How do Glassblowers Make Glass Pipes Glow?

Oct 18th 2021

How do Glassblowers Make Glass Pipes Glow?

Glass blowing in itself is an art. But making glass glow in the dark is a beautiful science!

So, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know if this trend of glow in the dark pipes and bongs is new or resurgent, but I will say this: It’s freaking cool. And it got me wondering just how the heck they do it. If you’ve been wondering the same thing, well, I think I’ve got some answers. And yes, it’s still freaking cool.

Aesthetic vs. Function

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Obviously, no matter how cool a pipe looks, we want it to work right. But I think we all have a tendency to drift for the one that looks the coolest, then find out how good it actually is. As the science behind the green industry evolves, so do the tools we use, shifting from clay and resin to clean, cool glass. With glass, there’s nothing to distract from that distinct flavor profile you may be looking for, plus it’s much easier to clean. But other than slathering it with Day-Glo paint (which, for the record, I absolutely would not recommend), how exactly do you get something so solid to glow? One word: Phosphor!

What is phosphor?

Phosphor, or phosphorous, is a natural element that glows when exposed to minute radiation--aka, sunlight! Basically, this stuff absorbs the energy from the sun and spits it back out in the dark. And like a rechargeable battery, once it gets dim, you can just leave it in the sun for a while to charge it up again.

Okay, but how does it get in my pipe?

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This is where it gets pretty cool. There’s a couple of types of phosphor out there with a variety of uses, but glass blowers use phosphor dust, as well as a type of glass called borosilicate. Borosilicate is known for having a relatively low melting point (not low enough to be affected by your lighter, of course), making it easier to melt down and mold as needed--which is where the powder comes in. They heat the glass until it’s basically a liquid, then mix in the powder, allowing for the glow to spread evenly through your piece. Or, for the fancier styles, they create rods of glowing glass and mix them with plain glass, molding them together to create patterns--this is also how you get those cool marble designs.

Is it safe?

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Absolutely! The idea of radiation and chemicals being used in something that goes in your mouth might sound a little scary, but it’s completely safe. Remember those plastic stars you’d glue to your ceiling as a kid? It’s basically the same thing! Plus, it’s encased within the glass of your pipe, which can withstand more than enough heat and pressure from everyday use. Even if you (heaven forbid!) drop your pipe and break the glass, the phosphor used inside is non-hazardous--although I definitely would NOT recommend using a cracked pipe or bong.

In short, glow-in-the-dark pipes are safe, cool, and a functional work of art.

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