Many Missourians have long associated glass blowing with artisans who populate Silver Dollar City. Now, students at Missouri S&T can watch glass blowing – and practice it themselves – on campus.
Richard Brow, Curators’ Professor of ceramic engineering, wants the new Hot Glass Shop to be a place where students can discover connections between art and science. “We plan to use the aesthetic appeal of glass to help teach materials science,” Brow says. Missouri S&T is internationally known for glass science and materials research.
Delbert Day, CerE’58, MS CerE’60, Curators’ Professor emeritus of ceramic engineering, is one faculty member who has developed new applications for glass, including the treatment of liver cancer with tiny, radioactive glass spheres.
In 1985, Day founded Mo-Sci Corp., a world leader in glass precision technology. Recent donations from the Mo-Sci Foundation helped make the Hot Glass Shop at Missouri S&T a reality.
Missouri S&T’s shop has many of the same capabilities as the glass blowing outfits at Silver Dollar City. The glass is created by heating mixtures of sand, soda ash and limestone. The Hot Glass Shop has a crucible furnace that holds 200 pounds of molten glass at 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a blow pipe, the molten glass is pulled from the furnace and formed into different shapes.
Mary Reidmeyer, a research associate professor in Missouri S&T’s materials science and engineering department, emphasizes that you don’t have to be Louis Armstrong to blow the glass. “It only takes a couple of puffs,” she says.
As the molten glass starts to cool, its viscosity goes up and it can be shaped by rolling the blow pipe. But if you let it cool too fast, Reidmeyer cautions, the piece will lose its desired shape. “If you get it too hot or too cold, you might start with a bowl and end up with a plate,” she says.