How Do They Do That? The Making Of Our Airships

How Do They Do That? The Making Of Our Airships

September 02, 2016

Our flying airship with wooden keepsake urn - soar to heaven in style!

We get a lot of questions regarding how our beautiful airships are created so we decided to write a blog entry regarding!  Our airship (and hot air balloon) line are produced by Greg, one of the artists we work with here at Spirit Pieces.  See Greg below - he says hi!  Well, he really can't talk, he's focusing on creating one of our airships!

So Greg is looking very stylish with those red glasses of his.  However, it's not just a fashion statement, they're made from Didymium glass.  Didymium is used by glass blowers as it filters out much of the infrared and near-red light.  Without them, all Greg would see is a really bright light and not much else.

He also can't say hello as he's holding a blow tube in his mouth.  We maybe he can mumble 'hllllllloooo' but not much else.  As he needs both hands to shape the glass, having a suspended blow tube is super useful. 

Speaking of the glass, you can see in the first picture a close up of the starting glass tube which already has the rippled texture of the Airships.  The glass is fired under a propane/oxygen flame to 1800 degrees which gets the glass all melty.  Depending how long and hot the ultimate flame is, this can effectively turn our tube into taffy but here it's just enough to be deformed by a pressurized airflow (hence the blow tube) and shaping tools.

This glass is the same type of glass used to make lab equipment, specifically borosilicate glass.  The equipment is the same to blow lab glass; in fact Greg produces quite a bit of lab equipment as well when he's not producing memorial art for us.  So if you're a mad scientist in need of lab equipment, Greg can definitely hook you up!

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Once the shape of the airship is set, the end is heated and then snapped off with a graphite tool.  Molten glass is very sticky (you DO NOT want to get it on you) but it doesn't stick on Graphite at all; hence most glassworking tools are graphite in construction.  Incidentally, this is the end of the airship which receives the solid brass fins.  They're handmade using both modern and traditional techniques.

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Once the fin side is finished, the nose portion (a much thinner section) is shaped after the airship is broken off a feeder glass rod.    The airship is then put into an annealer where it is cooled down from 1800 degrees to room temperature.  The process of annealing glass acts to relieve all the little stresses that built up during the glass blowing process.  Remember, glass is ultimately a liquid so it will flow at any temperature (more at 1800 degrees than 80 degrees of course.)  The annealing gives the glass a chance to re-organize itself into a much more stable form.

Don't believe me?  Find some really old glass windows (i.e. in old 400 year European churches) and check them out.  You'll notice the top of the windows are much thinner than the bottoms.  Yes, the glass is flowing down the window!

Once the airship is cooled down it's time to add the color!

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Shaping the fin

OK, unfortunately we can't show you how the color is added as the technique is proprietary but we assure you it's cooler than chocolate covered jellybean ice cream!  All we can say it's a special finish hand-painted on, then fired at 1160F.  The final step is to add the wire-wrapping holding the hand-carved wood passenger pendant for the ashes.

Pretty neat right!  If you're interested, you can find out more information about the airships below by clicking on the picture or simply adding it to your cart.  We hope you enjoyed this entry to 'How Do They Do That' here at Spirit Pieces.




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