Friday, November 26, 2010

Making Multiple Beads on a Mandrel

You may have noticed this particular picture the other day, and wondered about making multiple beads on a mandrel. The advantages to making multiple beads on a mandrel is that it is easier to make a matching pair, because the first one is right there to compare, and it can be a time saver for making multiples, as you can let one bead cool down a bit while you work on the next one. It saves dipping time and trips to the kiln. An hour of beadmaking like this can leave you with a pretty daunting pile of beads to pull and clean, however.

Two tips will help you fill up the mandrel with beads and have you start looking for taller bottles for your bead release. (I have mine in a small orange juice bottle - so I can get a nice long dip. For production work, I can get 6-8 on a mandrel)

Sorry, three tips.

1. Make them close together. Seriously. Like in the picture. Overlapping heat from making the next bead helps to keep the previous ones warm. This is anti-intuitive, and a little scary - you worry about losing control and sticking them together. Trust me - making them close together really helps.

2. Keep them all warm - doh. But - never have more than one warm enough to move at a time. You can't balance and round out two moving-hot beads at the same time. Make a bead. Balance and round. Keep rotating - let it cool to solid, make the next, balance and centre, let cool. Rewarm the first. Make the third now that #2 is solid and #1 is warm. While #3 is cooling - make sure #1 and #2 are warmed up - but keep the rolling rhythm of the mandrel tuned to the still soft #3 bead. When it is solid, start on #4, - etc.

and the 3rd tip. If you are trying to get them all the same size - which - looking at the pic above, I wasn't, but if you are - make your decision about the size of the bead and if it needs more glass while both beads of the pair are the same temperature. If one is glowing and one is not, wait for it to cool down, or warm the other one up.

Whether this is because the warm one is expanded with heat (I personally doubt this is a big enough phenom to see) or the optical illusion of a glowing object looking larger (my favored theory), you can't get them the same size if you keep adding glass to them when they are not the same temperature. You'll add glass to the smaller-looking cool bead, and when you have melted the trail of extra glass in, it will now look bigger than the other, now cool bead. So you will add more glass to that one, and ad nauseum. Your earring pair just turned into matched book ends. Or curling rocks.

Once you get the hang of it - you'll be whipping out long mandrels of matching beads.


  1. Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need, thanks for all the enthusiasm to offer such helpful information

  2. Many thanks Dwyn for this new interesting post. I used to make only two beads on my mandrel, because they are bigger than yours i believe, about 1,5 or 1,7 cms. And i agree with the optical illusion, it makes me nervous as i add glass like you explained. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    What is the glass you used on the picture ? Is it Dark silver plum ?

  3. Thanks!

    The glass is the Double Helix Clio - it's the same photo from a couple of days ago.

    There certainly is a practical size limit. For reference - the mandrel is a 3/32 and the smaller beads are 11 mm across and the larger ones are 13 mm (Diameter) with widths from 7 mm to 6 mm.