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What is a Chameleon Glass Pipe? - Smokin Js

What is a Chameleon Glass Pipe?

What is a chameleon glass pipe?

You just spotted a gorgeous piece at your local Smokin Js. You can’t resist, it goes home with you! By the third bowl, it has turned colors, like a chameleon, and looks nothing like it did in the store. No, it’s not alchemy (well actually, kind of), it is a glass blowing technique called fuming.

Fuming is a glass blowing technique used to create color changing glass pipes, or chameleon glass pipes as some would call them. 

Fumed glass pipes, unlike their traditionally colored counterparts, are beautiful pieces of functional art acting like magical little chameleons when smoked through. Chameleon glass pipes change color! 

But how exactly did we get from clear to color changing chameleon glass pipes?  Well fam, load your favorite glass pipe, and settle in, because it’s glass class story time.

How were chameleon pipes invented?

Any article written about glass techniques would simply be incomplete without first mentioning The Godfather of Glass, Bob Snodgrass. Bob has more than five decades in the glass blowing field. Because of him, Eugene, Oregon has been called Mecca for glassblowers.

Snodgrass considers himself an inventor. He says his love of glass comes from the potential to create something new, and then share his techniques with the countless students he has taught over the years.

His ventures into the glass world started in the early 70’s while he was following The Grateful Dead as they toured. Bob set up a mobile glassblowing studio in the back of his Volkswagon van, and started producing glass pipes for fellow Deadheads. Eventually he settled in Eugene, Oregon where he still makes stunning glass pipes to this day, and continues to teach the next generation of artistic glass blowers.


Image:  Synthesis Glass Silver Fumed Chameleon Glass Pipe

It is because of Bob Snodgrass that glass pipes are not only functional, but incredibly beautiful pieces of hand blown glass art.

While lampworking (what he prefers to call glassblowing) one day, Bob accidentally vaporized silver between his flame and the pipe he was making. Certain he had ruined hours worth of work Snodgrass was surprised to find that when the piece cooled it was beautiful.

Smoking through it didn’t cause it to look dirty like every other glass pipe he had made. Instead it changed colors like a chameleon, creating a gorgeous ever-changing unique pipe, and an inherently dynamic piece of art.

How does a chameleon pipe change colors?

Chameleon pipes (color changing glass pipes) possess both transmitting as well as reflective properties. When the glass pipe is clean, and against a light background, the transmitted colors can be seen. When the glass pipe is put against a dark background (or as gunk builds up from use) light can no longer pass through the glass so it will show only reflected colors.

Fuming offers an iridescent and reflective quality to any glass pipe, and thus turns it into chameleon glass.

This technique is done by vaporizing silver, gold, or platinum between the flame and the glass tubing. Fumes are released from the precious metals which then travel up the flame and bind to the surface of the glass.

Experienced blowers are able to achieve any color in the spectrum depending on the intensity of the flame, the amount of metal used, and the amount of time the glass is worked. There are numerous techniques and methods used in conjunction with fuming to create all kinds of wonderful chameleon glass pipes. 

The process is so incredibly progressive and creative that new styles and innovations are being worked every day.

Who blows color changing glass pipes for Smokin Js?

Scott Sherrell, a Smokin Js local glass blowing artist, has been using fuming in his work for more than 20 years. Scott says that when he first started blowing glass, color choices were incredibly “limited, and in general they often weren’t great to work with.” Fuming offers a variety of colors that would otherwise be costly or difficult to recreate.

He explains that chameleon glass pipes deliver a distinct appearance depending on what type of metal was used during creation.

Gold fumed chameleon pipes produce pink, green, and orange patterns, but “require encapsulation to prevent burn off during the annealing process.” Silver fuming infuses the glass pipe with purple, blue, white, and yellow tones.

All of the precious metals Sherrell uses in his fumed pipes come from a local refinery that supplies 99% pure metals. He explains that though fuming is “coloring on a budget” and is less expensive than alternative coloring techniques, it is quite labor intensive. It takes a great deal of time to learn how much to apply to create the desired effect. 


Image:  Scott Sherrell Dot Box Fumed Chameleon Glass Pipe.  Double fumed hand pipe with silver incased with clear dots, then fumed with gold encased with more clear dots, then melted in and shaped.

Are there different fuming technics?

There are multiple techniques that can be applied to fuming color changing glass pipes. Dots and lines are sometimes used to encase the metal, creating a very unique and beautiful effect.

Embedding involves using tiny metal shavings and embedding them into small glass bubbles which later vaporize allowing the color changing effect in perfectly placed spots.

Flame and water striking are also techniques used by glass blowers to create chameleon glass pipes, though these methods definitely require a fair amount of knowledge and skill.

With all this combined, master glass blowers are able to create fumed color changing glass pipes that not only create a color changing effect, but are dynamic and give dimensional change to the chameleon glass pipe.

The magnification qualities of the glass pipe itself help give depth and character to the color changing properties. Yeah, a lot goes into the trippy effects of chameleon glass pipes.

Regardless of which technique is used to create a chameleon color changing glass pipe, you’re bound to fall in love with the magic of a fumed glass piece. So stop by your local Smokin Js, or visit us online, to snag yourself a new chameleon glass pipe today.  

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