Other than Guinness there aren’t many things that I have seen Martin Tuffnell excited about, but when he found a bead release that was Crystalline silica free (nasty stuff) and could be shipped in powdered form, you could see the little bounce.
Not only was this new bead release classified as non toxic it was pegged to be better than Fusion, the brand we were currently using.
I had to put this one through its paces. Firstly I had to mix it up, 200g powder to 170ml water into a jam jar and give it a shake. I treated it a little like baking adding the water slowly and stirring it in with an old mandrel bent up at the end. Once all the water was added I put the lid on the jar and gave it a really good shake. At first I thought it was far to thin and was going to question the ratio of water to powder, but I left it overnight and gave it another shake in the morning before dipping the mandrels.
I’ve used fusion for 5 years and never had any real problems with it. I have made a variety of beads with Tuffy to test how it works for me and I have made two (nearly) identical beads as a side by side comparison. They are nearly identical as I needed to be able to tell which bead was which.
Fusion has always been smooth for me, though I have seen some lumpy batches. Tuffy does have a slightly grainy texture.
Lumps in Fusion cause dents in the bead hole that you can never seem to get all of the bead release out of. As Tuffy comes away from the glass easier it does mean that the texture falls away with it. There was a concern raised about it leaving the bead hole bobbily but after cleaning the hole inside the bead appears as smooth as it does with Fusion.
Bead release occasionally breaks when it is knocked on a tool. This is a problem with most bead releases though there are brands that hold up better than others if they are knocked about.
I don’t often break my bead release but when it happens it can be the end of a beautiful bead. (because if it’s going to break it only does it on the good ones.) When fusion has broken during pressing I have found it generally cracks all the way to the glass and will stick to the bead. I hit the Tuffy on the side of a press while I was making a bead to force it to break on a test bead. It came away from the mandrel cleanly and easily but instead of cracking all the way to the bead I was making, only a small amount came away where I had hit it. It also didn’t stick to the bead which meant I could finish the bead quite happily with plenty of bead release still on the mandrel and none of it stuck to my bead.
Removing the bead from the mandrel
I’ve never been able to remove a bead from the mandrel without pliers to hold the mandrel. I still can’t but Tuffy required less grip to remove the bead than Fusion. I also didn’t end up with loads of release still on the mandrel. I could wipe the mandrel down with a dry cloth and re-dip it to start again with Tuffy. Fusion has always required me to wash the mandrel and dry it before the next use.
This is probably the ultimate test for me. I use a manual reamer, no dremels or battery operated reamers here. This is where my side by side test bead really came in I used a clear glass base so it was possible to see the difference. Both beads had exactly the same amount of cleaning.
When removed from the mandrel without any other cleaning the Tuffy left far less residue in the bead hole. After a rinse with water not much changed on both the Fusion and the Tuffy beads.
After a short clean the Tuffy was winning out over the Fusion, though after a full clean the difference isn’t overly obvious. But this was both beads cleaned to how I normally clean fusion. Which is submerged in water and a lot of elbow grease behind the reamer.
With some other beads I cleaned them by running them under the tap and used the reamer a little less vigorously and I achieved the same result as I would have scrubbing at it under water.
For me Tuffy is now my bead release of choice. Being Crystalline silica free and non toxic is a benefit enough. Also even the strictest cleaning of bead holes isn’t going to remove every trace of bead release, every time. I had no trouble with it in a press, roller or normal general use. I tried it both air dry and flame dry with no problems and I found it easier to clean.
Other benefits include it being thinner than Fusion so the bead hole size is closer to the mandrel size. I also noted that the clear glass in the comparison test seemed clearer around the Tuffy than the Fusion. The glass came from the same rod and I made the Tuffy bead first so that difference isn’t down to scum near the cut in the glass.
If you are a heavy press/roller user and are searching for a stronger bead release you are probably not going to fall in love with this one. But Fusion is your your first choice for bead release I strongly suggest trying Tuffy, as lampworkers we are around this stuff every day and the health benefit is a major factor.
Oh and I didn’t mention it’s cheaper, because you aren’t paying for the extra weight of a tub and some water thats £5.50 you can spend on more glass. That’s a whole half a kilo of clear! Or if you don’t need glass as well you will save on shipping. Once mixed it fills a jam jar which is also larger than a Pot of Fusion.