Introduction: Make Glass Beads From Broken Bottles (+video)

Picture of Make Glass Beads From Broken Bottles (+video)

Make sure to check out my blog!

 Her's a video I made that shows you how to make some pretty nice beads from a couple of shards of blue glass.

If you want to learn more about this kind of art, it's called "lampworking". There are scores more tutorials out there!

In order to clear up the whole eye protection confusion:
DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT DOING THIS WITHOUT SAFETY GLASSES! Chips of glass can actually shoot out when you heat glass!
Whether or not you want to wear didium lenses is up to you! Personally, I do not wear them!

The torch I used is a Propane fueled Plumber's torch from Ace Hardware...nothing special!

Safety tips:
-Heat glass slowly, or it may fracture.
-Make sure your torch is not near anything flammable.
-I have a fire extinguisher within arms reach, I recommend the same for you.
-Don't make large beads. They might break while they cool, or worse, while you wear them!
-Do some research! :D

Step 1: Part 1

Picture of Part 1

I had to break up the video into 3 segments because YouTube doesn't like to upload things longer than 4 minutes.

When you make beads for the first time, they should be pretty small. When glass cools in the air, it builds up stress and may break (if the bead is too big)! Professional bead makers immediately put there hot beads into kilns where they are slowly cooled over several hours. You probably will not have access to such a kiln, so your first beads will have to cool in air. If you really like making beads and you want to make larger ones, get some vermiculate from any gardening store. The vermiculite is in a fine pellet form, so put your still hot beads in a dish of it such that it cools slower (the vermiculate insulates the beads, so it cool slower and introduces less stress into the bead)

Ok, the basic steps are:
-Take 2 shards of glass, and melt them together at the tips.
-Stretch out the melted part into a thin rod of glass.
-Get a bicycle spoke, cover one end of it with bead release/plaster.
-Heat the spoke until it glows red hot
-Wrap the spoke with the thin glass rod you just made.
-Heat the new bead such that it gets smooth and rounded.
-Let it  cool
-Pull it off the spoke and wash the clay off of it.

The torch in this video is just a plain old propane plumbers torch.
The glass is from a busted vodka bottle.
The clay is from a specialty store, but you can use plaster of paris instead.

Step 2: Part 2

Picture of Part 2


Step 3: Part 3

Picture of Part 3



Lawst (author)2015-02-15

FYI - The reason the glass breaks when it's either heated or cooled is because of temperature differential, not pressure. Glass is an insulator so heat transfers poorly. If it's heated up too fast one side will remain cool and the temperature difference between one side and the other will make it shatter. The same thing will happen if you're using cold metal tools to hold the glass. The best way to avoid this is to gradually heat a larger section than what you'll be drawing the glass from and by constantly rotating your mandrel in the heat source.

Zaacharia (author)Lawst2016-08-15

I use an old electric grill to preheat the glass I am going to use - it cuts down on the time it takes to make the beads and I can switch to different colors. The easiest way to test compatibility is to heat 2 glasses together and pull them into a thread.

Zaacharia (author)2016-08-15

If you stick the mandrel with the bead into vermiculite or some other insulating material, you can anneal the beads w/o a kiln.

Catmeow (author)2015-06-30

This is a really good way to re-use old glass bottles!

Awesome Idea!

KatCl (author)2015-04-11

camzady.skywolf (author)2014-10-11

I have been collection old pieces of glass off of my property, which consist of Depression, Old canning jars, medicine, and snuff jars....

Would i be able to use this type of glass to make beads ?


Lawst (author)camzady.skywolf2015-02-15

Yes, you can use all of it but probably not together because different glass has different heat coeficients, meaning the length of time it retains heat. If you use glass with different coeficients the object will crack or shatter because one cools faster than the other.

camzady.skywolf (author)2014-10-11

I have been collection old pieces of glass off of my property, which consist of Depression, Old canning jars, medicine, and snuff jars....

Would i be able to use this type of glass to make beads ?


camisetas.tainas (author)2014-08-04

Can I melt glass a glasbottle in a melting pot and poured in a sinkers mold directly???

Munmunnishi (author)2014-07-07

Awesome Article.

This is great informative post that you make.Really Fantastic post.I like it very much.I enjoy reading websites like these.

Thanks a lot for sharing this extreme post.

