Fresh From the Kiln - Maggs Creations

Sets of Lampworked Beads

Sculptural work

Where you can find Maggs Creations


How Beads Are Made

Glass being wound onto mandrel

Hollow beads after being annealed in the kiln

The super short explanation of how beads are made is that molten glass is wound around a steel rod, called a mandrel. The mandrel is coated with a clay-like substance that keeps the molten glass from sticking to the steel (if that happens, you have a plant stake with a bead permanently attached). Most glass begins to soften at about 1050° F, and most glassworking happens well above 1400° F. Glass expands when it gets hot, and then contracts again as it cools. The amount that it expands and contracts is called the coefficient of expansion, or COE. COE is important, because you don't want to mix glass with different expansion rates. If you have a bit of glass that gets hot and expands 90 units (COE 90), and you stick it to a piece of hot glass that has expanded 104 units, they'll stick together just fine. While they're still molten. Once they start to cool, the COE 104 will contract by 104 units, but the COE 90 will contract much less than that, and your piece will likely crack. The COE is also important, because if your piece cools unevenly, the outside of the bead can contract faster than the inside, and this can also lead to cracking, which is called thermal shock. Ever had a glass casserole dish crack because you put it into a pan of cool water when it was still hot? That was thermal shock. As soon as I finish a bead, while it's still hot, but not molten, I put it into a kiln to keep it hot. I have the kiln hold at 968° F the entire time I'm working. This is called the annealing temperature of glass. It's the point it which the glass is hot and stress-free. Once I'm done making beads for the day, I anneal the beads, by having the kiln cool down to room temperature at a slow, controlled rate. The slower that glass cools off, the stronger it becomes. I have had large hollow glass beads fall off my display at shows and hit the concrete, and be completely unharmed. Mind you, I'm not recommending that you hurl your glass onto the ground to test its strength, but a properly annealed bead will resist a lot of incidental thumping. After annealing, I clean the 'bead poop' out of the holes using a dremel tool.

There is a wonderful history of art glass written by Robert Mickelson over here, and a great description of lampworking on wikipedia.

I use a Carlisle MiniCC dual fuel torch, running an oxygen/propane mix. I like the Carlisle, because it has a bushy flame, which throws a bit more heat sideways than the Nortel Minor. It makes it much easier to make my 'critter beads', because it's easier to keep the whole bead warm while I'm working on the details (ears, eyeballs). I primarily use COE104 glass, either Effetre, which comes from Italy, or Creation is Messy's line of Messy Colors. I also do some sculptural pendants using borosilicate, which has a COE of 33. I buy my glass locally, at The Vinery Stained Glass Studio, because I firmly believe in supporting local business and because I love looking at the colors before I decide to buy them.




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