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Flameworking at the Magic Kingdom

Flame meets glass.
Mickey's touch-up
Glowing hot and bright.

An artist at one of the shops at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World was flameworking to make small figurines. This art form also goes by the names torchworking and lampworking. In order to make the glass pliable, the Bench Burner (the device with the jet of blue flame) reaches temperatures of 3500 degrees Fahrenheit. A smaller flame source called a Hand Torch is used for fine touches which require more maneuverability than can be done with the Bench Burner.

Slowly, under the intense flame and very light touch of a metal tool, glass beads became recognizable as the head of Mickey Mouse. As the heat of the torch touched the glass, both would change color. The Bench Burner flame would change from blue to yellow, while the glass would start glowing from orange then to white.

Photographing the process is tricky. The bright flame plays havoc with sensors. Capturing the bead of glass in the bright flame casts rest of the scene into darkness. Added to this was the challenge of shooting through the very reflective safety barrier, which keeps the overly enthusiastic from getting seriously burned.

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