Modern glass bongs offer more than a sophisticated way to get the most from your favorite strain of herb. They mix art, design, technology, and functionality, to become smoking devices that are truly greater than the sum of their parts.
Although bongs have long held a central place in cannabis culture, many of the people who have joined the pro-cannabis community since the end of widespread prohibition are unfamiliar with how modern glass bongs came to be and how they are made.
This short guide will provide a whirlwind tour of how glass bongs are made, as well as some insight into the practices of the industry’s leading manufacturers, such as and Red Eye glass, to help everyone develop a greater appreciation for the beloved bong.
Essential Elements of a Glass Bong
Smoking devices, such as a bong or water pipe, can be made from a wide variety of materials, in all sorts of designs and colors, but the best types of bongs are made of high-quality borosilicate glass.
A quick look through any collection of name-brand bongs, such as Cheech & Chong glass bongs, reveals a wide range of sizes and styles, but they are all made with the same fundamental practices.
Modern artisanal bongs, hand made by glass blowers, achieve such stunning results because they are the result of hundreds and hundreds of years of evolution of glass blowing techniques. Regardless of the chosen bong design, anything from a simple straight tube bong to a beaker bong to an intricate, artistic design begins as a blob of molten glass.
How a Glass Blower Makes a Bong
Glassblowing is an ancient method that unites design, craftsmanship, artistry and manufacturing using nothing other than raw materials, basic tools, heat, skill and ingenuity.
Making the Chamber
For glass water pipes and bongs, glass blowers start by forming the water chamber, as it will serve as the foundation for all the other pieces.
The bong creation process starts with glass blowers using a blowpipe (a long, hollow steel rod) to work molten glass. Usually heated with a furnace, the raw material becomes malleable enough to work with (around 2,125°F or 1,163°C). Once that temperature is reached, the glass blower begins to blow into the blowpipe while conscientiously rotating it to make sure the shape is even on all sides.
Controlling the airflow through small holes in the blowpipe lets the artisan control the air pressure to provide as much inflation as needed. Once the glass bulb reaches the desired size, glassblowers will often use rollers to make sure that the shape is smooth and the thickness is consistent throughout.
Once the chamber reaches the desired shape, the glass blower uses a special tool to punch a hole in the side of the chamber, which will eventually hold the downstem.
Adding the Neck
The next step in the process involves heating the glass tube above the water chamber in order to create the bong neck. As with the water chamber, the artisan must keep the material in motion, carefully watching until the neck cylinder reaches the intended dimensions.
Creating the Mouthpiece
The neck culminates in the mouthpiece, which is a vitally important part of any glass bong.
Throughout this step, the glass blower must keep rotating the piece to make sure that a uniform size and shape is achieved, as well as watching out for rough or sharp edges.
Connecting the Bowl and Downstem
Modern bongs usually have removable downstems and bowls, so they can be easily swapped out and replaced. These smaller pieces are built using the same glass blowing techniques as the other components, involving careful manipulation of heated glass through spinning, blowing and other techniques.
Going Beyond a Glass Tube: Percolators & Ice Catchers
Internal percolators are intricate structures inside the glass tubing of bongs that provide filtration, and, most importantly, look really, really cool.
Glassblowing aficionados love showcasing their creativity with these, as the percolator pieces are what evelates glass tubes into stunning works of art. Percolators can be added in places throughout the chamber and neck of a glass tube bong. The possibilities are endless!
Sometimes called an “ice pinch”, an ice catcher is a simple design element that provides a second layer of filtration and cooling for your bong rips. An ice catcher is a collection of glass pieces inside the neck of the bong that hold ice cubes, which helps cool and filter the (already cool and filtered) smoke from the water chamber.
If you have never tried a bong rip from an ice-catcher bong, you are missing out!
Large-Scale Glass Bong Production
Glass blowing is a tried, tested and true method of bong manufacturing. However, like most artisanal production techniques, it is time consuming and labour intensive, which leads to an expensive product when it finally makes it to a store shelf. For these reasons, the majority of bongs you will find for sale online through any given website are made with modern mass production techniques.
In general, these shops will break the manufacturing process down into smaller steps, so the overall focus is more on assembly than handcrafting each piece. When it comes to making each article, mass production facilities rely on the use of lathes and rollers, instead of hand spinning, to speed up the process and ensure consistency.
Choose Borosilicate Glass for Your Beaker Bong
If you are shopping bongs, look for high-quality borosilicate glass, the same material used for laboratory-grade glassware. Unlike the soft glass used in some artisanal shops, borosilicate glass is extremely durable and able to withstand high heat.
Although these features have little impact on the smoking experience, they make a world of difference for the longevity of your bong or water pipe. Borosilicate pieces tend to have smooth joint welds and great overall strength, which will help them stand the test of time.
Canadian Vaporizers - Canada’s Leading Shop for Glass Bongs
Don’t let the name fool you! At Canadian Vaporizers, you will find much more on our site than just vaporizers. We are also Canada’s top source for the glass bong, water pipes, and nearly every smoking accessory imaginable.