Step 1. Prepare the mandrels.
Each bead kit ships with a dozen mandrels and a tube of bead release, so you’re all set to go when your kit arrives.
Bead release tends to settle, so make sure it is well mixed, a skewer, chopstick or other thin stick works well for this. Your bead release should be the consistency of pancake batter, if it’s very thick, add water a few drops at a time, mix and re-check. If it’s too thin, prop the tube somewhere safe with the lid off for a few hours so some of the water can evaporate.
Tip the tube so the bead release is spread through the tube and dip each mandrel. I like to twist them to make sure they are evenly coated, then put them on a drying rack supported at each end.
Step 2. Preparing the molds
While your mandrels are drying, kiln wash your mold. I’m using actual kilnwash. MR 97 will work as well, make sure you have a nice even coating.
Step 3. Adding dams
This step is not strictly necessary, but highly recommended.
Place your mandrels in the empty mold grooves, and using a spare mandrel or skewer, place a drop of bead release on each side of the spaces for the beads.
These little drops of bead release do two pretty terrific things for you
– hold the mandrels firmly in place as you add glass to the mold
– dramatically reduce the amount of coldworking after fusing
Step 4. Prepare the glass
I’ve decided to use a variety of glass for my beads.
The first is a black glass octagon plate (actually dark, dark purple, but I digress).
Some decorative harvest gold window glass from the 1960’s (also comes in avocado).
And a snack tray from the ’50/’60’s. I’m not sure of the exact era, these were popular for a long time in Utah.
And some bottle glass frit.
The bottle glass frit was ground in Chewy, filtered by size and washed.
The window glass and the glass plates I washed, then double bagged in plastic and thick paper and mashed with a sledge hammer. I did them individually to keep the colors separate.
Step 5. Adding glass
The optimal size of glass is coarse frit, but small glass pieces work as well. If you are using glass chunks, make sure that you fill the mold under the mandrel with glass. One way to do this is half fill each space before adding the mandrels.
Step 6. Fusing
The bottle glass frit fuses perfectly with the regular fusing schedule, in fact, I just add the molds to a regular fusing batch if I have space. The chunks of glass needed an extra 2 minute hold at top temperature to completely smooth out.
Step 7. Removing the mandrels
When your beads are all cool and ready to take out of the molds, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you twist and slide the mandrels out first, if you pull them straight out they will bend. Do it like this:
Step 8. Coldworking
Yes, it’s a fact of life, you will probably have a few beads that need a little coldwork. You can do it though, then you can make things like this: