Color, Glass, Hand Pipes, and Bob Snodgrass

Posted by S. Wyatt Price on Aug 05, 2021

Color, Glass, Hand Pipes, and Bob Snodgrass

How Colored Glass Water Pipes Are Made

Video Credit: Vimeo & Purr

Traditionally, glass water pipes were made by a process of lamp-working, which is a type of glass blowing that uses an oxygen flame created by natural gas or propane torches. Glassblowers take a combination of sand, ash, lime, and potash, among other ingredients that can be added or subbed in, and blow into the glass hand pipe by melding and working the material until it reaches the desired shape. Professional glassblowers are then able to manipulate the shape, color, and form of the glass to create some of the incredible pieces you may have seen around your local smoke shop or maybe at a music festival of some sort.  

Glassblowing Renaissance

Snodgrass Hammer ( allow image)

photo credit: Columbia River Glass/ Bob Snodgrass

Hailed as The Godfather of glassblowing by the godfathers of glassblowing, Bob Snodgrass, legendary lamp-worker and glass blower, discovered the process of fuming sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s while he was following the Grateful Dead around the United States. Due to his work in the United States Air Force, Snodgrass reported that he was always around "squares" so he didn't even have the chance to try any self-described "good skunk" until he was nearly 25 years old. During his journey of nearly a decade, by the end of the '70s Snodgrass had found himself a reliable following and a full time career, though he didn't realize the immensity of his impact within the culture quite yet. He found that when you take silver or gold powder and pour it into or onto the glass while flaming it, a myriad of colors take form all over the glass of the bowl. Bob Snodgrass unofficially began a glass working renaissance in this instance and never looked back.

This discovery changed the glass blowing game forever and Bob Snodgrass settled in Oregon and began training apprentices, which is the primary reason that the Pacific Northwest United States has such a rich glass pipe culture. But what other methods have changed the glass game forever? Join Cloud 9 for our journey into the wonderful world of glass making!

Techniques For Crafting Hand Pipes

First, you’ve got frit. Frit is the mixture of silica and sand used to make glass. In the case of blowing glass for hand pipes and water pipes its the ground or powdered colored glass that the cullet is rolled through to fuse the colors. Instead of Snodgrass’s traditional technique of heating gold and silver powder onto the hand pipe or water pipe to apply the fume, this is frequently chosen as a modern (and more affordable) remedy to fusion.

Ryan Kane Wolf (allow images)

Frit utilized by Ryan Kane in this Heady Dab Rig

The aforementioned technique of fuming hand pipes, water pipes, and dab rigs that was made popular by Snodgrass was originally discovered by pouring gold and silver powder in or onto the hand pipe or water pipe and applying flame, but in modern times frit is utilized instead. Gold and silver fuming, as its still referred to, are actually still used as a fuming apparatus, though frit is often favored for its price and accessibility.

It Ain't That Type of Cane

MOB Wig Wag Hammer Hand pipe bubbler (allow image)

MOB Wig Wag Hammer

The next glass blowing technique for hand pipes and water pipes is that of cane or caning. A cane is a rod of glass that holds a central core of colored glass that’s eventually melted to be stretched and used for coloring other hand pipes and water pipes. This technique is specifically used to make badass patterns and effects on hand pipes and water pipes.

We at Cloud 9 have a personal affinity for cane-effected hand pipes, water pipes, and dab rigs. Take a look at what we’ve got going on below!

What Else Besides Fuming?

Glass Sherlock Hand pipe from Andy G

Dichroic Glass Sherlock Hand Pipe Andy G

Color-changing is fan favorite when it comes to glass, but let’s step away from fuming for a moment to take a look at dichroic glass. Dichroic glass is a type of oxide and quartz infusion that allows the “white” from the heroic reaction to take on different shade and colors when light shines through or around it. The way that this type of glass is made is by taking quartz crystal and metal oxide and vaporizing it inside a sealed chamber. After that, the product of the heated components is put onto the surface of the glass in multiple layers. Definitely style to consider if you value exclusivity, as many don’t have or cannot afford hand pipes and water pipes crafted from this luxurious glass.

Picture or Piece?

