Below is a list of some of the most important basic items that you will need to set up your bead-making studio.
These are suggestions only, to help guide you in the right direction. I recommend researching each item to determine which might best serve you.
Purchasing used bead making setups and tools on E-bay is also an economical option. I recommend that you Google the specific terms below see what is currently available in your area. For example: The term “TORCH MOUNTED GRAPHITE PAD” and “TORCH MOUNTED GRAPHITE PAD, UK” may return two different responses.
MEGA MINOR BURNER (Uses oxygen with either natural gas or propane gas): This surface mix torch is great for making beads, marbles, small sculptures, etc., in either soft or hard glass.
TORCH MOUNTED GRAPHITE PAD: As the name suggest, this graphite pad attaches directly to the top of your torch. It provides a fixed area on which to shape your beads.
GRAPHITE PADDLES: Multi-use item. Use to help shape your beads, laying out gold/silver, frit, etc. 3″ X 5″ is a good size.
BEAD AND MARBLE MOULD: Useful tool to help make beads more spherical or disk shaped. I find the 6-in-One marble mould quite handy.
BBQ MASHERS: To flatten beads.
PROTECTIVE EYE-WEAR: Lots of options out there. You can also order prescription eyewear made with this protective glass. Remember that it a special glass that is used that blocks harmful flares; regular glasses, sunglasses, etc., do NOT protect your eyes.
JAPANESE COOLING BUBBLES: An insulating material to slow the cooling process of your beads.
BEAD RELEASE: Liquid graphite into which you dip your mandrels. Good quality bead release is imperative! I’ve found that bead release sold in the UK is of an inferior quality. Therefore this is an item that we sell. Please contact us for details.
GLASS RODS: Difficult to make glass beads without glass rods, innit? There are lots of options out there, just keep in mind that not all types of glass live harmoniously. When mixing glass, each kind of glass has to have the same COE, which stands for “Coefficient of Expansion”, and is a measure of how much a glass expands or contracts due to changes in temperature. Glass with different COE’s will separate from one another during cooling and crack the bead. Therefore when mixing glass, each glass must be of the same COE. In our studio we use Italian glass with a COE of 104. Glass sellers will always be able to provide the COE.
OXYGEN CONCENTRATOR: This machine generates the oxygen that works with your propane to fuel your torch. Lampworking supply companies often sell kits that include the concentrator along with all the hosing, regulator and connectors needed.
MANDRELS: The steel rods onto which we build our beads. The diameter of the mandrel determines the bead hole size. Standard sizes are: 1.25, 1.5mm, 2mm, 3mm and 5mm (for Pandora style big-hole beads).
ROD REST: Best not to lay hot glass rods on work surface as they pick up dirt. The rod rest keeps hot ends elevated.
And don’t forget the importance of PROPER VENTILATION. Extractor fans work well, but there are a number of options out there.
SMOKE ALARM: Standard smoke alarms are not only activated by smoke but also by a build-up of gas, like propane. Attach one to the ceiling of your studio.
MANDREL STANDS: Once mandrels are dipped, they must stand and dry for a bit prior to use. A super low tech mandrel stand is a block on Styrofoam into which your plunge the mandrels. Or better yet, impress your friends by drilling loads of holes in a block of wood, creating a beautiful and long lasting stand (I suspect there are also actual mandrel stands on the market but I’m not one to spend unnecessarily).
TABLE MOUNTED VICE: to remove beads from the mandrels, I use a table-mounted vice to hold the mandrel in place while I rotate back and forth, which cracks the bead release and allows for easy removal (best to put the beads while on the mandrels in water for 15 minutes first, to weaken the bead release). I use a vice EVERY TIME I remove beads. Not doing so put undue stress on the bead, increasing the likelihood of breakage, and makes for bent mandrels.
ANNEALING KILN: This is usually the most expensive item in your bead making studio. You may get lucky and find one used on ebay but these seem to go quickly. I use a smallish Paragon kiln, which is the industry standard. I’m perfectly happy with it, as it also allows me to do glass fusion. However, if you can afford it, a larger version makes bulk annealing much easier. I’ve included Annealing Firing Schedules below.
In the UK, we’ve found that the folks at Tuffnell Glass (www.tuffnellglass.com) are a good bead making supply company and I would recommend their services. However, I’m not fond of either their Bead Release nor their Mandrels (which are odd diameter sizes). We can help you in those areas, just contact us.
What would I have done without the bead forums when we first moved to Italy and I was a fledgling bead maker?! Setting up my bead making studio was terrifying enough as it was, I can’t imagine doing it without the help of all the good folks online. Believe me, if you have a question concerning glass bead-making and/or jewellery making these folks will have the answer!
Beading & Beadmaking: www.LampWorkEtc.com
Beading & Beadmaking UK: www.UKbeaders.forumup.org
Beading & Beadmaking UK: www.Frit-Happens.co.uk/forum
Various Arts & Crafts (Many good online tutorials): www.WetCanvas.com/forums
Annealing removes excess stress from the interior of the bead by heating it to just below the melt point, allowing the stress to fall away. There are two types of bead annealing:
Bulk Anneal: Anneal a large quantity of beads at once, which is the most economic use of time and energy.
Garaging: Putting beads directly into the kiln as you make them. I do this when making larger items such as pendants or potentially fragile flattened beads.
Below I’ve added a firing schedule for each. This is what you would program in to your kiln so that it does what you want. For a detailed video explanation of the process, please visit this page: www.paragonweb.com/VideoInfo.cfm?VID=2
|Annealing Schedule (Bulk anneal):||Anneal as you go (Garaging):|
|PRO1 (or another free slot)|
Hold1 60 mins
Temp1 510 C (garaging temp)
Temp2 520C (annealing temp)
Ramp3 50 C
Temp3 371 C