How A Paperweight Is Made

To help explain the art of paperweight making we have illustrated below different tools, pieces of equipment and techniques that the glassmakers use. Hopefully this will help you understand how these wonderful globes of glass are created.

Colour is essential in the paperweight making process. We can’t just use any kind of colour or pigment, it has to be compatible with the clear molten glass, if not the glass would become stressed and crack. The colours we use are actually glass themselves, melted in large furnaces and then when cool crushed into different sized chips, ranging from a very fine powder to a 5mm chunk, each grade giving a different texture and appearance in the clear glass. Most colours can be mixed together without any ill effect with the exception of yellow, orange and red, these tend to turn a horrible brown colour when they touch white, we try to avoid mixing these colours. The other thing to mention is that when the colour is mixed into the clear molten glass everything turns a bright orange so you never know what colour is where in the design until it has cooled down the next day, this can be quite exciting when designing a new product, but can also give quite horrendous colour combinations if you don’t know what you are doing!

Glassmaking tools

Glassmaking tools have not changed for centuries. They are quite simple and have to be heavy duty to last the wear and tear when working with molten glass. There are cutting shears, parrot nosed shears, tweezers and pincers. There are also some more unusual choices of tools that we use, fish knives, forks and nails to name but a few, each would normally be found in the kitchen or garage rather than in a glassmaker’s toolbox!

Wooden Blocks

Wooden blocks are used to shape the glass when it is in its molten state. There are different sized blocks for different sized paperweights, if the glass does not fit into the specific block then the maker knows that the paperweight will either be too small or too large. The blocks are made from a hard wood so that they last, if the wood were soft the blocks would only last a few days and not a few years like some of ours. Each maker uses their blocks differently, making it very difficult to borrow or use someone else’s without having problems.

Specification Sheets

When a paperweight is developed and selected for a new launch a specification sheet needs to be created to explain everything that is needed in order to make the paperweight correctly. It is like a recipe card, detailing colours and tools to use, the name of the product, design code, how long each one should take to make and a step-by-step guide on how it is made. Each of the paperweight makers at Crieff has their own folder for their own specification sheets, and each limited edition paperweight is only ever made by one maker, making the piece more special. As unlimited edition paperweights are generally in the range for longer and more of these can be made more than one maker will be trained to make these.

Metal Crimps

Metal crimps are used to create some of the patterns found in some of the paperweights. Crimps are made from sheet metal and can be quite complicated to make, some taking days to complete. Each petal from a flower crimp has to be cut by hand and then welded onto a thick metal base, because some of the components can be tiny they can be quite tricky and fiddly to fix together. The crimps are a relatively simple technique to use, colour glass is picked up on the end of molten glass and melted into the surface, once enough heat has been applied the molten glass is pushed onto the metal crimp which then pushes the colour up into the glass in the shape of the
crimp used. Quite complicated three-dimensional forms
can be achieved this way.

Graphite Stencils

Graphite stencils are used to create patterns in the glass. They are made from very fine grade graphite that has been cut and polished into flat discs with a very smooth surface. The surface of the graphite disc is taped up and then the design carved into it, either by hand or sandblasted. The graphite is very soft so quite intricate patterns can be achieved. Powder glass colour is then used to fill up the carved or blasted patterns so that when molten glass is dropped
onto the stencil the pattern is picked up on the glass.

How Some Of The Glassmaking Tools Are Used


This image shows the molten glass being blocked with the hand block.






This image shows the glassmaker cutting into the glass with shears.






This image shows the glassmaker shaping the molten glass with a flat graphite pallet.






Cutting in

This image shows the glassmaker Cutting into the glass with a pair of Pricilla’s or cutting in tools. This is done so that the paperweight can be knocked off the metal iron.


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Guide To Paperweights
How Paperweights Are Made
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