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What is Fuming or Color Changing Glass?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve no doubt seen fuming glass pieces in action a time or two. These multicolored pipes and bongs seem to undergo a dramatic transformation like a chameleon when fumes pass through it.
Those pipes and bongs made from fuming glass, also known simply as colour-changing glass, rank among the most visually impressive way to toke up, impressing both amateurs and seasoned smokers alike.
Fumed glass can make something as mundane and regular as smoking seem a lot more appealing. Just think, you light up, and suddenly you have a cloud of smoke transforming your pipe from the inside out, transforming the glass into bright colors and abstract designs.
And it keeps you guessing all the time. As the level of temperature rises and wanes throughout the glass, so does the color.
What color would the pipe transmit when held against the light? What about when it’s held against a dark background? With a different strain of marijuana? With CBD oil? With concentrate? When you swap out torches?
There’s always an unexplored possibility waiting to happen. However, a lot of first-time buyers are mistaken into thinking that the glass changes color permanently. Sorry to disappoint you folks. It doesn’t.
Fuming glass utilizes a very fine layer of metal that creates the illusion of color change with heat, but does not actually alter the glass itself.
Here’s the lowdown on fumed glass for newbies.
Like the best of things that just ‘happened’ rather than being ‘discovered’, fumed glass was accidentally created by the legendary Bob Snodgrass.
Old Bob was working on a spoon in his studio when a piece of silver accidentally fell in between his flame and the work piece. Almost instantly, the metal was vaporized and fused on to the glass surface.
Bob cringed. He thought that he’d just ruined a work piece that he’d spent hours creating by hand. But when the glass cooled and the light started to reflect off the surface, he realized that it looked stunning. Unlike anything that he’d seen before.
And with it, was born the fuming technique that would take the industry by storm in the coming years.
The Science Behind the Art
Haven’t you always wondered how the colour-changing illusion works?
Artisans use small pieces of metal and heat it until it vaporizes (fumes) and fuses on to the surface of the glass piece. Think of it like a fine coating of metal on the glass surface which gives it the iridescent look.
When you smoke marijuana or tobacco, oil and resin are released, which gets carried with the smoke and smear this fumed metal layer, forming a coating.
When this coating builds up over time, it prevents light from passing through the glass.
Light gets reflected and passes through the fumed layer instead, creating distinct shades and hues when viewed from different angles.
Different metals produce different colors and with the advancement of technology, artisans are stretching the boundaries of glass fuming. There’s an entire bouquet of colors on display these days.
Commonly Used Metals and Colors
In the early days of fuming, artisans experimented with a variety of metals and temperatures to fume.
But it was soon discovered that most of them released toxic gasses when heated, rendering them too dangerous to use. Some metals were extremely difficult to stick on the surface of the glass and would get absorbed in it. Others had ridiculously high vaporizing temperatures making them unsafe for use. Turns out, it all boiled down to the use of three to four primary metals which are commonly used for fuming.
Silver: One of the commonest metals used for fuming. Is inexpensive, easy to work with, can be cut into pieces or shaved. You can even use silver wire if nothing else is available. Silver generally gives a yellow hue. But skilled artisans are often able to produce different shades from the same metal.
Gold: 18 Karat gold creates an amazing shade of pink. But it is more difficult to work with than silver. It has a higher heating point and is considered to be temperamental. One of the latest techniques that is catching on, is to use river panned gold to fume. The tiny impurities in the gold create very distinct shades.
Copper: Also creates a pink shade that is muddier than gold. It needs to be used very carefully though because the fumes are incredibly toxic and can cause permanent kidney or liver damage.
Paladium, cobalt and platinum are also used sparingly to create shades of grey.
If you’d like to know more about the different metals that can potentially be used for fuming, we recommend that you read ‘Contemporary Lampworking’ by Bandhu Dunham.
That’s like the holy grail of glasswork and an unofficial cookbook for glass fuming.
The effects that you see in modern-day fumed glass smoking apparatus is the result of a variety of techniques that are applied.
Dots and Lines: The use of clear glass in the form of dots and squiggles to encase some of the metal is quite popular. Encasing creates a very unique effect that is much more beautiful as compared to normal fumed glass.
Flame striking: Alternating flames of propane and oxygen at varying temperatures are used to create some stunning fumed effects. Another, slightly risky form of striking is called water striking where the hot fumed glass is immersed suddenly into cool water. This requires a fair amount of skill as the glass can explode sending boiling hot projectiles straight to your face.
Embedding: Embedding is a technique that is fast catching on. It involves using tiny metal shavings and embedding them into glass bubbles. The embedded metal fumes around these tiny bubbles which then change colors. Think of it like tiny color changing speckles within the pipe. We recently saw a stunning Sherlock pipe that was space-themed. Looked pretty much like a 3D-Print of a high-resolution picture of the universe.
When buying fumed glass, always look for pieces that have a clean and streamlined design. It should look like a perfectly layered set of colors rather than a smudgy mess. Check out 5 Glass Pipes Your Collection Needs.
And most of all, enjoy. Fumed glass pipes can make for a fun and exciting addition to your smoking gear and a great conversation or party piece when toking up with friends.
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