Author Topic: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900  (Read 7099 times)

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Offline David E

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #20 on: December 13, 2008, 11:07:45 AM »
Cathy: Many thanks. I see the engraver Hauptmann is mentioned in the Atsushi Takeda paper, and is a name that Akiko and Sally had already picked up on. However, impurities in the sand, I believe, would not have been a reason to deter sheet glass manufacture. Adding certain chemicals would eliminate discolourations, such as greenish tinge from iron oxide impurities, but there is less emphasis on high-quality glass for use as windows, of course - I'm currently looking through my own windows, c.1916, which were almost certainly made using the much later Fourcault drawn-glass process - loads of imperfections here! :o

To expand on the early development of the glassworks, and referring to one of Akiko's papers (if I can find it online, I'll provide a link to the entire paper):

Kogyosha works:
1873: Erasmus Gower - the first to be hired and responsible for building the first glasshouse. The pertinant point here is that the works is referred to as "the first Western-style glasshouse".
1874: Thomas Walton - installed the first furnace
1876: Government purchases the "financially troubled" plant after it fails to produce sheet glass the previous year, and this was using "experienced Japanese glassblowers". Plant renamed as Shinagawa after the locality.
1877: Elijah Skidmore arrives as a skilled potmaker (a very under-estimated and higly valued skill, IMHO)
- factory at this time is producing "daily products" and side-lights (navigational lights for ships). Sheet glass production is suspended.

So it can be seen that normal, low-cost glass is being produced.

1878: Walton leaves
1879: James Speed arrives as Chief of Craftsman. Akiko quotes here that, "Clay, various metallic oxides and moulds imported from England." It is also noted elsewhere that Speed was probably the most respected of the engineers.

From this it is possibly pressed glass moulds that it refers to (the navigational lights could have been pressed, of course), but this is not certain.

1881: Sheet glass production resumed, but suspended due to "technical and financial difficulties".

Again, it is still unknown as to what the problems are exactly. 'Technical' is alluded to, but cannot be determined to the exact cause. At this time, "some 268 pieces of table-wares, scientific apparatus, chimneys and bottles are exhibited" at the 2nd inter-Japan Industry Promotion Fair.

1881: Skidmore leaves and takes up post in Osaka glassworks. Hauptmann arrives to take a position as an engraving instructor, but leaves after one year (finances again). Various engraving equipment is imported from England.
1883: Speed is dismissed and moves to Osaka.
1885: Shinagawa sold. It continues operating until 1892 "after adopting German manufacturing technique".

Glen: Thanks for your link! Akiko acknowledges that Japanese glassmaking was "technologically weak" until the arrival of the English workers, but it was still producing many items of glass. I'll contact you about the 'Lefton' label - I can provide a little more information on this.
David
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Offline David E

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #21 on: December 13, 2008, 12:42:31 PM »
Regarding my earlier mention of a photo relating to the making of crown glass, here is the link:
http://glassgallery.yobunny.org.uk/displayimage.php?pos=-2041

Taken from Mirror for Chance, 1951
David
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Offline krsilber

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #22 on: December 13, 2008, 06:27:11 PM »
That's a great photo of crown glass making!

Quote
However, impurities in the sand, I believe, would not have been a reason to deter sheet glass manufacture. Adding certain chemicals would eliminate discolourations, such as greenish tinge from iron oxide impurities, but there is less emphasis on high-quality glass for use as windows, of course

The effect of iron can be mediated, but you still need sand of a certain composition to make glass.  Sand can come from a variety of parent material, and some sands are much purer sources of silica than others.  For example, the black sand beaches of Japan would have come from basalt, which is relatively silica-poor.  Quartz has very high silica content, but feldspar, the other type of sand mentioned in the abstract, is silica mixed with other minerals, depending on the type.  Another issue is the variation in the sand.  If you go digging up a beach there are going to be layers of different composition, size of grain, etc.  Different sands would need different treatments or batch formulas for use.  Without accounting for such variation (which would be a hassle) you could end up with inconsistent glass quality.

OK, I'll shut up about sand now!  I must have beaches on the brain - a common ailment here in the snow-covered northland.
Kristi


"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science."

