Archive for February, 2010

Newbie’s Week of Lampwork – day 7

Sunday 28th

Experiments with cobalt blue and white.

Newbie day 7 beads

Two half-white, half blue squares, swirled in the middle. Then blue lines on white, raked. I kept squishing this one out of shape and had to keep adding more glass to the ends, which is why it’s rather bigger. It was also very tricky to get it vaguely smooth. Next time, I should try it with a stiffer base glass than white!

Last, I made a pair of white spacers with swirled blue dots.

And that’s my week done! It’s been difficult keeping up with the photography and writing – I’ll be collecting my beads together to make larger less frequent posts from now on, I think! It’s been a very enjoyable week, though.

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Newbie’s Week of Lampwork – day 6

Saturday 27th

More pairs of spacers, one broken fritty one. From now on I’m going to keep the two beads to a mandrel to plain spacers only, as I seem to have managed to keep them all warm enough this time.

Newbie day 6 beads

Mid purple transparent, purple opaque, petrol green (again), lime green, grass green transparent, then white rolled in aqua blue and aurora red frit.

Another pressed square – pale blue transparent rolled in the aqua blue frit.

It’s been really tricky to get the colour of the transparent purple right in this photo (and the reds in yesterday’s) so I’ve tried to adjust it so the bead colours are true even if the background’s gone slightly blue-tinted at the edges. It’s fairly accurate on my monitor at least now!

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Newbie’s Week of Lampwork – day 5

Friday 26th

Today I made pairs of spacers to practice getting everything properly round and to serve as a colour reference. I was making them two to a mandrel… and I got my first stuck and broken beads. (I was pretty sure the stuck one was going to happen – the bead release broke as I was winding it on). It’s annoying they both happened with the petrol green, because I really love that colour. When I get a kiln I’m definitely going to try slumping the broken halves into cabochons.

Newbie day 5 beads

Here they’re all lined up after the stuck one.

Newbie day 5 beads onna stick

Petrol green, white with aqua blue frit, transparent red (the baby one is me winding off the end of my red twistie from that rod), transparent orange, dark amber. I assume I overstruck the red here… though it isn’t quite as brown in other lighting.

Then the squarish one is me having a go with my Zoozii Mini Duo press. Pale blue transparent with two lines of green twistie on either side.

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Newbie’s Week of Lampwork – day 4

Wednesday 24th

Today I tried making critters! I’m rather pleased with these :)
(The photo is… not great though. Will have to try some other angles).

Newbie day 4 beads - critters!

1. Turtle. I made a base bead of opaque lime green, then added bumps for the head and legs, trying not to melt them right back in. I used dark amber transparent for the shell bumps, and white and black stringer for the eyes. I love this one, it came out just like I wanted.

2. Fish, on a request from my boyfriend. Base of opaque dark yellow, which I then used to pick up some little bits that had shot off my red twistie. Then I added a ridge of light amber transparent on opposite sides of the bead. I used my pliers to make one of these into the tail shape, and the other I melted down for the head. I added the fins and put s small amount of dark yellow on the ends of them and on the tail. The eyes are pale blue transparent and black stringer.

3. Panda. Kinda. I forgot how panda faces go so it ended up like this. White base, white head, black legs and tail, some more black on the back and neck, panda eyes! The eyes came out a bit huge because it was tricky to make them small enough after melting them down.

4. This is what I meant to do yesterday with the lilac bead. This time I used opaque purple for the plunged dots and they show up much better.

5. Gravity swirl take 2, with a base of light amber and alternating stripes of opaque red and dark yellow. Strictly, gravity-plus-pliers swirl, because after letting it sag I grabbed and pulled it round a bit more with the pliers. The colour worked better, though it’s a different kind of swirl from the first.


I think Thursday’s going to be a day of rest, because we’re going out for a meal and I don’t think I’ll have much time to make anything afterwards. I also have to catch up with taking photographs and other admin-type things. I am really enjoying this week, but it’s not leaving me much time for anything else!

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Newbie’s Week of Lampwork – day 3

Tuesday 23rd

I was on a roll this session!

More successful red twistie

First, another twistie. It worked much better this time, though I still have a rather thick piece at the start of the pull, and I’d have liked to be able to pull a section twice as long as the ones I managed here. Definite improvement though! I followed this by pulling a couple of transparent green stringers – still very thin.

The beads (six!):

Newbie day 3 beads

1. Dark green transparent base, with a wavy line and dots from the piece of my green twistie that was mostly lime green and transparent. Then I made another the same on the same mandrel, to see if I could.

Two beads, one mandrel

2. Transparent lilac base, with plunged dots of transparent mid purple with a little more lilac to cover the dots. Hmm. You can hardly see the purple at all, though you can see the bubbles. I think I should have used an opaque purple instead for the dots.

