Glass must be worked hot. Generally the hotter the better; so you need to have tools that allow you to manipulate the glass. The key tools used today look pretty much the same as those used by Venetian glassblowers hundreds of years ago. Here's a list of the tools that I use during a typical blow slot. Most of my tools are made by Jim Moore who is based out of Washington state. I use pipes and punties made by Spiral Arts, also located in Washington state.
One of the most used tools, the jacks are used to shape and control the glass in many different ways. Both the blades of the jacks and the hasp (the flat bit that connects the two blades) are used as tool surfaces.
I've got two pairs that I use. The larger ones handle the bigger pieces, the smaller ones are better for cups and dessert dishes, although I'll also use them for the finer bits of larger pieces, such as opening the lip of a larger vase.
The dark stains on the blades are a combination of carbon and bees wax. The wax stops the jacks from sticking to the hot glass. The carbon build up is mostly burnt wax. Jacks should be cleaned reasonably regularly and these are about ready for a clean.
Hot glass can be cut with metal shears. This is useful when adding one piece of glass to another, cutting off excess glass or making a design by cutting out sections of the glass.
Again, I've got a couple of pairs. The bottom ones chew through larger chunks of glass while the smaller top ones will handle more delicate cuts.
These interesting looking shears are called diamond shears because of the diamond shape the blades make when partially open (not because they have diamond blades - the blades are steal). While straight shears will leave a long flat cut mark in the glass, the diamond shears will pull the glass together and leave a single spot mark at the cut point. This is often more desirable than a long flat cut.
These are a really great tool. Super useful. I probably need to get another, slightly larger pair. And I should get these guys sharpened as I've over used them.
These are useful when cutting around the lip of a vessel as the curved blades tend not to leave jagged edges.
These don't get used as often, but when you need them, you need them.
Useful whenever you want to pull out points of glass. Also useful to grab onto punties and can be used to drip water on jack lines. After the jacks, and perhaps the newspaper, they are the tool most likely to be in my hand.
As you can see, I've got three pairs of these. Small, big and ones with really fine points. They all get used every blow slot.
These are made out of fruit tree wood (usually cherry) and spend their lives in buckets of water. They are used to shape glass into uniform shape, usually early on in the process. A slightly fuzzy picture of a "10" block is shown to the right. Blocks come in various sizes starting at a 6 block (which is about right for a first gather) through 8, 10, 12, 14 and even larger.
This is very useful for shaping the glass. This is as close as you can get to actually touching your piece while it is hot (without risking a bad burn).
A glassblower will usually have their own preferred way of sizing and folding the paper. I like 7 sheets of the North Shore News. This results is a fairly thin wad of paper that nicely fits my hand. I'll start with a fresh paper each blow slot, although I know other glassblowers who prefer to use papers that are already broken in.
Working with molten glass has the obvious danger of burns. There can be flying chips of glass either from the work in progress or from the blow pipes from the previous piece as they cool and crack off in the pipe buckets. When blowing I wear cotton clothing; synthetics will tend to melt and stick to the skin where cotton just burns. Closed toed footwear is required and some form of eye protection is also needed. I use safety glasses with a #3 welding glass. These help protect from the UV & IR that comes out of the furnace and glory hole and allows you to more easily see into the tank.
While the tools above are the most common, anything that works for you can be used as a tool for working glass. I have 1/2" copper pipe, ring bolts and other miscellaneous items in my toolbox that I've found useful over time.
Here is a shot of how I set up my bench. Most glassblowers have their own ideas of where tools should go. It is handy to be able to come back to the bench with a hot piece and be able to put your hand on the right tool. A good assistant will learn how you like your bench and deal with straightening it up as you flash your piece.
Pipes and Punties
Pipes and punties hold the piece during its creation. Pipes have a hollow center allowing air to be forced into the piece, while punties are solid. Both are made out of steel and both come in a number of different sizes. One punty (left side) and pipe (right side) are shown on the bench. These are considered "standard" size and are useful for everything from tumblers up to 18" vases or bowls up to 12 inches across. If you try and make a piece that is too large for the pipe the diameter of the pipe becomes too small to easily turn the piece and at extremes you can risk bending the pipe. It is hard to keep pieces centered if you've bent your pipe.