FAQ: Glass Beadmaking 1 of 2

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charlotte sometimes

Aug 15, 1995, 3:00:00 AM8/15/95

for rec.crafts.beads
Version 1.04

This document contains basic information on glass beadmaking.
This FAQ should be read before posting on rec.crafts.beads
regarding glass beadmaking.

In the future I hope to have as much information as I and my
contributors can pack in here. Please send me ideas, corrections,
or advice.

This FAQ is maintained by Tashina (online as charlotte sometimes)
I can be reached at gha...@ix.netcom.com.
This FAQ is Copyright (c) 1995 by Tashina. You are welcome to
quote or freely distribute any portion of this FAQ without
permission as long as this Copyright notice remains with it and
it is not used for profit. All opinions are by the author or
contributors and are meant as such. Any dissenting opinions will
be duly incorporated into this FAQ.

Jo Ackerson for "How to make a fish bead"



1. Introduction
2. Basic terminology and abbreviations used
2.1 Glass related terminology
2.2 Abbreviations used
3. Basic Equipment
3.1 Types of glass
3.2 Types of torches
3.3 Kilns
4. Flameworking
4.1 Basic techniques
4.11 Making a basic bead
4.2 Beginners equipment and set-up
4.3 How to make a fish bead
5. Kiln-formed glass
5.1 Basic techniques
5.2 Beginners equipment and set-up
6. Furnace glass beads
6.1 Basic techniques
7. Upcoming events
7.1 Workshops and classes
7.2 Major gallery shows
8. Instructional References
8.1 Books
8.2 Videos
8.3 Magazines
8.4 Show catalogs
9. Supplies
10. Societies and Organizations

There are many types of beadmaking that require only a few
dollars to start and the basic techniques only take a few days to
master. Glass beadmaking is not one of them.
Most of us start with other forms of beadmaking but can find
nothing to equal the beauty and fire of glass beads. When we
finally get our hands on a torch and some glass we are captivated
by the feel and look of hot glass. It takes long hours of practice
and lots of failed beads before you start to gain control over the
And even there are always new techniques to learn, new glasses
to experiment with. If you grow to love glass beadmaking, it is an
art that will never fail you.


annealing- the process of reheating glass to relieve internal
stresses to
minimize breaking.
cane- a length of glass with a pattern that runs through
casing- covering one glass color with another, often clear
covering other colors.
dichroic- a thin film of dielectric materials (non-conductive)
coated onto glass. The glass changes color when
viewed from different angles.
draping- a kiln technique to melt glass by draping it over
a concave form.
filigrana- a length of glass with one color surrounding another
flameworking- the process of making glass items over a flame,
usually winding the glass around a mandrel.
frit- ground up glass
fusing- melting glass in a kiln
glory hole- a chamber with high temperatures in which to melt
lampworking- see flameworking
latticino- twisted glass (like a candy cane)
mandrel- a long metal rod, usually about 3-5mm in diameter,
used to wrap glass around to make a bead.
marver- a surface used to shape glass on or the process
of shaping glass against a surface.
millefiori- translated as "thousand flowers", cane or cane slices
with a pattern that goes all the way through it,
often flowers.
murrine (or murrini)- slices of cane
pate de verre-ground glass fused together.
punty rod- a metal rod, usually stainless steel, to hold glass
on in a glory hole.
rods- cylindrical lengths of glass
sheet glass- glass in thin sheets as in stained glass windows
soft glass- glass that melts at a low temp., such as Moretti
or Bullseye.
slab- chunks of glass
slumping- a kiln technique to melt glass into a concave shape.
stringers- very thin long pieces of glass used as decoration.
vermiculite- a mica-like substance used to cool beads evenly

2.2 Abbreviations

c.o.e.- coefficient of expansion. For example, Moretti expands
104 x 10E-7 per degree of temperature change


NEW NEWS- Moretti Glass has changed it's name to Effetre- the name of
the company which bought out the Moretti Glass Factory. There should
no immediate changes in inventory through your regular suppliers.

Some glasses come as rods ready for beadmaking. I'll list the
most common glasses here, but note that most stained glass can be
cut into strips and used for beadmaking as long as the colors
aren't mixed unless you test compatibility.

Moretti/Effetre Glass- 104 c.o.e., comes in over 100 colors, all
compatible with the exception of opalinos. They are compatible with
each other, but not with other Moretti/Effetre. This glass comes in
rods ready to use. It melts at a lower temperature than most
glasses, so it can be easily used with a Mapp gas cylinder.
Dichroic available. Comes in frit, rods, and sheet glass sheet
available in black and clear only (that I've found), frit in
limited colors)

Bullseye Glass- 90 c.o.e., at least 40 colors that are compatible,
comes in 1/8th and 1/16th inch thick. Bullseye sells glass in frit,
sheet, slab, and sheet stripped for lampworking. Dichroic
available. Melts at slightly higher temperature than Moretti/Effetre,
can be worked with a Hot Head torch.

