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Intermediate Beadmaking - Dots! Part 2!

We mainly covered dots and variants of dots in this class. These are notes to help you continue practicing at home. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I am typically easier to reach via email.

General safety

1. Pull your hair back, wear natural fibers that fit close to the body (hot glass loves jumping down shirts) since they’re less flammable, wear closed-toe shoes.

2. Always be aware of where you are in relation to your flame. Don’t reach into it, under it, or through it.

3. Glass and tools remain hot after you use them. Keep this in mind - keep them sorted so the hot end is always facing the same way. Use the same end of the glass rod every time so only one side is hot.

4. Keep water nearby for glass bits, cooling tools, or burnt fingers.

5. Proper ventilation is important - you should have an air outflow and inflow.

6. If you are using a bulk tank, be sure to “bleed” the line at the end of every torch session.  To do this, when you complete your last bead for the day, shut the tank off and keep the torch head lit until all the fuel burns out of the line – the torch will shut itself off.  Turn off the torch head once the flame is out.  It’s good practice to not keep your bulk tank in the house in case of leaks.


Prep work/Miscellaneous tips

1. Clean any glass before using it. Clean your hands as well. This will help make cleaner beads - especially with transparent colors.

2. Pull off any scummy ends by heating them and pulling them off with pliers.

3. Dip mandrels in bead release - let air dry or slowly introduce to the flame to flame dry as you use them. Check the bead release to see if they need to be air dried.

4. To pull a stringer, heat the end of a rod to a gather. Remove it from the flame for a few seconds to let it “skin” over. Pinch a small part with pliers, and pull it. Make sure you have a secure grip with the pliers, pull slower for a thicker stringer and faster for a thinner one. Flame cut the end. If it’s too long, you can flame cut it into as many manageable parts as needed.

5. Silvered ivory stringer - heat the end of a rod of ivory. You want it warm, not molten. (Dark and light react differently.) Take a small piece of silver, wrap it around the warm rod, and burnish it in. (Burnishing is pushing it so it’s all firmly attached to the glass.) Melt it into a gather, and pull as you would a normal stringer. This will be more fragile than a normal stringer.

6. Quick stringer - if you’ve forgotten to pull stringer before starting a bead and don’t have a spare hand, heat the end of a rod to a gather, heat the tip of the mandrel (where the bead isn’t) and touch the gather to that and pull away as you would to form a stringer. Flame cut away from the mandrel, let cool before picking up, and use as needed.

7. Spinning the mandrel quickly only heats the outside of the bead.  This is good if you’re sculpting or need the bead firm for placing dots or stringer.  Spinning the mandrel slowly will let the heat absorb more, and can heat the bead to distorting and moving glass if you’re not careful. 

Basic Round Bead

1. Heat the mandrel to glowing.

2. Heat the glass into a gather. (You pulled off the end of the rod in case of scum, right?)

3. Make a small wrap on the mandrel, keep adding glass and letting it melt in to shape the bead. Patience, steady spinning on the mandrel, and adding glass a bit at a time will give you a good bead. A narrow footprint is best to start with as the glass will push down to create dimples on either side of the bead.  You can build up the core bead with a wrap on either side – closer to the mandrel – to create a more round bead instead of a donut bead. 

4. Keep the mandrel level, and in the “sweet spot” of the flame. There’s a diagram in my first article about bead position in the flame.

5. Spinning the mandrel slowly will allow heat to penetrate to the center of the bead. Spinning it quicker will let it heat the surface only.

6. Once you feel the bead is complete, heat it to glowing (still spinning the mandrel) but not molten. Remove it from the flame, still spinning, and let it cool until the surface glow is gone under a table. Place it in a fiber blanket to cool.  (A kiln is good, too, annealing is always a good thing.)

Basic Dot Bead

1. Make a basic round bead.

2. You can make dots with a rod, commercially pulled stringer, or your own stringer.

3. Let the base bead cool so it is hot, but not molten.

4. Heat the end of the rod or stringer. The more glass you heat, the larger your dot will be.

5. Touch the molten glass to the bead. Press into the bead so there is a firm connection. If a dot is undercut, or not attached, it can come off.

6. You can space dots out evenly, or place random sizes at random spots.

7. Ways to space dots evenly:

    A. Mark the mandrel with pencil gently so you know where you would like the dots to be.

    B. For 4 evenly spaced dots, you can place your first dot, turn the mandrel so that the dot is at the top of the bead, and place another dot in the center area facing you. Turn it again so that dot is at the top, place another dot, and repeat one more time for 4 dots.

