Paul Harvey used to have a radio show where he would tell you “the rest of the story.” We want to share a neat story about the history of the glass used for fireplace doors and its connection with iPhones and other smartphones.
There are a few options when its comes to glass for fireplace doors, like tempered glass and pyroceramic glass. Medina Glass Vice President Pat Neyhart says the difference between the two can be summed up in a few words: Pyroceramic glass can handle heat at higher temperatures. This is beneficial if the fire in your fireplace is closer to the doors. Tempered glass can withstand temperatures from about 400 to 500 degrees F. If the fireplace door has enough distance from the flames, it can be a good option because it is less expensive than pyroceramic glass.
But, more about that later. Let’s dive into the history of how pyroceramic glass was developed … or should we say discovered. This is what Paul Harvey might say is “the rest of the story.”
Discovery of pyroceramic glass was accidential
The glass was “developed” at the Corning Glass Works. On its website, it talks about how one of its R & D chemists, S. Donald Stookey, also a physicist, had been working in the lab conducting additional experiments with FotoForm glass. He placed a glass dish in an oven that should have been heated to 1,100 degrees F. But, that did not happen. Due to a malfunction, the temperature inside the furnace actually reached 1,600 degrees F. Stookey went to take the glass out of the oven. He thought the glass would shatter. It didn’t. It slipped, fell to the floor, and when it crashed on the floor the glass didn’t shatter. It didn’t even break.
This happened in 1952. Because of a malfunction with the oven and the glass falling to the floor, Stookey, who thought of himself more as an alchemist, made a discovery: Ceramic glass. And, it was all be sheer luck. The newly discovered material was named pyroceramic glass. Corning Glass Works manufactured it under the name Pyroceram, which is one of the brands Medina Glass uses for fireplace doors and for wood-burning ovens.
Interesting uses of pyroceramic glass
Because Pyroceram could withstand high temperatures in ovens, Corning Glass Works developed cookware made of it. Stookey’s accident in the lab became CorningWare … glass bakeware. On the Corning website, it proudly boasts many a lasagna has been baked in a CorningWare dish. The cookware became a very big seller.
There were other experiments with pyroceramic glass, and some of that research led to the Visions cookware by Corning in the 1970s. This cookware set is made of pyroceramic glass and features glass pots, pans and frying pans. The Visions cookware continues to be manufactured and sold today.
Because the glass is so strong and so heat-resistant, it has been used in the cones of guided missiles, too, Pat said.
Let’s not forget about fireplace doors
Scientists also discovered another way to put pyroceramic glass to good use: Fireplace doors. While the fire is burning hot, some prefer the doors to be open so the heat from the flames can warm up the home. But, you need to be careful with the sparks flying out of the hearth. Others prefer to keep the doors closed to control sparks and enjoy the ambient heat. As already noted, tempered glass is a good choice if there is enough distance between the fire and the fireplace doors. Or, if the doors are closed as the fire winds down. Medina Glass Manager Brian Keltz said tempered glass is used a lot for fireplace doors.
Because it can withstand high temperatures, pyroceramic glass is a popular choice for wood-burning stoves. If you purchased a wood-burning stove and somehow cracked the glass, the glaziers at Medina Glass can measure and cut a piece of glass for a custom fit.
Because pyroceramic glass can be cut on-site, customers can get a replacement piece of glass quickly, Pat said. Tempered glass, on the other hand, has to be custom made. So, a customer will have to order through Medina Glass. It can take up to a week-and-a-half to get the finished piece back at Medina Glass.
Considerations when looking at fireplace doors
Medina Glass works with Design Specialties for tailor-made fireplace doors. They offer a variety of traditional, transitional or modern styles. You get a choice of metals and glass. Someone from Medina Glass can walk you through the process, if you are interested in new fireplace doors. It’s not a quick decision because of all the choices you have to make sure you receive the best doors possible for your home.
Some of the choices you will be asked to make:
- What kind of handles do you want?
- What kind of framing?
- What kind of metal?
- What color finish?
- Do you want colored glass?
- Do you want screens?
- Do you want traditional doors?
- Bi-fold doors?
Pat says the choice boils down to two things:
- Do you want functional, or
- Do you want it ornamental?
And, for the rest of the story
So, how do smartphones and iPhones fit into the discussion about fireplace doors? Pyroceramic glass is used to make Gorilla Glass, which provides for strong, durable display screens for iPhones smartphones. That is the connection; that is how we go from fireplace doors to cookware to guided missiles to iPhones.
If Medina Glass can help you with selecting the right fireplace doors, either call us (the number is below) or send us a message via our contact page.