How to make glass beads

Tools Needed:

  • Moretti rods in assorted colors
  • Didymium glasses
  • window cleaner
  • 6mm silver or white finish french wire torch (if this is a first project you can buy a small propane torch from your local hardware store and use a hothead.
  • Graphite pad & paddle
  • 15″ to 16″ bead-release-coated stainless steel mandrels
  • Flattening tweezers
  • sterling silver spacer beads
  • Glass spacer beads
  • Sterling silver clasp
  • Jewelers cement

STEP 1. Base (disk) bead. First, use window cleaner or bleach to clean the end of the rod that will be in the flame. Hold the mandrel beneath the flame, slowly waving it through the flame until it glows. Always work on your bead looking through the flame. Dip a rod through the flame from above and heat on all sides (1/4″ to start is plenty) until the glass barely starts to move.

STEP 2. Hold the hot mandrel beyond the flame. While slowly turning your mandrel, start wrapping glass around the middle of the mandrel until you achieve the desired size. To release the rod, use the flame to cut through the glass like scissors. Put down the rod and wave the bead in and out of the flame to melt the grooves into each other, just enough to give your beads the necessary strength.

STEP 3. The heat will naturally form the glass into a ball. To flatten the ball into a disk, you can use a paddle with a graphite pad or flattening tweezers to level the edges if they get too hot.

STEP 4. Base bead dots. Heat the tip of a second color rod just until it glows. Touch down on the outer ring of your base bead, then pull away to form a dot and stringer of glass on the outer edge of the bead. Use the flame to cut through your stringer and melt the dot enough so it won’t accidentally pop off later. Repeat this technique to make 6 or 7 dots. It is important to melt on your dots just enough to give them strength. When the bead has cooled slightly, place it into vermiculite, an annealing oven, or between fiber blankets, allowing them to cool to room temperature. Fiber blankets are 1″ thick alumina fiber products that provide insulation.

STEP 5. Barrel bead Starting with a hot mandrel, wind on 3 separate-but-touching basic hot bead wraps. Melt together so the glass forms a long tubular bead. Keep adding glass until you reach the desired size. Use the graphite paddle to smooth out any ridges, and use the flame to melt out any imperfections. Always work looking through the flame to your mandrel.

STEP 6. Preheat a second color for the collar of the barrel bead. To add the collar, simply wrap the ends of the bead with hot glass. Following STEP 4, continue with a new color for the dots. Put the bead away to cool for a few hours. Repeat to make the desired number of barrel beads. Clean the beads with a reamer.

STEP 7. Cut beading string to 3 times the desired length of your necklace, which is always a safe bet. Cut a piece of French wire 1/4″ long. Slide the French coil and one half of the sterling clasp onto your string. Make a common knot, cinching up the French coil with the clasp. The coil protects the end of the stringing material from wear. STEP 8. Assemble your beads onto doubled-up string, hiding knots wherever you can, usually every fifth bead or so. At the end of composition, slide another piece of French coil and clasp half onto one of the strings, then tie a common knot. slip the string back through the end beads, knot again, snip, and dab a dot of jeweler’s cement onto the end.

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