FACT : Introduction to Borosilicate Glass

Welcome to F.A.C.T.s : our Functional Art Comprehension, which drop weekly on Thursdays. We started this in efforts to explore more of the knowledge behind the borosilicate glass industry. Insight into the background of the materials, techniques and popular artists that have created the insane waterpipes we are now seeing become more artful and finding their place in the mainstream through glass galleries and smoke shops nationwide.

Introduction to Borosilicate Glass

In the late 19th century, a German chemist by the name Otto Schott first developed borosilicate glass. This was different in that it contained a chemical called boron trioxide that has a low co-efficient for thermal expansion which basically means – it won’t crack under extreme temperature change. With its superb durability, outstanding chemical and heat resistance, boro quickly found numerous uses in many different industries. Interestingly enough, borosilicate glass was so resistant to chemicals, it is used to store nuclear waste to avoid any leakages into the container or nearby environment. From cookware in the kitchen to even coating tiles on the space shuttle, borosilicate has been a beneficial component utilized worldwide. 

Boro in the Pipe Community

In the glass art community, there has been a huge need for a quality glass waterpipe that can be both durable and classy. This is where borosilicate glass has come in handy in yet another industry! Clear boro has been a staple for many of the top glass brands including Mothership, Sovereignty, Mobius, Toro and Illadelph Glass just to name a few. 

Borosilicate pioneers and manufacturers have expanded from just clear borosilicate glass to add different metals and metal oxides to molten glass to produce the magnificent array of colors we all know and love today. Ever hear of Bob Snodgrass? He has been a remarkable innovator and teacher known widely in the glass industry that we have to thank for some seriously monumental creative movements of the glass pipe scene! But, that is another topic for another day.

Skillful glassblowers and lampworkers then mold the glass into rods, vacstacks, or even frit for other glassblowers to use in creating the glass waterpipes, pendants, and accessories we see at our favorite smoke shops. A few companies that are creating the immersive color selection top glass artists are using are Northstar Glassworks, Glass Alchemy, Trautman Art Glass and Sparkle Pants Ranch. There are even some glassblowers that are known for creating their own custom batches of color. Some examples are Shane Smith and Hatchet Glass who have worked together making some insane colors including True Blue Neon and Orangegasm. 

When it comes to the glass industry, and even more specifically the glass pipe industry, I feel like this underground culture has grown stronger and more creative since its inception. Artists gathering now not just across the country but across the globe to collaborate on ideas and pushing the boundaries of what is possible when it comes to using glass, or boro, as an art form. Whether it’s sculptural or blending your own unique color, there is so much to learn from and hopefully along the way incite a newfound sense of respect and appreciation for these one-of-a-kind pieces.



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