Stein of the Month: February 2006
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~ A Bohemian Stained, Cut and Engraved Glass Stein ~

by Walter B. Vogdes

This colorful glass stein is actually made of clear glass which has been coated with a ruby stain which was then cut away to show the design. It provides a nice lesson in the techniques of cutting and decorating glass.

First the clear glass was blown into a slightly tapered cylindrical shape using soaked wooden paddles or a metal mold to provide the basic shape. The free-formed glass handle was attached while the body was still hot, and then the piece was slowly cooled. At this point it would have been very unimpressive - just a clear glass mug, nothing more.

The first step in decorating this stein was to cut the body and the handle using stone grinding wheels. A series of six arched panels were cut around the lower part of the body. Above those six panels the glass cutter made five circular reserves, and then above these, a row of six more. These reserves would ultimately contain most of the decoration for the stein. To set this area off from the undecorated rear of the stein, a cut was made from the base rim to a point above the handle and then back to the base. This gives the appearance of a padded arch. The upper rim was then cut back to similarly provide an "edge" for the decorated area, while simultaneously reducing the thickness of the rim, making it more comfortable to drink from.

Detail from one of the circular reserves.

The stained and engraved inlaid lid matches the hunting motif of the body.
Finally, four facets were cut along the length of the handle. A small touch, but one which shows the artistic care taken by the glass cutter. The mug was a little more interesting after this cutting was complete, but without any color or decoration, it was still pretty underwhelming.

At this point a metallic oxide was applied to the body and the handle, and the piece reheated, imparting the ruby color which we see in the finished stein. Each of the stained reserves was now ready for decorating by the copper wheel engraver. As this skilled craftsman used various sized copper disks and an abrasive slurry to etch the glass, the staining was cut away to reveal the clear glass lying beneath. Each of the 17 reserve areas was separately cut, and then the swirls and squiggles surrounding them was added. The glass engraver worked quickly but carefully, realizing that he was creating a piece of art. When he was done with the body, the "still to be lidded" stein had taken on a dramatic new appearance. A ruby stained and engraved glass inlay matching the motif of the body was incorporated into the pewter mounts, and the stein was done.

Much more handwork went into this stein than into a typical etched Mettlach, let alone a transfer-decorated stein. The brilliant color and fine workmanship earn it a place of honor in any collection.

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