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How Are Lampwork Beads Made?

The most common question I get asked is how are lampwork beads made? On this page I will try to explain.....

Lampwork beads are most commonly made using a dual fuel torch, I have a  Bobcat torch which is run on a mix of propane and oxygen.  The glass I use is soda glass often referred to as "soft glass", this glass comes in the form of rods which I heat in the flame and melt onto a steel mandrel while holding it horizontal and rotating it at a steady pace to allow the molten glass to spread round the mandrel and to use gravity to keep the bead central on the mandrel, this creates a base bead that can be decorated with different layers of glass or embellished with frit, silver and gold leaf and enamels. 

The bead then needs to be annealed in a digitally controlled kiln to prevent thermal shock and to cool the bead to room temperature gradually, if the bead was left to cool on its own without the aid of a kiln it would be very weak and shatter, as the outer layer of the glass would cool first forming a skin, and the centre of the bead would remain hot causing the stress when cooling as the glass contracts.  When annealing a bead with a kiln, the kiln will hold the bead at a regular temperature throughout and slowly bring the bead down to room temperature over a period of time, taking away the stress and giving you a strong stable bead. 

All reputable bead makers will anneal their beads and will be more than willing to confirm their beads are fully annealed in a digitally controlled kiln.