3. The larger clear wispy green bead. I made this by attaching the thick end piece of my green twistie to the rod of clear and using that to make the base bead, then adding more clear over the top. It’s interesting, and you can see little green wisps inside, though I think I should actually have added more layers of twistie in it to give it more going on. I’ll try that another day.

4. Transparent orange base with opaque light red dots, gravity swirled. I like the effect and I will be trying this again with colours that contrast better! Possibly with stripes rather than dots to start with. This one has a tendency to photograph pink when it isn’t really.

5. Dark turquoise base with light ivory dots. Then more dots. Did from rod, not stringers. Exactly as expected, really :)


Twistie colours, for reference:
Green: rod of pale blue transparent, stripes of lime green opaque and dark green transparent.
Red: rod of transparent red, stripes of light amber and medium lemon yellow.

(I have a page-a-day diary that I’m using to write down what I’ve done each session. Sometimes it’s tricky enough to remember what the colours were by the end of the session, let alone the next day!)

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Newbie’s Week of Lampwork – day 2

Monday 22nd

I started this session by trying to pull stringers… with not much success! I have some verrry thin ones now. Then I tried to make a twistie, and that really didn’t go well! I wasn’t managing to pull more than an inch or two at a time at any decent thickness. So I tried pulling a bit, heating the next part, pulling again, but mostly that just broke off the part I’d already made, leaving me with lots of little ends. And one mutant variable-thickness twistie that will probably be rather hard to use. More practice needed! I think with both the twistie and the stringers i wasn’t managing to heat a large enough gather at once before pulling.

Twistie detritus!

Now for the beads:

Monday's beads are the three in front

1. Dark yellow. I really like the colour of this, it’s very cheery!

2. Mid purple transparent base with light ivory dots, swirled with a light turquoise stringer. I picked up the light ivory thinking it was white. Oops! I’ve since separated out my commercial stringers a bit more so it’s easier to tell them apart while wearing diddys. Not that it makes a huge amount of difference here, it just gives me the thin reaction line round the turquoise. I think I added a bit too much ivory for the effect I was going for, though you can still see the base is transparent in person.

3. White base with melted in little bits of my twistie detritus. I then somewhat ruined it by adding a wavy line of petroleum green from one of my very thin stringers. Not so thin anymore as it spread a lot more than I was expecting. Oh well. I also had to reshape this bead several times as I was working on it, because I kept melting the base out of shape while adding the twistie. Whups.

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Newbie’s Week of Lampwork – day 1

Sunday 21st

After all the setting up in my last post, I LIT MY TORCH! Then I went “Argh, I need some glass” so grabbed a couple of rods. And did some emergency foil wrapping of my fibre blanket. Yes, I should have done those things before, but I was busy nerving myself up to lighting it to see if it worked! At least I’d dipped my mandrels earlier…

Quick recap: I’m using a Hot Head torch with a bulk connection kit so that it can be run off a normal propane bottle. Otherwise you have to use the little canisters of Mapp gas that are very expensive and run out quickly. I didn’t bother even trying to use those.

In my first session, I made three little beads!

Newbie beads day 1

1. Light turquoise
2. Light turquoise with dark ivory dots
3. Petroleum green with transparent purple dots (look more transparent in person)

End shapes not wonderful, but I was having shaky hands from nerves/excitement for a while there! I was surprised by the lacy effect round the edge of the ivory, so asked on Frit-Happens if I’d been overheating it. Turns out, my stringer was dark ivory and that’s the effect you get with it (light ivory gives the smooth outlines that I was expecting). It looks a lot better than I think light ivory dots would, because I was still jittering and trying to find the right place in the flame, so the dots were a bit all over the place anyway!

I knew that dark ivory reacted more with silver, for example, but I didn’t know it did this! Rather cool.

I’m pleased I didn’t accidentally reduce my turquoise and get rusty spots all over it, too.


Finally, here’s a quick pic of my workspace from an angle so you can see the space I have better:

Angleview of box

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Lampwork setup of my very own

On Sunday, I finally got everything set up! I had to do a last-minute dash to the local hardware shop (thank dog for Sunday openings) to pick up the right size of jubilee clip for my torch, along with a nice hefty adjustable spanner. Newbie bead pics soon, but first here’s the step-by-step of construction.

1. After sawing the MDF to size and sanding down all the edges with my Black & Decker sander, I needed to make the circular cutout in the top pieces for the fan to fit in. The top consists of a layer of cement board for fire resistance with a layer of MDF on top for strength (cement board’s pretty brittle). So I had to do these steps twice.

I used my dremel to drill and then enlarge pilot holes around the circumference of the circle I want to cut out, plus one in the centre.

Drilling pilot holes in the box top

2. Then I threaded the blade of my fretsaw through the hole nearest the edge and fastened it back up. This let me saw a line to the centre drill hole and then cut out a small rough diamond-shape (the fretsaw wasn’t long enough to remove any more material than that). I could now fit my trusty junior hacksaw into this gap and gradually cut out more and more pieces. It took a while – the cement board version actually went faster because I could cut wedge shapes and then snap them off round the circumference. I am left with a jaggedy-edged hole.