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RainDog07 (author)2013-01-24

Great idea! The didymium glasses will enable you to see through the yellow sodium flare and a welding shop will have different diameters of stainless steel welding rod which I use as mandrels (the hole size is the same as the mandrel diameter.)
Not only do you get a nice finished product, but this enables you to get cheap - read: free - glass on which to practice. A MAPP gas torch will speed things up a bit and a propane/oxygen torch will shift it to overdrive, but I'm cheap and not willing to spend the bucks on one. If you want to learn more about beadmaking/flamework just do a search.

mmcgartland (author)2011-07-18

ty obviously u thought about the safety issues too

thumbalina (author)2011-06-27

Did yo make stringers with the recycled glass first?

nepheron (author)thumbalina2011-06-27

In this instructible, I did. However I now cut the bottles into strips. It's much easier.

wmcraver (author)2010-12-19

This looks like so much fun! Now I've gotta find a torch and the rest of the supplies. Thanks for the excellent pictures and demo videos.

mjursic (author)2010-03-18

Nice!  Now supposing you wanted to adhere the glass to the spoke.  Would there be a problem with expansion differences?  Would it adhere?  I guess I could try, but I wonder if you already have?

nepheron (author)mjursic2010-03-18

 Steel has a low COE (expansion). If you made a bead directly on the spoke without any bead release, you would have what us lampworkers affectionately call a "garden stake". In most cases, the glass won't crack off. It will stick on the spoke forever... unless you beat it with a hammer. LOL

mjursic (author)nepheron2010-03-18

Cool.  Now I will.  I'll let you know.  Now when I go to use the plaster just for the beads, can I use regular plaster of paris?  Thanks again,

nepheron (author)mjursic2010-03-18

 Yep! Just remember: plaster may undergo a chemical change when in the flame! DO NOT use it in a non ventilated room, and don't touch the baked plaster around the bead. It might chemically burn you (it may be highly alkaline), but It has not had any effect on me when I've used it.
Also, allow the plaster to cure onto the rod. This make take 3 hours!
Apply the plaster in a thin layer or it will crack off in the will take some fidding to get right! If the plaster is too thin...the bead won't come off...

Good luck!

what if you wanted to glass to coat or stick to other kinds of metals as a form of decoration?
how does the glass stick to stainless steel or aluminum? or is the melting of point of aluminum lower then glass?
and does this affect the color of glass when it sticks to metal?
does the glass bond to the metal because the metal is porous and the glass fills in the pores? or does something else cause the glass to bond to the metal?

Maybe real gold leaf would work? Fake gold leaf is just aluminum and the color might burn off.

nepheron (author)lotusduck2010-03-19

 I've melted fake gold leaf into glass. The effect is QUITE unusual...and difficult to describe. I sort of looks like yellowed parchment paper was wrapped around the bead...

thepelton (author)nepheron2010-09-29

I have done some guilding with real gold leaf. Naturally, it is more expensive than the fake, but you get what you pay for. Some red glass has traces of gold in it.

Melting point of aluminum is 1220f' and glass around 1700'f and higher
I'd be concerned about the noxious fumes from aluminum.

thepelton (author)lazemaple2010-09-29

Definitely. Aluminum is toxic. I got rid of an aluminum sauce pan after eating some macaroni out of it that tasted metallic.

 Aluminum will melt before glass does.

The glass will likely flake off those surfaces, but it WILL change color.
other than that I have no idea. It sounds like you are talking about cloisonné, which is not my specialty.

thepelton (author)nepheron2010-09-29

It sounds to me like it might be a good idea to make your plaster covered rods late at night, and use them the following day after a good night's sleep.

caomhan (author)nepheron2010-03-18

another word for wires with beads stuck directly to them are 'hair pins.' 

for those who want something dressier than a #2 pencil... 


thepelton (author)2010-09-29

Someone told me in another instructable that that blue glass comes from bottles of Harvey's Bristol Cream.

recycledtreasures (author)2010-08-18

Wow I have just found this site and read this whole discussion of bead making. I am the ED for a nonprofit and we want to make beads from wine and liquior bottles (never ending supply in my town) to decorate our garden art that we make from recycled stuff. I am looking for info on larger beads made with molds and a kiln. Anyone have info they can share? We are starting from stratch with no experience. Questions: What kind of kiln? What do you make the molds out of? How do you get the holes when you do it this way? Can you combine different kinds of glass this way? What about adding copper? any help would be greatly appreciated!

