So, you want to make Glass Beads?
by Barbara Robinson - Written in 2004


After my last article entitled "Lampwork Beadmaking in Australia" there was a veritible onslaught of requests for much more information.
Hence, this article evolved to give more insight into Glass Beadmaking.

What's involved, what you need, things to be aware of, and last but not least - where to find

even more help should you choose to learn more or get started!


Generally speaking, there are 2 routes into the wonderful world of Lampwork Beadmaking. The path of the Hobbyist, and that of the Potential Business.
I'm going to give you some comparisons from which to gain a perspective,

but please remember that I am making very brief generalizations here!
No guarantees on quoted prices, nor that it can't be done for less money in certain cases. Your mileage will vary according to your willingness to shop around for the best deals, and "best" doesn't always mean cheapest or vice versa!


At bare minimum, you're going to need a Torch designed for Beadmaking, Safety Glasses to protect your Eyes from hot fragments, Mandrels to make the Beads on by winding molten glass around them, Bead Release to coat the Mandrels with so you can remove the Beads after they've cooled, of course you'll need Glass, and you'll need a way to cool the Beads slowly or they will crack. For this you'll need either Vermiculite or a Ceramic Fiber Blanket.

Beyond the "bare minimum," the sky is the limit. Tools and Supplies are endless in variety and availability, but first it's time to draw that comparison I was talking about earlier. Then answer some of the common questions that arise about Lampwork Beadmaking.


Hobbyist Basic Entry Level:

*Hot Head Torch, Adaptor and Hose system & a common BBQ Bottle
*Propane Tank
*Heat Resistant Work Surface
*Mandrels, Bead Release and a few Basic Tools
*Vermiculite or Fiber Blanket
*Safety Glasses
*Glass Rods assortment - 25 Rods

*Plan to spend a minimum of:
$250 - $500 for items as listed

Best way to get everything for around this price is to buy it in a pre-selected "Kit" form. The Kits are usually designed to give the beginner everything they need to get started and enough to decide if they wish to progress further into Beadmaking or not.

Smaller start-up investment
Portability - Easily transported to Classes or Beadmaker Social Events.
Convenience - Can be put away between uses and Torch is simpler to learn
Hot Head Torch is noisy, and slower to melt Glass.
Need to hire Kiln time to anneal the Beads or run the risk of breakage.
Greater difficulty making large or sculptural Beads.

Potential Business Basic Entry Level:

*Minor Burner Torch + Hoses, Regulators, etc.
*Propane Tank
*Oxygen Tank or Oxygen Concentrator
*Heatproof Workbench
*Safety Glasses - Aur92 or Didymium to protect eyes sufficiently
*Mandrels, Bead Release and a few Basic Tools
*Glass Rods assortment - 10kilos
*Kiln, Pyrometer and Thermocouple

*Plan to spend a minimum of:
$1,800 - $3,500

Again, a preselected "Kit" is probably going to get you the best price for this setup.
In Australia Kilns specifically made for Beadmaking have recently become more easily available, but they aren't normally included in Kits.

Minor Burner Torch (or comparable) is much quieter and burns much hotter, Glass melts quicker, Beads can be made faster.
Fewer limitations on what can be made.
Beads will be annealed so you can sell them amidst a competitive market.
Much higher investment to start up and to maintain.
More complex Torch, steeper learning curve.
Requires dedicated Workspace/Studio
Restricted portability.


A few of the more common Questions raised:

"How long does it take to make a Bead?"
Beads can take as little as 3 minutes or as long as an hour or more depending on their complexity and your proficiency.
An accomplished Beadmaker may spend even more time on a Bead depending on the amount of inclusions, details, layers, elements that must be made in advance, etc.


"Do I have to take a Course?" The short answer? No.
There are many accomplished and very successful Beadmakers who have never taken any formal training in their Art. We are also fortunate nowadays to have the advantage of many excellent Books, Videos, and DVD's on the Market, thanks to the Beadmaking Pioneers!
BUT, nothing replaces watching Beadmaking being demonstrated live!
There are Courses available now in every Major city in Australia, as well as outlying areas. If opportunity presents, go for it! Check out the Instructor's qualifications, but by all means give yourself that extra leg up if you can.


"Do I have to have a Shed, or Studio to work in?"
Again the short answer is No, but you DO need a SAFE place to work in. You're working with Fire here! You need to make your space safe from hot flying Glass fragments, open flame and heat from the Torch, have good ventilation and lighting, as well as a comfortable supportive chair or stool.

You need a fire extinguisher and cool water nearby, and you need to observe

appropriate safety protocols.


"Is a Kiln really necessary?"
Only to anneal your Beads. Kiln-annealed Beads are standard if you wish to sell them for going market prices. Assuming you wish your beads to have a long and (whole) healthy life, they will need to be annealed. For the amount of money involved, it only makes sense to do it right!


Lampworking can be both exciting and overwhelming at first with too many things to consider at once, but I can reasonably promise you that it is well worth the effort to learn! Due to space limitations (Magazine Editor allotted 1,000 words) this article is much briefer than I would have liked. You are invited to contact me - Barbara - with your questions on: to discuss in-depth any issues concerning Lampwork Beadmaking.
This website also has regularly updated listings of resources and sources of further information.


*About the Author:
Barbara Robinson has been involved in Beads and Beadmaking for over 40 years. She is the Coordinator of the Brisbane Beadmaker Meets, as well as the Initiator and Founder of the AGBG.
Barbara sells her Beads as well as Lampwork Equipment, Tools and Supplies on eBay and on her website:


ALL materials above are Copywrite protected.
Do not reproduce in any manner - full or partial - without permission from the Author!