Thursday, January 20, 2011

Off Mandrel Hearts

Hearts were the first thing I ever learned to make off mandrel. Although I frequently make leaves off mandrel too, hearts have always spoken to me. I find myself usually making at least one every torch session. I must admit, they are my favorite "jewelry." Despite being an avid bead maker and troubled jewelry designer, I often forget to wear jewelry. Even though I KNOW it's my best source of advertising, it's always an afterthought! I love being able to dash to my stash box, put a heart on a chain and go!

For this tutorial, you should know to keep glass warm in the flame. If you've worked on one side too long, give the other side a heat bath. I do NOT remind you of this in the tutorial... but it is crucial!!!

If you are making canes, the leftover bits that end up in the water jar are a perfect and usually colorful place to start as I've done here. This can be a great end of day bead - a way to clean off your table.  But you can also start with a rod and some frit or stringer. If that's the case, you can start with Step three. This can be done in soft and hard glass. Just stick to your COE rules and percentages. You will need two rods to use as handles. I prefer a transparent or just clear as they take the heat better than pastels.


♥ Mashers   ♥Scissors ♥Corina's Magic Wand  ♥Delicate knife ♥Tungsten Pick ♥Reverse Tweezers*

  1. Here are two still glowing ends from a cane pull. Place them far back in the flame to avoid shocking.
  2. Usually, the larger one will crack. Try to crack it so the two pieces attach to each other.
  3. Melt in and square off. If starting with fresh rod, simply melt a gather and square off with mashers. You should end up with a pretty firm rectangle. If you like your color, keep going. If not, heat the paddle and twist with mashers to mix the colors better OR  heat the paddle and dip into some frit for interest . Melt in and square off again. The end without the punty will be the top of your heart. If you don't like that, attach another punty on a the side OPPOSITE of where you want your top to be.
  4. Get the paddle hot... red hot - but not drooping - on both sides. Use scissors to cut down the middle toward the rod - but not all the way to the rod.
  5. The cut marks will be a little raised and can be sharp. Take a moment to heat where you've cut and allow the rough edges to melt in. You can smooth this out a little Corina's magic wand or other small brass tool. Then you're ready to add a bail.

    Most people are always a bit off on the's never 50/50. Eyeball the smaller side... that's where you will put the bail to give the heart visual balance. Keep the heart warm in your non-dominant hand and in your "good" hand, heat a pea sized gather. You can also melt some of that same frit into the gather but know that it will pull into lines for the bail.
    Note how the same frit used on the surface of this heart striated into lines when the bail was pulled.

    Gently touch down w/ the gather on the small side of the heart. Move the heart beside the flame and keep your bail rod in the flame so that you are heating the glass that will feed into the bail.

    Start stretching that gather. Bend it in the flame until it touches the back of the heart. Once it touches, flame break / twist off bailing rod.
  6. This step is  where many skimp... once you flame break the bail rod, your heart is still attached to the other rod at the bottom of the heart. Take a tungsten pick and use the flame to even up any thin spots in the bail. Add a drop of glass here. Heat and stretch there. If it collapses...drill a new hole with the pick (see below). I also take a pointy tool / pick / knife and make sure the bail really connects to the heart. Press or poke the connection points with a pick or knife. Get creative here: give it dimples or fingers... but make sure it's connected! Look at the dimple on this bail:

    You can keep the heart in the flame an infinite amount of time... just make sure the bail will hang true / straight and doesn't have thinner areas. Below, the ends of the bail are melted in and the hole is large.
  7. If surface decoration is desired, now is the time to do that. Flowers, other hearts...where ever you want to go...just keep the heart warm and don't allow the bail to get too hot! This is another great use for stray stringers on the work table.
    Example of Surface Decoration
  8. Once the bail is hanging true and any decorations have been added, I flash the tips of the reverse tweezers in the flame. They can't be icy cold! Grab the heart either by the bail or the crease left by the scissors.

    Place the handle rod in the edge of the flame until it twists and break off. It will most likely be a little wonky on the bottom...still kind of squared off.

  9. Use the heat to pull the glass into a more graceful shape by heating one side at a time until the glass flows down. All the working side to cool (good time to give some heat to the upper part of the bead) before repeating on the opposite side.

  10. Often the handle rod is clear. It's nice to give that bottom tip some color. If you started from a cane pull, use a bit of the same cane. OR stringer or more frit. Melt the tip in. 
  11. Finally, it's nice to draw the bottom of that tip to a nicer point or even a curve. Heat just above the tip and use the end of a warm rod to touch down, stretch the tip of the bead and break off in the flame. It's also a good time to put the bead on a tungsten pick and make sure it will hang properly. If not, return it to the tweezers, heat the bail and straighten it with mashers so that the heart will hang vertically.

    One last heat bath and in the kiln! But... check for tool marks... like I have here! ICK! Heat that out, do any final shaping and the kiln.


  • The holding rod could melt. Work further back in the flame and don't put so much of the rod in the flame. It needs to be warm...but not soft! You can marver it quickly to cool it down. Grab your mashers and re-center your heart before the rod sets firm again. 
  • The heart could fall off the holding rod or out of the tweezers. Pick it up with mashers or a pick...whatever is handy. Super heat where you want to punty while heating a punty rod, reattach and keep working. 
  • The bail could melt in. Use your tungsten pick to drill a hole. Do this by warming the bail a bit and moving it BEHIND the flame. Place the tungsten in the flame and when it glows, begin twisting your hand a bit to the right and a bit to the left. The tungsten will drill a hole in the glass! You may need to flip it around and work from the other side too. When the hole is all the way through, give it a little heat to smooth those rough edges created by the pick, recenter the bail and you're done.
  • The bail could be thin in places. Just add a few drops of glass, melt in slowly and add more if needed. Also, if you heat and stretch the bail hole, make sure both sides are warm for more even stretching. 
This is my final heart. It came out a bit darker than  I would have liked because I stopped and took too many pictures.  Keep in mind: if you use fussy glass, you will have unpredictable results.  

*I like my reverse tweezers to have a wooden grip as I hold the tip in the flame and the handles can get hot without something to protect you. Reverse tweezers give you one less thing to worry about while balancing all that hot glass in the flame. They hold the piece for you and you don't have think about keeping them closed.


If you found this tutorial helpful, please consider making a donation to the artist. Or purchasing a heart here. Thank you!


Tease Beads said...

It's interesting to see how different your method is compared to mine! Isn't it amazing how many different ways there are to create?

Chris said...

^^^what she said. :) This is different from what I use to make my own hearts - but Holly - your hearts are lovely, and you are so very generous to share your tutorial! Thank you!