Glassmakers, as the name suggests, make glass. Also called glassblowers, their work is found in a variety of objects that we use every day—from windows to lights to computers to appliances to vehicles. They use a variety of materials to make different kinds of glass. These include silica, lime, soda, flint and lead, among others. They also use various techniques to come up with the finished product. They may use glassblowing or kiln forming to bring the glass to is desired shape and depending on the final output desired, they may also cut, grind or laminate the product.
Glassmakers can either be classified as industrial or craft glassmakers depending on the product they are expected to finish. Industrial glassmakers manufacture glass products in bulk using computerized machines and other types of technological equipment. In manufacturing of scientific and laboratory equipment, for example, glassmakers can use diamond grinding machines, computer-assisted furnaces and lasers. Of course, traditional equipment like torches and lathes still continue to be used today. Other products that industrial glassmakers use include automotive glass used in car windows and sunroofs, flat glass for office and residential windows and doors and fiberglass used to insulate homes and buildings.
Craft glassmakers, on the other hand, make handmade vases, hand-blown glassware, stained glass windows and other specialty glass products in a small-scale setting. Compared to industrial glassmaking, craft glassmaking is not as labor intensive. It is also often carried out in small studios—unlike the large factories and plants where industrial glassmakers do their work.
At work, glassmakers will see themselves mixing the ingredients to be able to form the desired glass product. They will then make the glass using various techniques and with the aid of both new and old technologies. The final stage is testing the product to ensure that it meets quality standards.
Why Become a Glassmaker
A career as a glassmaker is ideal for those who have always been fascinated by glass and the process by which they are made. It is a very fulfilling profession for those who are patient and have a keen eye for detail. This is also for the artistically-inclined. In some products, glassmakers need to put designs on the product by engraving, stenciling or grit-blasting—procedures which require artistic and not merely technical skills.
Glassmaker Work Environment
Industrial glassmakers can work in factories of industries that manufacture different types of glass products while craft glassmakers may work in studios or small offices. The work schedule is fulltime and done during regular office hours. Because of the machinery used to make glass products, glassmakers have to contend with a noisy work environment. They also have to be careful in moving about since they are exposed to combustible materials, chemicals and high voltage electricity. To minimize injuries, glassmakers have to wear protective gear like gloves, hard hats, eyeglasses and earplugs. The job is also physically demanding as it can require carrying somewhat heavy loads, standing and making repetitive motions to control tools and machines. Travel is rarely required as the work is done indoors.