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Before You Order Your Next Pair of Prescription Didymium Glasses, Read this Blog!

I have been personally struggling over the past 10 years with the challenge of getting prescription eyewear to use while doing torch work. In the past I have had to buy new prescription didymium glasses every time my eyes changed significantly and I had to get new glasses made. Read more

Effetre Silver and Zucca Glass (3/12/09)

I am writing about the Effetre Silver and Zucca Glass for Lampworkers colors named “The Silver Challenge 7 Rod Assortment”, which were given out or sold with orders placed in mid-November.  I am urging everyone who got this glass to please send in photos of their results (good or bad), so that they can be entered into the raffle for a box of rare glass from Mike’s vault.

The seven glass colors in the "Silver Challenge" assortment.

The seven glass colors in the “Silver Challenge” assortment.

A beadmaking friend, Sue Stewart and I both did test beads and I am posting different examples of what we got from these new colors.  We want to see what everyone else  made out of these new colors.

I liked the Silver #4 the best out of the four silver colors and I really like the yellow and orange colors from this group.  Listed below are the names and reference numbers for the “Silver Challenge 7 Rod Assortment”.

  • Silver #1 – 591718
  • Silver #2 – 591719
  • Silver #3 – 591720
  • Silver #4 – 591721
  • Yellow Ocra – 591411
  • Lt. Zucca – 591425
  • Dark Zucca – 592426

BTW Sue Stewart is teaching several different classes at Frantz Art Glass focusing on techniques for using silver glass in beadmaking.

Tips and Techniques: How to Make a Rose Cane

One of the most basic and useful detail elements used in lampworking beads is the rose cane. I notice them being used in the old beads I saw in the catalogs of antique beads that I looked at to teach myself bead designs.  Through experimenting I discovered that the cane needed to be both transparent and opaque to make an effective embellishment.

Though a rose cane is a very effective way to depict a rose on a glass bead, it is also a great detail cane for other decorative applications like feathered lines or bright pink squiggles.

To start making a rose cane, you need a rod of white (I chose Peace by CiM) and a rods of Gold Pink (I chose Cranberry by CiM) and a third rod of clear for the second punty.

Start heating both the white and the pink rods at the same time, but heat the pink more by holding it below the white in the flame because the white will slump much faster than the pink and you need it a little stiff to apply the pink.

As you get a gather of pink on the end of your rod, start applying strips of the pink to about 1 to 1 ½ inches of the white rod.  Continue applying the pink around the white rod until you have coated all the way around.  You can vary the depth of the pink you apply to the white rod depending on how dark you want your rose cane to be.

Once you have the desired thickness of gold pink applied to your white rod, you need to marver the rose cane into a smooth cylinder to insure that the cane pulls evenly.

At this point you need to keep your rose cane warm and apply the second punty to give you a handle to hold onto during the pulling process.  Once the punty is applied and cool enough to not stretch, start moving the pink coated section back and forth in the flame, being sure to rotate it frequently to heat it all the way through.  I like to pull the cane into a football shape when I am heating it to get more of the mass of the cane in the middle and not so much on the punty.

When your cane is thoroughly heated, start pulling slowly at first because white tends to get very liquid and thin out the cane if you pull too fast at the beginning.  When you start feeling a little resistance in the glass, start pulling faster until you achieve the desired size of rose cane that you want.  I like to use a punty that is at least 13 inches long so that I can move my hand down to the far end to extend my reach which helps to get the maximum length out of your cane pull.

Once you have stopped pulling the cane, hold the cane still and straight until the glass firms up.  White glass stays flexible for an amazing length of time and holding the cane until it is firm saves you from having crooked cane.

Next lay the cane flat on a table placing the right punty down to cut it into usable lengths and let cool until you can pick it up.  If the rose cane appears too light, don’t worry because gold pink tends to strike and un-strike as you heat it and it will develop the desired color when you use the cane.

 

 

What You Didn't Know About Goldstone!

Aventurine Marron is the Italian name for a specialty glass the Americans call Goldstone.  Before I got into lampworking I would see cut stones and beads made out of goldstone in lapidary shops and I have always thought it was really cool looking glass.

Large chunk of Goldstone with smaller piece.

Large chunk of Goldstone with smaller piece.

Strips of Goldstone ribbon cane.

Strips of Goldstone ribbon cane.

Frantz Art Glass buys its goldstone/aventurine from Effetre, but on one trip to Murano, Italy we found out that Effetre didn’t actually make the goldstone, but instead was a middle man for another glass company.  This lead us on an adventure to find out where and how it was made because we were looking for a source for larger chunks (fist size boulders), so that we could offer a larger range of goldstone piece sizes.

