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Fat Lip

A number of people have commented to me that the glass blowing looks downright dangerous, with no Personal Protective Equipment, and the tutor wearing shorts! In fact, I think the danger lies more in the perception and the potential than in reality. Yes, of course, if things went horribly wrong then it could get very nasty, very quickly. But in fact I felt very safe the whole day, even though I am frankly scared stiff of red-hot iron and molten glass.

In the course joining instructions, the students are told not to wear heels or open-toed sandals, and to wear loose, comfortable clothing. We had a safety brief before we went near the irons and furnaces, which basically consisted of telling us to make sure we always knew which end of the iron was the red hot one, and not to touch it! There was a one-way system in operation around the furnace, so we always approached it from the left and, a bit like a yellow box-junction on the road, never started gathering molten glass until we could see that our exit was clear. We were always very aware of where the hot irons and molten glass were, and treated them with respect. The tutor kept a very close eye on us and made sure we were always acting in a way that was safe.

The other students both wore short-sleeved tee-shirts, but they did struggle a bit in consequence when they were doing the delicate shaping of the blown glass at the bench. You have to use tongs to shape the glass, but that means reaching past the hot glass to come into it from the side, holding your arm within inches of the end of the blowing iron. They found the radiant heat from the hot glass very uncomfortable on the delicate skin of their forearms, to the extent that the tutor resorted to holding a damp wad of newspaper between their arm and the glass to shield them from the heat. I’d deliberately chosen to wear a long-sleeved tee-shirt, so although I had the sleeves pushed up most of the time as it was so hot, when I was shaping the vessels I pulled them down to cover my forearms and give a bit of protection, and that worked fine.

In fact, the only injury of any sort that any of us got was that I gave myself a bit of a fat lip through over-enthusiastic use of the blowing iron when I was trying to get a blob of molten glass to blow up like a balloon. It was worth it though – I made a “balloon” at least a foot in diameter, with walls that were about as thick as cellophane. It made a very satisfactory bang when it burst!

{ 1 } Comments

  1. pauld | 12 September 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Blacksmithing courses I did the lecturer was brilliant, like Fred Dibna, he gave a H&S lecture at start along the lines of

    “Ive got to give a talk on H&S, thats a forge, its HOT !!!, now lets get working”

    mins later were beating hell out of molten bits of metal, brilliant !!!

    … Oh and the smell of burning flesh is quite unmistakeable, you only make a mistake once 🙂