- Albert Einstein

Offline Frank

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #23 on: December 13, 2008, 10:51:14 PM »
Glassmakers invariably will get the best materials that they can, additional processing for impurities would render the cost for window glass uncompetitive, importing would be cheaper. Iron is particularly unhelpful in window glass but useful in bottle glass. Pittsburgh proved the mecca for US window glassmakers because of its sand quality being particularly suitable and costing less than half as much as sand from elsewhere in the US in the period in question - it exported to Japan. In Europe French sand was the best and widely used throughout Europe. Scottish sand was also particularly good. In Bohemia they used quartz instead of sand.

Also in that period, potmaking was a significant factor in window glassmaking, with glassworks failing due to poor pots - despite the technology not being difficult to acquire, mostly it was lack of diligence and quality control. Japan certainly had the technological skills to produce the appropriate clays but it is apparent from other countries that with-out the quality control the mastery of the technology was irrelevant if the batch was lost.

That the Japanese were relying on English technology would also be a negative factor as in this period it was not of good quality, Belgium lead the field followed by France and Germany. That they switched to German technology would imply the use of the Siemens furnace, coming to the fore in this period - but it was expensive, accident prone and gas-fired. Which adds gas production to the technology needed to be mastered by the glassworks. The English glass-makers would almost certainly have installed direct fire furnaces, likely to have been coal fired. The switch of technology again points to issues other than the raw materials.

Frank A.
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Offline krsilber

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #24 on: December 14, 2008, 12:13:30 AM »
Great post, Frank, very informative.  Yours, too, David.  I hope you find that article online, sounds fascinating.

The US is the biggest producer of sand in the world, a quarter of global production.  (Oops, I said I'd stop it with the s---.)

You'd think the Japanese with their ceramic history would have been able to make good pots! ;D  Maybe they got too cocky. ::)  Or maybe the clay they had wasn't good for it.  Clay is one of the things they imported from England.

Quote
The switch of technology again points to issues other than the raw materials.

Unless gas was cheaper than coal. ;)

I don't understand how the technology of the furnaces and pots could have been the reason sheet glass wasn't being produced if they were still producing other wares.  Is there something particularly technologically difficult about the production of sheet glass?  Special annealing ovens?  A tricky formula? 

What about the skill of the blowers?  Perhaps there weren't enough people who could produce good sheet glass.  It says they were experienced, but maybe not in that area.  Seems like it would be a tough skill to master, and with the industry just getting started there isn't the history in the community and family of glassblowing, where you start your apprenticeship as soon as you can carry a bucket.
Kristi


"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science."

- Albert Einstein

Offline David E

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #25 on: December 14, 2008, 11:38:18 AM »
As has already been mentioned, sand was one of the items imported (although whether this was a long-term commitment, I'm unsure), as was clay, presumably for the pots. Both were sourced from the UK, although it is quite possible another glassworks imported sand from the US, or elsewhere. But as a country already producing glass, the technique of pot-making was already available to it.

I agree about the need for an experienced potmaker. Elijah Skidmore was employed, and was probably up to the job as he stayed there for the full term of his four year contract.

I can also confirm that coal was the fuel used. The system employed (Hakurai-buki = imported method) of coal & soda-lime glass, replaced the traditional Japanese methods (Japan-buki) of charcoal & potash-lead glass. BTW, the traditional cutting method was using iron bars and abrasives.

Frank, you seem to suggest that British glass was inferior for making window glass? Chance and Pilkington at around 1870 were probably the one of the worlds leading flat glass producers, and were certainly exporting around the world.

(the trouble with this thread is that there are two disparate interests: window glass and pressed glass)

It is also worth recording that Chance was using the Siemens regenerative furnace from 1861 (Siemens was, incidentally, an adopted Englishman ;) ) so this technology was available in the UK. T C Barker (The Glassmakers) mentions Pilkington as adopting the process around 1863 as well. As a point of interest, I think the gas used to fire these furnaces was derived from... coal! The reason for using gas was due to it providing a more efficient heat source, which also made it cheaper.

Chance originally sourced its sand locally, and went on to purchase entire areas elsewhere in the country for the purpose of mining it (Leighton being one area until c.1890), then switching to Belgium sand. It did eventually use Scottish sand (need to check location) much later - I think 20th century.

Is it reasonable to suggest, therefore, some other reason for why Shinagawa used a coal-fired furnace: perhaps it was too small to support such apparatus? I don't know - it really needs Akiko's expertise in this area.

I also don't believe the skills of Japanese glassblowers was an issue. Glassblowing was already well established and adapting those skills should not have been a problem.

