Lampworkers Guild Stuff & Lampwork 101

Here are the finished sets of beads for the Lampworker’s Guild to be given as gifts to various Royals at Pennsic.  I will need to mail these to the appropriate person soon…

While I was making beads, I got a little silly and made this little bee.

I also tested a few combinations for fun and to see if some colors were happy working with one another.  Green and yellow is very tricky.

These were sets that I was putting together for largesse, however, due to the Lampworker’s Guild needing more beads made, they got re-allocated to that project.  Just means I need to make MORE BEADS!

I’m looking forward to teaching my beginner’s class in a couple weeks!  I think it’s going to be very popular and my co-teacher and I are going to have to try to get many people to work the torches, and hopefully they’ll be able to make at least one bead each.  In a conversation tonight, I thought I’d put a little bit of my Beginner’s Lampwork information here for you to peruse.

Equipment:  Here’s a list of the things you will need to start bead making.

1.  Blue tank of propane.  Not only is it portable and clean, but it also is the right size for clamping down.  If you have the know-how, you can also refill these from the propane tank on your BBQ…
2.  Hot Head torch.  This piece is necessary for melting the glass at the right temperature.  Craft torches and things you get at those home hardware places will burn your glass and turn it grey and gross looking.
3.  3″ C-clamp
4.  6″ L bracket
5.  3″ hose clamp (the circle thing)
6. SAFETY GLASSES (most bead makers will recommend tinted lenses to save your eyes from damage staring at the bright flame)
7.  Flathead screwdriver
8.  A cookie sheet with a lip on it.
9.  Pliers
10.  Lighter (I recommend a long lighter–the kind you use to light your BBQ)

11.  1 gallon bucket.  An ice cream bucket is the perfect size.  Just what you needed–an excuse to buy a bucket of ice cream!  Go ahead…eat it while you read.
12.  Fine grain vermiculite.  Found in your local garden department.  You can get a small bag of it and share it between a couple lampworkers.
13.  Bead release.  This jar of goodness will keep the glass from sticking to the metal rods.  I recommend the Frantz Bead Separator; it runs $7 or $8 for a 4 oz. jar which will help you make several hundred beads.  It’s also flame-dry or air dry; some air-dry types will pop if you put it into the flame when it’s still damp, which means you have to scrape it off and re-dip.  (Also, you will have to add a bit of water from time to time–it tends to get really thick or completely dried out.)
14.  Mandrils.  These are the metal rods that you need to dip into the Bead Separator.  I would start with small ones, like 1/16″.
15.  Glass rods.  It’s VERY important that you get glass that has the same COE (coefficient of expansion) or you will end up with broken and cracked beads.  Most lampworkers use 104 COE.

It seems like an extensive list, but a lot of it is little things that you might even have kicking around your garage.  The rest you can mail order or pick up at your local hardware store.

Where to order glass and torch heads:  They’re located in Shelton, WA, will pack up your order quickly and bubble wrap the heck out of it!  If you have questions or concerns, they get back to you fast to help you.  I can’t say enough nice things about them! is another company my husband ordered from a couple times.  They’re also a good place, but I haven’t worked with them myself, so I recommend Frantz. 🙂

If you are looking for heraldic colors to make beads, here are some part numbers for glass that I have found to work really well (they’re also all 104 COE, so you’ll KNOW that it’s right!):
White 591204
Black Tuxedo 511872
Red Dark Effetre 591436
Yellow Lemon Medium 591408
Green Grass 591216 (although this can be hit-and-miss with other colors–work with lower temperatures to make sure it doesn’t bleed into others, and/or use a blob of clear between layers)
Blue Lapis Cobalt Pastel 591246
Purple — this is a tricky one…there really isn’t a *good* purple, but you can get pretty good results from Grape Ape 511654 or Thai Orchid 511632
Clear:  591004

Other part numbers to look for:
Hot Head:  110137

Mandrels:  1/16″ 324316 or 3/32″ 324332
Fusion Bead Separator:  332104
Graphite Paddle (a shaping tool):  301212 or 301302
Marvers, Probes, Picks and Rakes:  other tools you can search for that can help you make fun shapes and manipulate glass.  This is for the 201 class, however…  You can pick up a cheap set of dental tools that you can start with–just remember that the metal has to stay cool or the glass will stick to it.
You can find videos on YouTube on how to make glass beads.