Hole sawn in box top

3. I then used one of the sanding drums on my dremel to grind down the jaggedy bits so I ended up with a nice smooth circle. I felt rather like a dentist while doing this! Something about the pencil grip and having to use a gentle dabbing motion… Aaaaanyway.

4. Time to attach the wooden frame struts to the side pieces of MDF. To start with, I used No More Nails to glue them on and clamped the pieces down while they were drying. (You can see the finished top pieces propped up at the bottom of the pic). I do this for the sides and back. Takes a few sessions because they have to be left to dry.

Gluing frame together

5. Now the sides needed fitting together. This was fairly tricky, and more No More Nails was required. To do the first join (back plus one side), I arranged it so that one was standing vertically on the floor and the other was making an inverted L-shape with it, the free end resting on the table. I left these overnight to set.

The next day I put screws into the part I’d glued, then attached the other side to the back by putting the whole thing on the floor right-way-round, putting glue in the join and then putting the screws in straight away. That part involved a few acrobatics, but all went well. Then I just had to complete the frame by fitting in the strut that runs across the top front. I screwed angle brackets into the corners to further reinforce it, and the sides were done.

Box frame with sides

6. Now the top had to go on, cement board first. Something had come out slightly non-right-angled when I set the top on. Either the top wasn’t entirely square, or the frame had ended up slightly oblique, or both. So I used some offcuts of wood and MDF to help draw lines on the cement board where the underlying frame was so that I would know where to put the screws in. I tried putting the first screw in straight away, but it was rather tricky so I got out the dremel again and drilled holes through the cement board and into the wooden frame beneath. Much easier. I marked around the side in line with the screws I’d just put in, and put the MDF top on. Again I drew out where the frame would be, and drilled holes so that the MDF screws would go inbetween the cement board ones. All done! Then I just had to heft the whole thing back onto the table. It’s a lot heavier with the top on!

The finished box!

7. The box is done, but the ventilation needs fitting. I’d got an 8″ fan, a reducer to 6″, some 6″ ducting, a reducer to 4″ and there was a 4″ tumble drier vent in the wall. First I had to wire the fan – I took the end off the power cable for my long-dead iMac, connected the wires up (very easy, though I do always need to check which colour is which. Earth is brown, right…? No) and replaced the 10A fuse with a 3A one. Annoyingly, after all that the cable was about 10cm too short to reach the wall socket, so there’s a 4 socket extension lead sitting on top of the box that the fan is plugged into. Guess it could come in handy if there’s ever anything else I need to plug in near there.

Next, put fan in hole. Discover have to sand hole slightly for fan to fit, but that isn’t a problem. Very snug fit. With the help of a couple of large hose clips and some aluminium tape, I connected together all the sections of ducting. I even made a foil cover for the wall vent that I could plug in while the ducting wasn’t attached. Time for the test! I switched on the fan… and the flexible ducting quickly expands to full stretch, meaning it has shot all the way down to the floor and back up onto the tumble drier, giving itself a very sharp 180 degree bend. Whoops, I hadn’t expected it to do that. I took one end back off the ducting and cut it shorter so that it doesn’t have any excess and put it back together again. Much better.

8. The last thing to do – set up my torch area! I put down a spare piece of the cement board, then covered it with ceramic tiles. I realised that I wanted my bench bracket higher than it would be if I just clamped it to the table, so I screwed in offcuts from the wooden struts into the back corners to make legs, and another couple at the front so they would stick out and give me something to clamp down. I think it worked really well, and has the handy side-effect that I can hold my bead under the bracket to see whether the glow has gone rather than having to hold it under the table near my lap! This was when I realised I had the wrong size of jubilee clip to fasten my torch to the bracket (my kit had come with the big ones for holding a Mapp canister) so had to rush out to get one that would do 30mm. That done, I attached my hose to my torch, attached my torch to my bench bracket, and then the scary bit was connecting the regulator to my propane bottle. This was where the hefty adjustable wrench came in. I checked all the joins for leaks, and was ready to light the torch!

My lampwork setup!

Ta daa!

Next up, if all goes well – ‘A Newbie’s Week of Lampwork’. I’m going to try and have a session every evening this week, writeups to follow.

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UK Jewellers’ Collective jewellery forums

I thought I’d get round to mentioning the UKJC Jewellery Forums. Lots of lovely and helpful people hang out there. We post tutorials and share tips and participants range from beginners to experts and everyone in between! Great if you need a little egging on to try something new, or some inspiration, or just somewhere to chat :)

It isn’t affiliated with any particular vendor, which is a plus in my view!


I have a little list of things I’m meaning to make into jewellery for myself, but I keep running out of time… However, construction of my lampwork setup proceeds apace. I’ll be posting my step-by-step pics here after it’s all ready, have a peek at Flickr if you want to see how far I’ve got.

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