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[Stained Glass Gems] All About Making Glass Beads
October 18, 2009

Issue #010 All About Making Glass Beads

Welcome to all of my fellow stained glass enthusiasts. These Stained Glass Gems have been found during my frequent browsing and deep digging for helpful and or unusual stained glass web sites, as well as other information pertaining to stained glass. I have a long list that I will share with you over the months ahead. I do hope that there's a gem or two that will brighten your day and be helpful during your stained glass journey.

This month's ezine will be all about making glass beads, also called lampwork. If you're looking for another direction to go in with glass work, want a change from making suncatchers and windows, or have seen glass beads and want to learn how to make them, this ezine is for you. Making beads is fun, exciting, and relatively easy.

My Beads I first saw bead making at a trade show 15 years ago. I was hooked! I went home and learned most of the techniques from a book, plus what I saw demonstrated at that trade show.

If time allowed it, I'd be a full time bead maker. At one time I taught some very basic beginners lampwork classes, but these days beads only get made on the rare occasion, so I've slid back to beginner status. Non-the-less, I still love it and occasionally make cool beads to use in various stained glass projects. There's something about melting glass in a flame that is mesmerizing.

These are some of my "left over" beads, so please don't laugh at the quality. I haven't made any in quite a while and sold all of the "good" ones, so these really are the left overs. However, I wanted to show you what's possible at a beginner level. It really doesn't take much skill to make a simple bead, and it's so much fun!

Web Sites of the Month

Neither of these sites are up to my standards for web site of the month, but they are the best I could find, and they do have tutorials as well as showing some incredible beads (way beyond my capabilities). Coloraddiction and Turtle Beads Studio

Let's Chat

Wet Canvas Technical Forum This is a forum I have used over and over. The members are always willing to share information and I learn something new each time I go to the site. This is definitely the forum to use if you want technical help with bead making.

Torch Bugs is another forum that always has a lot of helpful information, and members that can answer your questions.

Where To Get It

Sundance Art Glass and Frantz Art Glass both carry a full line of torchwork supplies.

You can also find lampwork supplies at most large stained glass suppliers. It's fun picking out colors of glass rods, but don't be fooled...some of those colors don't turn out the same color once they've been melted and cooled again. Most places have a chart available so you can see what the final color will be. You can see a chart for Effetre Moretti Rods Here. Where it says Striking you will see the color (at the end of the rod in the picture) it becomes after cooling. The color change does not happen to all glass, but it's a big surprise if you don't know it's going to happen and end up with a bead that has a totally different color than you started out with.

The easiest way to learn lampwork is to take a class, but the second easiest way is to get a good basic video or dvd. Have a look at the selection available from above suppliers. Search for ones that teach the basics.

Two books that I have and highly recommend are Making Glass Beads by Cindy Jenkins and Passing the Flame: A Beadmaker's Guide to Detail and Design by Corina Tettinger. I learned most of the techniques from those two books.

Tips and Techniques

I was browsing around the web looking for some more helpful information for you and found that Wonder How To has quite a few tutorial videos on various lampwork techniques. Of course you need to know the basics first, but once you get started, these videos should be a big help.

Wet Canvas Glass Class 101-Tutorials, How-To's and Threads This is a wonderful tutorial section of the Wet Canvas web site. here's a place where you will find all sorts of bead making tutorials, as well as tutorials for stepping stones, glass fusing, and just about any other glass medium you could think of.

Making beads can be as cheap or expensive as you want. To start out, you don't have to spend a fortune. A Hot Head torch will suffice instead of trying to get set up with a Minor Burner, O2 and Propane tanks. You can use a fire blanket to anneal the beads rather than buying a kiln. You can buy stainless steel rods from your local welding supply store to make mandrels rather than buying them ready made from a supplier. At one time I found a source for scrap graphite and made all of my marvers using pieces of dowel and a screw that had threads on both ends. I threaded the screw into the half way dowel, the other end went into the graphite. I now have marvers of all sizes and shapes!

You can use strips of stained glass to make your beads, as long as you only use one color per bead. The reason I say only one color has to do with the coefficient of expansion (COE)of the glass. As glass is heated it grows by an amount proportional to it's COE for every degree of temperature increase. If you use two pieces of glass with different COEs, one will expand more than the other one as it is heated, then, it will contract more than the other one when it is cooled. The higher COE glass will most likely crack to relieve the stress.

When you buy glass rods made specifically for bead making, rods from the same glass maker will be compatible (have the same COE). If you're using stained glass, most manufacturers do make a line of glass for fusing, and the glass in that line will be compatible. But just any piece of scrap glass most likely not be compatible with another piece of scrap glass (even from the same manufacturer). So don't expect a pretty blue piece and a nice green piece from (say) Spectrum, to become a bead that won't break before you get it cooled and taken off the rod.

Miscellaneous Stuff!

Dave, one of my web site visitors sent me an email with this information. "The new Stained Glass Quarterly magazine has a nice add on page 52 for 6 back issues (for 21.00) selected for the holiday patterns. If you have any of the six let them know and they will substitute another issue." Thanks Dave!

Best deals in art glass suppliesDelphi Stained Glass Supplies is a place where I have bought many supplies online and over the phone for many years. Some very helpful people work there, and I recommend Delphi as a reliable place to order your supplies. By the way, they sell lampwork supplies too.

book"Make a Box With a Hinged Lid" is an ebook that will walk you through making a stained glass box. Read about what is included in the book and how it will simplify box making. You'll get 2 valuable free gifts when you order. "Make a Box With a Hinged Lid"

Have a look at How-To DVDs You're going to find hundreds of "How To" DVD's for rent. They have some very interesting stained glass tutorials which can be found at Glass

Do you need a pattern resizer or a design program? I can highly recommend Pattern Wizard and Rapid Resizer. They are reasonably priced and you get a fairly long free trial before you have to commit to paying for them. You have the option of buying one or the other or both.

Just in case you don't know, the Stained Glass Gems ezine is mailed out the third Sunday of every month. Be on the look out for [Stained Glass Gems] Issue 11 on Sunday, November 15th.

I want to encourage you to have fun and experiment with your glass. Try new things and different techniques. It's amazing what you can do when you "think outside the box."


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