Soft Glass or Borosilicate? Which is Better and Why You Should Care

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One of the most crucial decisions a legal cannabis enthusiast must make is which piece to buy. Should you go with a small, single-blown hand pipe? Or how about a giant, three-foot bong with six percs and a massive ice catch? What about a bubbler that borrows aspects of both of these options? There are a plethora of glass pieces available in the legal cannabis market, and there are new companies popping up every day. But the style of glass pipe you go with is not what we are talking about today. That is the easy part. Where your decision gets tricky is not with any of the more common problems that stoners face. No, the tricky part is figuring out which type of glass to go with.

Not all glass is made equal, and it can get frustrating trying to figure out which type of material you should go with for your piece of choice. If you have been smoking for any length of time, you have probably heard of borosilicate glass. This is hands-down the most popular type of glass out there, and for many good reasons that we will touch on later. However, there is one other form of glass that has gone under the radar for a long time: soft glass.

Example of Soft Glass Blowing

Soft glass is like the grandfather of the glass market; it was the original head honcho and, in one way or another, the reason for the rise of other glass types. Soft glass might not be as popular nowadays as it used to be, but it has its own merits that make it a great choice for just about any smoker. In order to better determine the differences between borosilicate glass and soft glass, let's break them down and see what makes each form tick. Maybe you will find your next favorite piece. 

What is Borosilicate Glass?

Borosilicate glass is the strongest glass available for blowing bongs, hand pipes, and bubblers. It is comprised of mainly of silica and boron trioxide, the (not so) secret ingredients that make borosilicate glass so incredibly resistant. The most attractive aspect of borosilicate glass is that it is resilient, even in extreme hot and cold. Thanks to being less subject to thermal stress, borosilicate glass is ideal for crafting long-lasting glass pieces.

Example of Borosilicate GlassblowingBorosilicate's resilience makes it ideal for the creation of what is known as scientific glass, inspired by lab beakers. Scientific glass is characterized by a simple, clean aesthetic and sturdy design. The one downside to going with a scientific glass pipe is that there are few flashy options in this category. Borosilicate glass does not convey vibrant colors well, restricting glassblowers to only throwing in small splashes of color in their pieces. In this aspect, soft glass thrives. 

What is Soft Glass?

Soft glass, also known as soda-lime glass, is the original form of glassblowing, dating back as far as 100BC. Yes, you read that right. Soft glass has been around for over 2,000 years! Though, it wasn't until the 1960's that glassblowing was taken to a mainstream artistic movement. In a way, soft glass is the sole reason that the glass market is the way it is today.

Example of Glass Artist Blowing Soft Glass BongUnlike borosilicate glass, soft glass does not sport much thermal resistance, making it susceptible to cracking or even shattering thanks to "thermal shock." However, where soft glass shines is in its uses in artistic endeavors. In the early 1960's, an artistic movement known as the "Studio Glass Movement" brought soft glass into the limelight with intricate, ornate glass installations, essentially giving birth to the counter culture glass market. 

What makes soft glass so instrumental in glassblowing is its malleability and ability to carry vibrant colors, even after the piece has set. This makes soft glass the ideal material for any glassblowing artist that wants to craft intricate sculptures or ornate glass bongs. It does not, however, make it the ideal material for crafting long-lasting, resilient pieces that can withstand the clumsy hands of a bumbling smoker that just can't seem to find his lighter.

And the Award for Most Durable Goes to…

Bong Glassblowing Example

Borosilicate… Yeah big surprise there right? Borosilicate glass has a much lower coefficient of expansion than soft glass, which is just a fancy way of saying that it is not affected as much by intense heat and cold. If all artistic value is ignored when searching for a bong, then borosilicate glass is going to be your go-to every single time. But that's not the way the world works, is it? Artistic flare and aesthetics have a lot more value than you might think, especially when it comes to legal cannabis users. Stoners love art. I mean, just look at the old glass events at Grateful Dead concerts. It looked like a small town art fare out there.

Art is an engrained part of the cannabis experience, and as long as cannabis exists, glassblowers will continue to pump out a wide assortment of artistic glass pieces that are both functional and visually appealing. Borosilicate might be the best choice for a long lasting bong, but it will never be the only choice. Who knows, maybe the next best bong material is right around the corner.

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