TreeBlaskted Oak

Glass Bead Making

  1. The Torch
  2. Essential Tools
  3. Other Useful Tools
  4. Supplies

Mandrels:  Straight rods of stainless steel wire, about 12 inches long, with a diameter equal to the desired hole size in the bead.

Bead Release:  Hot glass will instantly fuse to hot metal so you need a coating on the mandrel that will cling to the mandrel but not fuse to it.  Bead releases are usually derived from clay, kiln wash will work, but many are complicated proprietary substances.  A good bead release is vital to bead making, as a poor one will sometimes become separated during the process and ruin all of your work.  A personal preference is Purple Piffle available from

I have also made my own bead release, although I did not come up with the recipe. That bead release worked very well, and was easy to make, using the following recipe: 1 part kaolin; 1 part alumina hydrate; 1 part high temperature kiln wash; 1/4 part diatomaceous earth.

I have learned the the best container for bead release something that is very thin with a tight sealing lid, such as a centrifuge tube. You can mix up your powder and keep it dry in a larger container, and then mix only the amount you want with water in the tube. That allows you to easily get a good coating on the mandrel without wasting bead release.

Marver:  This tool has a very flat surface that you use to shape the glass.  Marvers come in either steel or graphite.  Graphite does not fuse to hot glass, so a graphite paddle can be used directly in the flame and a type of graphite marver can be mounted on the back of the torch for easy access.  Some steel marvers actually computer heat sinks and are double sided, with one side smooth and the other with deep ridges. This allows you to create a different texture on the bead.

Fiber Blanket:  Glass is very susceptible to thermal shock, so once you have made a bead it needs to cool down very slowly.  Putting a newly created hot bead between two ceramic non-asbestos fiber blankets will allow the bead to cool down slowly. This slow cool down period can also be done in a container of vermiculite

Safety Glasses:  Whenever working with glass, you should wear safety glass, but if you intend to spend a large amount of time making glass beads you will need didymium safety glasses.  There is a sodium flare when glass is at slumping temperature and in the flame, which looks like the flare as something from space reenters earth's atmosphere.  This flare is harmful to the eyes if viewed for long periods of time, and didymium glasses completely filter it out. In addition to being better for your eyes, by filtering out the sodium flare, you are able to see the different colors of glass easier, which is especially important when making beads with several layered colors

Mandrel Stand:  You will want to have your coated mandrel in easy reach.  A container with sand in it is an option which allows you to use any size mandrels and is easy to get the mandrels in and out. A flat piece of wood with holes the same diameter of the mandrels will also work. If you are using piece of wood, make sure that it is heavy enough or clamped down so it does not fall over once it is filled with mandrels.


Copyright © 2008-2013 Naomi Hampson.