A Blank Forms A Pattern That Resembles An Animal The making of Lead Crystal Glass

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The making of Lead Crystal Glass

Composition

Lead crystal glass is made from a mixture of sand, potash and lead oxide. The type of lead crystal glass is determined by the British specification (BS 3828: 1964) for each type. Glass has a minimum lead oxide content of 24% and is produced primarily for the beauty of its appearance. Full crystal glass has high amounts of lead oxide usually not less than 30%. The higher content of lead oxide improves the beauty of the item but it is more expensive to make.

The Glass workshop

The workshop where bucket glass making is done is an interesting event. The workers are in groups around the furnace where the glass is melted. Each group is known as the “chairman” and has 4 or 5 people: the “staff”, who is the head of the school, two known as “Foots” and “servitor” – and a boy or two that are employed in what we would call “gofer” positions. A part of the work is assigned to each member of the group, according to the shape of the object on which the “chairman” works.

Any crystal figurine or other object begins as a ball of molten glass. This ball is drawn from the pot at the end of the iron pipe, which is a metal tube about 4 ft. long. ride. It is constantly rotated in order to distribute the glass evenly. Molten glass is rolled on a polished metal table to smooth the surface. The glass worker blows through the tube and heats the glass in the empty space. By turning, pressing and rotating the molten glass on the tube the shape begins to develop. The glass is formed further as the metal is rolled up and down on the arms of the glass chair.

A few tools are used in this process – metal pincers, calipers, shears, wood measuring sticks and clappers. Once a piece of wood and a leg is added it is moved for further work to a steel rod called a pontil, the end of which is connected to a blob of hot glass. The glass is remelted before excess glass is removed from the casting and any finishing touches are given. The still glowing article is poured off the rod, dropped into a large container and transferred to a “lehr” or annealing oven.

Annealing

The furnace temper is a long chamber through which the glass is moved slowly, passing little by little from the high temperature to the ambient temperature of the workshop. This is important because glass can cool very quickly and break the mold. When removed from the lehr, each item is tested for any defects. An instrument using polarized light is used to reveal any imperfect annealing.

Cutting

Cutting is one of the more important techniques and calls for a very high level of skill. Cutting is done by holding the lead crystal figurine against the edge of a revolving cutting wheel. The glass is carefully guided to produce some of the most beautiful and complex patterns possible. The number of patterns is endless and in combination create some beautiful effects. The design which is designed on the glass “blank” by specially trained workers, is first roughly cut by a carborundum wheel. The glass is ready for polishing.

Smooth

Polishing is done by placing the glass in a vat containing a mixture of hydrofluoric and sulfuric acid for about one minute. Then we wash it well and the glass turns into bucket pieces of glitter.

This is the process that almost any piece of lead crystal glass goes through before it becomes something beautiful. Every year some of the process has changed.

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