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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Remember to Adjust: Your Flame, Your Torch & Your Mandrel Position

This is my very first bead that I ever made. I thought it was going to be a turquoise donut. I burned it pretty badly which makes sense, because that's the way I cook too.
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One of my beadmaking friends wrote to me and said that she was having problems with her new torch. She has recently changed from a Hothead to an oxy/propane mix and is concerned that maybe she didn't choose the right torch for sculptural beads.

I remember the learning curve from changing from a Hothead to a Minor. My first bead just oozed onto my tabletop. Whoa...that was scary. Then I burned a few- a little too close to the cones. It all takes time, and lots of practice, doesn't it?

So here are a few tips that I sent her for changing torches and at the same time working with sculptural beads and for some of you they are just a refresher course and for others, perhaps an idea or two to consider adopting. And if you're doing all of them already, pat yourself on the back and add some more tips in the comment section, please.

We'll call this "Consider these Adjustments"

1.Reheat & Read The Heat: After you do anything to your bead...anything....reheat your entire bead. That includes adding a single spot to your dog's body, reheat, adding an eyeball, reheat. I'm sure you get the idea. (and when I say reheat, I mean looking and "reading" the heat color of the glass that it is warm.) Sometimes people have let their bead get a little cool and just seem to wave it around in the flame and think it's warm. Watch the color of the glass to be sure and double check the farthest ends of the bead.

2. Adjust your Flame Often: I think beadmakers forget that those knobs are for adjusting while you're making your bead. Sometimes you need a bushier flame or more of a pinpoint...that torch is there to help you. Remember to use the knobs to enhance what you're doing.

3. Adjust Your Mandrel Position: Move your mandrel to get the flame to hit the bead exactly where you want it while keeping it warm. Sometimes we learn the horizontal way of holding our mandrel and keeping it parallel to the table top for making donuts, tabs, and bicones and stick with that style for making sculptural beads. Nope, not the way to do it. All rules are off when sculpting. Twist, turn and move that mandrel to get the flame exactly where it needs to be to heat the right spot. (don't forget to adjust your flame too.) Watch your heat of your bead, so the glass doesn't move in the wrong direction. But this is a very free-ing feeling once you start do this.

I'm guessing that everyone knows these adjustments already, but can use the reminder. We get intent on a bead and the focus turns to "how do I place this limb or can I keep that eye from totally melting in?" instead of "did I remember to reheat every time I placed some glass on my bead?" So kudos to all of you who already do this. And to those of you like me, who need a gentle reminder, here it is. I wish you happy beading and a good memory.

See you tomorrow!