Gold and red dichroic with swirled goldstone design.

Gold and red dichroic with swirled goldstone design.

Two toned olive shaped bead with goldston swirls.

Two toned olive shaped bead with goldston swirls.

The formula for making adventurine /goldstone has been a much guarded secret through the ages in Europe.  The story goes that it was originally developed by glass making monks, but I can’t say how accurate this charming tale is.  I know for sure that the goldstone we buy from Effetre is made in a glass factory in Northern Italy.

One of the reasons that this particular type of glass is so expensive is the fact that when they make a crucible of goldstone, only one third of the batch is “A” quality with the familiar bright flakes in it.  The other two parts of the batch are “B” quality that has a lot of veins of brown in it and the last third is waste and they have to break the crucible off the glass when it has cooled, so they lose the crucible ever time they make a batch and crucibles are expensive.

You can get goldstone/aventurine to use in five sizes from powder to large chunks that you can use as is or process into what ever stringer or cane you like.  Last year we were fortunate to obtain a batch of specially made goldstone ribbon cane that was made by a glass artist that we know on Murano.  Recently we received another batch of ribbon cane and this batch is really great!  It is thicker, brighter and easier to use than the last batch and I have been enjoying using it.

Goldstone ribbon zig zag design with magenta-blue and teal dichroic.

Goldstone ribbon zig zag design with magenta-blue and teal dichroic.

Goldstone ribbon design over tabular bead made from CiM "Mink".

Goldstone ribbon design over tabular bead made from CiM "Mink".

The ribbon cane is really nice to use because it has a very thin coat of clear glass over the goldstone which keeps the ribbon cane looking brilliant even when exposed to high heat.  I learned the hard way that to get goldstone from pieces to look bright after being torched, it is best to have a thin layer of clear glass over it.  When I first started messing around with goldstone, I would have the raw goldstone in the flame and it would turn kind of khaki brown-green with almost no sparkle to it – very disappointing!

Aventurine/goldstone comes in a few other colors which the most common are blue and green, though I have seen red goldstone in the past.  You have to be careful with the really rare colors of goldstone because sometimes it is not compatible.

Strand of encased goldstone beads.

Strand of encased goldstone beads.

Goldstone ribbon cane and a rose cane over CiM Mermaid.

Goldstone ribbon cane and a rose cane over CiM Mermaid.

A special goldstone ribbon cane with black line on dichroic bead.

A special goldstone ribbon cane with black line on dichroic bead.

Small flat diamond shaped bead made out of goldstone ribbon cane and covered with pale aqua.

Small flat diamond shaped bead made out of goldstone ribbon cane and covered with pale aqua.

Band of goldstone ribbon cane around a half Sangre and half Poison Apple bicone bead.

Band of goldstone ribbon cane around a half Sangre and half Poison Apple bicone bead.

Tips and Techniques: Dichroic on Copper

I am a die hard dichroic fan, but I had not paid much attention to the CBS Dichroic on Copper Sheet because at first I couldn’t get my head around it.  When I first saw some dichroic on copper sheet, it was Silver and it just didn’t catch my attention.  Recently I was shown a dichroic on copper sheet that was a pattern called “Mixture” that has soft blues and pinks in it as well as silver and I said to myself – WOW, this stuff is really neat looking.  I had a sheet that had been slightly broken up and the bag was full of cool looking dichroic bit-shards.  The dichroic shards really got me motivated to make some beads with it and I really like the results.

 

You have to be careful when you open the bag of Dichroic on Copper and have a sheet of paper under the bag to catch any shards that might flake off.  I put the dichroic shards that I had on a graphite pad that I use for rolling up shards on to beads and it works really well.

The dichroic on copper sheet was designed to provide dichroic that can be put on any glass, so you don’t have the problem of matching the glass you are using with what ever the dichroic is coated on.  Another great thing about the dichroic on copper is the fact that the dichroic layer on the copper is 3 times thicker than any other way that dichroic is normally applied.  The thicker coating makes the dichroic much more durable and less likely to burn to that gray scum that everyone hates.

The copper sheets also allow the artist to cut patterns or strips of dichroic in the sheet and roll the dichroic right up off the copper onto a hot bead or other lampworked form.

CBS (Coatings by Sandberg) has a good instructional video posted on the web that is good to watch and it provides some great working points that help in using this product.  If you have never seen dichroic on copper used, I recommend watching this short educational video on the Sandberg website.

In case you are wondering what to do with the sheet of copper once you have used all the dichroic, the copper is of a thickness and quality that it can be used to apply cut out patterns of copper on to a bead.  I have seen some stunning examples of this technique and highly recommend giving it a try.

