Test Your Knowledge

(Taken from the pages of China, Glass and Decorative Accessories)
by Mark A. Nye
Issue No. 231 - July 1992

In late 1950 and early 1951, the China, Glass and Decorative Accessories trade paper ran a feature column, in several issues, entitled "Test Your Knowledge" in which was presented basic information about glass and pottery. Those portions of the features text, pertaining to glass, are reprinted here.

Do You Know That ...."

October 1950 - Cutting is a most ancient form of decorating glassware?

Most cutting of fine hand-made glassware is done freehand, the glass worker memorizing the pattern and using no sketched design?

The delicacy required by the cutting operation makes this especially suitable work for the many women engaged in glass making?

The cutting is accomplished by holding the piece with varying pressures against rapidly revolving abrasive wheels of different sizes?

The skilled men and women cutters cut designs on the glass with their wheels, as an artist draws a picture with a pencil?

The cut design is gray and lacks luster when the cutter finishes a piece?

These gray cuttings are sometimes left as they are, to give a lovely frosted effect on the glass?

For those who prefer fiery brilliance in cut glass, even the most minute lines in a cut design are polished either by buffing or with acid?

The term "Crystal" has been accepted to distinguish fine hand-made glassware from machine-made glass regardless of color?

When a cutting is polished it is called a rock crystal cutting?

November 1950 - "Not all fine hand-made glassware is blown?

Pressed glassware was invented in America and for more than a century domestic craftsmen have led the way in making it both beautiful and useful?

Each piece of hand-made pressed glassware represents a blending of highly-developed skills, including those of the designer who draws the pattern on paper, the mold-maker who reproduces it in metal and the craftsmen who mold, shape and finish the glass by hand?

Pressed glass was created in order to utilize the inherent beauty of glass in heavy pieces such as bowls, plates, compotes, cups and many other items which were impractical or impossible to create by the art of blowing?

Many examples of hand-made American pressed glassware are prized by museums as well as by everyday users?

Like hand-blown ware, pressed glass is available in open stock, the molds being kept by the glass house so that orders for replacements or additions to sets can be filled at any time?

In making pressed ware, the 'gatherer' collects a quantity of molten glass from a pot on the end of an iron rod called a pontil, or punty and lets the glass flow off it into the mold?

The mold operator judges the exact among of glass required to fill the mold, then snips off the flow with shears?

After the mold is filled a carefully hand-operated plunger forces the molten glass into every part of the mold?

After being allowed to cool a few seconds, the jointed sections of the mold are opened, and the beautifully formed piece is removed with a pair of tongs for finishing?

December 1950 - After each piece of handmade American glassware comes from the skilled hands of the blower or from a hand pressing mold, it is further perfected and shaped under heat in the craftsman's hands?

In the initial process of forming a piece of glassware it is always white-hot and frequently is reheated to just below the melting point for easy workability during the additional hand operations?

Reheating a piece of glass in a small auxiliary furnace or 'glory hole,' not only softens the glass for easy workability but the intensely hot clear flame gives extra sparkle and luster to the clarity of the glass?

The handles of handmade pitchers, the stems and feet of all stemware, handles on glass trays, knobs on glass dish covers and many other items must be added in separate operations?

To affix these handles, stems and feet, both pieces must be near the melting point to fuse together?

Failure to judge temperature accurately in this process causes handles, stems and feet to crack off at the juncture?

So consistent is the skill of glass workers that when handmade American glass does break it is rarely at the juncture where they are joined.?

January 1951 - In summing up the making of different types of American glass, it should be pointed out that pressed glass obtains unusual effects from dozens of hand operations?

For example, a piece of wood must be held against soft glass to make it flow into the desired shape?

The craftsmen who do this work are called finishers?

The finisher used paddles of apple of cherry wood to smooth the bases of glassware and remove tool marks, but skillfully manipulating the piece while holding the wooden tool against the soft glass?

'Shear marks' left on the bottoms of some hand-made pieces, such as punch bowls and pressed plates, are a sign of quality craftsmanship, in somewhat the same relationship to the glassware as an artist signing a picture?

The spout on a hand-made pitcher is formed by pressing a round piece of wood against the upper edge of the pitcher bowl while it is white hot?

Accurate symmetry of round shaped items, such as plates, the feet on stemware, and the bases of bowls is obtained by a finisher working deftly with his wooden tools as he twirls a rod holding the piece back and forth while the rod lies horizontally across the arms of a chair?

This constant, rhythmic motion of his hands must never cease until the piece is finished, or the soft glass would sag out of shape?

All finishing operations are done by eye and skill alone, with fewer than half a dozen tools which are of the same type used for centuries?

The emphasis on American glass in this feature is due to the then increasing European imports that were threatening the domestic industry. Contrary to the impression given, not all knobs and tray handles were applied during a separate operation. Some pieces had their knobs and handles included in the mold for the piece itself.