Wasser Glass- compatible with Bullseye, available in 1/16th inch
fusible glass in a variety of colors. Was out of business for a few
months, but is now back in production.

Pyrex- 34-35 c.o.e., sold in rods of clear in diameters from 2-51mm.
Can be hand-colored, (I'd appreciate more knowledge on the
technique). Melts at a high temperature, needs oxy-propane flame or
lots of patience. Very structurally strong, so can be used for more
fragile shapes than Bullseye or Moretti/Effetre.

Northstar Borocolour- 34-35 c.o.e., compatible with pyrex, comes in
about 25 colors. Comparatively expensive, about $50/lb.

This chart contains info from an article by Brian Kervliet. I have
seen different numbers given from other sources.


1. Mapp gas tank with standard head- approx. cost $10-$20 for
head, about $10 for 14oz tank. Can be hooked up to larger tanks as
well. Slow, but acceptable for Moretti/Effetre if you're patient.

2. Mapp gas tank with Hot Head- approx. $35 for Hot Head, $10 for
gas. Can be used with larger tanks. Good for everything except
borosilicates (Pyrex).

3. Minor Bench Burner with oxygen and propane- $ 155 for torch,
$150 for regulators, $25 hoses, etc. plus gas (variable size tanks
can be used). The industry standard for lampworking. If you have
the money and you make a lot of beads, this is the one to buy.

There are a number of other torches that are used less often.
If you have experience with another one , please e-mail me and I'll
include it.


Microwave kilns are small kilns, rarely more than 4 or 5 inches in
diameter so that they'll fit in your microwave. They require a fully
grounded oven. If you make many items, you will soon outgrow this
kiln, but it can be useful to test-fire new items. These kilns
range in price from about $70-$280.

Ceramic Fiber kilns (Rapid-fire, Quick-fire) are portable light-
weight kilns usually square and between 3"x3" and 6"x6". These have
built in pyrometers (measuring temperature in the kiln) and can be
quickly heated to 2000 degrees while using less than 1000 watts of
power. If you connect some sort of regulator to them you can
maintain one temperature so as to anneal beads. They are about
$150-$200 and I'd recommend the 6"x6" for beginners. I have one and
it's terrific. For more info, see the Quickfire 6 reviewed in the Dec
1994/Jan 1995 issue of Glass Artist magazine (p. 47).

For those with more money to invest, there are professional glass
kilns such as the Jewel Box kiln. These glass kilns can be front or
top-loading and most have controls similar to microwave ovens so
that you can program how slowly you want the kiln to heat up and
cool down. They range in size from about 6"X6" to very large (I've
seen one I could lie down in comfortably). Prices can range from
around $300 to more than $3000 for large kilns with bells and


Flameworking is one of the fastest growing types of beadmaking.
I would guess that only polymer clay exceeds it's growth rate among
craftspeople. In the last 5 years, the number of videos and classes
on the subject has grown immensely.

While text is not the best way of learning beadmaking, I'll try toe
explain the basic techniques here.

Note: This description is intended to give you a basic idea of how a
glass bead is made. I don't recommend you use this is instructions on
how to make your first beads. You really need to take a class or
watch a video to make sure you're doing all the steps safely.

4.11 Making a basic bead- You would need in front of you: glass
rods, mandrels, vermiculite, protective glasses, natural fiber
clothing (polyester melting to your skin is unpleasant), a fire-
extinguisher (for safety), a glass of water (in case some hot glass
ends up on clothing or carpet), a marver of some sort (see definitions
above for these tricky words), and tweezers. The mandrel should
already be coated with a bead release that keeps the glass from
sticking to the metal later on.

