Making glass beads is an art that is found in some of the earliest histories of humankind. Beadmaking often involves creating intricate beading designs for jewelry, as well as bead work that can be used in tapestries. Today, much of the glass beadmaking that takes place is done in a manufacturing setting that can mass produce glass beads of all sizes, shapes and colors. Still, there are artists that prefer to engage in glass bead making that often produces beautiful and unique work. Here is some information about making beads by hand, including some safety tips.
Essential in the process of beadmaking is the mandrel. The mandrel is a metal rod that is made to withstand the amount of heat needed to form the glass into beads. It is a good idea to have a number of mandrels on hand, as you will require one for each bead made during the session. Along with the mandrels, a heat source is needed both to create the molten glass and to aid in the formation of the glass around the mandrel. A propane torch is an excellent choice for use. As a working surface, there is also the need for a flat heatproof tabletop with a clamp for the torch. A glass rod will serve as the raw materials for the project. Protective clothing, including safety glasses and hand coverings, will also be necessary.
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Lighting the torch, adjust the flame and begin to heat the glass rod. Start by heating the end of the rod, then slowly working the rod back and forth through the flame. This will allow the rod to heat evenly, avoiding the possibility of shattering and bringing the task of making glass beads to a halt. As the rod begins to glow evenly, bring the glass into the hotter section of the flame. The glass will begin to take on a white appearance, and will melt. As this happens, touch the molten glass to the tip of the mandrel. Once a connection is made, rotate the mandrel, working the molten glass onto the metal rod. As the bead forms, separate the glass rod from the mandrel and rotate the bead in the flame for a moment, to clean up any irregularities in shape.
To begin the cooling process for the glass beads, rotate the bead on the flat fireproof surface. The bead will soon cool enough to allow the bead and mandrel to be placed on a fiber blanket, where it can continue to cool. After about thirty minutes, the bead should be cool enough to disengage from the mandrel.
This process can be repeated to make a series of glass beads. Once the beads are all constructed and cooled, the bead holes can be cleaned out with the use of a pipe cleaner. As a final step with the glass beads, wipe them with a clean cloth to remove any dust from the surfaces before the cooling is complete.