Innovations in functional glass date back decades. Long ago smokers discovered that glass didn’t get as hot as metal and didn’t burn their fingers when a flame was applied. The double chamber tube bong, arguably the first “percolator,” arrived at the scene in 1979. During the ’80s, colored glass techniques and spoon pipes started gaining popularity. Glass development continued to grow in the ’90s with ice catchers and the beginnings of water filtration and diffusion, usually with the goal to cool down the temperature of smoke and vapor.
Black Market Glass was founded in 2011 in Portland, Oregon the same time when big innovations in dabbing started to appear on the scene, which eventually led to modern dab rigs. The owner of Black Market Glass, Paul, is a full-time glass blower.
“I have spent years building up this business, with help as well from other badass employees and collaborators,” Paul said.
As time goes on, people’s tastes in cannabis change. Today more people than ever are dabbing concentrates, which can be vaporized using a torch to heat a nail. This means nails require a medium—quartz—which has a much higher melting point than glass.
“My goal initially was just to innovate with glass mediums,” Paul said. “We started in the glass/bong side of the industry in 2011 [with] mostly bongs and transitioned to quartz in 2017. By 2020, we moved over to exclusively quartz products. We are inspired the most by pushing the medium of quartz, and concentrate-related items.”
Black Market Glass Emerges
In 2011, with experience in the field making pipes and running distribution in the Pacific Northwest, Paul uprooted from eastern Washington and moved to Portland, Oregon to pursue lathe work for a company that eventually moved into the bong market. It was around that time that glassmakers came up with a unique idea that had the potential to explode with popularity: the Rooster Apparatus. The Rooster Apparatus included a fritted disc (also called a frit disc), which is a glass element designed to diffuse a hit though a number of different holes. A frit disc is outfitted with more holes than honeycombs (a glass disc filled with holes arranged in a honeycomb pattern).
“Doing this contract production work taught me to master the medium, [gain] a different way of viewing the market, and the recipe or formula to plant my flag,” Paul said.
In addition to diffusing vapor, the porous glass in a frit disc also filters out solid particles, similar to filter paper.
“Instead of modifying existing diffusers or percolators, the Rooster introduced a totally different way of scrubbing and cooling glasses with a modified frit disc from the laboratory scene,” Paul said. “So we went with the same ideology but with quartz. While many spent their time reinventing the wheel by adding additional bells and whistles to already existing utilities, we decided to offer a different form of transportation to the quartz world.”
After a little trial-and-error, Paul said he realized his team was on to something.
“Stumbling through this exploration required throwing dozens of idea darts before we got some to land on the target, as well as some evolution in the customer, expanding the value of what could be created,” Paul said. “Remember this all started with $50 quartz nails, with a borosilicate dome that went on a male joint rig, a little over a decade ago. So as the customers’ budget for new quartz innovations grew, the more elaborate the designs became.”
Black Market Glass Innovations
The shape of glass and quartz pieces affects how the terps transition into vapor. The thickness of the piece will affect the retention of the heat, but technique and understanding of each model’s operation, as well as the quality of dabs in perfect harmony, will deliver the best terps.
“Quartz is used because of its incredible ability to withstand extreme temperature fluctuations as well as hold heat in a unique way, making it ideal for vapor technology,” Paul said. “Our job and field of study is defining the parameters to use quartz in utilitarian ways in variation—invention, with style. Part of our goal is to provide variation in how your terps are vaporized, the timing, the size, longevity.”
Between 2011-2015 Black Market Glass redesigned the nail and dome system by offering its domeless nail—a tube with four cuts. This meant that customers no longer had to set a dome to dab. For the quartz honeycomb (which became available in 2017), Black Market Glass released a multi-capillary nail, made using multiple tubes of glass stacked together in a barrel formation, which the company applied to the tip of a nectar collector.
The brand’s UV quartz in blue, yellow, and red (2019) was also something new.
“Wanting to add a little bit of pizazz to our mundanely clear medium, we reacted to the science industry for other types of quartz,” Paul said. “And found that not only did we achieve some cool aesthetics but also a function attribute of faster heat ups, through increased conductivity.”
The Blender (2020) and the Terpnado (2022) are the first of their kind, Paul explained. They feature spiral sandblasted intakes that put a spin on incoming air, and deliver a significant amount of rotational airflow to the concentrates, which promotes even distribution of heat and vaporization, he explained.
The Globstopper (2021) is the first of Black Market Glass’s quartz products to feature centripetal force.
“Unlike centrifugal force, centripetal force brings everything to the center during rotation,” Paul explained. “Suppressors, on the other hand, combine the technology of our Globstopper Series, centripetal, with our Blender/Slurper Series, centrifugal. We created an additional row of micro jets, placed directly below the arm, giving the rising oil a little push back down, minimizing the amount of oil that will make it down the joint and into your piece.”
All of Black Market Glass quartz products are 100% handmade by a small and dedicated crew in Portland.
“Every model is American-made down to the joint,” Paul said. “All accessories are handmade by us, or are collaborations with other artists we work with. Each design we carefully detail to make sure they are flawless.”
Paul estimates that 90% of the products on the Black Market Glass website are made in-house, and the only exceptions are typically torches, temp readers, and other parts. Black Market Glass has recently done some quartz and borosilicate accessory collaborations with Blossom Glass Art. They collaborate with various borosilicate artists on accessories often and are always looking to create new things with fellow quartz makers.
“Part of our business has a shared vision and goal of supporting artists with art. Black Market has helped me create a storefront for raw glass material for boro[silicate] artists in the Portland area, Boro Glass Supply,” Paul said. “We are a small business with inspiration, and we want to lift other small businesses with the love of art and innovation.”
This article was originally published in the July 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.