Glass beads are small, decorative items available in different shapes and sizes. They can be woven together using thread, flexible wire, or stuck on the surface using glue. Beads are used to make jewelry, flowers, purses, wall art, decorate clothes, etc….

From http://www.venetianbeadshop.com/History-of-Beads_ep_37-1.html

Beads have been made of glass for over 5,000 years. The discovery of fire was the essential step in glass bead making. There is evidence as early as 2340-2180 BC in Mesopotamia of a method known as “core-forming” where they used a metal mandrel with pieces of glass held over a flame. Gradually as the glass soften, they would wrap it around the mandrel forming intricate ornaments.

Even today, we make beads by holding glass rods over a flame then gently winding the molten glass over the mandrels. The invention of the blow pipe in gave way to the creation of the Rosetta bead and the seed beads which sustained the bead making industry in Venice for centuries. Beadmaking is truly an ancient art form.

Other good read on history of glass beads: http://www.bostonbeadcompany.com/beadopedia/beads/glass-beads.htm

Work Surface: A flat heatproof tabletop with a clamp for the torch.

Mandrel: The mandrel is a metal rod that is made to withstand the amount of heat needed to form the glass into beads. Keep sufficient number of mandrels on hand,  as each bead will require individual mandrel.

Propane torch: A heat source will be required to create the molten glass as well as for formation of the glass around the mandrel.

Glass Rod: Main raw material which when heated turns into molten glass & can be maneuvered to make bead of desired shape.

Fibre blanket: To cool the beads & the mandrel.

Safety equipment: Protective fireproof clothing, safety glassed for eyes & protective hand gloves.

Refer to following external links to understand the technique of bead making

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gAis42ZOes
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMKV8yLJiDU
  3. http://glass-crafts.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-glass-beads-with-lampworking-torch-257847/
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFwtVo6NrEY

How to decorate the bead

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIn5xAOI5NQ

Glass beads are usually categorized by the method used to manipulate the glass

  1. Wound beads: Glass at a temperature high enough to make it workable, or “ductile”, is laid down or wound around a steel wire or mandrel coated in a clay slip called “bead release.” The wound bead, while still hot, may be further shaped by manipulating with graphite, wood, stainless steel, brass, tungsten or marble tools and paddles. While still hot, or after re-heating, the surface of the bead may be decorated with fine rods of colored glass called stringers. These are a type of lampwork beads.
  2. Drawn beads: There are several methods for making drawn beads, but they all involve pulling a strand out of a gather of glass in such a way as to incorporate a bubble in the center of the strand to serve as the hole in the bead. The most common type of mechanically “drawn beads” are seed bead.
  3. Molded beads: Thick rods are heated to molten and fed into a complex apparatus that stamps the glass, including a needle that pierces a hole. The beads again are rolled in hot sand to remove flashing and soften seam lines.

There are composites, such as millefiori beads, where cross-sections of a drawn glass cane are applied to a wound glass core.

Above explanation is from from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_beadmaking

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