Hand Tools of the Trade


There are a number of tools used in glass blowing. Some of these tools include the jack, the blowing pipe, the shears, the pin, the paddle, and the pliers.


The blowing pipe, or glass pipe, is the long slender tube that is used to hold the glass while it is blown and worked. They are almost always metal and can withstand the high heat of the gather, as well as the day in and day out snapping off of projects and re-heating as they go back in to start a new one. This pipe is often spun as the glass blower works to give the project even sides.

The pliers look not too unlike household pliers. They are, however, specially made for the incredible temperatures of molten glass. These are used to pinch and pull glass, sometimes pushing color around a project to create a swirling effect. They are also useful for bowls that fall in on themselves during a final spin.

The jack appears to be a tremendous pair of tweezers. This is used to poke, prod, and sculpt the glass at the end of the pipe as it’s blown. Toward the end of the project, it is common to use the jack to thin the glass between the pipe and the project. This makes it easier to pop the project off the end of the pipe.

The pin is used to suspend bubbles where desired within a project, usually solid projects like paperweights. There are some pins which are in truth, very thin pipes. These very thin pipes can then be blown into to create the bubbles rather than simply poking.

The paddle is a hardwood paddle dipped in cold water that is heat resistant. It is used to smooth rough edges while the glass is still hot and may be used to encourage other shapes as well in more advanced projects.

The shears are used to cut, break and otherwise slice glass. Shears may be used to cut color deeper into the project, then the jack or the paddle used to smooth these cuts down. Shears can also be used to pinch a project and create spirals from molten glass. Sometimes shears are used instead of breaking the project from the pipe on delicate projects such as thin-walled vases or bongs. Shears are kept incredibly sharp and are often heat resistant enough to enter the gather if needed.