Annealing: The most important part of the process after making the beads. Glass is very susceptible to thermal shock and needs to be cooled slowly to remove any stress in the glass that may cause it to break. Annealing is done in a kiln and beads go from the torch flame into a pre-heated kiln. Some borosilicate work and small soft glass beads can be batch annealed (placed in a cool kiln, bought up to annealing temperature.) Once annealing temperature has been held for enough time (this varies on the type of glass and size of the piece) the kiln is then slowly ramped down to a safe temperature.
Bead Release: A clay substance that mandrels are dipped in before making beads on them. This stops the glass fusing to the metal rod so it can be removed. Dried bead release can be harmful if inhaled so it is fully cleaned from the beads before being offered for sale.
Big Hole Beads (BHB): The common name for a bead made on a mandrel that is 4mm in thickness or greater (the most popular being 5mm) these are the beads that fit add a bead charm bracelets such as Pandora.
Cabochon: These can be made on or off mandrel typically they don’t have holes and are used for setting or wrapping. Artists with good off mandrel control will often make cabochon on the end of a rod of glass, ones made on mandrel are easier to control and shape, they will have a slight indention in the back. Some cabochon are made from beads that have split and are melted down in the kiln.
Encasing: Sometimes called casing this technique is often done with clear glass over a decorated bead. A bead is made and then the lampworker adds a layer of clear glass to the bead in order to magnify the decoration. This however isn’t limited to clear glass on decorated beads. Encasing is the complete covering of any colour over another, it is not often a lampworker will cover an opaque colour with another opaque colour unless they are using a smaller internal bead to make a larger bead from a more expensive or rare colour. Encasing is also done with coloured transparent glass over opaque glass or another transparent glass to make a new colour that is not available. Fuchsia pink is a very difficult colour for the manufacturers to pull though can be achieve by encasing one colour over another.
One thing to remember about encasing is that it should not distort the internal colour or decoration (unless that was the intention of the artist) it should also not contain to many bubbles caused by trapped air when applying the glass. Large bubbles cause stress in the glass that isn’t removed by annealing.
Gravity: The biggest technique in the lampworkers arsenal, gravity is use to hand shape beads and manipulate the glass without the use of tools. Gravity is the control of the glass when heat is applied to it, basic physics takes over where molten glass is concerned and it will shape downwards, tilting the mandrel and holding the bead in different directions will change the lowest point of the beads and gravity will pull the molten glass downwards.
Gravity shaping can be use to make all sorts of bead shapes and is used a lot in making sculptural beads. Gravity can also be used to pull different colours of glass applied to the bead to create a gravity swirl bead.
Layering: Similar to encasing in that it is the application of one glass on another however layering doesn’t cover the entire bead. Layering is used to create stacks of colour on a bead, to make the colours that can only be achieved by certain combinations of colour in certain places on the bead (such as a central band) or to create reactions. A common reaction is turquoise and ivory, when layered the elements used to create the separate colours react and cause a third colour (a stippled brown) to form around the edges of the layered colour,
Marvering: Marvers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, every studio usually has a flat marver which is used to keep bead ends in check, flatten areas on the bead for shape and for holding things that you want to add to a bead for decoration.
Marvers also come with cavities that a bead can be rolled in to achieve uniform shape these are often called bead rollers the shape is symmetrical and hot glass is rolled in it so it takes on the shape of the cavity. This is a technique taken directly from glass blowing techniques but modernised and adapted for direct use in bead making.
Because of the rapid cooling of the glass when it comes into contact with a marver (or any other tool) chill marks are formed on the bead which present themselves as little circles almost like the rings inside a tree trunk these are removed by the lampworker after shaping by fire polishing the glass in the flame.
Mashing: Similar to marvering but done on both sides of the bead at the same time, A bead is shaped as normal and then mashed in a masher tool to create a flatter bead. These technique broadens the range of bead shapes a lampworker can make with one simple tool. There are of course many typed of masher, some are curved rather than flat to preserve some shape on the top and bottom of the bead. The use of the tool on the bead does create chill marks that have to be fire polished off by the lampworker.
Mixing: Mixing glass rods together creates another range of colours not achieved by layering or encasing. Two rods are melted and mixed together to form either a solid colour or an effective glass with multiple bands of colour. The mixed ball of glass is then pulled into a new cane to be used in a bead.
Off Mandrel: This type of lampworking is generally used for sculpted glass works and things like marbles. many off mandrel pieces have a glass loop added to the design for hanging the piece on a chain or pendant.
On Mandrel: Beads made on a mandrel are the ones with holes, you will often see in a lampwork listing the size of mandrel used which is directly related to the size of the hole.
Pressed: Presses are a mixture between a marver and a mashing tool, pressed bead shapes aren’t perfectly symmetrical all the way around the bead so not possible with just a marver but a press features a top and bottom component that fit together to help mould the glass to the shape, resulting in uniform beads for sets and another dimension of bead shapes. While the top and the bottom must meet together correctly the cavities on each side of the bead can be different some presses come with extra recess’ or relief decoration so one side of the bead has a different look to it from the other. Some are flat backed while the top is domed making the shape easier for use in designs such as bracelets or pendants. Pressed beads are prone to chill marks just like marvered and mashed beads.
SRA: Very often you will see this acronym on an artists bead listings. SRA stands for Self Representing Artist. An SRA artist has been approved as only selling beads that they have made themselves so you know you are buying from an artist and not mass produced beads. Each SRA artist has a number that can be checked on the SRA website.
Striking: Some glass behaves differently after it has been put to the flame, striking glass only takes on it’s true colour after being shaped and cooled then flashed through the flame to warm it and promote the reaction. Heating the glass to near molten keeps or returns the glass to it’s original state but the quick flashes of heat make the reaction possible.
Reducing: This technique is done by changing the way the flame behaves by reducing the flow of oxygen to the flame it changes how the glass behaves and brings the metal content of the glass to the surface of the bead, the higher the metal content the more of a metallic sheen the glass develops. Some glass has very little or no metallic content so does not reduce.
Raking: Raking a bead involves spot heating a point on the bead and using a tool or stringer to then drag the area of molten glass to move the colours or create an effect on the bead shape. A variation of raking is swirling where instead of dragging a stringer is used to twist the heated area and create a swirl.