The flame should be set on a medium setting- about 1/2 inch of
blue flame showing. Hold the end of the glass rod about 12" from the
torch opening. Slowly twirl the glass to hear it evenly. Bring the
glass in closer to the flame. (If this is a new rod, take about 60
seconds to bring it in, if the rod is already rounded you can take 30
seconds). Keep the glass about 1" out from the blue part of the
flame. Soon the glass will start to melt and will become rounded on
the end. In your other hand, take the mandrel coated with bead
release and put it in the flame at about the same level as the glass.
If the mandrel isn't hot enough, the glass will not stick to it . You
then touch the glass to the rod and, while holding the glass steady,
twirl the mandrel away from the glass, allowing the glass to build
up on the mandrel in a circular manner. When you have enough glass
on the mandrel to make a good-sized bead, pull the glass rod away
from the mandrel while holding both in the flame. Hold the glass in
the flame a little longer to round the end off, then set it down on a
heat proof surface. Keep twirling the mandrel in the flame until the
glass on it is rounded and it look like a bead. At this point
slowly take the mandrel out of the flame while continuing to twirl it.
When the glass starts to strike (the original color coming back to
it)- this usually takes 5-10 seconds-put the mandrel into a pan of
vermiculite and leave it there until cool. This could take 1-4 hours
depending on the size of the bead. After you take it out, pull the
glass bead off of the mandrel and clean out the bead hole with a wire.
It is recommended that you anneal the bead in a kiln before using it
for jewelry.


Major purchases- glass, torch, kiln (some people don't consider
the kiln a necessity), instruction , protective glasses

Least Expensive:

Torch- Mapp gas cylinder with standard torch head. $25-$35. This
will be a slower than a Hot Head torch head, but is workable. (I used
this for about 9 months).

Glass- buy Moretti/Effetre by the rod at a glass store or buy some
sheet glass and strip it with an inexpensive glass cutter. If you
need to mail order, get catalogs from Frantz and Arrow Springs and
order what you can afford. ($10-$30)

Instruction- buy one of the basic bead videos-I can recommend Lewis
Wilson's, but I haven't seen the rest. ($40)

Tools- Mandrels, didymium glasses ($35), marver, bead release,
vermiculite, glass tweezers, bead cleaning wire, sandpaper or file

Kiln- Ceramic Fiber kiln- see kiln section above. Some people
think that as long as your beads aren't very large you don't need
to anneal them. Others say your beads will break eventually if
you don't use a kiln. I'll try to get some arguments pro and con.

TOTAL without kiln- $160
Good beginner's set-up-

Torch- Mapp gas canister with Hot Head Torch head (about $50
Glass- Moretti/Effetre sampler packs (Frantz and Arrow Springs offer
or Bullseye Stix Pack (available from C&R Loo or call Bullseye for
distributors (1-503-232-8887) (about $40-$75)

Kiln, Tools, and Instruction- same as above

TOTAL without kiln- about $215

When you have the money consider:
Minor bench burner torch- see torch section above
Dichroic glasses or millefiori

contributed by Jo Ackerson

Start with a round bead and shape it into a teardrop. This is the
basic shape for the fish's body. Now flatten the teardrop with
squashing pliers. If you want stripes on the fish, you can add them
now or right before you flattened the teardrop. Add a small bead of
glass in the color you want the tail fin right behind the flat edge
of the teardrop, like this:
_______________________''',| ,______
-----------------------,,,'| ,------'
fin bead |,,,,,,, '

The fin bead should be a little smaller than pictured (ASCI art leaves
a little to be desired). Add fin shapes on the top and bottom of the
fin bead by adding a little glass on the fin bead and drawing it out
thinner in the fire. It can take several times before the fin is large
enough. After the tail fin is complete, Add the top and bottom fins in
the same manner. Make sure to move your mandrel back and forth so one
of your fish doesn't become too different in temperature from the part
are working on. You can add small side fins by placing a droplet of
near the middle of each side of your teardrop. Last, add the eyes by
placing a droplet of glass above the center and near the front of each
of the teardrop and add a smaller droplet of black on top (if desired)
the pupil.
The trick is to get the base bead hot enough to attach the fins and
but not so hot that it deforms. Jo recommends using two graphite
to flatten the teardrop if you dont have squashing pliers.


There has been very little written about kiln-formed beads
compared to the renaissance in lamp-working recently. However, the
Autumn 1994 issue of magazine has a beautifully illustrated article
by Anne Ross about Molly Haskins which I highly recommend. There is
also an article in the Fall 1994 issue of Glass Patterns Quarterly
showing basic beadmaking.
When you buy a kiln, you need to practice with it a lot. Each
brand of kiln is different and it's very easy to over or underfire
your work. No matter how big the temptation, when you are new to this
you need to limit the number of pieces in the kiln at one time. There
are few things worse than working all afternoon on 7-8 pieces to fire,
firing them all, and looking in your kiln to find puddles of glass
which look nothing like you expected. Take it slow and wait until you
are confident with a technique before you start
mass producing.
Leaving a hole in the middle of some glass is not sufficient to
have a hole after fusing. You need something heat-proof to put in the
hole to keep it open when firing. Fiber shelf paper works well. If
it's a very small hole you want, you can use my technique, which is
to use to graphite you can buy as extra lead for mechanical pencils.
You can take any glass and smash it into ground glass which can be
glued together to make beads. This is called pate-de-verre .
You can make some simple shapes in molds with or without holes.
If you need a hole, you can make one later with a Dremel type rotary
and a diamond drill bit (available at lapidary stores).
One of the easiest kinds of kiln-fired beads to make requires 2
pieces of 1/4" by 1/2" sheet glass. Glue a piece of fiber paper to one
piece with Elmer's glue about 1/4 of the way down and parallel to the
1/4" side. Line the other piece up on top of the first and glue it on.
When using Elmer's glue, be careful when using clear glass. The glue
burns into ashes, which, when left under clear glass are not pretty.
these cases, use glue meant for fusing.


