ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The College Hobbyist: A 5-Minute Primer on Setting Up a Glass Beadmaking Studio at Home

Updated on June 13, 2013
Lamp working in a propane torch.
Lamp working in a propane torch.


In the recent months I have had a whirlwind experience with glass lamp working and it has come to literally redefine how I view sculpture and fine art as a whole. I feel that all people should experiment with sculpture whether or not they are a career 'artist'. The impact of creating something from next to nothing in three dimensional space is huge on the individual as we are human and it is among our principles and purposes to create things for ourselves and others to experience in this world. So without any further delay, lets get started!

Glass lamp working and glass blowing is an intricate and classical art that dates back to the 5th century BC but has its roots and widespread classical footholds in 14th century Italy. Sculptures range, at least on a cultural level, from glass beads and marbles, to trees, to large vases, and intricate hollow sculptures, but borosilicate glass is also used extensively in spaceship parts and high end laboratory equipment. I don't exaggerate when I say that the possibilities when working with glass are limitless and infinite. In this primer we are going to build a small home studio setup so you too can get started working glass!

Bullseye Colored Rods
Bullseye Colored Rods
Didymium Glasses
Didymium Glasses
Mandrels coated with bead release
Mandrels coated with bead release

What styles?

What Kind of Glass Work Do You Do or Want to Do?

See results



Colored Rods - These rods are the glass we are going to be working with. There are many brands and each brand will have different sets of signature colors. Often times the different brands' glass have different C.O.E.'s or coefficient of expansion. It is important to be aware of this number as it refers to how your glass reacts and expands in heat and means everything in terms of the behavior of the glass. Glass of different c.o.e.'s cannot be worked together, and with soft glass this often means sticking to one brand. These are usually found at local specialized glass shops if not purchased online. Search for one of these locations in your area if possible and become familiar with it.

Didymium Glasses - Didymium refers to a combination of praseodymium and neodymium. This mixture prevents vision of sodium burn off, or the bright orange flame, from propane torches when working glass. Absolutely essential.

Bead Mandrels - These are the structure that you build the bead around in order to get the clean hole through the center. Usually made from stainless steel, these come in all sizes and shapes so you can make anything from regular beads to holllow beads to glass rings.

Bead Release - The sludgy release that coats the mandrels. This keeps the bead from being attached the mandrel and allows an easy clean release when the bead has cooled. This can almost always be found at any store that sells colored rods.

Clacker/Water Bowl - metal bowl with a solid layer of water to break trash off into. Helps keep your work space clean.

Visceral Glassworks

If you are interested in checking out some of my work or browsing my personal webstore a link can be found below to my Etsy store where some of current beads are listed. I can also do custom order work as well as other items like borosilicate marbles and pendants. Check it out and leave some feedback!

C-Clamp and L-CLamp to attach the canister to the edge of your base.
C-Clamp and L-CLamp to attach the canister to the edge of your base.
Ring clamp hold propane canister and L-Clamp together.
Ring clamp hold propane canister and L-Clamp together.
Hot-Head torch head attached to the canister.
Hot-Head torch head attached to the canister.
Beads cooling in a small bucket of vermiculite.
Beads cooling in a small bucket of vermiculite.

Building the Studio

Find a good area to set up your studio, be it in your garage, outside, a work shed, or an art studio. Make sure your work space is clean and regularly tidy up after working. The materials involved in lamp working (very high heat and broken glass) are not necessarily safe and very injury prone. It will behoove you to keep your working area free of hazards. Keep things as fireproof as you can and don't work in an area where you cannot control this. Ventilation is hugely critical, for this reason I prefer to work in an open garage or outside to avoid having to spend on or build complex ventilation systems indoors.

Propane - For small torch-head sized tanks your have options between propane and MAPP gas. MAPP gas burns 3x hotter than propane, and when working with soft glass the heat of a propane torch is more than sufficient. For starting I highly recommend using propane tanks and a good torch head. My favorite torch head for small home tanks is the Hot-Head surface mix torch, it allows oxygen to mix with the propane at the base of the flame so you don't work in a strictly reducing flame. You will always want and need to be aware of your flame quality and whether or not it is oxidizing or reducing, how you can control this, and when to use each.

Base/Table - This is your workstation. This can be anything from a small desk or your front porch to a large stainless steel worktable that lines your shop. For my home studio I use an art desk on a metal frame with a small shelf on the bottom where my vermiculite is placed. The desk is on wheels to keep this mobile and I work over either stainless steel or ceramic work plates. This works perfectly for me as long as I use small propane tanks for soft glass work.

Putting it Together - In order to attach the propane torch to the table to keep it suspended in one place so you can work you will need three (3) things. A C-Clamp or small vice, an L-clamp, and a Ring Clamp. The Ring is fitted around the top quarter of the tank with the L-Clamp resting inside of it, below the torch head. The C-clamp is then used to vice the L of the L-Clamp to the edge of your base.

Cooling - You will want to have an excellent method of cooling your beads as slowly as possible in order to represent the flame annealing and then cooling process of using a kiln in a larger studio. There are couple options here in both vermiculite and fiber blankets. I personally prefer using vermiculite as it supports larger workloads and tends to be a little more forgiving, however breathing in the dust is very unhealthy and it is messy to move around, making a fiber blanket optimal for the mobile glass blower.

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation!

Mastering various techniques is what flame working is all about. From stacking dots, to wrapping and raking, to marvering or even just making something round, it pays off and will be more than visible in the end results if you invest time into mastering your various techniques. The most important and quintessential glass technique is rotation, and the best part is that in can be practiced almost anytime and anywhere with just a pencil, straw, or something similar. Keeping an even, steady, and comfortable rotation is everything when it comes to developing good even symmetry and terminations in your glass work. The better you can steady your rotation and build the muscles that govern it the better the overall quality of your work will increase almost exponentially.

Keeping a good and consistent rotation will also greatly help your flame annealing and cooling skills as you will have much more control and be able to better distribute the heat evenly and in turn cool it more evenly. This is only one example of how developing this will overflow into all aspects of your glass work.

Make beautiful glass beads from home!
Make beautiful glass beads from home!

Additional Reading

Glass is such a cult-following style art that often that way people find themselves involved in it is through a master-apprentice relationship. This obviously isn't available for everybody, but should not prevent or discourage people from glass flame working. There are good number of high quality reading materials available on this as well as dvds that help detail the subject of bead making. Check your local library or bookstore for some of these materials.

Closing Statements

Whether you've never considered glass working before and want to try getting your feet wet, or weren't sure what you could do on your own outside of a large shop or class environment, or even if you have been into glass working for some time and just needed some points reiterated I hope this Hub could help you. I'd love to hear back from you in the comments and if you do mix anything up I'd love to see your work!

Stay creative and have fun!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • agilitymach profile image

      Kristin Kaldahl 

      5 years ago

      I loved this hub as it taught me a bit about how one of my friends makes her beautiful glass beads. I voted up, useful AND interesting!!

    • Coolpapa profile image


      5 years ago from Florida

      Great Hub! I do fused glass but have been toying with getting a torch and trying my hand at lampworking. Give us a good hub on torches and what choices a beginner should make. I'll be following you! Thanks.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)