My style of glassblowing isn't terribly common and the way I've evolved it is unique to me. This means that I occasionally need tools that aren't commonly made or I want them made a certain way.
Heating plates of cane or murrine in the glory hole requires a pastoralle fork, but all the ones I've used in the past were compromized in some way until my current fork. Solid forks are too heavy unless they're made of thinner stock, but then they're often too weak. Hollow forks can be too lightweight and weak for my work. Mild steel spalls and rapidly degrades with the intense heat. Some forks are poorly balanced allowing the plate to either rotate or feel front-heavy. Some have the tines too close together, or have a box for the tines--both which make it difficult to pick up and balance large plates. Some don't have a perpendicular handle at the far (cold) end which makes it more succeptable to flipping if the plate gets the slightest bit tippy. You get the idea.
I got my fork from a friend a decade ago and after hundreds of heat cycles the metal eventually burns up and I need to rebuild it. Check out the picture below to see the burned up tines of the current fork--it's got a giant hole that powdered metal (I think carbon) pours out of when you tap it. It's done. I've rebuilt the fork twice and refined my specs each time and it's only gotten better with each refinement/rebuild. The latest rebuild was by Spiral Arts and it's better than ever. My design requirements are:
- Super strong but lightweight = hollow tines and handle to save weight, with solid stainless rod section in between (tine strut and hot side of handle).
- Reasonably well-balanced with a large plate on it = a longer fork with solid handle (perpendicular) for counterweight.
- Heat resistant = stainless steel througout with medium thick walls for tube sections.
- Wide tines = greater stability and flexibility with large plates
- Shielded against flame = all openings sealed
Attached is a photo of the specs I sent to Spiral Arts; from this they custom-built the bottom of my fork. I had a local metalworker TIG it to the handle of my current, burned out fork. I'm back in business without breaking my assistant's back.