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This instructable describes the process to create custom glass beads using a propane torch followed by creating a custom Chinese knot strand that holds the beads and completes the piece of jewelry.  It assumes that the reader has some previous experience working with hot glass and has a command of basic techniques that include flame-cutting glass rods, as well as basic safety practices.  If you do not have previous experience working with hot glass it is necessary to take an introductory class at a local facility before attempting to reproduce the steps described in this document.  TechShop locations have the proper tools and equipment as well as classes to cover basic safety and techniques.

Step 1: Safety and Warnings

When working with a mixed gas torch (propane/oxygen) you must practice extreme caution to avoid burning yourself and your surroundings.  You must also wear eye protection to prevent injury from hot glass fragments and damaging light (sodium flare) that radiates from extremely hot glass.  Didymium safety glasses are ideal for this purpose and may be purchased on line for as little as $40.  TechShop locations with a propane torch will have the proper safety equipment available for use.

Some types of colored glass will release toxic fumes when they become molten or workable.  Proper ventilation is critical to avoid exposure to these toxic fumes.  Setting up a proper ventilation system is beyond the scope of this instructable and it is recommended that anyone working with glass and high temperatures seek third party guidance or perform these steps at a location that provides adequate ventilation.

Step 2: Tools and Materials

The following tools are required for this project:

Didymium safety glasses
Propane or propane/oxygen torch (available at TechShop)
*Stainless steel bead mandrels (3/16” diameter, 1/8" diameter,  by 12” long)
Bead release
Brass or graphite marver
Stainless steel tweezers
Kiln (optional)
Diamond rotary tool bits (optional)
(See illustration)

*If you do not already have bead mandrels you may purchase stainless steel welding rods and cut them to the appropriate length.  You should also grind the tips down to remove burrs.  This is much cheaper than purchasing pre-fabricated mandrels and is identical to what you would be purchasing.

The following materials are required for this project:
2mm-diameter Satin Cords(2 of 29"-long green cords and 1 of 30"-long gold cord)
2 transparent dark amethyst rods
5 pieces of 1-2 mm ivory white stringers
 

Step 3: Preparing Your Workstation

It is important to be prepared before you jump into making the glass beads.  This includes preparation of your bead mandrels and lining up the tools and materials you will use at your work station.

To prepare your bead mandrels you must dip them into a bead release formula and allow them to dry.  Bead release is basically mud that will stick to the metal and the glass but will dissolve after soaking with water allowing you to easily remove the bead from the mandrel.  When you dip your mandrel into the bead release quickly insert and remove the mandrel in one swift motion.  This will create a sufficient and even layer of the material on the mandrel.  You must then allow the mandrel to dry overnight, or for some types of bead release you may use the outside region of the torch flame to quickly dry the material.

Make sure that you place all of the glass rods and tools you will be using in a convenient location on your work surface.  You do not want to be searching for tools and materials in the middle of working the glass.

Once you have your materials and tools in place you may put on your didymium glasses and ignite the torch.  Be sure to follow the proper steps when igniting the torch.  These will be different depending on the fuel mix and torch type.  For propane/oxygen torches you should always remember to POOP.  That is you must first open the Propane valve slightly, then ignite and then slowly open the Oxygen valve to get a fully formed flame.  Then when shutting down the torch first close the Oxygen valve followed by the Propane valve.  Also be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidance on the required output pressure you are providing to the torch.

(The attached illustration was taken from the web as an example of a clean workstation.  I would provide an image of our work bench as an example of what a messy workstation looks like, but it is too embarassing to share.)

Step 4: Making the Base Bead

All beads begin by building up a gather of molten glass around the circumference of a bead mandrel.  For our bead we used an Effetre transparent dark amethyst glass but feel free to use whatever color you prefer.  Begin by heating the mandrel in the torch a few inches from the ports (beginning of the flame.)  While you are heating the mandrel you should also be heating the glass rod in the outer region of the flame.  This will prevent thermal shock to the glass that may result in cracking and shattering of the material.  You should always be rotating the mandrel and the glass rod to evenly apply heat.  Continue to rotate and heat the mandrel until it begins to glow orange all the way around.  At this point you will bring the glass rod into the hot region of the torch, about ~2 inches from the ports, continuing to rotate.  Keep the mandrel warm but do not over heat it.  Once the glass is molten begin applying it to the mandrel while continuously rotating the mandrel.  You should hold the molten portion of the glass rod just outside of the flame to prevent over heating while maintaining a molten state of the glass.  Gather enough glass to create a blob that has a diameter of ~1/2 inch (see illustration.)  Continue heating and rotating the mandrel until the glass begins to form a symmetric bead shape(see illustration.)  This will be your "bead canvas" for the next step.  Continue to apply heat (outside part of flame) and rotate the base bead as you proceed to the next step.

Step 5: Making the Bead Design

Begin making the design by applying a wavy pattern around the surface of the base bead.  For the design we used Effetre ivory white colored stringers (thin rod of glass) but again, use whatever color you prefer.  Begin the pattern by melting on a small portion of the glass.  To apply the stringer, apply heat to the bead in the outer portion of the flame.  Place the stringer just outside the flame enough to soften it, but not fully melt it. 

