Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Parkview students' first beads


Yesterday was workshop day for me at Parkview High School. Once a year, I have the pleasure of going to the jewelry class and doing a 1 ½ hour introduction to lampwork glass beadmaking. Yesterday there were about 15 students on 7 torches. Wish I had some pictures, but I was too busy to think about that. I hope everyone had a good time, and that some of them will continue practicing on the torches there. P,p,p, as we say.

Here are a few extra tips and reminders.
**Shake the bead release (sludge) well, and dip your mandrels in rather slowly to get a nice even coating. If there is time to let the sludge air dry, that is best, though the mandrels can also be carefully dried in the flame.
**Once your glass has touched the mandrel, it will not come off without breaking the bead release. If you have a sharp or thin end that needs to be evened up, you will need to add glass to that end, or heat it and take it out of the flame and point that end towards the floor and let gravity pull the glass down, or heat and push gently towards the pointy or thin end with your paddle.
**Don’t build your bead too close to the end of the mandrel- leave at least ½ inch of space.
**Don’t ever let your bead get too cool- it can break while you’re working on it if it gets too cool and you put it back into the flame- sometimes explosively. So remember to ‘flash’ your bead through the flame often. If you are working on some little detail, you must remain aware of how long it’s been since you made sure the whole bead was hot.
**Whenever you touch the bead with a tool- like your paddle or trowel- you introduce stress into the glass. Sometimes you can see it as ‘chill marks’ which look kind of like a finger print. Heat the bead a bit after using any tool on it to get rid of this stress.
**If you want to add some little bits that will stick off of the main bead- like fish fins or wings, be sure you heat the attachment point well first.

Here is a quick tutorial to help you with your first beads.

Basic glass bead technique:
1) Begin by heating the tip of your glass rod slowly. There are a couple of ways to do this– you can start heating high in the flame and work your way down into the hotter flame, or you can move the rod in and out of the hotter area of the flame. Either way, keep the rod twisting so that it will heat evenly. Always stay aware of the heat of the rod you are working with and the heat of the bead you are working on (known as “reading the heat base”).
2) When the rod has an orange glow all around the tip, it is ready to stay in the heat of the flame- between the tip of the blue cone of the flame and the area about 1 inch above this cone. Begin to heat the prepared mandrel (in your other hand) to a slight glow while you continue to heat the glass. Rotate the glass rod to avoid sagging, and continue heating until hot glass has a controllable but fairly liquid texture, similar to cold honey.
3) Keep your glass rod in the flame, and the mandrel behind the flame, as you begin to apply glass to the mandrel. The glass rod and the mandrel should be perpendicular to each other- in a ‘T’ position. Roll the mandrel up and away from you during this process. The mandrel will be slightly behind the flame and you will be pushing the rod of glass through the flame to it, heating the glass rod just in front of the area you are actually applying to the mandrel– this gives you a constant source of heated glass to use. TOuch the glass rod to the mandrel, and gently push it on, and begin rotating the mandrel. The glass rod should stay pretty much in one position while you spin the mandrel.
Make sure the glass is good and hot- it should flow easily onto the mandrel. If it feels like it is pulling, pause and let the glass heat up some more, or burn the glass off, heat it again, and then add more. If you are adding more glass to a bead you have started, make sure the bead is a bit cool (not cold) before you add the next layer of glass.
4) Wind the glass once all the way around the mandrel, then move the mandrel slightly to the left and add another wind of glass right next to and touching the first wrap. Add more glass on top of these two wraps, moving the mandrel back and forth as necessary, until the bead looks fairly even, and is about the size you want it to be.
5) When you have applied all of the glass you need, detach the glass rod by pulling up and turning the bead towards yourself, and letting the flame burn it off.
6) Now you can begin to round the bead. Keep turning the mandrel, and keep it horizontal, while you heat your bead in the flame to a nice orange glow. Take it out of the flame, turning it all the while. Look at the bead in cross-section so you can make sure it is uniform all the way around. Use gravity to help round the bead. You may need to gently marver the bead into shape with a paddle. Be sure you don’t push the glass too hard against the mandrel. You are trying to push the glass on the top of the bead into shape, not push the bead around on the mandrel.
7) When you are finished with your bead, you want to cool it slowly (flame anneal) before putting it away. This will help keep it from breaking later. To flame anneal the bead, get it just glowing all around- not so hot that it all starts moving around again- then begin to move it slowly towards the top of the flame, always turning to keep the bead from getting distorted. Flame anneal for 1-2 minutes, or until bead is no longer glowing. Take out of the flame for a few seconds, and then cool in a fiber blanket or vermiculite for 3-4 hours.

Much of working with glass is simply a case of paying attention to the heat base of your glass. Different methods and techniques are most effective when the glass is at slightly different temperatures Stay comfortable, but be aware of what you are doing at all times.

1 comment:

gabi said...

I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!

Thank you so much for posting this!!!

Please check out my blog if you get a chance and leave me some tips! I'm a beginner (started on Saturday) and am basically self-teaching myself from information I can get off the internet, as I don't think ANYONE does lampwork in Panama.

Any advice you can give me is highly appreciated! :)