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
It is important to note right at the very beginning that usually you cannot mix glass from different manufacturers. It will crack as it cools because the glasses have different compostion and shrink at different rates. Moretti glass is soft glass, made with sand and lime, and is utterly incompatible with borosilicate glass, or hard glass, made by companies like Northstar.
Moretti has some exotic colors that require special handling techniques, which are not included in either the beginner or the standard complete kit, although you can get an assortment of them, as well. These exotics include opalescent and dichroic glasses, which take a lot of skill to use. There are also several colors included in the standard complete assortment, that are breathtakingly expensive. Most of these use precious metals in their composition.
It is mounted to a work table by a very ingenious, high-precision mechanism, consisting of a 4 inch hose clamp that goes around the gas canister, clamping it to an L-shaped bracket of the type you get from Home Depot that in turn is screwed into the work table. I recommend having a sheet of thin steel or aluminum on the table surface because it IS going to have hot glass on it. You can get a sheet of galvanized steel from Home Depot in the ductwork area.
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:
(I can't find a specific link for either of the above: ask and they will know what you're looking for.)
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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