients, each of which has its own unique properties and effects on the final product. The primary ingredient in glass is silica (SiO2), which makes up the largest percentage of most glass formulations. Silica is what gives glass its transparency and hardness, as well as its ability to resist chemical and thermal damage.
In addition to silica, glass can also contain various other ingredients depending on the desired properties of the final product such as its strength, transparency, color, and resistance to thermal or chemical damage. By carefully selecting and blending these ingredients, glassmakers can create a wide range of glass products for many different applications.
Soda Ash (sodium carbonate)
This ingredient lowers the melting point of silica, making it easier to melt and shape. It also helps to improve the workability of the glass and increase its resistance to chemical corrosion.
Limestone (calcium carbonate)
Limestone is used in some glass formulations to help stabilize the mixture and prevent cracking during the cooling process. It can also be used to adjust the viscosity of the glass and control the rate at which it cools.
Potash (potassium carbonate)
This ingredient is used in some types of glass to help reduce the melting temperature and improve its workability. Potash also gives glass a higher refractive index, which makes it more reflective and increases its luster.
Adding lead oxide to glass can increase its density and refractive index, making it more clear and brilliant. However, lead glass is also softer and more susceptible to chemical damage, so it is not always suitable for all applications.
Boron oxide is used in some types of glass, such as borosilicate glass, to reduce thermal expansion and increase resistance to thermal shock. This makes borosilicate glass ideal for use in laboratory and industrial settings where precise measurements are required.
Various Metal Oxides
Adding small amounts of metal oxides such as copper, iron, or cobalt can give glass a wide range of colors, from green and blue to red and purple. These metal oxides also affect the refractive index of the glass, giving it unique optical properties.
Traditionally, glass is made by melting silica (usually in the form of sand) along with other ingredients such as soda ash and limestone at very high temperatures. The resulting molten glass is then shaped into the desired form, either by blowing into a mold or by pouring into a mold and then cooling.
Today, functional glass pieces for smoking cannabis are still made using similar methods, but with the aid of modern technology to achieve greater precision and efficiency.
Borosilicate is a type of glass made with boron and silica as the main components. It has a low coefficient of thermal expansion, meaning it does not expand or contract much with temperature changes. Borosilicate glass is also known for its high durability and resistance to thermal shock, which is the rapid change in temperature that can cause other types of glass to crack or break. This makes it a popular choice for glass bongs and pipes.
Northstar Glass is a Pacific Northwest company that specializes in manufacturing high-quality borosilicate glass rods and tubing used primarily for glassblowing and lampworking. The company was founded in 2002 by a group of glass artists who saw a need for better quality and more consistent colored glass for their work. Since then, Northstar has become one of the most trusted and respected names in the glassblowing industry.
Northstar’s glass products are known for their brilliant, vibrant colors that are achieved through the use of rare earth metals and other specialized chemicals. The company offers a wide range of colors and effects, including opaque, translucent, and transparent finishes, as well as dichroic and fritted glass.
Glass Production Techniques
Cannabis glass artists, also known as “functional glass artists,” specialize in creating pipes, bongs, and other smoking accessories that are used to consume cannabis. While many of the glassblowing techniques used in functional glass art are similar to those used in other types of glassblowing, there are a few techniques and ingredients that are particularly popular among cannabis glass artists.
Involves the artists heating pieces of glass behind a torch. Once the glass is soft, the artist uses different tools to shape the glass. The expert skills involved in heating, cooling and shaping the glass can be very interesting to watch. Lampworking techniques are entertaining and performing artists often draw crowds during glass competitions and at cannabis events.
Many functional glass artists specialize in creating intricate sculptures that also function as smoking devices. These sculptures can take on a wide range of shapes and forms, from animals and plants to abstract designs.
This technique involves using a lathe to shape and form glass tubes into specific shapes and sizes. This is often used to create the cylindrical bodies of pipes and bongs.
This technique involves vaporizing small amounts of metal oxides such as copper, iron, or cobalt then allowing the metal vapor to adhere to the surface of the glass. Fuming can give glass a wide range of colors, from green and blue to red and purple. These metal oxides also affect the refractive index of the glass, which creates a unique iridescent effect that is popular among cannabis glass artists.