You can use a regular pottery kiln BUT you will have to sit and watch it and turn it down at a set rate, or purchase a bead/fusing kiln with a computer controller. For info on kilnwork got to info on beadmaking There is a whole learning curve on this!

paqrat (author)2010-08-04

I believe I read somewhere that you want to use same type of glass. Apparently different types of glass may cool at different rates which isn't good for glass.

nepheron (author)paqrat2010-08-05

Yes, it's very important that you don't mix different 'brands' of glass. The resulting contraction when the glass cools often causes a fracture.

mzamudio (author)2010-05-10

how long do you have to heat the glass before it starts melfting?

nepheron (author)mzamudio2010-05-10

 20 seconds? It's pretty fast.

bonecholampworks (author)2010-05-02

I have to agree with wickedglass...
I've been a full time lampworker for around 30 years, in the late 70's & early 80's, I was just that 'strange lady' who played with fire!  LOL...
At that time, I could count on both hands the amount of people in Canada & the US doing this professionally.
(Italy, Germany, a whole other story, and the most beautiful pieces oft came from there)
The influx of mass produced glass beads from China & India did cause some ruckus in the early 90's, however, collectors of fine glass & jewellery makers have come to the conclusion that many pieces of "Artisan" glass are tiny pieces of art, and have value.

whiteoakart (author)2010-03-18

Whoa! very cool.  I need to do this. 

How do you anneal glass?

jongscx (author)whiteoakart2010-03-18

I think you can anneal anything that can form a crystaline molecular structure can be annealed, right? 

Same way, just heat it and allow it to cool slowly.

whiteoakart (author)jongscx2010-03-18

Glass is not a crystalline structure.  It is an amorphous solid.  However, you are correct on your thought.  According to my dictionary, annealing is the process of cooling slowly to avoid the build up of internal stresses. 

jongscx (author)whiteoakart2010-04-02

well, it's wherein the internal stresses of the molecular structure between bonds from having the piece worked/formed are allowed to break and reform in a less stressful arrangement, right? 
Can that really be done if it's technically a liquid and the molecules/atoms aren't rigidly bonded?

whiteoakart (author)jongscx2010-04-12

Glass is not technically a liquid.  It is an amorphous solid. (as opposed to a crystalline solid.)  It has rigid bonds, they are just not in an orderly, geometric pattern.

nepheron (author)whiteoakart2010-03-18

 These beads are so small, you won't need to anneal them.

whiteoakart (author)nepheron2010-03-18

OK. That's good to know.

wickedglass (author)2010-04-05

You have really been away from the buzz for a long time, jimmiek, but from one flameworker to another: lampworking isn't making a comeback, it's actually been building momentum for a long time and over the last ummm 15 years or so there's been a bit of an explosion and there's never been a more exciting time as right now to be working in this medium, pity you haven't kept at it, but it's never too late ;)
Thank you nepheron for posting this little instructable, it's often the way that someone's in-road into glass is something very basic, making bottle ashtrays in a campfire, bending glass over a brazing torch, and your bare bones approach is great! I hope I'm not complicating this approach too much by suggesting a way of making larger beads without cracking.
Once your larger beads are made, an immediate immersion in a jar of vermiculate will allow the glass to cool at a much slower rate. While it is not a way to properly anneal the glass, it will go a long way to help insure the integrity of a larger mass of glass. Vermiculite is generally available at hydroponics and gardening stores.
Happy beadmaking! :)

nepheron (author)wickedglass2010-04-05

 Thanks! I've heard of using vermiculate top slowly cool the beads. I'll add that tip to the first step :)

jimmiek (author)2010-03-21

I used to do lampworking/flameworking making animals, fish, etc. many, many moons ago (before the Cheap stuff came in from overseas and broke me) , you've inspired me to get off my duff and start experimenting with it again, it sounds like it's making a comeback, (I still have my torch and some other tools). When we made beads back then, you could just use baling or tie wire, let the bead cool a bit, stretch the wire while it was still red hot, and the bead would slide off ..... no releases or plasters ..... things change!
Nice instructable for recycling the colored glass, Thanks!!

nepheron (author)jimmiek2010-03-22

Please explain the whole bail wire thing. It sounds fascinating! I've never in my life heard of that before!!!
How did you stretch the wire? Did you have to stretch it far?

It is very important to keep methods from dying.
Certain glassworking skills have been forgotten over the eons, and this may be one of them. I like collect these methods and keep them alive. Pass on the knowledge!
Thank you!!!!!!!!

WurdBendur (author)nepheron2010-03-30

Just use any cheap wire you can get at a hardware or farm store, except make sure it's not galvanized because heating zinc is a good way to poison yourself.

When it's red hot, you can pull on the ends to stretch it.

handprints (author)2010-03-27

Totally awesome!!  I have some pretty colored bottles that were just waiting to be this project!!!  I started practicing this morning and ran out of fuel.  Hopping to the store for more now.

thepelton (author)2010-03-17

Just one other thing occurred to me  today.  How would obsidian work for beads?

About This Instructable




Bio: Travelling since 2013. I'm currently in Australia for some reason. --- I’m Calvin Drews, and I love to learn, experiment, invent, create, repair, and ... More »
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