Setting up a bead making workshop takes a little investment financially, but not
a lot of space. Ideally you will need the following:-
- A well ventilated work area with a small table and chair if you wish to sit (I
- A bead making torch
- The Hot head is the cheapest, but if you get the bug, a Minor Burner is better.
These and all other bead making related items can be purchased, with a good
dollop of advice from Tuffnell Glass - see links section.
- These are steel rods in different sizes (this determines the hole size) on which
beads are made.
- Bead release
- This is the stuff which stops the glass sticking to the Mandrel. There are
different varieties. I like Blue Sludge because it is easy to reconstitute if I
am slack enough to let it dry up.
- Glass Rods
- Here is a minefield. There are a lot of different makes of glass rods, the
important thing to remember is NEVER to mix up rods with different COE's Oh boy,
what's this, technical stuff and I haven't even started. COE - coefficient of
expansion - this is the rate at which the glass heats up and cools down - it has
to be the same with all glass used in one bead, or with fused glass for that
matter. If you mix up the COE you will get a broken bead. I would recommend you
start with Effetre glass COE 104, this is very soft and easy to melt, comes from
Italy and other places in a huge variety of colours, both opaque and
transparent. Again Tuffnells is the place to go. Once you move to a slightly
harder glass, Bullseye, made in the States COE 90, look at Warm Glass - see
links. They have a good selection, good price and are efficient in dealing with
their internet orders. When the Pound/Dollar rate is in our favour Delphi Glass,
Arrow Springs and Franz Bead in the States are all good, but obviously not as
quick to deliver as our UK suppliers. Enough on this for now, please contact me
if you have any queries and I will do my best.
- There are lots of materials to help you make exciting beads like Frit - this is
glass which looks like sand or granulated sugar for rolling your bead in to make
patterns. Metalic foils - silver, gold palladium. Mica or pixie dust powders for
sparkle, Millefiori - I use this in the kiln too, on dishes, brooches and
pendants. See menu for photos.
- The Hothead torch needs MAPP gas, sold in yellow cylinder bottles at large B &
Q. The Minor Burner needs a mix of Oxygen and Propane. Or an Oxygen Convertor
- Annealing Kiln
- This is to cool the bead in, once you have made it. If you try to air cool a
bead, it is most likely that it will cool faster on the outside than the inside,
setting up stress which will cause thermal shock and a broken bead.
Unfortunately these are not cheap, but if you are going to make large beads you
will need one. Don't forget, thermal shock does not always happen straight away,
it can be instant or take days or even weeks. It has happened to me, and always
on the best beads.
- If you are unsure about if this is the hobby or career for you, go for a Hothead
torch - about £30 from Tuffnells, and a large bowl of Vermiculite from any
garden centre, and make small beads. Put the vermiculite in a large bowl or tin
deep enough to bury your bead completely. This acts as insulation and slows the
cooling down process.
- You will need a heat resistant surface under your torch and preferably your
glass rods as well. Warm Glass sell these, but I started by using a flat oven
sheet. You will also need a rod rest to hold your glass rods while you are
working. Eye protection is vital, and can be bought at
Tuffnells or Warm Glass
- If you have the above you can make beads straight away. However when you get
around to making patterned beads some tools are needed. Basic tools are Mashers
for squashing a bead into a disc and a set of dental picks, often found in DIY
shops or from the frequently mentioned suppliers. These picks have different
shaped ends which are good for raking patterns or for poking holes ie the centre
of a flower. There are lots of other shaped tools.
A set of bead hole cleaners is also useful, because the bead release sticks to
the inside of the bead, and these tools help you remove it, always under water,
so you don't inhale the dust. They are like tiny round files.
Books. There are some wonderful books which will inspire you, Corina
Tettinger's book Passing The Flame is my bible, Cindy Jenkins is good. Get onto
Google or Amazon
Classes - Beadmaking are £20.00 per hour inclusive, by arrangement -
Fusing £20.00 per hour excluding materials and kiln firing.