What is Offhand Glass Blowing?

Shannon Kietzman

Offhand glass blowing is one of two types of blowing glass, with lampworking being the other form. In this method, a bit of fused glass is accumulated at one end of a blowing iron or a blowpipe, which is a hollow steel tube. Through the use of special tools and molds, as well as blowing techniques, an artist transforms the glass into a new shape.

There are various methods to produce items with glass.
There are various methods to produce items with glass.

Lampworking is different from offhand glass blowing, because tubing and a glass rod are heated and softened with the lampworking method. Then, the softened glass is transformed into its final shape. Like the offhand method, lampworking also involves using special hand tools and blowing techniques in order to create the piece. Both practices are also concerned with gravity and the effects it has on the piece as it is being created.

Both types of glassblowing use similar tools.
Both types of glassblowing use similar tools.

When originally developed, lampworking used rods and tubes developed through offhand glass blowing. Today, special glass-drawing machines create the rods and tubes used by the lampworking glass artist. Therefore, the glass used by lampworking artists has previously been shaped. With offhand glass blowing, the glass used to create objects has never been made into a specific form. Rather, it is still a molten glob waiting to be shaped by the craftsperson.

Both types of glass blowing artists use similar tools. Nonetheless, some of the tools are different and frequently confused by the layman. For example, lampworking artists use a tool called a toche to help mix air and fuel in order to create a hotter flame for working with the glass. The toche is often also called a blowpipe, which is not the same as the blowpipe or blowing iron used by the offhand glass blowing artist to shape the glass by force of air.

Offhand glass blowing and lampworking each result in glass pieces with a distinctive look. Traditionally, lampworking was used to create test tubes and other items for use in a laboratory. The offhand method, on the other hand, was used mostly for artistic expression. Today, both forms are gaining in popularity for use in crafts and artistic creation, and they are among the fastest growing hobbies in the United States.

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Discussion Comments


Sporkasia - You are not the only person who wants to learn to blow glass. I read somewhere that glass blowing is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the United States. I like watching someone else doing the craft, but blowing glass seems dangerous for the average person.


Drentel - I agree, glass blowing is great to watch and I think it would be even better if I could do it myself. Do you know there are glass blowing books? There are also videos that offer glass blowing instruction; and, even better, in some areas you can take classes from people who have mastered the art.

I first saw someone working with blown glass when I was in grade school. There was this guy who came to our school and entertained us during an assembly. It was amazing to watch. One moment there was nothing but a couple of tools, then in a short time, he had created some item, and it was fun to guess what the item was going to be as he produced it.
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