More New Colors from CiM – Messy Color

here are three New Colors from CiM this week, that were made at the request of the lampworking community.  The new colors are:

  • Poison Apple
  • Mink
  • Mermaid

I have had the pleasure to make beads with these three new colors this week and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with the results of my experimenting.

In rod form, Poison Apple looks very translucent bright green, but as you work it in the heat it becomes denser and loses some of its translucent look.  The first bead I made with it was a straight forward Sangre (red) and Poison Apple (green) short bicone with a band of goldstone ribbon cane and red opaque bumps.  I got many comments that the bead looked very Christmassy.  The next bead I made had a core of Poison Apple with a band of reduced Triton that was twisted into swirls around the bead and encased in Aether.  That combination really popped and the bead was both simple and flashy at the same time.  I made an even bigger Poison Apple bead with a spiral wrap of reduced Triton that was swirled and encased with Aether.  I really like this bead, it made me a lover of Poison Apple and I have never liked any of the greens similar to Poison Apple before.

The next big surprise was the Mink which is a medium opal brown.  I have never seen any color in soft glass that looks like Mink and that alone makes it an important addition to the available glass color palette.  I was wowed when I paired the Mink with goldstone ribbon cane and Sangre, it looks so good I wanted to eat it.  I also made another bead with goldstone ribbon cane and reduced Triton around the middle and was really pleased with the results.

The last color is Mermaid which kind of looks like a cross between Petroleum Green and Dark Turquoise.  This color has received the strongest positive response from most beadmakers and rightly so because it is beautiful and fills an empty place in the present glass color palette.  I have made several beads out of Mermaid and I like them all.

There is a fourth color that arrived this week that is a remake of a previously released green called Commando.  I was told by CiM that too many beadmakers complained that Olive and Commando were too close in hue, so Commando was reformulated and the result is a drab camouflage green that looks a lot like what the plant “Green Sage” really looks like.  The reformulation of Commando has given the lampworking community yet another green thathasn’t been available until now which I think is great.

Great Christmas Colors for lampworkers

I have been thinking about the holidays lately because of the weather change and I thought I would talk about Great Christmas Colors for lampworkers that I like for Christmas projects.

Sangre by CiM - Messy Color

Sangre by CiM – Messy Color

White Poinsettia flower on bead made with Sangre.

White Poinsettia flower on bead made with Sangre.

If you have made beads for any time at all, you are probably familiar with how difficult it can be to get a great Christmas red to make all your Christmas projects out of.  In my experience as a lampworker, I found it next to impossible to find a transparent red that wasn’t too orange or that didn’t turned kind of brown after you worked it in the flame for a while.  Not to worry, CiM – Messy Color has a great transparent red called Sangre, which is a true Christmas red.

Loose Holly parts - KD

Parts for holly berry and leaf ornament.

Another great Christmas color that was just recently introduced by CiM – Messy Color is a transparent green called “OZ”, which as it turns out is a perfect green to pair with Sangre to produce the green and red that is the hallmark of most Christmas themes.

Holly berries and leaves on copper wire made with CiM Sangre and Oz.

Holly berries and leaves on copper wire made with CiM Sangre and Oz.

Oz by CiM - Messy Color.

Oz by CiM – Messy Color.

I have been making some snowmen for the holidays out of glass, and I think CiM – Messy Color “Peace” is a perfect white for making anything that is snow orientated.  The combination of “Peace” and “Sangre” is perfect for making glass candy canes and other white and red holiday objects.

Snowman made with CiM "Peace".

Snowman made with CiM "Peace".

Holly leaf pendant made with "Oz".

Holly leaf pendant made with "Oz".

"Peace" by CiM - Messy Color.

"Peace" by CiM – Messy Color.

Tools for Shaping Flameworked Objects

Flameworking shaping tools is an interesting subject that comes up often in conversations with other artists who like to work in hot glass.  There were no tools to speak of when I started flameworking and I find it delightful that a cornucopia of tools have become available to flameworkers over the past 20 years. Here are the Tools for Shaping Flameworked Objects.

When I first started flameworking I only had a graphite marver that I acquired from a scientific borosilicate tool supplier.  I started out with a 5″ x 3″ graphite marver, thinking that bigger is better but I found it very heavy after awhile and switched to a 2 ½” x 1 ½” marver that I use to this day.

Graphite paddle measuring 2 1/2" x 1 1/2".

Graphite paddle measuring 2 1/2" x 1 1/2".

