During the March meeting of the Cambridge Cordials study group, an interview was conducted with Sid Garrett, former glass cutter at the Cambridge Glass Company and LaFlo Glass Company. The interview, which covered Mr. Garrett's many years in the glass industry, was the first of many the Cordials hope to conduct with former Cambridge workers.
When possible, these interviews will be video taped, so they can benefit other members of NCC, Inc. The plan is to also write a short article for the Crystal Ball each month including information from these interviews.
The worker for this month is Sidney Garret. Sid worked at the Cambridge Glass Company from 1934 through the first closing in 1954. He started work in the cutting department as an apprentice stopper grinder. He got the job because his father worked there. Several other family members also worked at the glass plant, including his mother and two sisters.
The interview was conducted in the meeting room of the Degenhart Paperweight and Glass Museum, Cambridge, Ohio, where Sid has a glass cutting lathe set up. Much of the early part of the interview was conducted while Sid actually demonstrated his glass cutting skills on a blank Cambridge glass plate. He made it look amazingly simple.
After several patterns were "gray cut" onto the plate, Sid continued to talk about the glass cutting process. He explained that some pieces were sold with the "gray cut" patterns, just as they were when they left the cutters bench. Other pieces were polished, using a hard lambs' wool buff. However, most pieces were polished through a process of dipping the glass repeatedly in alternating solutions of acid and hot water.
Several members brought examples of cut glass to the meeting. It was interesting to hear Sid's comments about the different pieces. In one case he estimated that it would take him about two hours to cut one #3778 goblet in the #1038 Ambassador pattern. In another case, he explained the difficulty in cutting a #3400/45 bowl, because of its unusual shape. Mr. Garrett estimates that during his career, including twenty years at the Cambridge Glass Company, sixteen years at LaFlo, and some cutting at home, he has cut about 250,000 pieces of glass.
During one part of the interview Sid described the Cutting room scene. He said that in the "good times" (1940s) there were around 25 workers in the Cutting Department. In addition to the cutters, there were three or four acid dippers, three repairmen and several "girls." As mentioned above, the acid dippers polished the gray cut pieces by alternately dipping them in solutions of acid and hot water. The repairman's job was to polish out any imperfections in the glass, while the "girls" job was to wash and pack the finished product.
The cutters sat in rows because their tools were all powered from a large overhead rotating shaft. Large belts and pulleys connected the individual cutting wheels to the shaft for power. A clutch mechanism allowed a cutter to disconnect his wheel so that he could set up his equipment without disturbing the other cutters.
Sid also described the layers of heavy rubber clothing that had to be worn by the acid dippers. Although this was very hot and uncomfortable during the summer, he said it was necessary to protect them from acid burns.
Considering that this was our first attempt at interviewing a former worker, the interview and the videotape turned out very well.
Viewers of the tape will also hear Sid talk about other topics, such as: the large grinding wheels used to finish the bottom of plates; the use of Carbonium in the cutting process; and how to use a diamond tipped tool to shape and repair the cutting wheels.
For our next meeting we plan to have two or three workers from the Etching Department who will explain the Etching process.