    C. Another way to do 4 evenly spaced dots is to place a small dot of glass on the mandrel - not touching the bead. Place a dot on the bead, and turn the mandrel until you can’t see the glass dot on the mandrel, which should be the complete other side of the bead. Place another dot, then split the difference between the two for your remaining 2 dots.

8. Once you’ve placed all your dots, start spinning the mandrel a bit slower to let the glass melt in as much as you’d like.

9. If you would like to layer more dots over your initial ones, you can use a transparent and totally cover the initial dot, or an opaque and add a bit less glass so there’s a ring of the first color around the second. You can keep stacking dots of smaller sizes and let them melt in as much as you’d like.

10. Make sure the dots are all firmly attached and smoothed - no sharp parts - before you consider the bead finished.

11. You can also randomly dot the second color on the bead in different sized dots.  This is a great exercise for learning how much glass it takes to make different sized dots.

Poked Dots Bead

1. Make a basic dot bead with opaque dots.

2. Melt the dots in completely, and let the bead cool to hot but not molten. Add transparent dots over the opaque ones.

3. Let the transparent dots melt in completely.

4. Let the bead cool to hot, not molten. Spot heat each dot until glowing, and poke it with a pick or mandrel.

5. As you spot heat each dot, pick spots on opposite sides so you don’t overheat one side of the bead.

6. Whenever you poke dots, poke towards the center of the mandrel and the center of the bead so you don't misshape the bead.

7. Once all dots are poked, use another transparent - the same or a different color, or clear - to cover the poked holes. Heat the glass to a gather large enough to seal the air bubble in on all sides with one push. You do not want the glass you are adding to have a point, it will fill in the air bubble then.

8. Melt the second transparent layer in completely. The air bubbles will round up inside the bead.


Stacked Dots Bead


1. Make a basic bead, either in transparent or opaque glass.

2. Use another color for dots – 4 larger ones around the middle and 8 smaller ones on either side are a nice way to start.  Melt them in almost entirely.

3. You can go back to the core bead color or use another color for the second series of dots.  Make sure the color is different enough that you can tell the difference.

4. Make another set of dots.  Place them in the center of the first set of dots, but with slightly less glass.  Melt them in almost entirely.

5. Continue as many times as you’d like.  If you’d like, you can use poked dots for the last layer.  (Use transparent glass for these.)


Raked Star Bead


1. Make a basic round bead.  This one should be relatively narrow, as you will be building up instead of decorating the surface.  The dots will also widen it somewhat as they are added and melted in.  A larger mandrel hole is a plus for this as it helps with stringing and wearing options.

2. Place fairly large dots around the center of the bead – not side dots also.  An odd number looks best.  You can melt so each dot is completely attached to the base bead, then spot heat them and flatten the top of the dot to make placing the next dot easier.  If you have an optic mold to help with dot placement, that’s great.  If not, place them in a star pattern, or mark the mandrel before starting melting glass as to where you want the dots to go.  

3. Make another row of dots atop the first row.  These should be slightly smaller than the first set, and in a color with enough of a difference to be noticed.  Melt them in somewhat and flatten them for the next layer.

4. Place as many layers of dots as you’d like.  When you finish the last layer, heat the whole bead to avoid any cracking.  (Hot, not molten – the glass should not be moving.)  Spot heat each point at a time – like changing lug nuts, go around every other one so you don’t overheat a section of the bead.  When the point is hot enough, use a rake or other pointy tool to pull the glass down towards the core bead.  Do not distort it enough that it causes pointy glass on the mandrel.  In between points, flash the whole bead in the heat so it stays intact.

5. Once you have raked all the points (on both sides!) flash the bead in the heat again.  You can add dots to the tops of each point, and in between the raked sections close to the mandrel.  Melt these in enough that they won’t break off.  You can also top each point with a poked dot if you’d like. 
Silvered Ivory Stringer
1. Heat the end of a rod of ivory. You want it warm, not molten. (Dark and light react differently.  Light will still have distinct crisp lines, dark will spread and fuzz out.)
2. Take a small piece of silver, wrap it around the warm rod, and burnish it in. (Burnishing is pushing it so it’s all firmly attached to the glass.)
3. Melt it into a gather, and pull as you would a normal stringer with either pliers or another stringer pushed into it. This will be more fragile than a normal stringer.
Concealed Dots Bead
1. Make a base bead.  For this one, we used black glass to make crescent moons.
2. Make dots of silvered ivory stringer.  Melt them entirely in.  You can space them evenly or place them where you want.
3. Use black stringer (premade or handpulled) to place smaller dots on the very edge of the silvered ivory dots.  They should just cover an edge of the dot to conceal it correctly so it won't just leave a ring of silvered ivory.  Melt in completely.
4. This will leave crescent moons of silvered ivory.  The effect looks great when etched.

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