Once we have our mandrels dipped in bead release, our glass ready, and a tablespoon or so of baking soda on hand (and maybe a fire extinguisher) it's time to don our safety specs and fire up the torch.
I would recommend starting out with small simple beads, like the little spacer beads between the bubble beads. Since they are just one color, now would be a great time to experiment using recycled glass. ( https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Glass-Beads-From-Broken-Bottles-video/
) My spacers are from a Fentimans dandelion & burdock bottle. To make a bead:
hold the coated mandrel in one hand at 90° to the flame and slowly heat it while you also preheat the glass with the other hand. The mandrel has to be warm enough for the hot glass to stick to it, but doesn't need to be glowing. Preheat the glass very slowly and carefully at first, too quickly will cause a thermal shock, exploding shards of glass everywhere.
Once you see the tip of the glass glowing, it is hot enough to immerse in the flame. Gently roll it in your fingers to heat the tip evenly, and once there is a sagging, glowing drop (gather) of glass on the end, apply it to the coated section of the mandrel while rolling the mandrel. The molten glass will adhere to the mandrel and itself, and when you have used up the gather, "cut" the glass rod away from your new bead by holding it in the flame until the thread separates.
Repeat this process until the bead is as large as you would like it.
For my bubble beads I apply a base color of opaque glass, heat the whole bead to glowing and as soon as the glow fades, roll it in the baking soda. It will cool down quickly, so keep it warm in the very end of the flame while heating up some transparent glass in the base of the flame. Once you have a good gather of molten transparent glass, apply it to the outside of the bead to encase the opaque color. As soon as you put it on, you will see the bubbles begin to form from the baking soda. Heat the transparent glass to make the bead nice and symmetrical (not like my beads), but don't heat it up too much or the bubbles will burst and leave you with craters. It takes some playing around with to get it right. Tips:
- Always hold the glass rod or stringer perpendicular to the mandrel
- If your bead is asymmetrical, heat it to molten in the flame, constantly rolling the mandrel, and let it cool
- Wait until the bead has stopped glowing before putting it into cooling bubbles