Time is racing by. I can’t seem to get back to the factory tour I started weeks ago. Victim to some malfunctioning reverse gear on my internal time machine, this morning I found myself staring at this…

Rolling glass circa 1978. The height of fashion on the casting floor? Velvet bellbottoms?

Not today. But who notices apparel in 2008? You can’t see the pants for the tattoos.

Well, back to working out the timelines for the real tours that are coming through next week. If you want to know more about these and other activities that Bullseye has planned for the GAS conference, check out the SEE BE info that Mary Kay’s group put together.

Like everything else they do, it’s just brilliant.


After 16 hours of melting at about 2500F, the glass is ladled out of the tanks. By hand.

The casters need to move fast. As it gives off heat, the glass starts to set up. It needs to get to the rolling table before it’s too stiff to roll easily.

Bullseye operates two styles of rolling tables. The single-roller (shown here) consists of a water cooled steel table and one roller that flattens the glass across its surface. A caster spreads the gob of glass across the table in front of the roller to insure even coverage.

A single rolling table lets us make collage glasses like fracture-streamers, stringer glasses, etc., where the chips and/or threads of glass are composed on the table before the sheet is rolled.

On the second style of table, the double-roller, the glass is pressed between a pair of rollers, creating a sheet with more uniform top and bottom surfaces.

You may see either single- or double-rolling method as you speed across the casting floor…. on your way to the next stop on your factory tour…

Now imagine you’ve dashed past the mixing barrels and are darting across the hot shop floor, dodging guys running by with ladles of molten glass. Then you come face-to-face with this guy…

…operating something that looks like a cross between a howitzer and a speculum.

It’s called a screw charger. It’s used to feed the batch into the furnace. It takes about 90 seconds to charge the contents of a single barrel (350 lbs) into a furnace. We used to shovel the batch in by hand. The screw charger reduces dust and back aches.

Each furnace will get charged 6-10 times during its 16-hour melt cycle. You won’t get to watch. We have to keep moving. Remember, there are 349 other people behind you on this tour.

Speaking of factory tours, the 100 that went through last Monday was just a drill for the GAS-powered tsunami rolling in next month. On June 18 alone we’ll push, prod and pummel 350 people through the narrow gauntlet between batching, melting, forming, QC and shipping.

Maybe I’ll use the next few blogs to practice The Routine.

We mix the raw materials, called “batch”, in 55-gallon drums – about 120 of them each day.

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On Monday Dan & I toured close to 100 Portland Art Museum docents through the factory as part of their instruction in preparation for the Klaus Moje exhibition soon to open at the Museum.

Why are dozens of well-dressed women hanging out in a parking lot in Southeast Portland?

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As heady as it is to think that we could conserve 6 million gallons of water a year with Daren’s recycling system, Bullseye is still a factory that is defined more by daily individual effort than by the periodic super-projects.

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The humble factory drinking fountain. One little revolutionary idea.

Which is how the filtered water fountains happened.

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Clearly tree-planting along SE 21st Avenue doesn’t begin to address the environmental impact of glass manufacturing today.

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What’s water got to do with it?

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Once upon an Earth Day. (OK, Gary, you asked: that’s our sales manager Jim Jones – not long out of college – on the far left. On the far right is Mary Kay’s oldest, now long past college – and thumb-sucking)

When I arrived at Bullseye in 1983 Dan & Company had been struggling to make colored art glass from recycled bottles for almost a decade.

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Get real. I bet you scrub and polish all your mayo jars before tossing them in the recycle bin.

Recycling is only this squeaky clean in iStock photos.

In truth, what a factory like Bullseye gets when it orders in recycled bottle cullet is just enough fragments of ceramic, pyrex cookware, metal contaminants and other assorted oddities to ruin entire melts of furnace glass.

This was the major obstacle to the use of post-consumer glass in Bullseye’s manufacturing operation by the late 1980s’s. The original idea made perfect sense: recycled bottles replaced the virgin sand, soda and lime in the factory’s formulas. A shorter melt cycle means lower fuel costs and less environmental impact. Ecologically and socially it was the right thing to do.

But by the 1980s mass container manufacturing plants like Owens-Illinois were competing more aggressively for the limited sources of recycled bottle cullet in the Pacific Northwest. (Originally these operations had only used about 10% recycle in their melts; today their usage is as high as 80%). Good news for the environment. Bad news for a small factory competing in the supply chain.

Meanwhile Bullseye’s color palette was becoming more sophisticated, necessitating greater control in formulation – not easy with an unpredictable raw material like recycled bottles. And most importantly, an emphasis on fusible glass meant tightened tolerances in compatibility testing – also not easy to achieve with the vagaries of post-consumer waste.

End result: by the 1990s Bullseye had reformulated its entire line to virgin raw materials. In doing so, we instituted some of the tightest raw materials testing in our industry and improved the glass for kilnforming.

But what about the values behind the original commitment to recycle?

Well, Bullseye’s never been a place without ideas. Some that are brilliant. Some that are all wet.

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Stay tuned for Earth Days at Bullseye in the ’80s….

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Recycling values. In the Beginning (1973) Bullseye glass was made of recycled bottle cullet. Thirty-five years later, a lot has changed. And a lot has not.

If you happened to grow up in America in the 1950’s as I did, you’re probably familiar with the self-congratulatory litany of virtues we were raised to believe were uniquely (US) American: inventiveness (aka “Yankee Ingenuity”), self-sufficiency, frugality, honesty, candor – all the Honest Abe stuff we truly believed contrasted us to “Old Europe” (even before a moron among us put a name to our arrogance).

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