How’s it going, glassheads?
Today we’re talking about fuming—a unique glassblowing technique that instills an iridescent and reflective quality into glass.
What is Fuming?
Fuming is a glass blowing technique in which lampworkers vaporize silver, gold, or platinum in front of their flame. This releases fumes that travel up the flame and bind to the surface of the glass. Many smokers and shops refer to fumed glass pipes as “color changing” pieces, characteristic of the glass’s lustrous quality.
How does Fumed Glass change colors?
Fumed glass possesses both transmitting and reflecting colors. Transmitting colors are what you observe as light is passed through the glass. Reflecting colors are observed as light is reflected off of the fuming. This combination creates the opaque and gleaming quality fumed glass is renowned for.
If you want to view only the transmitted colors of fumed glass, place your piece in front of a white background. To visualize the reflected colors, place it in front of a black background.
Silver and Gold
Fumed glass delivers a different appearance depending on what kind of metal was used in the process. Silver fuming instills blue, purple, white and sometimes yellow hues into the glass. Gold, on the other hand, produces pink, green and orange patterns. Gold fuming also requires a higher temperature than silver to release its fumes.
Depending on the intensity of the flame, the amount of metal used, and the amount of time worked, pretty much any color in the spectrum can be achieved by fuming glass.
It’s a crime to talk about fuming without mentioning glass legend Bob Snodgrass. Widely embraced as the godfather of the modern glass industry, Snodgrass states he’s been “accused of creating a form of Americana art and being its founder,” in Slinger’s glassblowing documentary Degenerate Art: The Art and Culture of Glass Pipes.
If you haven’t checked out that documentary, we strongly recommend it! Degenerate Art provides an insider’s perspective on the history and controversy of the modern glass movement, featuring a cast of highly revered glass blowers.
Snodgrass first fired up the torch in 1971, and spent the decade honing his skills blowing basic doobie-holders and pipes. Worked glass had yet to be discovered at that point, limiting the creative potential. It wasn’t until the 80s that Snodgrass started to receive serious recognition—and it was due to an accidental discovery:
While making a pipe, a piece of silver somehow fell between Bob’s flame and his work. As the silver heated up its fumes fused to the surface of the glass, giving it an opalescent aesthetic. Snodgrass’s immediate reaction was to cringe—had he just ruined a perfectly good spoon?
As the glass cooled and started to shimmer, Bob began to realize that he stumbled upon a brand new lampworking technique. This put him on the cutting edge of the glassblowing industry and as Snodgrass started to produce more fumed pipes, his reputation grew exponentially.
Snodgrass soon started following The Grateful Dead tours, setting up shop on lots across the country. It wasn’t long before demand surged and Deadheads patrolled the lot in search for their own “Snoddy” hammers. Between summers, Snodgrass continued to develop his craft before settling down in Eugene, Oregon in 1990. There he spread his knowledge to several apprentices, turning Eugene into the glassblowing mecca it is today.
For more water pipe history check out History of the Bong.
And check out our selection of fumed glass pieces!