Jan. 4, 2023

Aaron Gooding of Last Cut Crystal - hand cut crystal whiskey glasses

Aaron Gooding of Last Cut Crystal - hand cut crystal whiskey glasses
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If you've paid any attention at all over the last couple of years, you know that I'm a sucker for nice glassware. Wine glasses, coffee cups, and in particular, whiskey glasses are as much a part of my drinking experience as the liquid that is sipped from them.

So, when I ran across Aaron Gooding's work on Instagram @lastcutcrystal, I was intrigued. I've got quite a variety of nosing glasses but the most visceral whiskey-drinking experience comes from my heavy, Waterford crystal old fashioned or rocks glasses I have. I just love the heft and the way it feels as my fingers caress the varied grooves as my clear ice sphere rumbles around in the bourbon as I roll the glass in my hand. I've got a set we received as a wedding gift 32 years ago, I've got a 6-ounce set I used mostly for Boulevadiers and Sazerac cocktails, and a couple of giant double old fashioned glasses that are, of course, my go-to for Old Fashioned cocktails. 

The opportunity to buy glasses hand cut by a creator building a business around art was too compelling to pass up. Having our infamous logo etched in the bottom sealed the deal and I ordered two Old Fashioned glasses with a fairly traditional pattern carved into the crystal. Then I thought, why not see if Aaron wanted to be on the podcast and he did so here's me talking to Aaron Gooding of Last Cut Crystal.


You can see and order Aaron's work from his Etsy Store and watch him in action on Instagram.

Podcast episodes, videos, and livesteams are available at thepracticalstill.com.
Join us for Friday Sips Live, Fridays at 2:30pm MT
All the socials @ThePracticalStill
Questions for us? Email mark@thepracticalstill.com.

Whiskey isn't all we do.
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[0:00] Music.

[0:13] Alright, so normally Dan would be here and Dan would ask me a question. And in this case, I think he'd ask me something like, Hey Mark, come you have so many whiskey glasses?
And I'd say that's a great question, but it's a silly question. I have so many whiskey glasses because I like glassware.
It feels good on my lip when I'm drinking my whiskey. I've got a lot of coffee mugs. And sometime here recently, I ran across a fellow on Instagram that runs Last Cut Crystal and he makes beautiful glasses.
So I ordered some and then I thought, why not talk about glasses? So joining me now is Aaron Gooding from Last Cut Crystal, welcome Aaron.
Hey, how you doing Mark? I'm doing well, how are you? Good, doing well.
I am looking forward to getting my new glasses.
Yes, I'm making them right now.

[1:02] Typically, you know, I have stuff already in stock, but then you know, Christmas time rolls around and my stock gets depleted and I'm on the wheel cutting. That's a good problem.
Yes, yes it is. And on the wheel cutting, that's a good question, or a good segue, because is that what we call it, cutting glass?
Yeah, so basically it's a spinning stone wheel or a diamond wheel.
And what I do is I typically have a rough design drawn out onto the glass, and then I physically cut into the glass, like remove material from the glass with the stone or the diamond wheel.
And that's kind of the short explanation of it, I would say.
Well, I think as I found you on Instagram, you put lots of good videos, little reels up of you doing that. So I think it's interesting for people to see what it takes to get from a plain glass to the ones that we love to hold. And I do love to hold a whiskey glass with some nice grooves in it.
I'm not kidding. It's the way it feels on my lip that I pay attention to. So I have high hopes.

[2:07] How long have you been doing that? And how did you decide to start cutting whiskey glasses?
Well, it's kind of an interesting story. Growing up, I grew up on a farm and I was always doing those kind of physical labor, stuff with my hands. And as I got into school, I ended up being an,
electrician and then I moved into a maintenance position. And so I was always working with my hands. But I never took any art classes or anything like that. I didn't even know what.

[2:43] Crystal cutting was. And I was working as a maintenance guy at this place here in town.
And the owner of the company, whom I was working for, he was the kind of guy that would buy a lot of different homes and businesses. And I was on a crew that would get pulled out of the factory,
weirdly enough, and I would go and I'd get to work on these projects. It was kind of fun. And.

[3:12] One day I walked into work and I was informed that there was a meeting. Okay, cool. We got a meeting and I should have hit me then, but a lot of the guys I asked if they were going to the meeting,
they weren't going to the meeting. Only a few other guys were going to this meeting.
So that should have been a red light right there. So I get in, sit down and, hey, you're getting getting laid off. Oh, okay. Um, you know, told you pretty blindsided, kind of, you know, it was just one of those, one of,
those things, you know, how life is. And so like, the next day, I get a call from the guy who I had been working with, you know,
we, we would go out and about to these houses and these businesses, and we'd renovate them and do work and such. And he's like, Hey, he's like, why'd you get laid off? I need And I was like, I don't know.

[4:05] So he gets in touch with the owner of the business of the factory that that was putting me in this guy on these jobs. And he's like, you know, he's question of money.
He goes, I don't know. I don't, I don't, you know, I'm not in charge of that stuff. I'm sorry it happened. He goes, how about this? He goes, um, have Aaron keep helping you out.
You know, I'll pay him on the side.
And so great. So I'm basically still doing what I'm doing for the same people, just not getting paid for them. for them. Well, it comes to come to find out there's a business right down the street from where I live. I mean, right down the street, I could throw a frisbee, you know, and I'd hit this,
place. And I drive by it almost every day. And I'm like, I never paid attention to it. Well, here, the next job on our list to do was to remove.

[4:50] A bunch of old machinery and old, crystal boxes, a box with crystal in it, things like that. And it was this glass shop and I'm like, what in the world?
And so I started helping out and one of the owners, one of the guys that worked there, I come to find out that he was getting into business with this guy.
And so I'm learning about what crystal cutting is. I'm moving these machines to the new location. And I'm slowly putting together what this craft is.
And it took several months to get everything moved and to get everything sorted out. And then they asked me, hey, we are looking for an apprentice.

[5:41] Would you wanna do this? And I was like, okay, yeah. It was kind of a big change.
I did, you know, maintenance work, electrical work, carpentry stuff, you know. You were never a doodler or a sketcher.
You know, as a kid, I was always drawing pictures and stuff, you know, just like, you know, I watch my daughter now, she's always drawing stuff. And I enjoyed, you know,
being creative in that terms, but no, yeah, I wasn't. And so I'm like, well, you know, at this point, I was like mid-20s, I was like, this is a good time to just try something different.
And so away I went and the guy who I learned from.

[6:22] He's a master crystal cutter. And that's actually where I continue to work today.
And that's kind of how I got started with everything.
There's sometimes fate just steps in, right? Yeah. And that's kind of something that I've learned.
Life can throw an interesting curveball at you and you know what? Sometimes you got to swing at it.
Sometimes the curve's the outside of a glass. What is, and I don't know this at all, but when we were exchanging messages, you said something at once that was glassware and crystalware.
What is the difference between glass and crystal?
Yeah, so that's a pretty common question. And by no means am I an expert on this since I do focus on generally engraving via sandblasters, you know, sand carving engravings, logos, and then obviously
the cutting with the stone wheel. That's more my box. I'm not a glass blower, but the main difference is the lead content.
Glass has more, they call it like soda lime. It's more iron content in the glass. So it makes it harder.

[7:38] So when it's typically- Glass has more of the iron content? Yes, glass has more iron content and it makes it a little harder. It's not quite as clear.

[7:50] And now crystal is more of like, has a higher lead content.
And that's kind of changed throughout the past few decades, you know, with obviously, you know, lead and lead poisoning, things like that. So most crystal doesn't have the lead in it that it used
to. But back in the day, there was 24% lead crystal. So the lead crystal makes that that kind of glass softer. So crystal is softer and it's clear. Regular glass is harder and it's not as clear.
But you think for whiskey drinkers we need the harder, more durable.

[8:30] How thick it, because you talked earlier about cutting into the material, you know when I'm looking at whiskey glasses they don't look very thick, especially something like a Glencairn.
Have you ever gone too far? Yes, I have. And that's sort of what you learn when you're cutting.

[8:47] That's what takes the longest. Anybody can cut a crystal, you know, given enough time practicing, just like anything else.

[8:56] But you just have to develop the eye for it and the feel for it. For instance, when you're looking into a glass as you cut it, that you're seeing from the inside, not from the outside, what the cut looks like.
So as I'm pressing the glass onto this wheel and it's spinning and it's removing the glass away, I need to be sure, you know, if I'm making a cut that looks like a straight up and down V-grooved cut, I need to make sure it's not lopsided.
And there's, you know, one's a little lighter than the other. I need to pay attention to that. And, or if I'm using a wheel that's round and I'm making a nice round cut, I gotta make sure that it's as, you know, spherical as I can get it.
And so you have to keep those things in mind because for instance, on a Glen Caron, that's a curvy glass, right? It's got a wide base and then it slopes up and it's a small top.
And as you're cutting with the wheel, when you're viewing it, you have to tell your brain, hey, that's not what this cut looks like. I know that it looks like I'm screwing it up, but the glass is distorting it.

[10:05] And I have to stay true to what I'm doing. And so that goes same for cutting, accidentally cutting through the glass.
That does not happen very often at all. You'd be very, very surprised how far you can cut into the glass and it not break. I mean, and I've cut some really thin stuff.
I've cut like some really nice, thin, like stemless wine glasses and wine glasses And I mean, I've cut them paper thin, polished them paper thin.
And you know, that's the interesting and cool thing about glass and crystal is just, it's such a crazy medium.
You think that it can break and it won't. You think that it like, the way it captures and reflects light is just, it's a fascinating medium to work with. And yeah, I do get that question a lot about cutting through it.
And it doesn't happen too often. I think it's because the rest of us look at that and go, I'd lean on it or sneeze and just hit it. But with the Glencairn, I've seen some of the pieces you do with either leaves or wheat.
Or if you're going diagonal across a glass that's also bulbous and curved, that's just got to be crazy to end up with the right.

[11:23] Yeah. And result that does the Glencairn provides some challenges. I've, I have tried some different, like really geometrical style patterns.
And I'm like, Hey, you know what? I, the, the curve of this glass does not allow me to do certain things because one minute you're cutting and your cut looks really short. And then as you move on
into the part where the Glencairn fins out towards the top, um, all of a sudden, just like that in in the blink of an eye, your cut is really long and oblong, you screwed it up.
Or yeah, and I have cut through a Glen Caron before and yeah, stuff happens.
Yeah, there you go. Well, from the beginning, did you just start for fun as you learned going along with this apprenticeship or was it always an idea to make some sort of side business or business out of it?
Yeah. So my apprenticeship, it kind of as that company that I joined, it changed hands two different times. And a lot of my time spent there was doing a lot of sand carving.
So you know, you give me a logo, I'll sand carve it into your glass or names or dates. And that also led to me learning a lot of graphic design and stuff as well. And so the The cutting, I learned it as it came.

[12:41] Me doing this last cut crystal, it started really when I had some friends who were like, hey, can you make me some stuff? And yeah, that's fine, no problem.
And hey, this is awesome, my buddy likes this. And so I decided, hey, I'll put this on Etsy.

[12:58] And just as a side project to kind of to sort of feed my imagination because I have all these, once you start learning how to cut,
all of a sudden you get all these patterns pop up in your head and these designs.
And I needed an outlet for that and that work didn't provide. And so that's been my outlet.
And, uh...

[13:24] And I hope to make it my main source of income someday. It's been a really fun two and a half years now of doing this. And yeah, it's great when there's a lull and orders, that's my time to build,
up inventory. But then it's also time to think of designs and things. For instance, we were on vacation in South Carolina from Ohio. And I was, I don't know, I just was looking at one of the
sable palms there and it just caught my eye the way the the trunk the the bark on the trunk kind of crisscrosses one another and like a crisscross diamond pattern like wow that's really cool,
i should turn that into a bourbon glass and uh in yeah i i was you know doodling on a glass and then i came up with a pretty neat design it's on my etsy store it's called uh stones uh and shards And that's an inspiration from just something that I saw.
And, you know, so I think I know which one you're talking about.
Yeah, it's one of my favorites. It's every that's that's another thing that I.

