How are glass beads made?

Glass rods are heated over the flame of a gas torch until the glass is molten. Once the glass is heated sufficiently, it is then applied to a stainless steel mandrel (rod) which has been coated in bead release and is kept constantly in motion in and around the flame. After shaping and adding the desired embellishments, the bead is held out further in the flame to cool slightly before placing it in a digitally controlled kiln for the annealing process. Art Glass beads should be annealed to reduce any stresses that have built up in the glass during the flame working process. Annealing will ensure the bead has strength and durability for long lasting enjoyment by its owner. After the beads are kiln annealed, the bead holes are cleaned out of residual bead release (this is important as the clay based, bead release dust can be a health hazard) before being sold or used in Jewellery. As each bead is individually handmade it is normal for there to be slight variations.

How long have you been beadmaking and who taught you?

I started making beads in March 2005. I bought a basic Hothead torch kit at the time and a very good book called "Passing the Flame" by Corina Tettinger. I taught myself to make beads from that book. It wasn't until about September 2005 that I saw someone else make a bead whilst I was visiting Houston in the US. I have since taken classes with Peter Minson and Bernard Stonor (Australia) and Corina Tettinger and Loren Stump (US) which helped refine my knowledge and taught me new techniques.

What type of torch do you use?

I am currently using a GTT Phantom which uses oxygen and propane. I still have my previous Nortel Minor burner torch in the cupboard as a backup.

What type of kiln do you use?

I use a digitally controlled kiln called a Woodrow Minifire, which is a front loading kiln. The kiln is used to anneal my beads after they have been made.

What kind of glass do you use?

I predominantly use a soft glass (soda lime glass) with a coefficient of expansion (COE) of 104. I predominantly use Italian glass called Effetre and Vetrofond, but I do use German Lauscha glass and American Double Helix for their beautiful silver glass. It is important when mixing glass brands that the COE is very similar or there can be compatibility problems which can cause cracking in beads.