Dynamic Glass Lemon Drop Dab Rig Heady

Dynamic Glass Lemon Ball Dab Rig (using a millefiori encasing to wrap this dab rig)

Some of the most exotic heady pieces are considered millefiori, which means that the glass is actually a picture. Some of these pieces are functional and some are not, though the piece above IS totally functional.  With these types of heady pieces they do indeed function, but they’re primarily used as decoration or art pieces. This technique of glass blowing is also known by as Murrine, which was discovered or made popular by the Murano school of glass blowing. The name itself means “a thousand flowers” in Italian because the whimsical nature of these pictures are similar to flowers of some sort bending through the wind in the Italian countryside.

The last technique we’re going to cover here is that of alien skin. To put it simply, alien skin is a texture that combines bubble trap, sleeving, and fuming and then eventually takes on the look an imagined “alien skin”. It appeals to the glass enthusiasts because it gives the glass a texture and depth unlike any others.

Heady Hand Pipes & Water Pipes

Skoeet Glass Spray Can Heady Dab Rig

Skoeet Glass Spray Can Heady Dab Rig

Now let’s take a look at some of the heady hand pipes, water pipes, bubblers, and dab rigs and see if we recognize any of the techniques mentioned above. Here at Cloud 9 we always keep a diverse selection of heady hand pipes, glass pipes, bubblers, and dab rigs for both the collector and the smoker. Such intricate art has taken on stellar price tags in art galleries around the world. Some of these artworks sell for upwards of eighty thousand dollars, but our collection here tops out around three grand. 

See, this market skyrocketed around 2010 when California was in their full swing of medical marijuana, but the bottom ended up falling out of the market due to the back and forth of artists either trading glass or selling it to wholesalers and devaluing their own work. Many traditional smoke shops refused to carry the pieces for this exact reason. Think, for example, that a heady hand pipe or water pipe retails for $1000, but someone offers to buy it for $800 at the smoke shop. If the hand pipe, water pipe, or dab rig has been sitting on the shelf for a hell of a long time, the shop owner will probably sell it, but this means the artist's work has been devalued, not to mention that fact that there are at least tree pricing tiers that go onto this piece. Consider: private artist to wholesaler, wholesaler to shop, shop to customer. If you're unfamiliar with business or simple money moves of the aforementioned nature, then you wouldn't know that everyone involved here wants a piece of the action, and traditional smoke shops essentially mark up the product by twice the amount.

Again, this devalues the hand pipes, water pipes, or dab rigs and oddly enough the artists, simply trying to feed themselves I might add, destroyed the market almost entirely by themselves. This finally took a huge hit when California switched their main form of marijuana regulation from medical to recreational, but now in 2021 marijuana has been decriminalized federally and California’s recreational laws are beginning to stabilize. In turn, heady glass blowers have been able to pick back up and begin making profitable earnings again. 

Glass Hand Pipe & Water Pipe FAQ

A lot of glass hand pipe, water pipe, and dab rig enthusiasts, especially in the beginning phases of this passion, aren't sure how to maintain their hand pipes and glass pipes, not to mention the confusion that can sometimes come with silver fuming and other effects. When it comes to maintenance, our Cloud 9 suggestion will always lead to blue or green resinate (blue for dab rigs and green for dry herb hand pipes and water pipes.) 

Ceramic and acrylic pieces must be assessed on a case by case basis, as ceramic is incredibly breakable and may not be worth washing if it will break, and acrylic is usually made from multiple materials.

Filtration/Smoke Purity This is a relatively simple subject for glass pieces, as they’re easily cleaned with a q-tip-like tool and a pipe-friendly solution. (Our favorite tool and cleaning solution).

This can make or break a water pipe purchase for many reasons. Have you ever tried to clean a water pipe only to find that those honeycomb and shower-head percolators you thought were badass are now just a pain in the ass? We sure have and that’s why knowing your needs is so important.

Otherwise, silicone water pipes are dishwasher safe, just make sure to use a natural cleaner or you could end up smoking some lavender flavored bullshit and nobody wants to have to deal with that nonsense. 

New to pipe cleaning? Check out our blog post with cleaning tips proven to work!As well, with heady pieces and more fragile hand pipes careful cleaning precautions are taken to insure you don't accidentally break these pieces. A common misconception with fuming and canes and hand pipes and water pipes is that they must be cleaned in a certain way with certain tools. This is not the case, in fact our resinate cleaner is safe to use on any of your pieces--heady or otherwise. We cover this information as well as everything, hand pipes, water pipes, dab rigs, and much, much more on the Cloud 9 blog space linked below!

Tune in and check out the Cloud 9 Blog here!

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