How Bubblers are Made
Rising from relative novelty and obscurity, bubblers are becoming the hottest thing on the smoking market these days. Bubblers were even featured on our Best Pipes of 2018. They provide a portable way to get a pipe-sized hit with bong-style filtration. They come in multiple styles, such as hammer bubblers, and have set the new standard for quality in low-key water pipes. With this new garnered fame obviously people are asking themselves, “How are bubblers made?”
Making the Neck
One of the most common designs for this kind of pipe, hammer bubblers are, as their name suggests, shaped like hammers or gavels. They stay upright by leaning back on their mouthpiece, and because of this balancing act a properly shaped hammer bubbler requires quite a bit of finesse on the part of the glassblower.
Like many other glass pieces, a hammer bubbler starts out as an inconspicuous glass pipe. The glassmaker uses a torch to singe closed one end of the rod and creates a starting point for the stem of the piece.
Glassmakers rotate the resulting bulb evenly under the flame by attaching the closed-off end to a thin glass tube that acts as a holder and helps them direct where the flame goes more accurately. These handles are attached and knocked off throughout the process to allow glassmakers to work on different parts of the bubbler.
The flame is put over the center of the glass bulb, similar to the way it would be when making a glass pipe. This is done to narrow the mouthpiece and differentiate it from the rest of the stem. The piece is stretched and pulled until it reaches the preferred length and thickness. A blow-tube is connected to the bubbler’s mouthpiece, allowing the glassblower to force air into the stem to shape and size it.
The glassblower punctures a hole at this spherical end with a pair of jacks, which are like heavy-duty tweezers. They then snip excess glass off of the end of the stem in order to ensure that the piece has a flat edge to attach to the body of the hammer bubbler, it’s “can.”
Making the Body
The body is made from a larger glass pipe than the neck. One end, destined to be the bubbler’s bowl, is closed off and connected to a handle before the other end, which will become the can’s bottom, is melted down to size and then also closed off. The glassblower blows into the bowl end to enlarge the base of the can, which is then rolled around on a stone slab until it achieves the right shape (straight-down, wider at the bottom, and so on). The Multi-Color Fritted Bubbler w/ Front Carb is a perfect example.
With a handle attached to the bottom of the can, the glassblower is able to use gravity to stretch out the size and shape of their can until it reaches the height they prefer. The bowl end is blown into and made spherical before being punctured on the side to create the bubbler’s carb hole.
Making the Bowl
The bowl is formed through a “bowl push,” where the glassblower pushes into the heated bubble with a metal tool that shapes the glass into the right proportions to hold dry herbs. This is either done before or after attaching the downstem, a small, diffused piece of glass that acts as the connector between the bowl and the bubbler’s water filled base. The downstem is connected to the body of the bubbler using a mini-torch.
A hole is created on the back side of the body to connect the base with the neck. The two pieces are torched together to form an airtight, bubble-free seal. The handle that remains attached to the mouthpiece is transformed into a supporting “bridge,” which is bent around into a temporary reinforcing structure that helps the glassblower double back on any glass joints that need to be re-sealed with a flame. The bridge is then snipped off and the bottom of the bubbler reshaped into a sphere before being flattened at the right angle to support itself on a table.
Once the mouthpiece is shaped, the carb opened, and all extra glass handles removed, the bubbler is annealed to help relieve the heat stress placed on the glass during the production process. This ensures that the piece won’t break under a temperature change, obviously an important step in finishing up a smoking piece.
For a refresher course on not just bubblers but all kinds of hand pipes, read our Beginner’s Guide to Pipes.
If you like learning about how certain glass is made, check out our other walkthroughs including: