The Dabblings Of Dr. Bob


Robert Muggli is a man who embraces the diversity of life.

When it comes to art projects, he calls himself a "dabbler."


The dichromatic glass Muggli trapped in this paperweight shimmers green or gold or midnight blue, depending on the light.

His hands have shaped hot glass, bent iron to his will and fashioned cameras to look at particles 15 times smaller than the thickness of a strand of hair.

"I have to do things with my hands and my head," Muggli said.

The scarves he knitted as a North Dakota farm boy have long worn out, but the cross-stitched placemat still looks new, as does the first thing Muggli ever carved with a jackknife: a wolf.

At 14 years old, he built the first of five darkrooms.

He enjoys photography, slides in particular, "because what you see is what you get."

Muggli's keen interest in how things work earned him a doctorate in organic chemistry from Kansas State University.

As a forensic industrial chemist, Muggli investigated problems such as: why tiles did not stick and why a furnace corroded.

The smallest particle he ever peered at was five micrometers; the largest, a two-mile long bridge.

"Chemistry was a blast," Muggli said.

He combined a microscope with a camera to do X-ray diffractions.

"I was told it had been tried and couldn't work, so I did it."


Robert Muggli was just a boy when he made this cross-stitched cloth and carved this wolf with a penknife.

Now, crime laboratory technicians use the device.

"I don't know enough theory. I just do practical things," Muggli said by way of explanation.

He is a voracious reader of nonfiction.

If he wants to try a creative project, he doesn't believe in "reinventing the wheel."

He read before he tried loom weaving, brass casting and stained glass.

He has also taken classes.

"I spent 50 years wanting to make glass paperweights," he said.

Post-retirement, he took classes at the community college in Globe.

Muggli watched the instructor make bowls and vases.

In keeping with his philosophy of doing what he enjoys, Muggli then taught himself to make paperweights.

"You start with a punte, a four-inch-long rod or tube with a stainless steel tip.

Dip the tip into a blob of hot glass. Work the glass, stretch it and dip it again.

"The glass feels like heavy molasses. You shape it with wooden spoons," Muggli said.

The glass cools slowly in an annealing oven.

"There are just so many different kinds of things to conquer," Muggli said.

Painting with oils is next on his agenda.

"Most of the things I've done, I'd like to do more of, but I don't have the time," he added.

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