Glass Pipes: A Historical Review
We have all had one or two—or fifteen. Glass pipes are definitely the cleanest smoking devices. As a product of glass blowing, their roots stem way back into the first century BC. The notorious Romans, known for their hedonism, employed glass blowing techniques on an impressive scale.
Glass blowing was used to produce a number of functional containers, jewelry, and other art. The earliest glass pipes stem from the 18th and 19th centuries, but were often a rarity only seen in the most luxurious households. Glass was not used in wide scale production of pipes and water pipes until much later, the late 1970s. In fact, the very first US patent request for a glass pipe was not submitted until 1977 by glass blowers William V. Erickson, Paul K. Jarvie, and Fred L. Miller.
The glass blowing process is complex and require high intensity heat
The process of glass blowing requires great skill and patience. It requires an artisan to heat up glass to incredibly high temperatures, between 1,600 and 1,900 F°. Once the glass is hot enough to become malleable, blowers use a process known as inflation, basically a fancy term for blowing air into the molten glass to mold it into a bubble shape or other designs. Ancient and modern artisans alike used free blowing techniques to create amazing pieces of glass artistry. This is where an artisan uses a blowpipe without a mold to generate custom, one-of-a-kind designs that are truly awe inspiring. There is also mold blowing, which uses molds to blow the glass into more specified and pre-determined shapes, causing a heightened level of consistency in the fabrication of glass designs. This is typically the method for more mass produced glass pipes and bongs, you know the cheap ones we used to spend our lunch money on in high school. The beautiful swirls of color you commonly see in high quality glass pipes today are generated through rolling molten glass in wither a colored powder pigment or with larger glass shards, also known as frit. To complicate designs even further with the addition of swirls and other details, artists will often use prefabricated rods of colored glass materials.
The Glass Blowing Industry of today
The industry today has taken on a lot of the artisan feel that was left behind in the 19th century. Yes, there are still those mass produced options you can get at your local smoke shop for under $10, but many glass blowers consider their work art. In recent years, the industry has seen a huge influx of craftsmanship, with blowers taking their skills to whole new heights. New techniques are being experimented with to increase width and durability of the glass used in some of the top name brand water pipes. The use of Pyrex and oxide additives has strengthened the durability of glass smoking devices. Haven’t you seen that video of the Hurricane bong? Designers used geometry and innovative glass production techniques to create a glass bong that is extremely resilient, even standing up to being thrown across a room! Artisan blowers now produce amazing works of glass art, with intricate designs that take hours and hours in front of a hot furnace. Clearly, today’s glass water pipes are no longer the ones you would through out the car window when you see those flashing lights behind your car. Rather, many are true works of art worth fighting a case over. Glass bongs, bubblers, dabbing rigs, and pipes now go for thousands of dollars and are almost too beautiful to put to use—almost.