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The history of the NQALHA

In 2013, my wife and I decided to leave Burbank, CA (up the hill from LA). We moved to the NorCal forest

Before we moved, I predicted .. I'm going to meet interesting people and go off in a totally different direction. I had no idea what direction.

After settling in and building a woodworking and electronic shop, I started looking for a new hobby. I've always loved glass and glassworking. I found some YouTube videos on glasswork and my interest increased.

Then one day, I drove to the nearest glass shop, Sundance Glass in Paradise, CA. On the drive I was still undecided. Is this something I want to do? When I arrived, I was still undecided, but they had all of the stuff I needed to start glasswork, in stock. I bought the beginner kit, with a Redmax torch and a Paragon kiln. Side note, it's sad that Sundance Glass died in the fire

I started off reading Bandhu Scott Dunham's books and making simple shapes. Then, I posted to a glass forum,

I asked...

Hi, I'm new..please be nice
I am a 62 year old semi-retired engineer
I am also a master woodworker, semi-decent machinist and ok welder (if you're being generous) I have pretty good manual dexterity and understanding of materials
I have been fascinated by glass work for many years, and want to try to do it myself
I have been attending the University of You Tube, and am starting to get an idea what's going on
Big stuff with a glory hole and melting furnace is probably out of the question, tabletop flameworking is probably reasonable
First important is a teacher?
Is it possible to learn using only books and videos?
I live in semi-rural Northern California, and asked the google for teachers in my luck..any teachers out here in the Sierra Foothills?
Second question..I know that gear discussions can get quite heated among experts, but what is a good beginner equipment setup?
Yes, I know the old-timers are sick of getting this question, but please, be nice to a noob
I'm not sure what I want to make, I just want to explore. I suspect I will eventually want to make totally useless intricate geometric objects
I can afford decent tools
Helpful hints would be appreciated


Many replies were received, and I followed up on several. The one that worked for me was Matt Gieseler, who lived about 11 miles away. He was my first teacher, and he introduced me to Marcel Braun.

The adventure got more interesting as Marcel taught me and introduced me to the glass world. Of course, I remained an engineer and inventor. Marcel and I came up with a design for a large triangular hot glass squeezer. I built it, as well as I could, in a woodworking shop.

It was useful, despite its limitations.

I saw greater adventure ahead.

I had an idea for a multi-axis glass positioning and spinning machine. The idea was crude and preliminary, but I believed it had merit. I started making aluminum parts on my CNC wood router, but soon saw the limitations, so I bought an old Bridgeport mill with an obsolete Anilam 2 axis CNC controller. In the past, I had worked with CNC machines(when the boss allowed me in the shop, many bosses kept engineers out of the shop).

This machine opened the door to complex part making, and I rushed in, excited by the adventure.

The early prototypes barely worked at all. Matt Gieseler used his mastery of glass to make them appear to work better than they did. As Matt and Marcel helped, the design got better. When it reached proto 10, I showed it to Kaj Beck. He "got it" the first time he touched it. He gave me the confidence to proceed.

I made 5 units for the "beta test". This is a software engineering term that I thought was appropriate. Marcel hosted a party called the NQALHA Debutante Ball. He hired a filmmaker, Joaquín Ramón Herrera to record the event. At the event, Marcel made a commemorative Art Unit coin. Joaquin used the video he shot to make the NQALHA promo video

After the beta test concluded, I was pleasantly surprised that none of the units had failed. I had enough confidence to make a production run of 10 units. Making parts on the Bridgeport was great, but I knew that it was just the first step in a CNC shop, so I bought a Tormach PCNC 1100 with automatic tool changer.

After a lot of work building a stand, plumbing the coolant system and learning the quirks of the machine, I made the initial production run of 10 units. Most of the parts were excellent, but I included a small number of untested ideas. I knew that releasing untested designs was risky, but I gambled..and lost.

Every Version 1 handle broke. Almost every version 1 conduit broke because I didn't include overtravel stops. I fukkin' hate making mistakes! especially when I know better.

Version 2 corrects these mistakes, and free upgrades are available to all Version 1 owners. Version 2.1 corrects the last major weakness and version 2.2 might help a bit, or not, the design is approaching stability.

As I continue inventing and perfecting tools, I'm also learning glasswork, both handwork and machine assisted. The more I work with it, the more I love glass.

The adventure continues