Major purchases- kiln, glass

Least expensive set-up:

Kiln- Microwave kiln

Glass- buy in small quantities as necessary. Go to a stained glass
store and buy an inexpensive glass cutter, and a few colors of 90
c.o.e. compatible glass (scrap can be cheaper) to experiment with.
Try to buy colors you like, so if by some miracle your first project
comes out perfect, you'll have a piece that looks nice to you. If you
have to mail order, try Arrow Springs for Moretti/Effetre glass (if
you don't
mind round rods instead of flat glass) by the pound where you can
choose a few different colors in each pound.

Other basic tools and supplies needed- fiber paper, UV glasses, a
first-aid burn kit, long glass tweezers(to adjust glass in kiln),
Elmer's white glue, kiln wash, glass cutter, sandpaper, a couple of
ceramic molds,

Good beginner's set-up:

Kiln- 6x6 inch Rapid fire kiln
Glass- Bullseye's Stix pack (6 tubes of glass, including transparent,
opalescent, dichroic, and stringers), and some sheet glass from a
stained glass store. Fusion Headquarters sells some nice decorative
Tools and supplies: as above



Furnace glass beads are not generally made by beginners. A glory
hole is required, and while it is possible to buy one that can be
used in a single user studio, most furnace glass is made in larger
professional studios or in a classroom setting.
If anyone out there knows a lot about furnace glass, I would
appreciate their help on this section as I haven't seen the process

Furnace glass beads most often use a cane technique. For example,
here are some basic instructions, as I understand them, to make
millefiori that is red on the inside and has black stripes on the
outside. Beads are made by a similar technique, but I'd prefer to
post that next month after I understand the process better.
Gather together enough red glass rods or strips to make a bundle 3"
in diameter and about 4-5" long. Hold together with fusing glue.
Stringers, rods, or strips of black can be glued on the red to make
stripes. This glass can then be put in the kiln to fuse it together.
The glass can be taken out of the kiln after it cools down to about
1100 degrees. Pick up the pile of glass with a punty rod and heat it
up in the glory hole.

Then it is taken out of the glory hole and another punty rod is
attached to the other side. While the glass is hot and soft, the
glass is pulled like taffy until it is at the desired diameter. Then
it is put in an annealing oven to cool down. When cool, the glass is
cut into thin slices using a cut-off saw and then tumbled like a
gemstone until smooth (if needed). The finish will be frosted at this
point, so the beads can be reheated in a kiln for a glass look.



1. Pacific Glass 125 W. 157th St. Gardena, CA 90248 1-310-516-7828
call for info

2. Oskadusa 243 N Highway 101 #6 , Solana Beach , CA 92075
call for info on upcoming glass classes 1-619-755-BEAD

3. Touch of Glass (North Carolina) for workshop info call

4. The Art Glass House 3445 N Hwy 1, Cocoa, FL 1-800-525-8009
call for info

5. Elliot Bay Art Glass 904 Elliot Avenue West, Seattle, WA 98119
for workshop info call 1-206-283-4990.

6. Shepherdess San Diego, Ca 1-619-297-4110 for catalog
beginning glass beadmaking- 9/16, 10/14, 12/16 11-4pm
advanced glass beadmaking- 9/17,10/15,12/17 11-4pm
open workshop- 11/4 11-4pm

7.Beadworks Boston MA 1-617-249-7227 contact Sarah Young

8.Great Lakes Beadworkers Guild, Southfield, MI 10/8
call (810)977-5935


1.Loveland Museum (Colorado). The "cutting edge" in bead art today,
including current glass bead work. Sept.2-Nov. 26, 1995. Call
1-303-962-2483 for info.
FYI, Kathlyn Moss of The New Beadwork is doing a book on this exhibit.

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