Turning Archive 2007

The Sandwich Glass Museum

keith tompkins
>After my trip to Portland, I went to Cape Cod, Mass. to celebrate my 30th anniversary with my wife.

While there I visited the Sandwich Glass Museum in Sandwich, Mass.. I enjoy studying the history of various craft or art forms, and find much inspiration there. I was surprised to discover a rich connection between the two fields of blown glass and woodturning! One section of the museum was dedicated to the craft of woodturning, which was an integral part of the history of blown glass....

Skilled turners were employed in the "carpentry" shop, where forms were precisely turned in wood, usually mahogany.(the spur-center marks are still visable) These turned forms were then skillfully hand carved with intricate patterns, including intertwined spirals and diamond patterns. These turned and carved forms became the "masters", from which cast iron molds were cast. Molten glass was then poured into the molds, and blown to fill the cavity. The result was an affordable alternative to the much more expensive "cut glass". These turnings appear as though they could have been produced on today's CNC equipment, however, they were turned and carved completely be hand.

Cut glass was engraved on lathes, not much different than the lathes we are accustomed to! Ornamental wood turners would be right at home on a glass engraving lathe.

The variety of glass objects displayed in the museum was tremendous, ranging from utility items to pure art forms. Several pieces on display were made by the glass artists in their spare time...just extraordinary! I would encourage any turner to spend some time in a museum such as this!

After a great discussion with the curator, I was invited back to photograph the museum's turning collection, and to collect information for an article on this special part of wood turning's history. BTW, uranium ore dust was used to produce the yellow and green colors in early glass...the glass produced using this method is still radioactive, and glows an eerie shade of chartruse under blacklight.

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