Economy is typically manufactured with the intent of being Standard, however due to contamination (imperfect vacuum) or unbalanced and/or improper mix of chemicals (acidity is too high), the Dichro appears dull and is often described as burnt. Standard grade is bright, with clearly developed double-layered transmission and reflective coloration. Premium (Tri-Chro) has three layers and thus, takes more time, expertise and more expensive machines to produce. Therefore, premium colors are a little more expensive.
Chameleon Glass produces durable color changing glass that will provide multiple opportunities to observe gradual color change sequences and last a lifetime with proper care and cleaning. We have all heard the stories of the bouncing glass pipes. The pipes are made of Pyrex and are extremely strong when well annealed. Some drops are perilous and you do not get a second opportunity. However, over time, each bounce leaves residual stress that will accumulate and lead to the eventual crack or breakage. There are several commercially available cleaners (Formula 420, Orange Chronic, Dr. Green’s, and Grunge Off) available from most tobacconists and smoke related products stores that will do an excellent job cleaning your glass pipe. A note of caution, however; internally fumed pipes, typically referred to as inside out or double blown are susceptible to fume “wash out” when cleaned with a strong cleaner that includes solvents. Surface fume is melted into the glass and will not wash out, while internal fume cannot be adequately melted in due the inability to really get the flame inside the piece at a 90 degree angle for optimum melt.
If the fume is washed out, the pipe will no longer color change. Any alcohol based cleaner (more than 50% alcohol content), or cleaners that include petro-chemical based ingredients (gasoline, diesel fuel, lighter fluid to name a few) will probably wash out the internal fume. If you are unable to find a commercially based cleaner, create your own. Mix 4 parts very warm, (yet, not hot) water with one part dish detergent and one part salt. Very hot (boiling) water will cause uneven thermal expansion and will probably break your piece. This home brew will eliminate the majority (not all!) of the tobacco particulate from your pipe. If you have a stubborn area that refuses to clean up, fill the pipe with home brew cleaner and add a teaspoon of coarse grind salt, then shake vigorously. The course salt will act as a gentle abrasive and help to clean the stubborn spots. Pipe cleaners, Buddy Systemz and small nylon brushes also help to eliminate observable residue. A brief primer on ‘hard’ glass, known as brand name Pyrex, and as its scientific name borosilicate (boro) can be found on Wikipedia, which may be a good place to start depending on your familiarity with the various types of glass. This article will neither dig into the cutting edge lampworking techniques developed and utilized in the domestic pipe making industry, nor address functional advances inherent in the application of scientific glass blowing technique or materials. To appreciate the kinds of cutting edge raw materials we purchase to make the most visually expressive glass we can, I will focus this article on color, because it is the most visually attractive part of modern boro. To appreciate where we are, you first have to understand the genesis of colored/color changing glass. Artists have worked with common ‘soft’ glass for millennia because of its low melting point and permissive molecular structure that readily accepts colorants. The drawback is and has always been its relative structural strength. For self-reinforcing shapes, like vessels (dishes, vases, bottles etc.), structural strength was less important. For non self-reinforcing shapes, like those of sculptures (organic forms such as human, animal or plant) with crystalline structure ‘dead ends’ (fingertips, wings and flower petals) where the lattice abruptly ends, structural strength was more important. Borosilicate, or ‘hard’ glass, lacks valence shell electrons to give or take so it essentially bonds to itself and does not need self-reinforcing structure to create a circular bonding path. Boro is the only glass strong enough to hold up over time in sculpture. No problem, unless you actually want that glass flower sculpture to have color. There were in fact depression era boro “colors” — translucent greens and blues that occurred sporadically due to contamination in the crucible,. However, boro by its very nature (low porosity/high melting temperature) resists the addition of colorants. For almost a century, borosilicate was only available in colorless clear. While clear was acceptable for casserole dishes, artists doing sculptures pined for colored boro to add the visual pop color creates in their work.
Enter Richard Clements, a lampworker among the artists constrained by the lack of color available in boro. Richard approached the color issue differently than the glass factories. Instead of finding a way to chemically change the boro molecule to achieve color, he decided it was easier to sneak unbonded colorant in between the boro molecules (interstitially), which, since it was colorless, would cause the boro to assume the color packed in between its molecules. To avoid chemical bonding issues, he utilized oxides which also did not lend themselves to bonding, but would turn color (strike) once they were reheated during the artistic phase of the creation process. In fact, Richard created the first iteration of Chameleon Glass as far as color changing raw materials are concerned.
Northstar not only spawned a host of well known alchemists including Roger Paramour, Paul Trautman, Henry Grimmet and Momka Peavey, it is arguably one of two reasons I am sitting here writing to you today instead of churning out an endless supply of light bulbs for General Electric.