How glass pipes are made
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- The basics
- Machine-made vs. hand-made artisan glass pipes
- Adding color and design
- Other types of glass pipes
Glass pipes are a long-time mainstay in the cannabis community used by generations of consumers. There are several reasons why many cannabis smokers prefer to use glass pieces over pipes made from other materials:
- Glass is an inert substance, which means it won’t leach any flavors or smells into the smoke — glass lets you experience only the smells and flavors of your weed.
- In general, glass withstands temperature changes well, making it perfectly suited for sparking up and smoking weed.
- When smoking out of a glass pipe, the piece won’t get too hot to handle.
- Many weed smokers like the stylistic flare imbued in glass weed pipes, which designers decorate with a huge range of colors, designs, shapes, and sizes.
- Glass can be crafted into a variety of different types of pipes, including classic spoon pipes, bubblers, chillums, and more complex pieces like bongs and dab rigs.
Cannabis glass hand pipes remain among the most popular and frequently used weed accessories. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Even as the cannabis market expands and new products are introduced, cannabis glass hand pipes remain among the most popular and frequently used weed accessories. Read on to learnere’s how they’re made.
The process through which cannabis glass hand pipes are made relies heavily on traditional glass blowing techniques.
The glass blower starts by adding heat to a tube of glass. Right off the bat, the glass blower can proceed one of two routes. They can either use the tube to create one weed pipe or they can heat the tube and break it in half to form two smaller weed pipes.
The glass blower starts by adding heat to a tube of glass. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
In the case of a single pipe a glass blower generally begins by completing what many blowers call the “neck stretch.” In this step, the glass blower applies heat to expand the glass into a fat cylinder. As it expands, the glass blower gently spins and stretches the glass to create the main neck of the pipe.
The glass blower applies heat to expand the glass into a fat cylinder. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
When the glass blower is happy with the length and size of the pipe neck, it’s time to create the bowl. They do this by applying the torch directly to the end of the neck while simultaneously blowing into the cool end of the glass tube to create a bulb at the hot end. As they blow into the glass, the artist continually turns the glass to maintain an even shape.
To create the bowl, the artist applies the torch directly to the end of the neck while simultaneously blowing into the cool end of the glass tube to create a bulb at the hot end. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Once the bowl has been shaped, the glass blower uses a rod to gently press down in the center of the bulb. This step is called the “bowl push” and it’s what creates the depression in which smokers pack their herb.
The glass blower uses a tool to punch one hole in the bottom of the bowl for the mouthpiece and punches another on the side of the bowl for the carb hole. After, the artist places the bowl on a flat surface and gently presses down, giving the bowl a flat bottom so it doesn’t tip over when in use.
At this point, the final step is to shape the mouthpiece and then break the entire pipe off of the initial glass tubing. The artist smooths out the mouthpiece, eliminating any irregularities or sharp edges.
If a glass blower wants to make two pipes out of their initial tube of glass, the process is basically the same. The only difference comes at the very beginning, when the blower first applies heat to expand the tube of glass. If the artist is making two pipes, they will start by forming two stretched-out bulbs in the center of their tubing. The artist carefully snaps the tubing into two pieces once both bulbs are hot.
The bulbous ends become the necks of each pipe and the glass blower proceeds through the rest of the steps: forming the bowl, completing the bowl push, punching out the necessary holes, and forming the mouth piece.
Machine-made vs. hand-made artisan glass pipes
Today’s glass market is generally broken down between machine-made, mass-produced glass and hand-made artisan glass.
The process of making cannabis glass hand pipes by machine is much the same as the process for making glass weed pipes by hand, except the process is automated. Essentially, automated machines mass-produce glass weed pipes by applying heat to a tube of glass as it’s spun and maneuvered by another set of machines to create the desired shape and size.
Adding color and design
Style is big in the world of glass weed pipes, both in terms of the shape of the pipe and the colors used in the glass.
Style is big in the world of glass weed pipes, both in terms of the shape of the pipe and the colors used in the glass. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
To create a uniquely-shaped piece of glass, glass artists follow the main process outlined above with the added step of molding or shaping the glass. Unique shapes are created while the glass is still hot through a combination of spinning the glass to retain a smooth cylindrical shape and strategically blowing through the cool end of the tubing to create the desired shape and size.
Additionally, glass blowers employ multiple methods to add colors to their pieces. Some artists use heat to melt flecks of pigment into the initial glass tubing as they shape and complete the pipe.
Alternatively, artists perform what’s called “fuming,” a process in which the artist vaporizes some sort of metal — often silver, gold, platinum, or another safe metal — into the main tube of glass. This process adds layers of metal to the inside of the glass and creates streaks and swirls inside the finished pipe.
Fuming is how glass blowers create “color-changing” pipes. As you smoke out of one of these pipes, the tars and resin from your weed smoke develop a dark-colored buildup inside the pipe, which provide dark background against which these streaks of color become increasingly visible.
Along with adding color to the glass, artists can also etch designs into the surface of the glass while it’s hot or create other designs by adding molten glass to the outside of the pipe and molding them into specific shapes.
Other types of glass pipes
This guide focuses primarily on the classic spoon pipe because the techniques used to make this type of glass weed pipe are the same foundational techniques used to create many other types of glass smoking pipes.
In addition to spoon pipes, glass blowers or automated glass factories make:
- Chillums – These glass pieces are similar to spoon pipes, but they do not include a bulbous bowl on one end.
- Steamrollers – Essentially giant chillums, these are made by creating an especially fat tube capable of holding tons of smoke at once.
- Bubblers – A spoon pipe with an additional water chamber blown into the glass to hold water, giving the resulting smoke some water filtration.