Once you have attached the stringer bring the string back to the warm location and leave it there, mover the bead (not the stringer) in a back and forth motion while slowly rotating the mandrel (see illustration.)  Coninue to apply this pattern around the entire circumfrence of the bead.

After having completely applied the pattern you must slowly melt in the design to creat a smooth surftace.  It is impoartant to slowly heat the material to prevent distortion of the design (see illustration.)

After you have melted in the design heat the glass enough to be able to drag the stringer over the surface through the center of the wavy patter to created the fine details (see illustration.)  Continue this process until the entire bead has been modified with this pattern.

Finally heat the bead to smooth out the surface to create the final form and design (see illustration.)

Two additional beads to be added to the final design were also created using the basic base bead process.  This are shown in the last illustration for this step.

Step 6: Completing the Bead

Allow the bead to slowly cool by either placing it in between fiber blankets (see illustration), vermiculite beads or by placing it in a prepared kiln for annealing.  Annealing glass is a necessary step to minimize stresses that could lead to breakage in the future.  Placing glass into vermiculite or fiber blankets does not anneal the glass but allows you to slowly cool the glass and perform a “batch anneal” at a later time.  A description of this technique is beyond the scope of this instructable but many resources are available on line to describe this process.

Once the bead has cooled to room temperature soak the bead mandrel in water for at least ten minutes and then remove the bead.  You should use a diamond rotary tool to remove the bead release from inside of the bead.  If you don’t do this it will release over time and get all over the Chinese knot.  You now have completed the focal bead for the necklace.

To make all of the beads for the design you will need to make three of the large ones, two of the medium ones, and 4 of the small ones (see illustration.)

Step 7: Creating the Chinese Knot - Part 1

This step and step 8 through 10 are the different types of Chinese knots used to complete the bracelet.
This type of knot uses two cords.

This knot will be referred to as knot A and uses two cords.
  • Start by lining up the two cords as shown in the first picture and follow all the steps in the next pictures.
  • Follow the arrows in the attached illustrations to build the knot
  • Lastly, pull on both ends of cords and adjust the knot.

Step 8: Creating the Chinese Knot - Part 2

This knot will be referred to as knot B and uses two cords.
  • Start by lining up the two cords as shown in the first picture and follow all the steps in the next pictures.
  • Follow the arrows in the attached illustrations to build the knot
  • Lastly, pull on both ends of cords and adjust the knot.

Step 9: Creating the Chinese Knot - Part 3

This knot will be referred to as knot C and uses four cords.
  • Start by lining up the fourcords as shown in the first picture and follow all the steps in the next pictures.
  • Follow the arrows in the attached illustrations to build the knot
  • Lastly, pull on both ends of cords and adjust the knot.

Step 10: Creating the Chinese Knot - Part 4

This knot will be referred to as knot D and uses two cords.  Although this knot uses two cords, when we assemble the final bracelet there will be total of four cords to start this type of knot. Just consider that the middle point divides the two cords so there are total of four.
  • Start by lining up the two cords as shown in the first picture and follow all the steps in the next pictures.
  • Follow the arrows in the attached illustrations to build the knot
  • Lastly, pull on all four ends of cords and adjust the knot.

Step 11: Final Assembly and the Completed Bracelet

Material:
2mm-Satin Cords(2 of 29"-long green cords and 1 of 30"-long gold cord)
Large beads x 3, medium beads x 2, small beads x 4

In the final assembly you will need to combine the four knots described in the previous steps.  The proper order for the knots is as follows:

ABDDDDDDB(medium bead)B(large bead)BC|CB(large bead)B(medium bead)BDDDDDDBA

1. Start from one end of 2 green cords and make a knot A. 
2. Before pulling it tight, fold gold cord in half and insert it to the center of the knot A (see illustration.)  Adjust the knot so that there are 4.5" leftover on the top (see illustration.)
3. Pull down the gold cord to hide its top where it's folded.  Use the gold cords to make a knot B. Again before pulling it tight, insert green cords into the center of knot B like previously gold cord in knot A. Then adjust it (see illustration.)
4. Make knot D six times use all four cords after knot B. There will be spirl-like pattern when done (see illustration.)
5. Make a knot B and insert gold cords in the center before adjusting the knot (see illustration.)
6. Insert one of the medium beads through all the cords.
7. Make a knot B and insert gold cords in the center before adjusting the knot.
8. Insert one of the large beads through all the cords.
9. Make a knot B and insert gold cords in the center before adjusting the knot (see illustration.).
10. Make a knot C. This is the half-way point (see illustration.) The rest of the steps will be reverse of what have been built so far. Mirror the steps to finish the second half.
11. Once the other half is completed, Cut off the extra gold cords so that the ends hide inside the last knot A.
12. Insert one end into the last large bead and do the same for the other end in the opposite direction (see illustration.)
13. For each of the remaining cord, insert a small bead. Tight a simple knot at each end (see illustration) and burn off the end slightly to prevent fraying.

The bracelet can be adjusted to different circumferences by pulling the four cords (see illustration.)

Take your time to assemble the knots and once you have finished you will have a beautiful piece of hand made jewelry.  It will be sure to impress you friends, familiy and fashionista followers!
Truly amazing!

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