Clear glass. The holy grail of lampworking: absolutely perfectly sparklingly clear glass. Clear like a mountain stream. Clear like breath of fresh air. Clear like a baby's conscience.
Clear like the boro folks have.
You start out as a beginner thinking "clear is clear." Then you see some streaks in your carefully encased bead, and you ask someone one - and then you get, "Did you clean your glass?" "Were you working too low in the flame?" - so you clean your glass and make a conscious effort to work higher in the flame.
But you still have black streaks and scummy areas.
So you ask again. This time you get an avalanche of advice. Don't clean with glass cleaner. Do clean with glass cleaner. Use alcohol. Pickle the glass. Buy Lauscha. Lauscha's not compatible. Buy Aether. Buy Super clear. Super clear's no good. Buy Vetro. Buy Zephyr. It's the scratches on the glass. Buy thick rods and peel them. Pull the scum out. Work cool. Work hot. Work with a lot of oxygen. Work neutral.
And this point, you feel like a single worm at a party of hens, and you're about ready to work in nothing but periwinkle and pea green.
I'm here to make it all clear.
The best advice I can give you is - cleaning your glass does help. The new, eco-friendly glass cleaners don't seem to do a good job. Good old fashioned Windex, alcohol, hot water and detergent, and running the rods through the dishwasher do help.
And - some days - the glass works better than others. If you see something nasty in the glass on the bead - go in with the tweezers and pull it out if it is going to wreck the bead.
Recently - I tried comparing clears - and got results that I completely did not expect.
OK - I started with 6 rods of clear - all labeled so I wouldn't get them mixed up. I did clean all of them, in an attempt to have them start equal.
From the left, top mandrel, we have: Effetre Clear 004, Effetre Super Clear 006, CiM 834 Clear, VS004 (more on what that is in a minute), Double Helix Zephyr, and on the bottom rod, TAG Clarity.
As you can see from the picture, they all turned out pretty good, with the lone exception of the CiM clear - which went weirdly burned.
In checking the CiM web-site - it notes that their clear perfers to be worked cool. Well - we all know that I do not work anything cool. I may be cool, but I don't work that way. So that is probably my fault.
The Effetre Clear turned out - in defiance of all expectations - pretty darn good. Not perfect - none of these came out perfect - but pretty darn good.
The Effetre Super Clear - well - it's better than I usually get. My usual experience with this clear is that it is suitable only for being encased with an opaque. You can see a line of scum - but in my experience, the Super Clear is not super clear, and this is better than I usually get.
The CiM clear comes individually wrapped in sheets of tissue, for gawd's sake. Seriously - how did it come out this bad? I want to apologize to it. I'm sorry CiM - this just wasn't your day. Let's go with "I worked it too hot" and move on.
Below, we have Double Helix Zephyr. Now we are getting into the premium clears. Lawdy, it's not perfect either. Good - but not perfect.
And here we have TAG (Trautman Art Glass) Clarity. Probably the nicest looking of the bunch - but not by much.
The whole test was disappointing. I was hoping for a clear winner - pun not intended but we'll go with it anyway. Not included in my test was Lauscha or Double Helix Aether. (Because I didn't have any on hand.)
Here we see all 6 clears again - over dichro - which is on clear.
Top mandrel, from the left: Clarity, Zephyr, VS004 (this is the one with the trails of black stuff in it this time), bottom mandrel, from the left, CiM, Super Clear, and Effetre.
Don't forget - we're looking at these much closer than if you just held them in your hand. Laying in your hand or strung in a bracelet - these would all look pretty much the same.
My conclusion: I still have no conclusion. Some days the glass plays nice, and on those days - keep on torching till you drop.
Although - that said - I'd probably buy a couple pounds of TAG Clarity and give it a good work out.
And I'd still want to try more of the VS004 - just because I loved the Vetro clear.
And I hear that the DH Zephyr is particularly good for making the high-silver and exotic colours pop.
And Effetre clear does have going for it that is quite thin when hot and easier to get into tight places. And it's cheap.
Like I said - no conclusion.