The intricate mastery of Japanese swordmaking relies on a smith’s deep understanding of fire, metal, and techniques to control both. Each unique sword shimmers with thousands of layers from the folding of the metal, a work of art in steel. That steel, though, traditionally comes from an iron-rich sand full of impurities, pounded and blended by the smith. A smith then uses a secret mix of water, clay, ash, and other ingredients over the blade as they once again plunge the sword into fire to create a keen edge. Only when the blade glows a certain color is it quenched in water.
In the embers of an ancient winter day, a Swedish scout scrambles up the hill of snow-covered boulders, hurrying over the slippery ground between them along a narrow path. His panting breath trails after him until he stumbles through the castle gate gasping, “Vandals on the riverbank! Bandits to the east!”
The heavy palisade slams shut behind him as men rush to position along a glinting rock wall. From 150 feet above the valley floor, they watch as silhouettes begin scaling the boulders below. With a signal, arrows and stones rain down upon them, yet the marauders advance, dragging their weapons or clenching them in … » More …
Master glassblower Leopold Blaschka was already a successful maker of glass eyes when he fell ill in 1853. His doctor prescribed time at sea and Blaschka spent the journey from Bohemia to the U.S. and back drawing and studying sea creatures. Back home, Blaschka began making and selling cunningly accurate models of invertebrates, in part because he had already invented glass spinning, a technique that enabled him to create very detailed—and anatomically accurate—glass pieces.
Before the invention of photography, hand-drawn and blown glass models of organisms were highly sought after. Blaschka’s sea creatures were based not … » More …
Glass is a snob, and that’s a good thing for science. For the most part, glass doesn’t interact with other substances. Essentially inert, glass is perfect for containing the otherwise uncontainable: strong acids, bases, and solvents.
Glass is, of course, also fragile. That’s why Norbert Kruse, a chemical engineer at WSU, had to take a glassblowing class when he was a chemistry student in Berlin in the early 1970s.
“We had to do our own repairs!” Kruse recalls. These days, researchers at WSU don’t have to know glassblowing to keep their labs running. Scientific glassblower Aaron Babino takes care of that.