Lampwork Glass Beads
Lampwork Glass Beads:
Simply put, lampwork glass beads are made by melting glass in a small flame and winding it around a
coated metal rod.
I use a small, bench mounted, Oxygen/Propane torch for melting the glass and small hand tools for
shaping. Protective eyewear with a special coating is necessary to protect your eyes from the bright flair of
the red-hot glass and from the occasional chip of flying glass.
The beads are made from Moretti-effetre glass. This is a family or type of glass that's specifically made for
this work. I call it a family because the different colors will have similar physical characteristics that make it
possible for them to be worked together in one bead. You can get it in a variety of colors and specialty
grades. I buy it in thin rods about 13" long but you can also get it in other forms such as very fine rods called
stringers or coarsely ground called frit.
Glass will stick like glue to the metal rods, called mandrels, if not coated with a material called bead
release. The bead release has to dry before you can build a bead on the mandrel.
The hand tools I use most often are a marver, tweezers and a pick. The marver is a tool to shape the glass.
A type commonly used is a graphite pad. I have a large flat one that lays on the workbench and a smaller
one with a handle. The tweezers are a common 10" long style. The pick I use is made from tungsten, a
metal that glass will not stick to. It's too expensive for mandrels but excellent for poking or raking for
The single largest piece of equipment I use is a special kiln with a temperature controller. I use it to anneal
all my beads to give them strength and durability. Although annealing takes time and electricity, I consider it
necessary to protect your investment and would not feel comfortable selling my work without it.
Annealing dictionary definition: "anneal v. 1. to heat and slowly cool (glass or metal) to toughen and reduce
brittleness. 2. to temper." (American Heritage Dictionary).
What is happening when you build a bead is that each glass you add is at a slightly different temperature.
This results in stress points in the bead where the different glasses meet. They act like a coiled spring trying
to pop the glass apart. A shock like a knock against something or a quick temperature change could cause
a weak spot (stess point) to give way. Annealing your work is insurance against this. To anneal a bead I let it
rest in the Kiln so that the whole bead comes to the same temperature and the stresses can relax. Once
this is done the temperature is lowered to a shock point where the glass is hard and unchanging. Lastly the
bead is left to cool slowly in the kiln until room temperature.
Copywrite ©: 2009, Bill Weitzman