This is a type of glass that contains multiple layers of metal oxides, which reflect different colors depending on the angle of light. Dichroic glass is often used to create visually striking and colorful smoking accessories.
This technique involves using a high-pressure stream of sand or other abrasive material to etch designs into the surface of the glass. This can be used to create intricate designs and patterns on the surface of pipes and bongs.
Legends like Bob Snodgrass and Jerome Baker are among the pioneers who famously produced and sold functional glass before internet-based sales. Artists have continued to push the envelope by creating amazing new designs and functions and today there are many well known glass artists who are able to sell their pieces globally and locally. Here’s a few names to check out if you are interested in other pioneers’ techniques that today’s cannabis glass artists have incorporated into their styles. These are just a few great choices with over twenty years experience pioneering the industry.
Salt - @saltglass
Salt is a well-known functional glass artist, based in Austin, Texas, who has been creating pipes and other smoking accessories for over 20 years. His work is known for its intricate designs and attention to detail.
Sagan Glass - @saganglass
Sagan Glass is a Washington-based glassblower who creates colorful and visually stunning pipes and bongs. While he has no relation to the astronomer Carl Sagan, his work often incorporates space themes into pipes and bongs. As one of the mist respected pioneers of the functional glass game, his custom pipes and rigs can cost more than a car.
Darby Holm - @darbyholmglass
Darby Holm is a glass artist who has been working in the industry for over 20 years. He is known for his intricate sculptural pieces and innovative designs. His famous recycler designs feature cacti and peyote botanical themes, prominently displaying love for native desert landscapes. The pieces regularly sell for $10,000 plus in private collections and smoke shops.
Banjo Glass - @banjoglass
Banjo Glass is a California-based glassblower who creates functional glass art that is inspired by science and fantasy. His work often incorporates very colorful visions of sci fi fiction, and is most known for its intricate details and precise functionality. As highly sought collectibles, these rigs can be some of the most expensive in any collection.
Micah Evans - @micahglass
Micah Evans is a glass artist who specializes in creating sculptural pieces that are also functional smoking accessories. His work often incorporates intricate designs and unique materials. Known for sewing machines as well as bongs, rig and recyclers. He maintains a unique crossover between mainstream glass designs and functional glass rigs.
Mothership Glass - @mothership_glass
Mothership Glass is a collective that produces high-end, handcrafted pipes and bongs. Their work is known for its innovative designs and use of unique materials, such as opals and precious metals, incorporated into complex collaboration with the artists. A collaboration with Scott Depee and Sagan Glass once sold for over $100,000.
Eusheen Goines - @eusheen
Eusheen Goines is a well-known glass artist who has been working in the industry for over 20 years. Eusheen is from Oregon originally and is currently based in Colorado. He frequently travels to present at classes and workshops. His work is known for its innovative designs featuring use of unique shapes and formations. Customers regularly expect to pay $10,000 Plus for his artwork.
Buy Local Glass
Social media has allowed many talented Arizona artists like Shuhbuh, Brian Jacobson, Hendy Glass, Steve H. Glass, and many more to build globally as custom manufacturers of high quality glass pieces. The global scene has exploded with many artists getting deserved attention and making full-time careers out of commissioned custom glass.
A lot of the artistic “heady” glass pieces from well known artists can be very expensive but there are plenty of functional glass products made locally at a good price. Smoke shops in each state have done well to carry more and more quality, locally sourced glass that is usually longer lasting, more sturdy and functional.
Mass produced imported glass has become known for its lack of precision and quality control. For example, if the size of a pipe’s bowl or carb holes are too big or small then its functions will be hindered. Glass that has been treated to withstand more thermal shock will be more expensive but will also last longer. Similarly, with bong bowls or bangers, a 100% quartz option will be more expensive and last much longer but to the untrained eye can look exactly the same.
This is one reason why it’s good to ask for advice when shopping for glass or quartz and ask the store about the origins of the products. Near our offices, in Phoenix Arizona, are some great shops that carry many types of glass at different price points and can explain the benefits of each.
Paraphernalia Boutique, Spaceman and Bongs, Triton Smoke Shop and It’s All Goodz are examples of local shops with extensive glass collections, as well as knowledgeable staff to help shoppers decipher the features of each piece. Tell the staff how much you would like to spend on the best glass setup for your budget.