| 31st July 2020
Carl Nordbruch, our glassblower for the last 20 years is now blowing glass at Wilkinson's new glasshouse in Sittingbourne, Kent.
Carl has over 30 years experience in the glass industry. He started his career at the Isle of White glass in 1987, Carl went on to teach as a technical demonstrator at Wolverhampton University. Within a couple of years he decided to study for a masters degree at the Royal College of Art London, following on from this he began to blow glass at his own premises and for a short period working with Neil Wilkin before he then opened 'The Glassblowers' on the Isle of White'. Throughout Carl's career he has been involved in many various solo and joint exhibitions and private and national collections including the V&A. We are very excited to have him and his colleague Peter here with us and to continue to have all of the wonderful hand blown glass they produce for our chandeliers, fittings, reproductions and repairs.
The building of the furnace began in early May, starting with a steel paller to build the furnace ontop of. They then built up the 800 insulating bricks and cast the floor, walls, openings and roof, finishing with the last 50mm of outer insulation and steel frame.The whole thing will weigh about two and a half tonnes when it is finished. The crucible pot that holds 250 kilos of molten lead crystal weighs 165 kilos on its own. New gas pipes were fitted to power the gas burner which will heat the furnace up to 1140 degrees centigrade. On 21st July, after many months of waiting, the gas was connected. It took a week for the glass to get up to the required temperature and then finally Carl was then able to blow our first pieces of glass with his skilful assistant Peter.
The series of images show the process which is used to make a large bell shaped lantern. Starting with the glass melting in the furnace, here it is about 800C and you can see the molten glass inside. When it up to 1140C the glass and the inside of the furnace are white hot and very difficult to see. Carl and Peter gather a blob of the molten glass onto the blowing iron, they roll it and shape it and then dip it back in the furnace to gather more glass. After three gathers they are ready to start blowing, now the blob of glass weighs about 18 kilos!
Carl blows the molten glass blob into a ball shape. Peter helps using the rest which sits on a track to move the work into and out of the glory hole. The glory hole is 1300C inside and softens the glass again to allow it to be blown a bit bigger each time. They must constantly turn the iron so the glass keeps its shape. When the piece is big enough to start shaping, Carl forms a hole in the end and using tongs and with many trips into the glory hole, he continually works on the piece to get it to the desired shape.
Once finished it is snapped off the end of the iron into a big tray of vermiculite granules, a sort of fireproof sawdust. Peter then dons the fireproof coat, hood and gloves, (it is still over 400C) and carries the lantern and places it in the lehr. The lehr keeps the glass hot until the end of the day and then cools down slowly over a couple of days to "anneal" the glass.
A challenging piece and it took Carl & Peter an hour and a half to make.