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Lampworking: What is this what tools do I need

Updated on January 27, 2016

What is lampwork

Lampwork is the manipulation of molten glass by melting and reshaping colored rods. Many times lampwork is used to make beads, jewelry components, or small glass sculptures. This craft is done with a propane torch at high heat where you hold the glass rods in front of flame and shape it from there. This technique is also called flameworking glass.

What kind of torch will I need

For lampworking most propane torches will work fine. Many lampworkers also do some glass blowing so they use a torch that uses propane and oxygen but for simple lampwork that is not required. Just about any torch head you buy in the store that you can hook up to a propane tank will work fine for starting out. Some places like amazon also sell beginners kits that cames with a good torch head, glass, mandrels and the other item that you will need.

Will I need a kiln?

Yes and no. At first when you're just starting out you most likely won't need one but if you choose not to have a kiln you will want to have ceramic fiber blankets. These components are used to slowly cool your glass once you get it out of the flame. If your glass cools too quickly it can burst open and shatter ruining all of your hard work. A tip, if you do lampwork don't set your piece down then re-add directly into your flame. If you feel the need to do extra work on your piece either preheat it in a kiln or very slowly reintroduce it to the flame.

Glass rods

These are just long rods of colored glass. You can buy these on amazon, devardiglass, sundanceglass, and many other websites. A soft glass is what you will want to be using if you do lampworking as your torch will have a hard time melting borosilicate glass which is what most other glass types are online. If you use more than one glass rod on a project make sure that they are the same coe or else it will cause cracks and breaks in your glass. You can buy glass rods in normal rod size or in thinner ones called stringers.

Mandrels

Mandrels will be used if you decide to make beads or pendants. These are just long rods of steel, or sometimes another material that won't melt in the flame. These are used to wrap your molten glass around to make beads. The most commonly used sizes for making beads is 1/16 of an inch. Another size is 1/32 that's what I use but these rods bend very easily as they are so thin.

Optional supplies that you can get

Above is about all that is required to begin working with glass, and that's what I feel most people should begin with if they're just dipping their toes into the art of glass working. Below will be some items that you won't need but that can either make your life alot easier in this craft, or that can add beauty to your pieces.

Frit

Frit is crushed up glass in different sizes. This can be used in a number of different ways. There's something that people make called a frit twisty where they dip the end of hot glass into frit then pull it out to make a long colorful stringer. Or you can roll a molten bead it to pick up small grains of glass and melt it into your bead. This adds character to your piece and also adds color! A lot of frit is sold at devardiglass in the same coe as their lampworking rods. This would be a good place to order lampworking tools.

Cab mandrel

A cab mandrel is a mandrel like the ones listed above except the end is a shape to melt your glass onto. This is used for making beautiful lamp worked cabochons which can then be put into a setting or wire wrapped.

Flat masher tweezers

Flat masher tweezers are simply tweezers with a square end. This is used to make pendants, or make a base for a sculpture. I personally use them for making oval beads as all you have to do is get your glass on your mandrel then smush it down with your flat masher tweezers.

There's so much more

There are hundreds maybe thousands of tools and techniques that you can use in your lampwork art. This is a beautiful art form that everyone should try out. It's so much fun and there is so much to it. If you were to do some digging you can find hundreds of different techniques used to make lamp worked items. There's so many different tools used in this artform as well to get different effects and shapes!

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    • TheNaturalRoze profile image
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      TheNaturalRoze 18 months ago

      Thank you! I plan on writing another soon about specific techniques

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 19 months ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Thanks for such an informative article. I enjoyed learning about lampworking. I have to admit that I wasn't familiar with it until I read your article.