Monday, April 26, 2010

Terms of the Trade - Mandrels & Holes

I got lots of questions about the terms in my last post. I sometime assume my audience is jewelry makers or other beadmakers when I know I have some quilters and knitters and just generally creative folks who follow along. So... I thought it would be fun to examine a few of the glassy words from that post. For you glassy folks that do this all the time, there's tips for making hearts and buttons here!

Today's word is Mandrel.

A mandrel is a rod of stainless steel which is used to form the hole in a bead. The rods come in a HUGE variety of sizes, hence the large variety of bead holes! I use tiny 1/32" all the way up to 1.5" mandrels. There are even a variety of shaped mandrels allowing for bead holes in fun shapes such as hearts, squares or ovals.

Mandrels are dipped in a liquefied graphite emulsion, called bead release, and allowed to air dry or dried in the flame. After the bead is made and has fully annealed, the beads on their mandrels are soaked in water to weaken the release. This makes removing the beads from the mandrels a little easier. After removal, the bead release is cleaned from the beads with a diamond bit.

Beads on mandrels, waiting to be soaked and cleaned.

The word mandrel came up in my previous post when I referred to an "OFF mandrel heart." This means NO mandrel was used to make the hole. Instead the bail (Another word for hole but generally refers to something to hang the bead from...usually on top of or behind the bead.) was made by the careful application of hot glass to allow for the hole.

I hold the heart, attached to a rod of glass called a punty, in my left hand; the bail glass is in my right. It is usually smaller- about 2 - 3mm. I heat the bail glass and spot heat the heart where the bail is to be. I touch down, move the heart behind the flame and keep the bail glass in the flame. As the bail glass melts, I move my left hand to bend the bail around the heart, leaving a hole. After the bail is attached I spend a bit of time adding glass where the bail may be too thin, reshaping the hole with a tungsten pick, melting the bail to the glass and making sure the bead hangs true.

The final way tungsten pick. Tungsten can get very, very hot...I'm talking glowing red. I keep the bead / button behind the flame and it's actually fairly cool. The pick is IN the flame and glowing. The pick gets hot enough to actually DRILL a hole in the glass! I use this technique with buttons.

Buttons with drilled holes.

So there you have it... All about mandrels and holes. I hope you'll check back here this week for some more bead makers vocabulary!

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