[14:31] That I try to do, too, is so I see lots of bourbon glasses and they like all they all look the same. Right. So when we see one design, we see a lot.
And and I hope you don't mind if I go on a little tangent here is the Lizmore pattern.
So the Lismore pattern is like, you know, crisscrossing looking cuts that form kind of a diamond pattern. And then there's a just typically one straight up and down cut.
And you see these all the time. And then after a while you go, man, can we do anything different here? You know, and then you'll see that the large diamond cuts and such and, and a lot of those are,
produced because of are produced in molds and things and a lot of crystal glass that you see.

[15:25] You can tell if it's a mold or not. And what I mean by mold is, you know, they pour the glass into a mold that looks like the cuts and it takes the form of that shape.
And so the way to tell between actual glass that's cut and then a glass that's molded and, you know, looks cut is how smooth the cuts are.
The cuts will feel really, really smooth and dolled out. Glass that's actually cut by hand is they're more sharp and they're more thicker.
That's what I like. I know the patterns. I've got some glasses in that pattern. And actually what I ordered is kind of what you were describing. And I'll sit and run my thumb in those grooves. It's part of how I'm holding the glass.
And I don't know, there's something to it. Now, Dan is a big baseball fan.

[16:16] Yeah. I'm not. I tend to like geometric things, simple things. But I think I think when he hears this he's going to be after that set that looks like you've carved baseball laces into it
Yeah, that was a yeah, that was a fun pattern and that's what I try to do I'm like, how can we get away from the simple lismore cut and there's nothing wrong with that
You know the GM at those geometrical patterns. Those are those are tested and true, you know, but I I go Well, yeah, why not? Why not a baseball glass? Why not a cabin in the woods?
My thing, I've seen the cabin, but my thing is I'm not so much looking at the glass. Exactly.
It's about that feel and I need my mind to be at ease. Just me, I don't know if I want to feel a lot of stuff.
I want a few big hefty sizable etches in there. I just kind of feel of it. It's all beautiful. The cabin, I don't have the slightest idea how you did that.
That's like way too much going on to have cut that with the wheel.

[17:20] Yeah. Well, that's the that's another thing with the wheels. So the wheels are like your your pencils and there some wheels make an oval shape.
Some wheels make a really tiny miter style cut. Some make long, skinny cuts. Some make short fat cuts.
And so, yeah, that's that's kind of what I try to incorporate into the design that you had ordered that glass, I don't know if you noticed, but the bottom, and this is
something that I do with some of my glasses and people love it. I actually scalloped the bottom of the glass so there's grooves for your hand to hold on to. And so imagine the the base, the sham, the sham of the glass.
I cut all around.

[18:08] I cut the bottom so that way you can grip it better. And I have not seen that done anywhere. And as far as I know, I'm the only guy doing that.
And I do that on the Glen Carons as well. I'm the only guy that I'm the only guy I know that cuts Glen Carons. That's interesting because I would have given a choice, kept the traditional.
Yeah. Now that's one more thing. But now the bottom on the inside, the interior bottom is flat. Sure. Or mostly flat. I got to be able to model my sugar cubes in there for old-fashioned. Yeah. Yeah.
Are you a whiskey fan in general, or was it just a good medium to cut on?
Yeah. I always had a couple bottles of bourbon on the shelf and whatnot. I'd get for Christmas and things like that. And when I started doing this, I'm like, hey, whoa.
As I started getting more into cutting and designing the glassware, I started getting you know, more into bourbon.

[19:04] I'm by no means a connoisseur. You know, I mostly have, mostly drink and have drank what you'd call the pedestrian bourbons.
I don't have anything too fancy. I just called it that the other day on the last podcast cause I got to quit buying so much bourbon.
So the one I'm cutting out of the pedestrian. But I like my pedestrian. I like my wild turkey 101.
Yes, yes. That's wild turkey 101. that's and I'm developing my palate, so to speak, like, I'm not much of a foodie. I'm not much of it. I don't have a great sense of taste and...

