Glassblowing lathes are found in almost every scientific glassblowing shop. The primary function of the lathe is to hold and rotate glass tubing, rod or glass apparatus during the glass fabrication process. Lathes are extremely useful to the scientific glassblower, providing a much wider range of glass manipulation, size and accuracy than can normally be achieved by hand.
On a standard glass lathe, each end of the device features a rotating chuck designed to hold glass tubes in place as they rotate. Some type of heat source, such as a blowtorch, is positioned along the center of the lathe. This torch heats the glass as it rotates, making it soft and malleable. By softening the glass in this way, the glassblower’s are able to hold many different sizes of glass or apparatus.
The glass lathe also features a carriage, which allows workers to shift one end of the object off center as it rotates. This stretches the hot glass out to form different shapes. Workers also utilize a built-in breathing tube, which enables them to further expand the glass, much like in traditional glassblowing. As the glass rotates, the glassblower may apply a graphite block or paddle to the glass, which further shapes the surface of the object to the exact size.