Thursday, April 23, 2015

How It's Made: Historic Cut Glass

By Gretchen Sawatzki

From 1890 to 1915 the United States manufactured brilliant cut glass at the highest quality rivaling the European glass companies of the era. Cut glass required precision and immense skill.
Glass was manufactured from a mixture of silica, potash, and lead-oxide melted at temperatures exceeding 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. Craftsman would stir the molten mixture into a large metal pot creating a ball. The molten ball was then blown into a long hollow slab that was rolled onto a metal plate called a "marver" to cool. After nine days of cooling a glass blank was ready to be cut for decoration.
"Roughers"cutting glass blanks on a wheel.
Image source
Cutting the Glass:

When the time came to make the precision cuts that comprise a brilliant cut design, a craftsman would start with a blank. A designer would outline the decorative patterns onto the blank and would send the blank to the "rougher" who would cut the rough design on a beveled metal wheel kept moist and cool with a wet sand mixture making blind cuts and feeling for the proper depth. After a rough cut, the piece would go the "smoother" and be moved over a stone wheel. After smoothing the piece would be polished on a wood wheel made of softwoods or pumice to make the cut glass luster!

Sources:
American Cut Glass Association
Brilliantglass.com
Corning Museum of Glass
Libbeyhistory.com

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