Thursday, November 28, 2013

Making Lampwork Glass Headpins Tutorial

Ever wondered how to make those cool lampwork glass headpins you keep seeing around? Here's a tutorial showing how it's done. These are really simple to make, and are pretty versatile too. I've been using them to make Christmas ornaments lately, but I've also used them for necklaces and they're great for earrings too! P.S.- for info from me on making headpins with a wonderful new tool that makes this all so much easier, look here!

As with all of my tutorials, these instructions are meant for those who are familiar with working with hot glass and torches. Your safety is your own concern. This should only be attempted by adults. 

Tools and supplies:
Copper wire-18 gauge
Small pin vise device         Scissors
Locking Hemostat            Graphite paddle 
Amber and clear glass       White enamel           
Goldstone stringer             Raku Frit

 Have frit and enamel ready to use. Mine is laying out on a piece of marble on the workbench.

Cut a piece of copper about 7-9 inches long, or whatever length you prefer; cut it at least an inch longer than you want the finished head pin to be. Flatten end of copper gently with hammer if desired. I'm adding a little caution here- some folks say you must flatten or ball the copper to make sure the copper will not pull out of the glass later, so it is most likely best to do that! Insert bottom end into pin vise. Make sure it is secure and will not pull out accidentally.

Warning- the copper will move and bounce around as you are adding hot glass. This copper is not nearly as stiff as the steel mandrels you are used to.

Heat Clear glass and add a blob to the copper, encasing about 1/3 inch of the copper in glass and being sure to cover end completely. You may find that you need to wrap the glass around the wire rather than rotating the wire and letting the glass flow on. The movement of the copper wire just makes it hard to do things the 'right' way. Since you are working at the end of the wire, it really won't cause you any problems to work this way.

Heat Amber glass and encase clear with amber glass. Yes, it's kind of blobby. I'll shape it nicely in a minute!

Roll the glass in white enamel, melt in and then roll in raku frit. Make sure the glass is pretty hot for this step as you can't really push it down well. Melt in. Rolling in the enamel and frit will help to smooth and round the glass.

 Add 4 or five stripes of goldstone
stringer working from base to tip.
Warm tip of amber rod and attach to the tip of the headpin. Twist a bit and detach rod with flame.

Heat glass to smooth. Hold vertically with tip up while hot to allow glass to droop slightly towards the back end, making sure glass is nice and smooth and there are no tiny stray bits that will crack off later. Repair if needed by adding a little glass to that end  to even up. Roll on marver to smooth further.

 Heat tip of headpin and tip of amber rod.
Attach and pull firmly to point the headpin.

Now comes the fun part- detaching the copper from the pin vise. I have found that it is quickest to lock the hemostats onto the copper about 1 1/2 inches above the top of the pin vise and simply cut through the wire. It can be really difficult to open the pin vise and pull out the wire. That can be done after the headpin has been put in the kiln.

I like to leave as much of the copper as possible sticking out of the kiln. That way it will not become dead soft from the heat. Though the copper on these can be cleaned with pickle, I prefer to soak them in warm water for a few minutes and then sand the fire scale off with 220 grit wet/dry sandpaper. The headpin may need to be hardened a bit by hammering with a rawhide mallet if the copper has become overly soft.

This tut is just a starting place for making headpins- you can decorate them in any way you please, just like beads!These are made from Italian Moretti soft glass. I've also made a few of these out of recycled bottle glass- go here for special tips about that.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Focus on Life Week 46- Reflections

Oh my, it's been a long time since I've posted a photo. New place, new life, new work to be done- it all adds up. I wanted to be sure and tell y'all about a book I just read: Eight Girls Taking Pictures by Whitney Otto. I don't usually recommend books, but this one was wonderful and very inspirational- it's historical fiction with an emphasis on the lives of women throughout the 20th century.
On to this week's prompt- I love to look at things in mirrors. I'm having a hard time choosing from the photos I took last night- the three part mirror in my bathroom is so much fun to play with! I've always been intrigued by the idea of multiple mirror reflections. Here's a little something that explains a bit about it and shows some cool examples.

 I also like to put some of my beads on mirrors- like these marching hedgehogs. I know, I'm supposed to be reflecting on my life- instead I'm reflecting on mirrors! Check out the blog links at the bottom of the page to see what others are reflecting on.