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Breakthrough dialog on scrapers & fabricating debris?

By Gary Mauer

June 17, 2005

Some tempered glass – if it can’t be scraped because of fabricating debris issues - is actually high maintenance glass. Ironically, fabricators who produce quality tempered glass that can be scraped without incident seem to be reluctant to promote the obvious benefits of a product that is easier to clean and results in fewer hassles for builders and end users. That may be changing soon.

Last summer, the IWCA published the “IWCA Tempered Glass Informational Bulletin 2004 - Scrapers & Fabricating Debris”, which is available for download at In addition to helping window cleaners identify the fabricating debris problem and urging them to secure scratch waivers, the IWCA bulletin supports proper scraper use, and depicts fabricating debris as a quality issue for the fabricator and builder, suggesting that they check tempered glass for fabricating debris before it's installed.

During the 2005 IWCA Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida, nearly 100 window cleaners toured the local Arch Aluminum & Glass fabricating facility. The next day, several dozen attended an educational seminar at the IWCA convention site. Both sessions were intended to help convince window cleaners to stop using scrapers, and to showcase tempering practices.

Window cleaners turned these discussions toward tempered glass surface quality, because even though this hasn't been acknowledged in glass publications, window cleaners realize that when the glass is OK, scraping is OK.

Arch Aluminum & Glass is a major US glass fabricator operating 21 tempering furnaces, 3 mirror manufacturing plants, 4 laminated glass lines and several aluminum fabricating operations. When Arch changes prices or business practices the reverberation is felt throughout the glass fabricating industry.

During the tour, IWCA members watched as glass was seamed (a process that removes chips and cracks from the edges), washed automatically and stamped with a tempering logo before entering one of Arch’s HHH tempering ovens. There the glass was heated to near its softening point and rapidly cooled in an air quenching unit.

Tour guides, most of whom were Arch executives, described tempering practices and maintenance procedures they felt minimized fabricating debris issues with Arch tempered glass, including weekly furnace cleaning, and washer maintenance at the end of each shift. Cliff Monroe, Senior Technical Manager for Arch, said, “We do everything we can to avoid debris on glass.”

Max Perilstein, the Vice President of marketing for Arch, and newly elected leader of GANA’s Building Envelope Contractors division said, “We believe we're doing things the right way.” He advised window cleaners to “Investigate local glass fabricators. Ask if they’re doing the things we’re doing here.”

Tour guides also suggested that some airborne debris could be landing on clean glass before it enters the oven - typically only minutes after being washed. Cliff Monroe suggested that the seaming process was one possible source. He also suggested that airborne debris might enter through shipping doors that were nearly always open, due to the warm Florida location. Two window cleaners from Midwestern states were skeptical, since some northern tempering facilities seem to have year round fabricating debris issues, even when cold winter weather tends to keep shipping doors closed.

Monroe said that razors were not being used at Arch to test for the presence of fabricating debris, but that from time to time he would check surfaces with the edge of a credit card. Monroe and one of the window cleaners tried that test on some Arch tempered glass. They were unable to detect any debris, but the window cleaner pointed out that a card edge isn’t as sensitive as a razor, and cautioned that when fabricating debris gets embedded in plastic, the edge of a credit card becomes an abrasive implement that will scratch glass the next time it is used.

One day after the tour, Max Perilstein led an educational seminar at the IWCA’s convention site. He began with a brief, but informative PowerPoint presentation on glass manufacturing and fabricating from start to finish.

Perilstein explained that flat glass is shipped to distributors who will pass some of it to window makers, and some of it to glass fabricators like ACI, AFGD, Oldcastle, Viracon and Arch Aluminum & Glass. Fabricators process glass into a variety of products, including coated, insulated, and/or tempered glass, before shipping it off to a glazing contractor for use in a construction application.

After the PowerPoint presentation, Max Perilstein introduced the colleagues who would assist with the question and answer session; Cliff Monroe and Joel Smith, National Architectural Manager for Arch. All three had been glass plant tour guides the day before.

Herb Hirzel lead with a question about the practicality of using a "1 inch" scraper recommended by GANA. Max responded by acknowledging that fabricators weren't cleaning experts, and "we're here to learn", adding that some of the construction cleaning horror stories he'd been hearing from IWCA members made him wonder why anyone would want to be in this business.

Gary Mauer joked that his (broken) arm was in a cast because of "overuse of steel wool", then provided examples of how scraping may become necessary on many occasions over the life of a window, long after the construction cleanup.

At one point, Max Perilstein commented that he had a hard time believing you wouldn’t eventually scratch glass if you kept using a scraper, but later agreed with an IWCA member who said that if you do things properly, and the glass is the way it should be, then you wouldn’t scratch the glass.

When Gary mentioned that he first learned to use a scraper on glass while employed at a glass factory back in the 70's, Cliff Monroe reminded the audience that during the tour of the Arch plant, some might have seen Arch workers using scrapers on glass to remove excess sealants. Perilstein added, "We do use scrapers - it's just not something we're encouraged to do."

Gary Mauer pointed out that even where tempering practices were believed to be sound, the best way to verify that would be to actually use a scraper to check tempered glass as it left the oven. Mauer also suggested that if ovens are cleaned on weekends, glass tempered on Monday might prove to be the most desirable. During the course of this discussion, Arch agreed to find a way include some form of scraper test into the hourly quality control checks on glass exiting their ovens.

Jeff Klass took a sample of tempered glass that had obvious fabricating debris issues - from one of Arch’s competitors – held it to the microphone and lightly scraped the roller side for all to hear.

(Similar to the recording on our website.)

Jeff stressed that he could deal with anything left on glass by building trades, except when there was fabricating debris. “That’s entirely up to you guys and your industry.” According to Jeff, there are obvious opportunities for the fabricators who choose to minimize that defect, along with all the problems it causes for builders, cleaners and homeowners.

Max Perilstein acknowledged that the fabricator does not always end up with responsibility for fabricating debris damage, and he agreed that the glass industry would be more likely to respond if builders and end users were rejecting more bad glass. He urged the IWCA to step up the rhetoric on this issue.

Cliff Monroe encouraged attendees to consider participating in an ASTM or ANSI committee relating to glass production standards. "There are hundreds of tempering ovens out there [in addition to Arch]”. Perilstein suggested the IWCA send someone to GANA meetings to help the glass industry understand scrapers & fabricating debris. He suggested focus groups as another way to promote dialog between window cleaners and fabricators.

Perilstein told the audience Arch doesn’t want its customers to have quality problems. He expressed hope that new quality control procedures by Arch might result in a competitive advantage for his company and/or a new standard for inspection practices within the glass industry that could greatly reduce future encounters with fabricating debris. Ideally, he said, Arch would like to be the temperer most highly regarded by window cleaners. He also expressed his hope that Arch would be welcomed at future IWCA conventions and vowed to come back “with substance”.

Hopefully what this means is that we'll see fabricators actually promoting quality tempered glass surfaces, and we'll begin to see fewer fabricating debris problems across the board. Look for more contact between window cleaners & fabricators at future IWCA meetings, and at the Window Cleaning Network Picnic this summer, when Arch will host a tour of their facility in Waukesha, Wisconsin.