Thursday, August 5, 2010

How'd You Put the Hole in There?

It's a question I'm asked fairly often - how did I put the hole in the bead? I assume other lampworkers get this one, too. So today I thought I'd let you in on the secret. Just between you and me . . . Lampworkers make their beads on mandrels, or metal rods. The hot glass is wound around the mandrel, and when it's cooled and pulled off . . . voila! There's your hole! The size of the hole depends on the thickness of the mandrel.

The thickest mandrel I use is for pandora-style beads - which is the one on the left. But mandrels can be much, much thicker. The size I've been using a lot for my critter beads lately is 3/32" - the middle one. The one on the right is 1/16", and I like to use that skinny one for beads I might turn into jewelry, simply because my findings match up with the holes pretty well.

I can change which way the hole runs (vertically or horizontally) by making the critter face a different way. Most of my beads have the hole running top to bottom, but for pandora-style beads, the hole has to run sideways through the bead. This was a challenge for me when I first started making this kind of bead, but now I'm getting the hang of it.

The gray chalky stuff on the mandrel and under the bead is called bead release. All mandrels are dipped in bead release before they are used so the glass doesn't stick to the mandrel. Sometimes the bead can be tricky to remove, and I've even had to put some mandrel's in a vice in order to twist the bead off. Those situations don't always end well. Sometimes it's just better to leave the bead stuck on the mandrel and stick it in a plant. And if I had any living plants, that would be a swell idea.

And here are the beads removed from their mandrels. I haven't cleaned them yet, so there's a nice layer of bead release in the holes. I'll use my nifty Dremel to clean out the holes and smooth out the edges, and these beads will be ready to go.

Any questions?


  1. Great write-up on how the hole gets in the bead! I get this questions a lot, too :)

  2. I get that question too! Great post Lauren!

  3. Great post :)

    I want one on how murrini is made next :)

  4. Yep, I get that question and I also get, "What makes it a bead?" To which I answer - "it has a hole".

  5. Katy, I would like that post, too!And Lori, who posted right after you, is the murrini maker who could tell us all.

  6. Very interesting! I had no idea that was how the process went.


  7. Maybe you could ask her to do a guest post :)