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Showing posts with the label Tools and Equipment

Tool Tuesday - Essentials (Eyewear)

Appropriate eyewear is an absolute essential for lampwork.  Glass in the flame produces a bright yellow/orange sodium flare that makes it difficult to see what you are doing and more importantly can cause permanent eye damage with repeated and prolonged exposure.  These are my didymium glasses specifically designed for working with soft glass. This is what I would see if I didn't wear the glasses and as you can see it would be difficult to see the bead through the sodium flare. This is the view through the glasses.  A rose tinted view to the glass on the mandrel without the bright sodium flare.

Tool Tuesday - Essentials (Glass)

Lampwork wouldn't be lampwork without the glass.  One vitally important aspect of glass is Coefficient of Expansion (COE) which is a measurement of the rate that the glass expands and contracts when it is heated and cooled.  If two different glass COE's are mixed the incompatible glass will crack regardless of annealing. There are exceptions to this rule such as mixing a small amount of furnace glass in a bead.  Furnace glass has a high lead content and allows a bit more flexibility in the glass. This is my supply of glass rods.  I use COE104 glass which is a relatively soft glass suitable for making beads.  This is just a small sample of the colours available, and the colours that I use most frequently. I keep used rods on my workbench sorted by colour for easy access when the torch is lit.  The hair thin sticks of glass are called stringers and are used to add fine detail to the bead such as dots or lines. Glass also comes in powdered form called enamel.  I

Tool Tuesday - Essentials (Mandrels)

Most of the glass beads I make have a hole running through the middle of them.  The hole is created by a mandrel which is basically a stainless steel stick of varying thicknesses and sometimes shapes.  Before a mandrel can be used for bead making, it must be covered in bead release to prevent the glass sticking.  Bead release is like a clay slurry that the mandrel is dipped in and left to dry.  You may notice beads from a craft store have a whitish powdery coating in the hole?  This is bead release and one sure way to tell an artists bead from a mass produced bead is an artist will remove the bead release from their beads before selling them. I have dozens of mandrels - some are basic and some create cabochons or buttons. These are just a few of the mandrels that I commonly use.  The grey tips are dried bead release. This is bead release.  It is simple to use - just give the jar a shake, dip the mandrel in and let it dry.  I use decorated tin cans filled with rice to hold th

Tool Tuesday - Essentials (The Kiln)

This week's post is about one essential item - the kiln. My kiln was imported from USA specifically to anneal the glass beads I make.  Annealing is the process of heat soaking the beads at a specific temperature for a specific length of time.  Then the kiln is set to reduce the temperature slowly over a period of time.  Without annealing, the glass would cool down too quickly and unevenly, causing stress fractures and eventually the glass would crack. My kiln has a lid on the top as well as opening flaps on the front for placing beads.  The blue controller on the side is programmable for different types of glass, as well as annealing, slumping and fusing. Here I have opened the front flap and you can see two butterfly beads resting on a kiln rack annealing.  I put the beads in the hot kiln as soon as they are made.

Tool Tuesday - Essentials

From basic essentials to the latest glass colour, lampworkers are like magpies when it comes to enabling their creativity.  Each Tuesday I will post pictures of my essentials and some of my favourite tools with an explanation of what they are and how they are used to make glass beads. This is a medical oxygen concentrator usually used for home oxygen therapy.  My lampwork set up requires a combination of oxygen and LPG to create the perfect flame for making glass beads and the oxygen concentrator is more cost efficient than bottled oxygen. This is a duel fuel torch used to melt glass.  The red and green knobs control how much LPG and oxygen are in the flame which is beneficial when working with different glass properties.