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How Lampworking Works


Lampworking Step by Step

Now for the fun part: how to actually make a lampwork bead. Here's a step-by-step guide to a very simple round bead with no embellishments or patterns:

Step 1: Heat the glass rod. To do this safely, you have to move the rod in and out of the flame so it heats slowly. Also twirl the rod so gravity plays on it equally, never letting the end droop too far.

Step 2: As the glass gets hot, start heating the coated mandrel as well. It should heat to an orange glow.

Step 3: As the glass becomes molten, start winding it around the heated mandrel. The glass and the mandrel should be in the flame as you do this.

Step 4: When the bead is the size you want, start pulling the glass rod away from the mandrel, continuing to rotate the mandrel the whole time. The glass will get thinner and thinner, and eventually break, a technique known as flame-cutting.

Step 5: Take the bead out of the center of the flame to its cooler edge. Continue rotating the glass. This process is called flame annealing -- it makes sure the glass' temperature doesn't drop too quickly, which can cause it to break.

Step 6: Further anneal the beads using either vermiculite or fiber blankets, and then eventually a kiln.

Step 7: Once the beads are room temperature, soak them in a bowl of water that is also room temperature. Then you can more easily remove the bead from the mandrel.

Step 8: Use a bead hole reamer to clean out the hole.

And voila! You have a bead!

So assuming you're not a super-quick study and you didn't pick up everything you wanted to know about lampworking from those eight steps, where else can you turn to learn more, maybe in person? Here are some places to check:

  • The International Society of Glass Beadmakers has a beadmaking instructors listing
  • Local glass shops may also hold classes
  • Art centers
  • Junior colleges and art colleges
  • Laurie Ament, the artist mentioned earlier learned "from a book and lots of practice!"

For more on lampworking, glass making and other related activities, blow on over to the next page.