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The Improvement of Production of Flatter Glass

Due to deforestation, English glass-makers were required to use coal instead of wood in their furnaces in 1615. In the late 17th century, the English discovered that adding lead oxide to the bent glass process resulted in a substance which was solid, heavy and durable. Also at this time, the French perfected grinding and bent glass polishing techniques, leading to the production of the first plate glass, affordable only by the wealthy.
In the 1700s, compressed air technology was utilized to create flatter, thinner, more modern glass panes. Cooling air was blown into a large glass cylinder in controlled doses. This cylinder was then slit lengthwise, reheated and allowed to flatten under its own weight. Large, relatively inexpensive lites (panes) of glass became available and, by 1860, flat glass prices had dropped, making glass affordable in all building construction.
In the 1820s, a hand-operated machine ended the age of blowing individual bottles, glasses and flasks. In the 1870s, the first semi-automatic bottle machines appeared. Plate glass production expanded as water power, then steam, and then electricity made grinding and polishing faster and easier. By the 1860s, stores and office buildings utilized plate glass. The center of plate glass production moved from France and Belgium to the United States. By then, machinery that rolled glass speeded up the manufacturing process. The glass was pushed through two rollers and emerged as a flat sheet onto a steel table. The glass sheets annealed (cooled) slowly on layers of shelves, where they were later cut into various shapes and sizes. The first wired glass was made in the 1890s.

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