What Is Fumed Glass?

Fumed glass is created by using a technique that involves vaporizing pure silver and/or gold metals in a hot flame and trapping the fumes released during the process onto the glass itself. This technique was first brought to our smoking industry by Bob Snodgrass, an icon and legend in the glass industry. Bob Snodgrass was the first artist to fume borosilicate glass, starting a revolution that will continue forever.
Bob Snodgrass Fumed Glass
(Bob Snodgrass on the torch demonstrating his talents)

How is fumed glass created?

The process begins with a chunk of solid .999 silver or .999 gold.
The artist will place the silver or gold chunk onto a glass punty (a glass stick that is used as a handle when glass blowing). Then a tube of clear borosilicate glass needs to be prepared to be the recipient of the fumes. This is typically done by flaring out one end of the tubing to be a wider opening to allow for more fumes to be trapped.
Once the chunk of metal is placed on a glass punty and the tube of clear glass is ready, the artist will begin by placing the metal closer to the source of the flame while positioning the clear borosilicate tubing near the back of the flame. The goal is to heat the silver or gold as well as the glass tubing at the same time. As the metal increases in temperature and begins vaporizing, the artist will strategically place the clear glass to capture the metal's fumes and begin developing color. This process can be repeated several times to deepen the colors and increase the vibrancy of the glass. 
Fume color changing glass
(Demonstration from Purr Glass)

How are the different colors of fume glass crafted?

Glass fumed with silver typically is yellow with blue hints, whereas gold fumed glass typically is pink. A mixture of silver and gold fumed will create green undertones. The colors that develop from fume depend on what metal (or mixture) used, the number of layers used, as well as the ability of the artist to encase the metal fumes effectively. The more metal that is vaporized means more fumes created and results with thicker layers of fume colors.
Fumed Fish Pipe - Crondo619
(All colors featured come from a mixture of silver and gold fumes - pipe made by Crondo619)

How are patterns created?

Once the desired colors of fume have been reached, some artists will use styles such as a 'wrap and rake' technique to further enhance the look and feel of the glass. This additional artistic flair is not essential but increases the uniqueness of the glass.

An artist will prepare clear glass to be wrapped, or coiled, around the fumed glass tubing. This is followed by layering another pattern of clear parallel to the glass tubing. This creates the streaking effect that is seen in the fumed glass.

Coil wrap and rake glassblowing

Gold fumed wrap and rake

Why does fumed glass change colors?

Fumed glass has been believed to change colors after being used. This is sadly not true - here's why.
Fumed glass is simply clear glass with a layer (or layers) of transparent color from fumes. This transparent color looks drastically different depending on the setting of the pipe. A black background shows the deep color tones inside of the fumed glass pipe, whereas a white background is not able to pick up nearly as much of the color. This is similar to what happens to your fumed pipe after being used. The resin that builds up after being used mimics a black background that makes fume pop. The resin that is built creates a base for the fume colors to be able to be seen easier. The 'color change' effect does not occur with glass rigs, carb caps, pendants, and dabbers because these products do not build resin such as a glass pipe, glass chillum, or glass one-hitter that uses flower products.

Interested in fumed glass?

Heady Fumed Sherlock Pipe

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published