Often when I am talking to other soft glass artists, the subject of using Borosilicate Glass for Soft Glass Artist comes into the conversation. I actually started lampworking with clear borosilicate glass over 20 years ago and I found that the same torch work for both hard and soft glass.
Most beadmakers worry that their torch will not be hot enough to melt borosilicate. Not to worry, the different torch manufacturers have designed some version of a cross-over torch for the soft glass artist that works well with both types of glass. Nortel made a new torch called a “Mega Minor” which is a bit hotter than the “Minor Bench Burner” that is a cost effective cross-over torch. There are two torches by Carlisle that are called the “Mini CC Burner” and the “Hellcat Bench Burner”, that work well. Glass Torch Technology has four different torches that fall under the cross-over category that are the “Bobcat, “Lynx”, “Cheetah” and the “Cricket”. Some people might think that the “Cricket” doesn’t fall into this group, but I have heard glowing reports from Cricket users who jump back and forth between boro and soft glass and love the torch.
On the subject of borosilicate color, WOW have things changed over the past 15 to 20 years! When I first started using clear boro glass, I didn’t know of anywhere that I could get boro glass color rods and ended up hand mixing cobalt into clear boro to get blue color rods. This process is time consuming and with a lot of the minerals that you use for different colors, they are down right toxic.
Glass Alchemy and Northstar have made the borosilicate artist’s palette so full of choices that I feel like a kid in a candy store when I am shopping for boro color rod. Glass Alchemy also started producing their most popular colors in 4mm thick rods to make the color rods easier for people with smaller torches to.
If you are a soft glass artist and you have been thinking of trying some borosilicate, I say go for it. It is an interesting change from soft glass that is full of possibilities.