You can make a lot of different shaped beads with just a small graphite marver plus a pair of mashers.  Oh yeah, there were no mashers when I started and I had my first prototype masher made from a cut off pair of pliers and two squares of metal welded onto the pliers.  My first prototype pliers were better than no tool, but today there is a plethora of mashers available on the market and I like several of them.  The big deal with mashers besides the size is whether

TP Mashers with changable graphite heads for different shapes.

TP Mashers with changable graphite heads for different shapes.

they produce a parallel mash when you use them.  My two favorite mashers are the Adjustable Parallel Mashers (#325202) and my second most favorite are the Adjustable TP Mashers (#325204) which are great for people that find the Parallel Mashers hard on their hands.  The TP Mashers also have many interchangeable graphite pads like the lentil, small radial head, large radial head, a square head and the ever useful flat head that can be changed out with the use of an Allen wrench that comes with the TP Mashers.

There are many different metal bead mashers on the market (mashers that produce the same size and shape bead every time) and I think that the lentil shape is the most popular of these, though there are many beadmakers I know that are tool junkies and have all the different bead shapers.

A steel and brass lentil bead masher.

A steel and brass lentil bead masher.

Steel parallel  mashers.

Steel parallel mashers.

You can get bead shaping tools in graphite also that have grooved shape  in them that make producing the same size and shape bead easier for people making sets of beads and or marbles.

There are a bunch of other glass shaping tools available for flameworking that are very handy.  I love my Stump Shaper (originally designed by Loren Stump hence the name) which is a wedge shaped paddle made out of brass (also available in graphite – #306522).  The brass shaping tools allow you to really push the hot glass around where the graphite tools are kind of slippery and not as effective as the brass tools for pushing.

Brass Stump Shaper.

Brass Stump Shaper.

Collection of metal probing tools.

There are smaller brass and stainless steel tools for making smaller impressions in hot glass.  There is a brass tool called a Stick Shift and some stainless steel probes and small paddles that came out of the dental tool market, for instance.

One of my all time favorite shaping tools is a single edge razor blade mounted in a craft knife handle.  I use this tool for fine lines in sculptural beads and to make melon beads.  I started out using the dental paddles to make the small dents, but found that the razor gave the cleanest mark and didn’t stick to the glass if you kept it from getting too hot.

Single edge razor blade with handle.

Single edge razor blade with handle.

Collection of melon beads made with razor blade tool.

Collection of melon beads made with razor blade tool.

I can’t forget to mention the different tungsten probes that are available for flameworking.  There are three sizes of the straight probes for poking holes through glass or making dents and then there is the tungsten rake that works very well to do controlled feathering on beads.

Tungsten glass raking tool.

Tungsten glass raking tool.

Graphite bead and marble shaping tools.

Graphite bead and marble shaping tools.

Tips and Techniques #2 – Feathering

The lampworking technique call Feathering has been in use for hundreds of years by Italian lampworkers and I think it is very useful for decorating beads.

A long bicone of CiM Ghee with Triton and goldstone that was feathered with a 6 inch stringer.

A long bicone of CiM Ghee with Triton and goldstone that was feathered with a 6 inch stringer.

CiM Hades over Peace with feathering done using a 6 inch stringer.

CiM Hades over Peace with feathering done using a 6 inch stringer.

There is several ways to do feathering on a glass bead.  One way to create a feathered design is to lay down lines on your bead with a stringer.  The stringer lines can be wrapped around the bead in a spiral from hole to hole on the bead and melted enough to keep it from popping off while you are feathering the other side of the bead.  I use a 1 1/2mm stringer that is the same color as the stringer lines and it is about 6 inches long.  To make the feathering marks, it is best to heat one side of the bead at a time to prevent moving to much glass as you drag the molten stringer lines.  At the end of each drag (if you are doing the hole to hole kind), take the glass that will be clinging to your dragging stringer and make the glass go around the end of the bead which gives your feathering lines a very finished look.  Continue around the bead making the feathering go back and forth which usually takes about four passes to complete the whole bead.  The bead will always get a little distorted from the feathering and will require some reheating and shaping.

oval-with-roses-and-blue-dichroic

Squiggle leaf garland under roses on dichroic covered bead.

Bubble Gum Pink bead with dot garland feathering.

Bubble Gum Pink bead with dot garland feathering.