[19:43] I have started to develop it a little more like, okay, hold on a minute. Like this rye tastes different than this, you know, the one that's not a rye.
I don't know. All I know is what I like. I don't know how people taste whiskey and go shoe polish and pencil shavings. What the hell are you drinking? Yes. And yeah, I know plenty of people and they go really like, you know, and I drink it neat.

[20:09] I don't, I haven't really developed that. that I don't know what kind of cocktails I like. That's something that maybe that should be one of my New Year's resolutions for 2022 is to explore the cocktail side because I just drink,
things neat because I'm like, how does this kind taste? How does this kind taste? But yeah.

[20:31] I would say a 101, Wild Turkey 101 is one of my favorites. And Knob Creek, I really enjoyed the And then recently I was gifted a bottle of Angel's Envy and I thought that was really,
that tasted really good.
That was interesting, it being aged in wine barrels and such.
That's a good segue to this question. Have you ever considered cutting whiskey glasses, I mean whiskey bottles, empty whiskey bottles?
Because I think whiskey geeks, we end up with a bunch of them. Some of them, you need to break them or do something to them. You can't throw a well or bottle out in the trash. Somebody will grab it and refill it with something or a pappy bottle.
But I keep the nice ones around for when we have whiskey nights to put water in on the table.
You ever thought about that? Could you do that or is there something about that glass that makes it not suitable for cutting.
Yeah, so this is something that I've never thought of. It didn't occur to me. And as I've progressed through learning about bourbon, like, yeah, I'm realizing, yes, wow, some of these bourbons are
very sought after. And I never thought about, yeah, the whole empty, empty bottle, you know,
Somebody could obviously use that and try to redistribute it.

[21:52] Illegally or whatever. But yes, I think that most bottles are are glass, and they are difficult to cut on. They're
hard. So it takes a while for you to make your cut nice looking. And then there's the aspect of the label, you know,
I would when I'm when I cut you know the stone wheel spinning but to.

[22:17] To cool the that that action down of me cutting. There's always water cooling. Yeah, I'd get rid of the labels I just okay label completely okay, so so the labels don't you know that's not as big of a deal Yeah, I think the idea is that we accumulate a bunch of a bunch of bottles and sometimes they're nice bottles And you don't just want to throw them away,
Sure, but I just you know at this point. I got to get rid of some of them But I could see me, you know, I could send you 10 bottles, cut whatever you want on it.
I'll share those with friends, put them around the table with water in them. I think that could be interesting.
Yeah, that's something I could certainly try. And yeah, I appreciate you bringing that up to me because that is, I'm like, oh, this is interesting.
Cause yeah. You appreciate somebody completely ignorant about what you do, bringing an idea to you.
You're my kind of guy. No, I mean, and well, and it's interesting because, you know, cutting those kind of bottles, you know, every glass is different.
So I mean, one thing people don't realize too is a lot of the...
When you finish cutting a glass, it's gray looking. So you notice the baseball ones, you know, they look gray, the cabin in the woods glass, it looks gray.
Those are unpolished. The ones that appear to be, you know, sparkling, I have to polish those. So for every cut that I make into the glass, I then follow up with a cork wheel, a felt wheel.

[23:46] There's a material called a poplar. I don't think I know if I'm saying that right, but there's all these wheels and I have a slurry of pumice and.

