Flameworking bead-making class

My sister Corrie and I signed up for a beginning bead-making class. You can see her post about it here. So here’s my version. Corrie’s is the accurate, academic version with detailed instructions where you might actually learn something. Mine is not quite like that but hope you find it interesting.

First the teacher went over some introductions and then we picked up our supplies.


Bottom left: the torch. Red knobs are for gas, silver for oxygen. Most of the tools came in the metal box. I still don’t now what half of them are for. I think I used like two of them.

We took long rods called mandrels and stuck them in gooey blue stuff called bead release. This prevents the bead from sticking to the rod (in theory, that is. I think almost all my beads got stuck on the rod. They are still sitting there even as I type and I am somewhat baffled as to how to get them off.).


Once the rod was coated, we stuck them in a wooden block to dry. You can see it in the background. (This is Corrie’s workspace, way more organized than mine was!) You can also see the colored glass rods resting on the metal rod-holder-thingamajig. (Never did catch what the name of that thing was.)


Next step, put on safety goggles, turn on torch. Poke glass rod in and out of flame so it doesn’t shatter. (I did forget this once and had glass shooting all over the place. It was kind of a cool effect, though.)


Here’s a closeup of a rod going into the fire.


The end starts to turn into a hot blob. You have to keep rotating the blob so it doesn’t dribble.


Meanwhile, practice your coordination skills by heating up the mandrel bead release so it turns white. This is easier said than done. You’re also supposed to hold your rod parallel to the floor. Oops. Forgot that too.

Put blob on mandrel and rotate so it turns into a bead. The teacher made it look so easy, by evenly applying the molten glass to the mandrel. Mine was more like a big blorp hanging off one side and needing to quickly rotate it so it didn’t just fall straight into the fire.


When pulled out of the flame, the bead is glowing hot.


It’s interesting how the bead changes color over time. As it cools, it turns to a red color. (Picture is crummy because I took them off my phone, but it does show the color.)


In less than a minute, it has cooled to a nice turquoise blue.


Here’s how a clear bead looks when done. This is Corrie’s bead.


The teacher also showed us how to combine colors. This is done by heating two rods at once.


They are touched together and then pulled apart while twisting. In the end you get a long skinny twisty stick. Teacher’s looked perfect and even. Mine left a bit more to be desired, but was still cool to see it work!


This picture shows how long it is.


Here’s  Corrie’s two colors together. She dubbed it the “Unicorn Horn.”


Then make a base bead and heat up swirly stick.


Apply swirly melted glass to base bead.


Red hot swirly bead.


Other things we learned: how to dress up the naked bead with dots.


How to poke at the bead with a tool called a “rake” to turn the dots into little hearts.


How to put dots on top and bottom of the bead to make a tortoiseshell pattern. Corrie’s turned out a lot better than mine. I dubbed mine the “Star Wars Torture Device” because all my dots were big, misshapen bumps that were uneven and a bit sinister-looking. After melting it down a bit it finally looked a little less threatening.


How to add frit (broken glass) to your bead so it has a random pattern. Mine ended up looking like a Dalmatian puppy.


Corrie’s turned out pretty cool!


And after they are done, they all go into the kiln that’s at 950 degrees, where they cool down slowly so they don’t crack.


Corrie went to pick the up this morning and took some nice pictures, so I am being lazy and waiting for her pictures instead of taking my own. I will post them when they are up. (Thanks for all the pictures, Corrie!)

It was a fun night and I’m glad Corrie and I took the time to go take it. The adventure didn’t end at the class though.

When Corrie dropped me off at home, I discovered my family was gone…and I had forgotten to bring my keys!

Fortunately, Corrie had my house key, so she turned off the car to give it to me. But then her car wouldn’t start!

But after a few tries it finally restarted, so all was well. And my family eventually came home!

A Yee

Angela Yee is a professional designer (graphic design, stage design, interior design — angelayeedesign.com) and teaches leadership skills at strategysketchnotes.com.

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  1. corriespondent - January 30, 2009

    Your descriptions are more amusing than mine! I wish we had gotten pictures of our Death Star torture devices before we melted them down. Maybe next time!

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