You can make very pleasing leaf patterns on your beads using the short stringer to feather your bead.  There are two ways to do feathered leaves: The first can be done by placing two dots of glass next to each other (about ¼ inch apart) in a row and then marver them down a little before you heat a manageable section of dots and drag the stringer between the dots.  This technique draws the dots out into a garland looking decoration.  The second leaf pattern can be produced by taking a stringer of a leaf like color and laying down a squiggle where you want the leaves to be.  Heat and marver the squiggle down a bit to keep it from popping off while you are feathering, then take your 6 inch stringer and drag it down the middle of the squiggle in manageable sections.  This technique produces very fluid looking leaf garlands.

A feathering stringer can also be used to produce swirls in color lines on a glass bead.  To make a swirl, heat the spot you want the swirl to be and insert the stringer and twist it.  At this point, you must wait a few seconds to let the glass stiffen up which will make it very easy to snap off the stringer that is stuck in the middle of the swirl.  You can also place five or six dots in a circle and heating the center of the circle, insert the feathering stringer and spin it which will make the dots swirl around the center dot made by the stringer, producing a swirled  flower design.

 

Dichroic and goldstone tabular bead with swirl design.

Dichroic and goldstone tabular bead with swirl design.

Example of a swirled flower done with a fat yellow stringer.

Example of a swirled flower done with a fat yellow stringer.

 

Another way to feather designs into hot glass that produces a more controlled look, is to use a bent tungsten pick.  I use the bent tungsten pick when I want really crisp points in my feathered design.  I love my bent tungsten pick, it has so many uses and gives you so much control over the molten glass.

I use the tungsten pick to produce zigzag feathering, where I have laid stringer color in strips from hole to hole around my bead.  You can use zigzag feathering in lots of design situation, with pleasing results.

Sapphire over Marshmallow with zigzag design.

Sapphire over Marshmallow with zigzag design.

Dichroic zigzag design over Dark and Light Yellow Mimosas

Dichroic zigzag design over Dark and Light Yellow Mimosas

I hope this short blog on feathering will inspire other lampworkers to give it a try.

Lavender blue bicone with diagonal zigzag design.

Lavender blue bicone with diagonal zigzag design.

Raised swirl design in Triton on two color dichroic bead.

Raised swirl design in Triton on two color dichroic bead.

CiM Pumpkin and Smurfy bead with tungsten feathered design.

CiM Pumpkin and Smurfy bead with tungsten feathered design.

Bead out of Spanish Leather with Triton and Hades ribbon zigzag design.

Bead out of Spanish Leather with Triton and Hades ribbon zigzag design.

The Lure of Borosilicate Glass for Soft Glass Artist

Dichroic coatings are available on boro sheet glass in a full range of colors.

Boro Dichroic Bead by Patricia Frantz

Often when I am talking to other soft glass artists, the subject of using Borosilicate Glass for Soft Glass Artist comes into the conversation.  I actually started lampworking with clear borosilicate glass over 20 years ago and I found that the same torch work for both hard and soft glass.

Most beadmakers worry that their torch will not be hot enough to melt borosilicate. Not to worry, the different torch manufacturers have designed some version of a cross-over torch for the soft glass artist that works well with both types of glass.  Nortel made a new torch called a “Mega Minor” which is a bit hotter than the “Minor Bench Burner” that is a cost effective cross-over torch.  There are two torches by Carlisle that are called the “Mini CC Burner” and the “Hellcat Bench Burner”, that work well.  Glass Torch Technology has four different torches that fall under the cross-over category that are the “Bobcat, “Lynx”, “Cheetah” and the “Cricket”.  Some people might think that the “Cricket” doesn’t fall into this group, but I have heard glowing reports from Cricket users who jump back and forth between boro and soft glass and love the torch.

2 1/2 inch Vessel by Jed Hanney

2 1/2 inch Vessel by Jed Hanney

On the subject of borosilicate color, WOW have things changed over the past 15 to 20 years!  When I first started using clear boro glass, I didn’t know of anywhere that I could get boro glass color rods and ended up hand mixing cobalt into clear boro to get blue color rods.  This process is time consuming and with a lot of the minerals that you use for different colors, they are down right toxic.

Glass Alchemy and Northstar have made the borosilicate artist’s palette so full of choices that I feel like a kid in a candy store when I am shopping for boro color rod.  Glass Alchemy also started producing their most popular colors in 4mm thick rods to make the color rods easier for people with smaller torches to.

Raven bead made out of boro and Art Clay

Boro and Silver Clay Raven Bead by Pat Frantz

If you are a soft glass artist and you have been thinking of trying some borosilicate, I say go for it.  It is an interesting change from soft glass that is full of possibilities.

Boro Glass Spinning Top by George O'Grady

Boro Glass Spinning Top by George O'Grady

Boro Murrini Bead by Kevin O'Grady

Boro Murrini Bead by Kevin O'Grady

 

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