[23:56] Serum oxide and I got to polish every one of those cuts to make it shine So it's it's definitely multi-step process, but I could see a nice bottle sitting there just glittering,
That that that might be something I have to try. Yeah. Well give it a try if it works out I'll send a bunch and I wouldn't mind buying a few of those for the for the whiskey nights
we have with friends. That sounds fun. Appreciate that. Well, this has been fun. I'm excited to get my glasses. I do have a project I want to pitch you here as we're talking. If you probably have it, but every Friday, Dan and I do what we call Friday Sips Live. We sit on YouTube live with a handful of supporters and we just drink and talk about what we're,
drinking. There's two pieces that I'm interested in with you there. So one is we have, we do those little baby glens.
Okay. Tiny glen cans. And that's what we drink out of. Four ounces or something. Yeah. Cause Dan's notorious for just pouring a ton of whiskey in a glass and we can't do that on Friday.
So we got those and we, they're edged with the local liquor stores name that Dan goes to. And then we have, we call the dump glass.
The dumb glass is where we pour out what we didn't drink.
Because we're going to go through six bottles and we can't drink everything. Yes, I think I've seen that, right? In a mason jar.
Yeah. And so now we do, when we finish Friday Sips Live, we take turns drinking it from the dump glass.

[25:17] So I want to work on a project with you to have last cut crystal glasses for both our pour cam glasses and for the dump glass.
Oh, that'd be awesome. Can we try and work on something like that? I'm excited. Yes, certainly. Good. I just soon, you know, when the camera hits it, that it's got last cut crystal on it in the practical still rather than a mason jar and.

[25:38] The mason jar is a good touch though that is something that's that's about our level of classy well and and if i can and you know kind of wrap up with one thing is that each of these glasses is is is cut by me you know i don't there's no one else doing it i,
I don't train a robot to do it. So I like to refer to it as usable art, you know, like it's, it's, you're owning a piece of art. And there are there are not many people cutting most of it's in Europe.

[26:11] The States, there's maybe some people in some art schools that know a little bit about it, but I fell into a very, very lucky circumstance of essentially learning a lost art. And yeah, you're not only are you holding a piece of art,
that was handmade, but you're drinking one of your favorite,
drinks from it as well.
And that's art as well. I mean, the guys that came up with these different bourbons and mash bills and brought it to life, I mean, that is art as well. So it is, I think the two go together perfectly. And that's why I do bourbon glasses.
Yeah, I agree. And I think that the experience of whiskey, The experience of bourbon is so much more than just the liquid.

[26:52] It's the stories that everybody gets wrapped up in. But to me, it extends to my environment. For instance, I don't really like buying a nice pour of whiskey in a restaurant. There's too much going on that distracts me. So I'm with you. To me, it is art.
To me, it's a big part of the experience. And that's why I'm excited to find you. And I'll say this for folks listening.
I've bought a lot of expensive whiskey glasses. And my wife likes to buy those.
That's gifts that I like to get. Your pricing is right in line with what you're spending for commercially available things, but I love the fact that I'm gonna know who made that glass.
Yeah, thank you. And I really appreciate meeting you and being here with us. And hopefully we can talk again as things progress.
We'll do that. And if you ever have a little free time, which would be 4.30 your time, 2.30 Mountain Time on Fridays, join and drink some whiskey with us and see your glasses in there.
I'm also excited because you're putting the Practical Steel logo on the bottom Yes. Of the glass. There's a little bit of controversy around that logo.

[27:52] We didn't happen to notice that it had a bit of a phallic shape to it until we put it on a t-shirt.
And then I went, hey, wait a minute. Hey, you know how it gets attention, right? That's what Dan says. So let's just own it.
It is what it is. Yep, exactly. But Aaron, this is fun. If everybody wants to reach out to Aaron, see at Last Cut Crystal on Instagram. Is that a good place to get to you?
Yes, absolutely. And then if you're on Etsy, You can search Last Cut Crystal and Etsy, find the Etsy store there, peruse a fairly large array of classes.
Yeah, I got 16 different designs available.
Yep, and there's everything from Glen Caron's to, you know, Rock's classes and that kind of thing. The ones I'm getting are Rock's classes. I'm very excited.
I will report back to everybody how much fun I have drinking out of them. Aaron, this has been great, man. Thanks a lot for spending some time with us.
I look forward to talking to you again. And if anybody's got questions for me about this episode, mark at the practical still.
If you got questions for Aaron, let me know and I'll get those to him as well. Thanks for having me. Yes, sir.

[28:52] Take care.

[28:53] Music.