Dear American Scientific Glassblowers Society,
I am writing you today to see if you could answer a question for me that I've had difficulty in getting answered. Recently, my girlfriend and I took an introductory course in artistic glassblowing at a private studio used by a couple local artists. I recognize that artistic glassblowing may be different from scientific glassblowing, but thought your group would be all the more wiser as to the technical side of working with this material. I was absolutely enthralled with being able to handle molten glass and to transform it into something beautiful, but was freaked out about possibly burning the flesh right off of my bones.
They told us in advance to not wear anything synthetic, as it could melt to our skin... and were also warned that it could potentially melt my contact lenses to my corneas. That right there was almost enough to make me ditch class, but I opted to continue with it.
The heat from the crucible was somewhere in the neighborhood of 2300° Fahrenheit. Standing only ten feet away from it when it was first opened, it felt like someone pressed my face into a barbecue full of glowing red charcoals. It was all sorts of awesome. When it was finally my turn to take my first gather from the vat of molten glass, the moment the lid was lifted from the crucible was only what I could imagine being set on fire might feel like. Even though it was only about a quarter the temperature of the surface of the Sun, I now understood what they meant about the whole "contacts will melt to your eyeballs" warning.
We asked about what would happen should a piece of this quick-running white-hot glass get on our skin. They said it'd likely fall off as soon as it touched us, but didn't really get into the physics behind the damage it might cause. I've seen guys with some glassblowing wounds before... this one guy out in California who would make large fluted vases and he had these horizontal scars on his shins where he'd accidentally slice himself as he swung the vase towards the ground on the blowpipe.
Does it basically cook your flesh and then blister? Or does it act as a sort of corrosive and eat away at anything in its way? What would be the best way to react in a situation were you to get some molten glass on your person? We were trying to debate in the car on the drive home on if we'd go for one of the buckets of water nearby, or if we'd risk batting it off with our hands. It seems to be a fail-fail all around. Any thoughts you have on glassblowing injuries, we'd be curious to hear about them.
Thanks for all your help in the matter.