Lampworkers need various tools and equipment to create their beads. Of course a supply of glass rods is the mainstay of supplies. I use soda lime glass, COE 104 soft glass, from Effetre (Moretti), Vetrofond (Murano), CIM, Reichenbach, Double Helix silvered glass, and TAG silvered glass, Precision and Lauscha glass.
Equipment any lampworker uses to create a bead include a mandrel, or steel rod, coated with bead release, and a flame. I use a mini CC that is fuled with a mixture of propane and oxygen. That is pretty much the basics with which one can make a simple bead. To really go to town the artists adds an accortment of marvers, presses, picks and anything that will help form a bead.
What is this thing called lampwork?
“Lampwork” is the term used for working glass in a hot flame. The term came from the use of oil lamps centuries ago, to produce the heat and flame needed to melt the glass. Today artists use torches that can mix fuel and oxygen for a much hotter flame and for better control.
The glass that is used comes in a length about 12 inches long, called a rod. There are many manufacturers of glass rods throughout the world including the US, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Asia are the most familiar.
The making of lampwork glass beads is done by melting a glass rod in the flame and wrapping it onto a steel rod called a mandrel. Mandrels are coated with a clay sludge called bead release, or bead separator that allows the glass to be taken off the mandrel after the bead is cool.
Various materials can be added to the glass to enhance bead design. Two or more glasses can be melted together and twisted, pulled, or cut into designs then added to a bead design. Fine silver wire, mesh, foil and leaf, copper mesh, copper foil cut-outs, cubic zirconia stones, authentic fresh water pearls, and pearl lusters are just a few of the things that can be added to glass when it’s hot to develop a design.
A torch melts the glass at about 1500 degrees. The artist cools the red hot bead watching until it no longer glows and puts the bead into a kiln to anneal. The annealing process ramps down the kiln temperature slowly over a period of time in an effort to remove internal stress giving the bead strength and lasting durability. Annealing takes about two hours and the bead can to taken from the kiln. Artists soak the bead in water to loosen the bead release enabeling the hole to be cleaned.