Lampworking--the process of melting and shaping glass in the flame of a torch--allows you to create glass items such as beads. This type of glass work adorns compositions, such as jewellery, and is even displayed on its own by bead collectors. You can participate in this well-received art form by acquiring the necessary supplies to make your own lampwork beads.
A torch set-up provides the heat source needed to melt and shape your glass. A beginning beadmaking set-up typically involves a bench-mounted Hothead torch and disposable propane or propylene (MAPP) gas container. Purchase the Hothead torch at a lampworking supplier and acquire your propane or MAPP gas cylinder at a hardware store.
A ventilation system is one of the most important elements of your beadmaking supply list because it exhausts the fumes given out by the torch and the melting glass. Ventilation systems vary depending on the kind of workspace you have. Get advice for setting up your own system by taking a beadmaking class, calling a lampworking supplier, joining a lampworking forum and/or referring to an online resource such as Andrea Guarino-Slemmon's "Studio Ventilation Tutorial" page.
Didymium Safety Glasses
Didymium safety glasses protect you from the harmful sodium flare that glass gives off as it is heated. These glasses range in frame styles and options, depending on how you need to use them. For example, you can purchase didymium goggles that go over your regular eyeglasses, or opt for a standard pair of didymium lenses to wear by themselves. Purchase your glasses from a lampworking retailer.
Beadmaking glass comes in clear and colour rods and tubes. Glass is typically available as sodium lime (soft) glass and borosilicate (hard) glass, but many beadmakers opt for soft glass because this version comes in more colour varieties and does not require the amount of heat that hard glass does. Acquire these items from a lampworking retailer and be sure to use like glasses together, such as soft glass with soft glass only--incompatible glass will break.
Mandrels and Bead Release
Mandrels and bead release work in conjunction with each other to allow you to safely handle the glass and successfully remove the finished bead. The mandrel is a thin metal rod that you make your beads on so they have a hole in their centres. The bead release is a substance that covers a portion of the mandrel to prevent the glass from sticking to the metal. Both of these items are available at lampworking suppliers.
Vermiculite or Kiln
After you create your bead, the glass must slowly be brought back down to room temperature (annealed) so that it does not crack later. Use vermiculite--a common garden store item--to anneal your glass, or purchase a kiln from a lampworking retailer. The kiln, which is a hot oven designed to hold high temperatures and anneal glass, gives you more control over the heating and annealing process.
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