- Bongs – Bongs reside in a universe of their own, with bongs of all shapes, sizes, colors, and complexity. Despite their variety, bongs are all made with the same fundamental techniques of heating tubes of glass and spinning, stretching, molding, shaping, and blowing the glass while it’s hot and malleable to obtain the desired size, shape, and design.
How glass pipes are made Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents The basics Machine-made vs. hand-made artisan glass pipes Adding color and
Bongs and Water Pipes 101: How Are They Made?
Saturday August 15, 2020
W hatever your preferred way of smoking cannabis, from a dry herb vape to a heady dab hit, there’s a special place in nearly every cannabis fan’s heart for a nice bong rip. The familiar aquarium sound of the percolation, that deep rip of tasty smoke, the long sighing exhale of a full lungful of smoke is an experience that can’t be matched by any other method. Maybe that’s why the unmistakable sample of a deep bong rips has made its way onto so many albums, from Cyprus Hill’s Black Sunday to the Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique. Bongs can be an irreplaceable piece in every serious pot smoker’s collection, and some are works of pure art.
An elaborate showroom piece of intricate blown glass can really tie a room together, and turns heads every time it is brought out for a relaxing sesh. However, as you look over any bong – whether a stunning, vibrant centerpiece or a plain, functional glass water pipe that gets the job done – it is worth asking: how are they made?
How are Bongs Made?
While modern bongs come in many different materials, from acrylic to silicone, for now we’ll stick with the most common type of bong, which is made out of borosilicate glass.
A glass bong begins, like all glass products, as a combination of sand, sodium carbonate, and lime that’s been heated into a malleable liquid that resembles a thick syrup. This liquid will then be shaped by a glass blower through a series of steps into the classic bong shape that we all know and love.
Step 1 – The Water Chamber
The first step in making a bong is to form the water chamber, which is the base from which all other parts of the bong are connected. The water chamber begins as a long thin tube of glass, which the glass blower then heats with a blowtorch or other heating source.
Heating the glass tube expands it into a larger cylinder that can be further shaped with the right tools.
Next, the glass blower inserts a hollow steel pipe known as a blow pipe into the cylinder and starts carefully blowing air into the hot glass. This is what creates the bubble at the bottom of the water chamber that gives a bong its well-known appearance. The glass blower has to keep turning the glass tubing while blowing to make sure that the bubble doesn’t become lopsided.
Once the water chamber’s bubble reaches the glass blower’s preferred shape or width, they then use a special tool to punch a hole in the bubble where the down-stem will go. This is also where the bowl will slide into once the bong is finished.
Step 2- The Neck
Once the water chamber is formed, the glass blower must form the neck of the bong. This is done by again heating the glass tubing above the water chamber with a blowtorch or other heat source. As this part of the glass tube begins expanding, the glass blower keeps turning the piece to make sure the neck remains evenly cylindrical and vertically straight. Sometimes the glass blower will use a lathe to rotate the cylinder to keep it from getting lopsided, which would make the bong unsellable. Eventually, the cylinder becomes both long and wide enough to work as the neck of the bong, where the mouthpiece will go.
Step 3 – The Mouthpiece
With the neck and water chamber formed, the glass blower’s next task is to form the mouthpiece at the top of the neck. Using either a blowtorch or another heat source, the glass blower softens up the glass in order to separate the bong’s neck from the remaining glass tubing at the preferred length.
Once the neck is separated from that original tubing, the glass blower keeps turning the still malleable piece while smoothing and rounding the top lip of the neck into a mouth piece using special tools. This is done carefully to make certain there are no sharp edges or uncomfortable ridges for the bong’s eventual owner.
Step 4 – The Bowl and Down-Stem
Because the bowl and down-stem are separate pieces from the bong’s body, these pieces must be made before or after the water chamber and neck are completed. Using the same basic glass blowing techniques, these pieces are similarly formed from glass tubes that are heated, turned, blown into, and tool-shaped until the down-stem and bowl are the right size and shape to fit into the hole punched into the bong’s water chamber in step one. The down-stem must fit snugly into the hole, and the bowl must fit snugly into the down-stem while still being able to be slid in and out easily to clear the water chamber and reload the bowl.
Other Considerations for Making a Bong
Of course, this is the basic way a glass blower (or a machine) creates a bong. There are plenty of other ways that glass blowers make their bongs unique and the centerpieces that they sometimes are. If your bong has those brilliant streaks of color, this is done by glass blowers melting chunks of colored glass or other pigments into the mix. Once these additives are melted, the glass blower can expand, stretch, and pull these flecks of color into different patterns, swirls, and lines.
Another way of adding color to the glass is to “fume” it. In this technique, glass blowers vaporize metals like gold, platinum, or silver before injecting that vapor into the glass tubing.
Fuming the tube coats the inside of the glass with metal. Once the glass blower begins expanding and stretching the cylinder into the water chamber and neck, the metal warps and transforms into vibrant streaks of color.
The glass blower might also add a percolator, ice catcher, or other extra to make the bong even more enjoyable to use. So the next time you’re sparking up the bowl on your bong – ready to percolate a deep, tasty lungful of smoke – take a moment to take in the craftsmanship that went into it. Any bong, whether simple or elaborate, is worth a moment of appreciation.
Do you enjoy taking bong rips? Share your favorite bong types and experiences in the comments below
Whatever your preferred way of smoking, there’s a special place in nearly every cannabis fan’s heart for a nice bong rip. As you look over any bong – whether a stunning, vibrant centerpiece or a plain, functional glass water pipe that gets the job done – it is worth asking: how are they made?