- An Introduction to Lampworking by Kate Fowle, always good to actually see someone make beads before you try in case classes are not offered in your town. This video is just wonderful! I later bought her Bells & Whistles tape and found it useful as well.
- Nortel minor – If you can afford it and you like nice tools, I’d just jump in here instead of buying a hot head. It is a wonderful starter torch if you are at all serious about making beads.
- Economy Safety glasses – A must… I quickly upgraded to Aur92 lenses and it was certainly worth it, I find them much better than the economy glasses.
- Fiber Blanket – Initially I used this to cool beads. I quickly (within a week) upgraded to Aim 84BD kiln WITHOUT controller. Later I added the controller.
- Oxygen – Available from your local welding shop. Must be chained for safety, and it is best to store tanks outside your studio.
- Propane Tank – Readily available, use the same kind as on your gas grill. It is good practice to have your tanks outside your studio for safetly.
- Hoses for both tanks – You can get these from your local welding supply or mail order from places such as Frantz Art Glass.
- Regulators – You need regulators for both Oxy and Propane to properly regulate your gases. You can get these from your local welding supply or by mail order.
- Flashback arrestors – These are available from local welding supply. They don’t cost much and it is always better to be safe than sorry.
- Bead Release-Alice’s bead release is my favorite. It is quite economical and I have NEVER had a bead stick to a mandrel. Click here to find it.
- Ceramic Tiles -I bought some from my local hardware store and I lay on the table that I work at… just a protective surface. I like black best for seeing the colors well.
- Table – Obviously you need a work surface, I got a cheap one from OfficeMax to work on… we didn’t have any laying around that I could use.
- Fire Extinguisher & Metal Bucket – Simple safety precautions are necessary. I keep the metal bucket at my feet and if I need to drop something hot I always have a safe place to put it. This is especially useful when working large pieces off mandrel.
The Next Round of Tools
- 6″ Graphite Pad – I use this with shaping and to help organize my working rods, I often rest them on this while I use them.
- Rod Rests or Stilts – I got some from my local ceramic shop, they are technically kiln furniture but I think that they are great for holding hot rods up off the table. You can buy them online here.
- Graphite paddle – Useful tool for shaping beads. I use this tool all the time to help shape beads smooth, or to help shape large focal beads.
- Tungsten straight probe – A must have!! Used for poked flowers, poked bubble beads, off-mandrel pendants, and buttons. I have also recently discovered that you can sharpen one end of an 1/4 inch mandrel on a grinding wheel and it makes a larger poke which gives larger bubbles!
- Tweezers – Great for pulling stringer.
- Parallel mashers – These are the best! I have other mashers but these are light and easy to use on bead sized items.
- Razor Tool – This tool us quite useful. I use it for moving small bits of glass in flowers or other small detail work.
- Glass Nippers – Great for cutting ends off twisted cane, or cutting off punties when making off mandrel pieces. Did you know that if your nippers do not come together all the way you can simply remove the spring to make for a closer connection when nipping stringer and such.
My Current Setup
- Bethlehem Barracuda Burner – I love this torch. I use it to make very small beads and big ol’ focals. It is quite versatile. The larger flame seems to keep more area warm which gives me a longer working time. I am very glad that I waited to buy such a hot torch. I think if I had started with this torch in the beginning I would have been very frustrated.
- Cyclone Oxygen Generator – This is a great little machine. Delivery took awhile, it wasn’t cheap, but I love not having to trek an get oxygen tanks every week. I have only had it a year and so it this point it has cost the same as oygen tanks, but I expect it to keep going which will make it cheaper than tanked oxygen in the long run.
A Few of My Current Favorite Tools
- Osibin Sphere, Oblate & Disc Former
- All-in-One Button Mold
- Marble Mold
My 2 Cents
I wrote the first part of this article just after I started making beads (oh so many years ago) when information was scarce on the web. Now there are lots of resources and of course this is just my own experience. I think sharing what I did originally is helpful because it is from a starting perspective. Now I own many tools, (I LOVE tools…) I have a much bigger torch, and I use many kinds of glass, but when I first began, I started simple and it worked out just fine. You don’t need to jump in at the top, start where you can afford and let the glass keep you going!