In Search of the Perfect 104 Clear is the holy grail of beadmakers. A perfect clear should resists scumming and be optically free of streaks and bubbles. This said, the perfect clear is hard to find and there are many more clears to choose from on the market these days.
A lot of beadmakers are tired of picking the scum and bubbles out of the clear glass that comes from Italy. One way to improve the cleanliness of your clear rods is to wash your rods in your dishwasher and many beadmakers swear that it helps a lot.
Larry Scott developed a technique for good clear. He places his clear rods in pickling solution that is used to take the scum off of silver after it has been soldered. He uses the solution at 1/3 to ½ the strength you would to pickle silver, in a long Pyrex baking dish that can hold the 13” rods comfortably covered with solution. The pickling solution works best if it is warm and leave the glass in the solution for a while, an hour or so (experimenting with time lengths is always a good thing to do). When you take the glass rods out of the solution, thoroughly rinse the glass and let it dry standing up on its ends so the water slides off.
The two Italian glass factories that provide a lot of the glass available to beadmakers have tried to make a better clear over the past 10 years, but their efforts have still fallen short of what most beadmakers would consider a perfect clear. The cleaning techniques that I mentioned above help to improve the cleanliness of the Italian clear glasses, but I have heard many complain that it still falls short of what beadmakers would like.
There are a number of new efforts by newer glass factories like CiM, Double Helix, Troutman Art Glass and Precision 104. All these companies make good clear glass, with CiM being the only one that is competitively priced with the Italian glass. Some beadmakers still complain that CiM clear is not perfect enough, but the factory goes out of its way to hand wrap the clear glass rods to prevent scratches and dirt accumulation.
Double Helix, Troutman Art Glass and Precision 104 have all produced premium clear with a premium price tag. I hear various complaints about these clears also, but from personal experience, I find they are superior to what the Italians make and a whole lot easier to use. The biggest complain about these premium clear glass rods is the price.
If you have come up with a system to improve the clarity of any of the available clear rods on the market, by all means please leave a comment on this blog.