For centuries glass-makers worked around the furnace in teams known as 'Chairs'.
The Chair would normally consist of four men; they typically worked shifts of 6 hours on, 6 hours off, twelve hours a day, Monday to Friday. The glass-makers were paid by piecework.
The Gaffer / Workman
Was head of the glass-making team, he shears the rim and finishes the article. He would agree the number of pieces to be made by the team in a 6 hour shift. The rate of pay would depend on the difficulty of the piece.
The Chief Assistant would be responsible for shaping the stem or the foot on a wineglass and other similar work; he would earn approximately half the salary of the Gaffer.
He was responsible for the initial gathering of the molten glass from the pot and for the first blowing.
The Taker-in / Boy
He would typically be a young boy starting his 7 year apprenticeship to be a glassmaker. He was responsible for taking the finished article from the Chair to be cooled slowly in the Lehr.
The 'blanks' are taken from the annealing lehr and carefully examined; any flaw means the glass is broken down into cullet and recycled. The remainder were sent to the decorating shops.
The design was first marked out by girls who copied the master pattern on each blank. When the paint was dry the blank was given to the glass-cutter for decoration. Glass-cutting was done in two stages. First the blank goes to the 'rougher' who grinds and cuts on a steel wheel. The work is then passed to the 'smoother' who uses a stone wheel. He went over the work, adding in finer, more intricate detail.
Girls would dip the glass into vats containing a highly corrosive mixture of hydrofluoric acid and sulphuric acid. The girls would be protected by heavy rubber aprons and gloves
The Glass Engraver
The engraver was on a different level from the other workmen. He would be seated at a bench before a small lathe, attached to which were small copper discs in varying sizes. The glass was touched to the edge of the disc to produce minute scratches or indentations.
A delicate eye and great artistic ability was needed. Engraving was rarely polished and consequently the glass had a matt appearance.
The Pot-maker played a vital link in the glass making chain. Pots were made entirely by hand using a coiling technique. The pot-maker would make a batch of a dozen to two dozen pots at a time. While one pot was being worked on, damp sacking would be placed on the rest to keep the clay moist. Each pot took about two months to build.
Beneath the furnace are tunnels; this is where the team of men known as Teasers worked. It was their job to load the coal which would fuel the furnace above and also the lehr (or cooling oven). The factory would have three sets of teasers with two men in each set; they would work 8 hour shifts, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year.
There would not have been a thermometer to measure the temperature of the furnace, just the expertise of the Teaser. They would judge the furnace temperature by the colour of the glow of the bricks in the furnace.
In 1868, My Myron John Frisbie, patented a winding mechanism which fed the coal into the furnace from underground.