Equipment needed to start making beads.

If you'd like to start making your own glass beads, the first thing you need is equipment. I'm writing this primarily for people like me, who want to try it without investing a lot of money, to see if it's something they'll like.

I purchased a starter kit from Frantz Bead and gave it a shot. There was a lot of stuff in there that I didn't need, and a lot of stuff I later ended up buying separately. This is not to say that it's a useless starter setup, by any means. I will, however, suggest some other options, and also suggest Glasscrafters as very cool people for supplies. Alas, neither of them, at the time of this writing, has easily navigable webpages, so I can't really set up a list with links to each individual item.

You need glass, mandrels, a heat source, tools, and something to gradually cool the beads once you're finished. Oh, and SAFETY GLASSES

So that's the basic list: a small number of glass rods, mandrels and bead release, a torch head (and a MAPP gas canister), carbon paddle, tweezers, pick, an insulation mat, and SAFETY GLASSES.

Once you've begun playing, the things you'll probably want to acquire next will be more mandrels (I have at least twenty clean and ready to use at any time,) a pair of cheap, smooth-jaw pliers for smooshing glass, a pair of cheap diagonal cutters for cutting hot glass or snapping (thin) cold glass, and the complete Moretti palette. These will keep you challenged for quite a while.

It is also convenient to get a diamond-coated rattail file, that you can use to clean up sharp glass edges on your beads until you've learned how to make perfect beads every time (insert hysterical laughter sound effect here) and a bowl of cold water to dip your burned fingers in (and cool hot metal tools back down) and some sort of steel rack in which you place your hot glass rods after you've done with using one (laying a glowing glass rod down on galvanized steel will stain the glass black.)

Those are the cheap upgrades. The expensive ones are an annealing oven, for slowly cooling BIG glass beads, and an oxypropane torch like the Nortel or Carlyle models, for MAKING those BIG glass beads.

Now let's talk money. The standard kit costs about $120 and has, as I've said, a bunch of things I don't think are necessary. If I were to buy a startup kit, knowing what I know now, I would get:

(Prices taken from Heritage Glass in October, 2002.)

I would supply my own pliers, cutters, tweezers, poker, Ingenious HotHead Mounting System, steel sheet, mandrels and marver, because those are the sorts of things I have just sitting around: adjust your order as needed.

At this point, you might just want to go to my Bead making page for suggestions on how to actually MAKE some beads.

Or you could buy a book from someone who is an expert, like, say, Cindy Jenkins. This is the book from which I learned whatever it is that I know.

So there you are.

Comments, questions: email me.

This page written on 10/26/02, last modified 10/26/02

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