Producing sheet glass by this time was a well-known process and was widely used around Europe to produce window glass. The only problem the company may have found with annealing, was ensuring that it cooled uniformly across the whole surface - this often means artificially cooling it more towards the centre of the sheet. However, I should imagine this pertinant fact was known by any skilled glassmaker and should not have presented an issue.

Finally, on a political note, relationships between the USA and Japan had suffered at around this time, and Britain was already trading into the Far East. Chance had also received visits from representatives of the Japanese government in 1862 and 1872 (Iwakura mission), although whether this was directly related to Shinagawa is unknown at this time. Once I get access to the Chance archives, mid-2009, I will then be able to find out, but there's probably 2-3 years of research material to wade through... :-\
David
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Offline krsilber

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #26 on: December 14, 2008, 09:00:55 PM »
From this site:

Quote
After 1873, the government invited instructors of glass making several times, and received instruction of the facilities as well as the techniques of various styles of glass making from them. The government also expected them to train Japanese technicians in making glass.


Have you heard of Martha Chaiklin?  She wrote an article, "The Miracle of Industry:  The Struggle to Produce Sheet Glass in Modernizing Japan," in Morris Low, ed., Building Modern Japan:  Science, Technology and Medicine in the Meiji Era and Beyond.

Here is an abstract of another paper of hers:
Quote
A World without Windows: Glass Production in the Modernization of Meiji Japan

Martha Chaiklin, Milwaukee Public Museum

Glass production functions as an excellent case study with which to chart the conflicting tensions between continuity and disruption from the past that modernization represented for Meiji Japan. When the Meiji Government began the process of institution-alized modernization, glass was one of the industries it chose to support. Why glass? The exorbitant cost of importing glass windows, for all the new Western-style buildings being constructed was bankrupting government construction projects. Sheet glass was one of the most difficult to manufacture, and only panes of minimal size could be produced with the old technology. Glass had been produced in Japan since at least the eighth century, but never in the same quantities as in the West. Yet, the government-funded Shinagawa Glassworks did not rely on ancient expertise, but rather, imported foreign craftsmen to educate their workers. Glass production was therefore a vital part of the new face the Meiji Government wished to present to the world. This paper will discuss glass production in Meiji Japan discussing the social and cultural factors surrounding the transition from craft to industry with special emphasis on sheet glass using government documents and craftsmen’s memoirs.
Kristi


"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science."

- Albert Einstein

Offline David E

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #27 on: December 15, 2008, 07:17:25 AM »
Regarding the 1st quote: training the apprentices was one of the jobs that James Speed was bought in for. It would appear that of all the British craftsmen and engineers, Speed was the most highly thought of. A photo of him with a group of trainees in 1883, probably at a farewell ceremony from Shinagawa, is seen in Akiko's paper.

Yes, I was aware of Chaiklin's book and would have bought it, if it were not for the price:

http://www.amazon.com/Building-Modern-Japan-Technology-Medicine/dp/1403968322
David
► Chance Additions ◄
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Contact ► Cortex Design ◄ to order any book

Offline krsilber

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #28 on: December 15, 2008, 11:48:46 PM »
I see what you mean!  It's available here through Interlibrary Loan, maybe I'll get it when I've returned some of the books I have out now.  At any rate, perhaps the skills of the glassblowers were indeed a factor in the problems with making sheet glass?  From what I've read, it seems like until about 1870 most blown articles were small, thin and fragile.

Just so I'm understanding things correctly, was the method of making sheet glass at the time that of blowing huge bubbles, slicing them open and laying them flat?

Quote
BTW, the traditional cutting method was using iron bars and abrasives.
  Can you expand on this?  I'm trying to picture how this worked.  Were the bars and abrasives two separate methods, or used together?  I saw a reference to early diamond point engraving, and wheel cutting was used by the late Edo period.  Maybe bars and abrasives refers to diamond point (or "scratch," since diamonds weren't always used), and the abrasives were embedded in the bars.
Kristi


"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science."

- Albert Einstein

Offline Frank

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Re: Research into Japanese pressed glass industry, c.1870-1900
« Reply #29 on: December 16, 2008, 01:26:32 AM »
I presume Akiko is aware of

Blair, Dorothy (1973), "History of Glass in Japan": 479 pages 240 b/w 37 colour.

Abstract:
Definitive English reference work on glass in Japan over two thousand years. - ISBN Number: 0870111965. Editions/printings: Mount Holyoko College Japanese only 1998.

Listed in The Glass Bibliography
I would be happy to add an opinion of the books usefulness.

Mentions a few catalogues too.
Frank A.
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