How Glass Pipes are Made
Hand pipes are everyone’s favorite beginner piece. They’re nostalgic, convenient, easy to clean, and affordable; as the basic smoking device, they’ve got it pretty much all sorted out. Their simplicity makes it easy to ignore the question of how they’re made, but if you’re curious about that sort of thing the answer is more interesting than it would seem.
It takes a skilled glassblower to make a pipe that’s smooth, consistent in size, and good at encouraging strong airflow. Certainly these pieces are easier to make than a bong or a dab rig, but they still require attention to detail and a well-taught, stable hand. There are a number of ways to make a glass pipe, but here are a couple of the most popular.
Making a Plain Glass Pipe
Like with any other glass smoking piece, the process of making a glass pipe begins with a thin glass tube that is torched in the center to create a roughly 3 ½-4 inch bulbous section (depending on the intended size of the pipe) that is then pinched in the middle. The two bulbs are separated from one another with heat and a little twist so that they can be made into two separate pieces, a prudent way of saving time and materials that is perfectly emblematic of the pipe life. They are then each sealed and smoothed at the end with the addition of more heat. (Some glassblowers, of course, prefer to only make one bowl per tube since it makes for easier turning and handling to have extra glass on either side.)
The glassblower turns the piece onto a stone block that works to shape the softened glass, thinning out a section that will separate the bowl from the stem. Unlike scientific glass or dab rigs, glass pipes are usually hand-turned instead of rotated using a spinning machine called a lathe. It’s this process that gives them their generally more organic-looking appearance.
Shaping the Mouthpiece
At this point the glassblower shapes the mouthpiece of the pipe and then blows into the body to make the bowl end larger and more spherical. They must make sure to keep evenly rotating the piece in order to create a design that isn’t lopsided or of uneven thickness.
Forming the Bowl
Laying the piece flat onto a table, a metal rod is used to perform a “bowl push” which, as its name suggests, creates the space in which the dry herb is placed and lit. Immediately, the glassmaker makes sure to perforate the base of the bowl with a sharp tool in order to create a hole for the smoke to travel through. Under the heat of the torch the bowl’s carb is created, and the bottom of the bowl is then flattened in order to ensure the piece doesn’t tip over when it’s placed on the table.
Lastly the glass is annealed, a process that involves removing the heat stress that has been created on the piece during the glassblowing process. Pieces that aren’t annealed are likely to break under temperature changes—obviously not a problem you want to arise when you’re heating up a bowl right next to your face.
If you are worried about your pipe breaking, make sure to check out our PieceProtect™ Warranty Program.
Making a Decorated Glass Pipe Using the Flare Method
This process, though perhaps the most traditional, is not the only option when it comes to making a glass pipe. There’s also the inside-out flare method, a popular option for those who want to trace designs into their glass pipes and create the signature, swirl-laden spoons that we know and love.
Using this method, the bowl is created from the end of the glass tube rather than at its center, torching it and blowing through the handle to create an open-ended bulb. Using straight tweezers called jacks, the glassblower rotates the piece while straightening the walls of the bulb into a cylinder and eventually into a flared, funnel shape.
Using a precision flame, the glassmaker can then put details like squiggles into the bowl with colorful glass canes in order to give it extra character. After decoration the bowl is heated, rolled back into a cylindrical shape on a slab, and then pinched with the set of jacks until it reverts back to its original, oblong bulb. Using a blow-tube, the glassmaker shapes the pipe by heating its center, blowing into the piece, and twisting it so that it begins to form its familiar spoon shape.
Like with the other spoon production method, the glassmaker then blows into the end of the piece using the glass handle until it forms the right spherical shape for a bowl. The bowl is heated and pushed, the bottom of the pipe flattened, and the carb stamped. The handle is removed and the bowl annealed, and voila! A decorated glass bowl has been born.
Now that you know how they are made, take the next step by reading our Beginner’s Guide to Pipes.