Volume 48, Issue 11- November 2013

Contract Glazing

Never Without It:
Glass Shop Employees Talk about their Favorite Tools

Jerry Wright, owner and president of AAA Glass and Mirror Co. in Ft. Worth, Texas, never leaves home without his glass cutter, but not necessarily because he’s always on the job.

“I started carrying it as a reminder of my father, who was quite a glass craftsman,” Wright says. “Then I used to go around to all of these civic clubs, from Kiwanis to Rotary, talking about glass, and I’d always carry my glass cutter. I’d have some glass nearby and I’d demonstrate with the cutter. It was a cheap way to get my name circulated as hardly any body had seen someone cutting glass,” he explains.

“It’s amazing the number of people who ask you ‘what is that?’ and I’d say ‘it’s a glass scoring tool. It doesn’t really cut the glass … but that’s what we call them,” Wright adds.

Wright’s not the only one to purchase his own indispensable tool. A poll of USGNN.com™ readers revealed that the vast majority (78 percent) of glazing contractors use a combination of tools provided by their employer, as well as ones that they purchase independently. The remaining 22 percent surveyed are evenly split between glaziers who prefer to supply all of their own tools and those who use only company supplied ones.

While not everyone’s must-have tool is for reasons as personal as Wright’s, glass installers and employees around the country all seem to have their favorites. For Ray Sands Glass in Rochester, N.Y., it’s the old standbys that get the job done best.

“I think we’re basically run-of-the-mill here,” says Dave Burns, president. His company owns the tools that its installers keep on hand. He adds, “We’re using the electric chisels, of course, and we still use the old pull tools and knives. We’ve got a few tools here and there to help us with the door glasses that are somewhat custom, to help us with the installation of that.”

Some of the updates his team has made to their standard tool line include improvements that make the tools more ergonomic.

The team at Merritt Glass Co. Inc. in Pensacola, Fla., relies most heavily on another type of tool. “What’s almost always indispensable here in Florida because of the impact glazing is having manlifts and equipment lifts to hoist glass, as well as cup systems,” says company president Kenneth “Chip” Merritt, Jr. CSI, CDT. “Anything that’s over about 10 or 12 feet tall is always going to take three or four people to lift a large size piece of glass. You can’t do that very efficiently when you’re doing it manually.” He explains that having reliable boom equipment with a cup system attached to it to help get glass into position is a necessary part of every job.

A poll of installers at Hellenbrand Glass in Waunakee, Wis., found two tools that stand above the rest, according to Tamara Hellenbrand. The team at this glass shop points to the Metabo cut-off grinder and Hilti cordless drill as must-have items. The former is touted by the manufacturer as a lightweight power abrasive with high efficiency, while the latter is designed specifically for drilling holes into steel or putting anchor holes in masonry.

Some shops find that no one tool is able to meet the requirements of every job, while some jobs leave installers reaching for a tool that doesn’t yet exist.

“I think everyone probably has a job or two a year that requires something special or unique where you have to take a stock tool and you sort of modify it to make it do the thing you need it to do,” Merritt says.

In the case of Merritt’s glass shop, it’s generally a matter of adapting that indispensable cup system to get into hard-to-reach installation areas. “I know that anyone who has an issue with lifting glass—and we all do—either has to lift totally with a cup system or we’ll build something that we’ll attach to a boom that will support the glass on the bottom edge and keep the glass in place while lifting it up in the air just so we’re not relying completely on a cup system. Sometimes with a cup system you can’t get to where you need to,” Merritt says. —Megan Headley

Easy as 1, 2, 3:
El Paso Glass Tackles Dynamic Glazing

In the days leading up to the June 2013 American Institute of Architects (AIA) trade show in Denver (see July 2013 USGlass, page 64), El Paso Glass - Denver Inc. in Aurora, Colo., was tasked by View Inc. in Milpitas, Calif., with installing View’s dynamic glazing product at a Starbucks across the street from the Denver Convention Center. The switchable glazing product changes a window from transparent to opaque. Having never before installed one, its requisite wiring might have seemed challenge enough for El Paso Glass. Installing the product while the Starbucks continued to operate during the day—and within 48 hours in order to have the install completed in time for the convention—added to the importance of mastering this product’s learning curve.

“We had had several meetings prior trying to game plan this because we knew it would have to be installed after hours and we knew it would be literally 48 hours before the show started by the time the glass got there,” recalls Greg Chestnut, president of El Paso Glass - Denver Inc. “If there were any problems it was going to be catastrophic, but we were able to get it figured out.”

The glazing contractor began by removing approximately 60 lites of existing insulating glass from the project’s storefront. “We hadn’t done the original installation, so we didn’t know what we were going to uncover once we pulled all of it out,” Chestnut recalls.

Once the framework was exposed, the team set the new units and worked the wiring through the framework. According to Chestnut, “The challenge was getting the old glass out and coordinating the timing of the new glass coming in, but the hardest part was running all of the wires through the existing framing.

The goal was to not have any exposed wires, added on raceways or brake metal in order to avoid covering any of the existing framework. Ultimately, the wiring was fed through the framework and up into the ceiling, with a little help.

“We knew there was going to be some coordination,” Chestnut says. A systems company was brought onto the project to help coordinate the wiring placement and an electrician ultimately wired the switchable glazing product into the building’s main power system. In less than 48 hours El Paso Glass had completed its first dynamic glazing project, but Chestnut expects to see more of these products in the future.

“We’re seeing quite a bit being specified now so it’s definitely growing in demand,” Chestnut says of this product. He adds that growing the products use won’t be without its challenges. “The hardest part and the biggest impediment it’s going to encounter is educating owners, architects and contractors of the value of these products and what they can do. It’s the first thing to get value-engineered out because it’s very expensive. But when you start looking at sunshades, light shelves, louvers and things like that on the exterior of the building and then the need for window treatments on the inside, you eliminate all of those items by using dynamic glazing.”

In the meantime, the staff at this Starbucks location is happy to promote its new sun control system.

“They’re ecstatic—they absolutely love it,” Chestnut says. “They were really happy to get it done and they were raving about it during the show and after.” —Megan Headley

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