Those with an interest in blowing glass have two main options.
Traditional, or offhand, glass blowing involves melting a batch of glass in a large furnace, gathering molten glass on a blowpipe, shaping and blowing the glass, and slowly cooling it in an annealer.
Lampworking is much like offhand glass blowing but on a smaller scale.
A basic lampworking station can be assembled in your home or garage allowing you to create small glass items such as beads, marbles, trinkets, and figurines.
Is glass blowing expensive? Glass blowing can be an expensive hobby, but nearly all startup costs, including class prices, of a similar craft known as lampworking are much less expensive than offhand glass blowing. A very basic lampworking setup can be obtained for under $1,000.
There are several ways that you can get started with glass blowing, and each option has different associated costs.
Let’s take an honest look at the costs of the most popular ways to dive into the hobby so that you can choose which one is right for you.
How Much Does Offhand Glass Blowing Cost?
Offhand glass blowing is what most people envision when glass blowing is mentioned.
A gaffer (the person working the glass) gathers a glob of glowing orange molten glass with a long tube called a blowpipe and blows to expand the glass.
Of course, other equipment and tools, such as a bench, marver, punty, and various blocks, are used when forming the glass, but the act of blowing is when the true magic seems to take place.
Offhand glass blowing isn’t exactly something you can head out into your backyard on a whim to try.
Furnaces and other equipment are required, but there are several options that will enable you to learn this ancient, fascinating art.
Cost of Glass Blowing Classes
Taking structured, formal lessons is the best option for traditional, offhand glass blowing if you are a beginner with no experience.
Be aware that the prices of glass-blowing classes can vary greatly but generally average between $50 and $80 per hour.
That may seem a bit pricey, but when you consider the invaluable knowledge and experience that you’ll acquire, the cost is justified.
Glass-blowing experts will show you all of the basic techniques, educate you on how to safely work with molten glass, and provide you with hands-on experience.
Benefits of taking classes include:
- Experts will demonstrate proper techniques.
- Your questions will be answered by professionals.
- All the necessary equipment is provided.
- Your choice of one-on-one lessons, group classes, or workshops (for most studios).
- Guided instruction while you receive hands-on experience.
- Most facilities will allow you to rent studio time for solo practice after you have completed a certain number of classes.
- Much more affordable than setting up your own glass-blowing shop.
Take a look at actual costs of classes from real studios across the country for a general idea of pricing.
|Luke Adams Glass Blowing Studio||Norwood, MA||3 hours||$195|
|The Furnace||Lakewood, CO||3 hours||$210|
|Corning Museum of Glass||Corning, NY||3 days||$440|
Once you have completed a certain number of classes, many facilities will allow you to rent studio time for solo practice. For example, The Furnace rents out stations in their studio for $35 per hour per station.
Another option is to contact colleges in your area to inquire whether or not they offer classes or workshops to the general public.
Collegexpress provides a list of schools that offer glass-blowing programs of study if you’re interested in going this route.
Cost of Setting Up Your Own Offhand Glass-Blowing Studio
Constructing your own studio for glass blowing can be very expensive.
Renting a studio space could easily cost several thousand dollars per month, and building a shop at your residence would entail a large up-front expense.
The necessary furnaces, ventilation equipment, various tools, fuel, licenses, and permits could set you back more than $25,000, especially if you purchase new equipment.
Buying used equipment would certainly reduce the costs, but for most hobby glass blowers, setting up a private shop is simply not feasible.
It can be done, but there is a lot of expense and red tape to work through.
If you’re still interested in this option, I explain more about glass blowing at home here.
How Much Does Lampworking Cost?
Considered by many to be a more modern form of glass blowing, evidence suggests that lampworking has actually been practiced since the fifth century B.C.
Lampworking differs from offhand glass blowing in that instead of several furnaces, a single high-temperature torch is used to heat glass rods and tubes until they become pliable and able to be worked.
The advantages of learning lampworking include:
- Can be practiced in a small space, such as a spare room in your home, a basement, or a garage.
- Setting up a home-based lampworking area is much less expensive than for offhand glass blowing.
- No big furnaces to heat, so no long wait time for the glass to melt.
- Building a separate shed or renting a studio is not necessary.
- Elements of offhand glass blowing, such as the actual blowing, can be incorporated into many projects.
- A wide variety of small objects, such as beads, jewelry, and ornaments, can be made.
Cost of Lampworking Classes
Generally, lampworking classes are less expensive than glass-blowing classes due to the smaller equipment and workspace required.
You can expect to pay around $20 – $70 per hour for lampworking lessons. Here are some examples of actual class costs.
|The Furnace||Lakewood, CO||3 hours||$210|
|Diablo Glass School||Boston, MA||2 hours||$100|
|SW Artglass||Phoenix, AZ||3 hours||$50|
|Carlisle School of Glass Art||Millville, NJ||2 hours||$50|
As with glass-blowing studios, many lampworking facilities will rent out workspace to you once you’ve demonstrated mastery of basic techniques.
Some shops will include the use of their equipment, while others will require you to bring your own.
Cost of Setting Up Your Own Lampworking Workspace
For most glass-blowing hobbyists, creating a lampworking area in your home is the only affordable option for long-term, independent glass-blowing work.
One way to get started is to purchase a starter kit complete with a torch, glass rods, mandrels, marvers, and assorted tools.
Depending on the kit, they can run anywhere from less than $100 to more than $600.
Most people, however, prefer to purchase their equipment individually.
A torch is absolutely necessary for lampworking.
Although torches that burn both fuel and oxygen will burn hotter and therefore will increase your work speed and the variety of possible projects, they may be a bit much for a beginner.
Some deluxe models sell for over $4,000, but smaller models can be found for under $200.
For those new to lampwork, a hot head torch, like the Bernzomatic TS8000, can typically be purchased for less than $100 and will be sufficient while you gain experience.
Needless to say, replacement fuel (and oxygen) for the torch will be an ongoing expense which will vary according to how much you use and what type you choose.
Clear tubes of 8-millimeter diameter usually run around $1 each, but colored tubes are typically slightly more.
Again, the expense here will depend on how much you use and the type of glass (soft, COE 104 or hard, COE 33) you select.
Kiln or Cooling Material
Either a glass or pottery kiln (programmable) should be used to relieve internal stresses and slowly cool your glass, but you may not want to purchase one right away.
Kilns can range from a few hundred dollars to well into the thousands, but for small, beginner projects, you can usually get by using either vermiculite or a ceramic fiber blanket to surround the glass and slow the cooling process.
Be aware that insulating materials such as these will only slow the cooling time; they won’t anneal the glass, and it will be prone to breakage.
You won’t need a huge assortment of tools until you’re ready to branch out your skills, but in the beginning, you’ll want at least a few mandrels, a marver, tweezers or pliers, and eye protection.
Excluding the safety glasses, plan on spending around $20 per tool.