Breakthrough dialog on
scrapers & fabricating debris?
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 www.iwca.org. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.