Monday, 20 July 2009

6 Steps to Great Lampwork Beads Using Bead Presses

Why Use a Bead Press?

There are many reasons to use bead presses.

  • You can ensure consistency in size
  • You can relatively easily create a good shape
  • Your buyers have a fairly good idea what the bead will be like and can design more easily
  • Buyers may prefer different shapes presses can provide
  • You can create shapes you would find difficult by hand

Guidelines for Using Any Press

The thing about presses is that they look easy but creating a good bead with them is not guaranteed.

1. Over filling

This creates little ridges around the seams which if the bead is meant to have a flat edge will seriously affect the quality of the bead. With lentils you end up with a very fine edge which kinda makes it look like a fried egg. They can be disguised or melted in or take some of the glass off the bead. Having said that melting them in doesn’t always work and you can still see the poor design.

2. Under filling

This will mean that the glass doesn’t get all the way to the extremities of a shape meaning you have duff corners or a lentil that doesn’t quite work. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of using a press

3. Unbalanced bead

This tends to be my speciality. These are the beads where the mandrel didn’t quite stay in the middle of the bead. Some buyers may like this as they can guarantee that the bead will hang that way, however if they are part of set it really isn’t going to help your reputation.

The bottom line is that wonky beads are not good beads although they might be sellable to the right person

4. Dimples

There is a huge debate about how dimples should look on pressed beads. It is however incredibly easy to make sharp pointy holes on beads using a press which is not good.

If it is a bead with a flat edge, normal indent dimple rules should apply. With lentils it is good to have a decent dimple that a spacer bead can fit in. The reason for this is that the glass is going to be very thin around the hole and with wear over time this can cause the glass to break, or at least become very rough which could cause the threading material to break. As a bead seller, not a great way to get repeat business.

5. Chill marks

Pressed beads are always going to get those little ridges across the surface of the bead. They really do need to be smoothed out and smoothing them out has an added benefit that you are adding heat which will help with the whole thermal shock thing.

6. Pressed beads are more likely to thermal shock

As the bead is thinner on one axis it will cool quicker here and will more prone to breaking. The way to work round this is to put pop the beads into a warm kiln and to heat the area nearest the mandrel so that the bead can cool more evenly.

Pressed beads make up a large number of the beads that we make as a community. With the whole practice practice practice idea you can get to a place where you can make great pressed beads that you will be proud of in a few years time.

Links to Tutorials for Specific Presses

I have presses from a number of places. Some of these links are to sites which sell presses. I’m not specifically endorsing them, just highlighting their tutorials

  • Cattwalk Tutorials They have tutorials including Bicones, Crunch, Emerald Cut, Lentil, Puffy Pillow, Triangle, Tabs (Round Emerald)

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