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Glassblowing

Laserbuilder

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Does anybody have any experience in the art of glassblowing?

I have a fellow glassblower, who can make neon sign tubes and custom gas discharge lamps for spectroscopic research. Also he refurbished several gas lasers for me. I cannot ask him forever to do something for me, so I asked to gradually teach me this discipline, because in the future I want to make my own gas laser tubes especially CuBr ones.

I had the first lesson yesterday and several efforts to make the simplest operations became lucky, here are the results at the pictures. A couple of vials made of dead fluorescent lamps, a joint of two relatively wide pyrex tubes, a couple of randomly bent tubes with some random T-joints. The ugly bents in the middle of the tube are the first ones, at the ends -- better ones, when I learnt how to make them in the right way.

I did not take home the big randomly bent tube for neon lighting and a dephlegmator made by my own, because they were too big and fragile, I'll show them next time.
 

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diachi

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That's awesome! I've wanted to learn glass blowing for years, just so that I can make plasma tubes for various gas lasers (Always fancied having a go at HeSe). Looks like you're off to a good start, looking forward to seeing more. :)
 

BowtieGuy

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Agreed, this would be a very awesome art to learn; it looks as if you're a quick learner too, those last bends are looking real good!
Keep us up to date with photos as your skills progress.
:gj:
 

Cyparagon

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I'd recommend this youtube channel for anyone interested in electric glass work. He does radio refurbishment, and he has made custom nixie tubes, vacuum tubes, mercury arc rectifiers, xray tubes, and more... all from scratch, and documents the process from start to finish. No laser tubes that I remember, but I'm sure a lot of the theory and processes are similar.

https://www.youtube.com/user/glasslinger/videos
 

paul1598419

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I did some glass blowing back in the 60s and again in a chemistry class in college in the early 70s. It gets easier the longer you do it, but these do look like first attempts. Keep it up because, just like anything else, the longer you do it the better you become. :D
 

Benm

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I guess it's one of these things that takes a lot of practise to make perfect.

I can do some very basic work, but making joints and such in hollow tubes is just not that easy. At university we actually had someone that crafted glassware for chemistry and that really is an art.
 

hakzaw1

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IMHO making torture tubes for LUMIA is not quite the same as what real glass blowers do..
much harder for sure.
I heat and re-shape small bottles- with Map Gas- its easy in comparison.
I have a friend who is a pro==
he let me make a mug one day.-- very hot work and far from easy.

hk
 

Benm

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I guess it depends on what you are trying to make really.

Making glass hardware for lab use really is difficult, it also involves a different type of glass than you find it typical bottles and such - which makes it easier in some aspects but harder in others.

I've made some decorative glass objects like earrings in the distant past, which was not that hard to do at all. Those were solid pieces though, often with mixed coloured glass, but far easier to make than hollow things like glassware for chemistry.

I'd reckon making things like mugs, bottles or plates is actually quite difficult to do by hand and mouth, but most of those are now factory made at cheap prices so there is little need to do it.
 

10fenny

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I blew glass for about 13 years.. that was like 6 years ago.. still got my kiln and torch.. just no place to set up. I made everything from vases bowls sculptures "tobacco pipes".. good times.. but yea heating and distorting tubes isn't exactly glassblowing
 

Benm

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It's a different thing indeed, i guess 'proper' glass blowing starts from a mass of molten glass that you then shape into whatever it needs to become.

The sort of glasswork used for lab equipment usually takes preformed things like hollow tubes and joins those in the desired pattern, merges ground-glass joins onto things and stuff like that. It's also different glass: usually borosilicate type that is less sensitive to thermal shock in practical use, but possibly not easier to work with when constructing equipment.
 

paul1598419

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The glassware we used in organic chemistry was always very expensive. Even a separatory flask was insanely expensive, not to mention a distillation coil, or a three bottom round flask. Whenever someone caused that sound of breaking glass in lab, it always got everyone's attention.
 

10fenny

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Soft glass you typically pull liquid glass from a massive oven. Pyrex aka borosilicate glass you start with tubing and rods. Pyrex is used for scientific and cooking for it has a low coefficient of expansion when heated so it's less prone to thermal cracking. You can make pretty much any thing out of either one
 

Laserbuilder

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I noticed that pyrex and quartz glass are the easiest in processing because of high melting temperature. Quartz is the easiest -- you can heat it locally without the risk of cracking, it looks like metal welding. Pyrex is a bit harder, but much easier than soft glass, which cracks willingly.
 

Benm

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Lab equipment is almost always made from borosilicate glass (pyrex brand or otherwise) due to frequent thermal shock to most glassware with 'normal lab use'. This is really a requirement in chemistry as sometimes you need to rapidly slow a reaction by, for example, lowering a boiling hot round bottom flask into an ice bath.

Stuff like soda-lime glass used for drinking glasses does not cope with that well and could shatter, exposing the contents of the flask to the water in the bath, which for certain reactions would be extremely dangerous.

As for expensive: compared to household cookware it certainly is. Compared to other equipment used in a typical chemical lab it's not that expensive though. Surely a nice condensor could cost $200 or so, but compared to the machines used for analysis that's really neglible.

A good NMR will cost over a million dollars, possibly closer to 10, and that's just the purchase cost of the instrument, keeping it refilled with liquid helium and nitrogen isn't exactly free either.

Realistically your analytical equipment has an operating costs of thousands per day, so intentionally risking breaking a $200 piece of glassware to get results in faster could be economically viable if time on the instrument is available.

Some labs really push it though and go as far as cleaning a re-using stuff like glass counting vials. Purchasing a new box full of the things is cheaper than wasting 10 minutes of instrument time waiting for them to dry on many occasions.
 

paul1598419

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We never bothered to clean glass vials as they came in lots of a hundred or more. I've spent much time using the NMR or the GC-mass spec. I spent as much time doing that as i did producing stuff in lab. I'm glad I did, though. You can't really learn how to use that equipment properly and interpreting the results without doing it many hours.
 

Benm

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Yeah, i meant cleaning out the counting vials that come in lots of 100 or 144, some labs have so little funding that they re-use those things (not the best idea really, you can clean the vial but the seal in the cap is problematic with repeated use).

I've done both analytical and synthetic chemistry, using some pretty cool glassware.

Handmade things like soxhlet extractors are quite amazing pieces of work.

These things must be really hard to make - i've never gone beyond making a T-joint using glass pipette rods. Even getting a proper 90 degree bend in those without collapsing the walls is pretty difficult using nothing more than a bunsen burner ;)
 




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