These are the top ten questions that the glassblowers at Historic Jamestowne hear from visitors:
1. What is glass?
Answer: The raw materials are mostly sand, soda ash, pot ash and lime.
2. How do you stand the heat?
Answer: We drink lots of water, and look forward to winter.
3. How hot is the furnace?
Answer: During the day when we work with the glass it is kept at 2080 deg. F. At night, when we are melting the raw materials we heat the furnace up to 2350 deg. F.
4. Do you get burned a lot?
Answer: No. After a mistake or two, you become really aware of what you are doing.
5. Where do you go to learn to blow glass?
Answer: We offer an apprentice program here. Most of our glassblowers learn here in that apprenticeship. There are many universities in the US that offer glass within their art departments. Private studios often offer classes. Also there are several major craft schools offering glass, such as Penland, Pilchuck and Corning.
6. How long does it take to learn glassblowing?
Answer: Our apprenticeship is four years long. That is how long it takes someone to learn all of our pieces.
7. What fuels your furnace?
Answer: Today we use a modern furnace, fueled by natural gas. In 1608, the furnace was fueled by hardwoods.
8. How did they get the furnace so hot using wood?
Answer: We estimate that they would have to fuel the fire 24 hours a day for 7 – 14 days straight to build up enough heat in the furnace and maintain it long enough to melt a batch of glass. Their furnace would have been designed to create a strong natural air draft.
9. How do you make different colors of glass?
Answer: You add small quantities of different metal oxides to the raw materials before melting them. Iron or nickel, in common sand, make the glass green. Other metals are added to create different colors. Cobalt oxide makes blue. Manganese oxide makes purple. Gold or cadmium and selenium make red.
10. Why did they want to make glass at Jamestown in 1608?
Answer: They were trying to establish a profitable industry. The demand for glass in England was increasing. All of the raw materials needed for glassmaking were present at Jamestown. There was an abundant supply of hardwood trees for fueling the furnaces.