Pioneering In Quality Glassware At Cambridge

by J. M. Hammer
Issue 32, December 1975

Then comes a tedious process in which skilled girls cover all the bowl but that part on which the encrustation is to be placed with a layer of wax. The wax is applied with a brush after which it hardens. The wax-covered bowl then goes to the acid room where the piece is immersed in an acid bath. The acid eats the printed design into the glass. In the Cambridge plant the acid-bathing facilities are ample so that there is no skimping and ample time is given for the action of the acid.

From the acid bath the bowl goes into a washing section where live steam removes the wax and the piece is cleaned thoroughly. The design now is etched in the glass. If the piece is to go out in etched design only, it is finished, but if it is to be encrusted with gold it goes to the decorating room proper. Here agile artisans cover the etched design with gold and add any other touches such as gold band or lines.

Next comes the burning in of the decoration. This is done by placing the ware in a decorating lehr. During its progress through the 90-foot tunnel the temperature advances rapidly until it reaches the stage at which the gold is amalgamated with the glass. Then it cools off slowly. This is a careful process and is in charge of a skilled workman.

From the decoration lehr, the bowl goes through another inspection and then it goes to get a final cleaning and inspection. First white sand is brushed on it, a bath in alcohol follows and then it is washed in steaming hot water. After a final polishing by hand, the bowl goes to the wrappers.

Each piece of ware from the Cambridge plant is placed in a wrapper which is marked with a stamp giving the color and size and decoration.

Stemware, including goblets, blown tumblers, sherbets, parfaits and comports, is handled by that section known as the "Byesville" department because these workers were transferred from Byesville when the plant there was closed.


Cambridge's gold encrusted ware is guaranteed. The gold will not come off and it is 22 karat in quality. Try to rub it off with sand as they do at the factory!

From the furnace room through the factory to the "taking out" end of the decorating lehr in the decorating department is a straight line of about a quarter of a mile. The ware moved steadily through the various processes from one section to another.

The Cambridge plant actually has three floors. Most of the handling is done on the main floor. The ground floor is for storage, grinding and polishing, barrel making and other accessory departments. The floor above the main floor includes storage, cutting, packing of decorated ware and the chemical glassware division.

Cambridge long has been a producer of chemical glassware, not only for the general trade but also for special requirements. The accurate marking of chemical ware such as measuring units and beakers is a fascinating work in itself. After the chemical ware comes from the annealing lehrs, it moves to the special finishing department.

However, all ware, no matter whether it be in plain colors or crystal or decorated or chemical ware, goes to one central place for packing. This packing department is a busy place. As each barrel or package is filled, the packer places his name on it along with a description of the contents. Each barrel is marked with a number and complete record of the barrel and number is kept once it enters the temporary storage which opens onto the loading platform.

In an office above the packing room but virtually overseeing it, the records of the plant are kept. This is the "order room". Into it comes the orders from the general office and this room has the responsibility and duty of seeing that the order is filled promptly and properly. The records keep watch on the movement of the ware from the time it leaves the annealing lehr until it is packed in the car or goes out as an l.c.l. shipment.

An important factor in maintaining the quality of ware is the care and repair of moulds. It is the moulds which shape the ware and the Cambridge plant has a very extensive array of moulds of every kind for both hand-blown and hand-pressed ware. Nothing is made automatically. After a mould has been used for a "turn" or a day it must be cleaned and inspected. This work is done by trained women, who carefully wipe and clean the mould, making it ready for its next tour of duty.

(Continued Next Month---Reprinted with permission of China, Glass and Tableware.)