Learn How to Make Easy Enameled Beads
Learning how to work with a torch to create handmade glass beads was one of the best things I ever learned. There was something inspiring about being able to handle the flame of a torch and use it to melt and wind glass roads into my own handmade glass beads. Now that I'm doing more with mixed media jewelry techniques, I find myself using other kinds of handheld torches, and those flameworking skills are certainly being put to good use! Once you're comfortable using a single fuel torch, it's easy to transition to making your own enameled beads using a simple technique using copper tubing. These enameled beads are perfect for mixed media jewelry-making projects, too.
Jewelry Making Daily's Tammy Jones saw this fabulous and easy tutorial on enameling copper tube beads done by Ruth Price, a member of Tammy's Tennessee metal clay guild. If you've ever wanted to learn more about how easy it is to make gorgeous enamel beads on copper tubing, check out this great tutorial!
Enameling Copper Tube Beads
Prepare before you begin:
- copper tubing (diameter to fit lampworking rods) cut into segments (any length you want) and cleaned with ammonia, pickle, or baking soda (until water spills off and doesn't bead up)
- an old coffee can of vermiculite warming on a hotplate
- narrow piles of 80-mesh enameling powder in various colors (not too close together, they need room to spread out) on a lazy Susan or something similar (something that won't melt and that you can easily turn with one hand)
- a standing torch strapped safely in place so you can work with the flame hands-free
- several lampworking rods with copper tubing segments inserted on the ends
To enamel on copper tube beads:
1. Heat the copper-tube bead on the end of the lampwork glass rod and roll the copper through some enamel powder to pick up your first layer.
2. Move the bead into the flame, turning it slowly so that it gets heated evenly and the molten glass–which the enameling powder is becoming–doesn't drip. Keep turning the rod and moving the bead in and out of the flame, checking for the enamel to fuse into the "orange peel" stage (where the surface of the glass is textured like a dimpled orange peeling). When that is achieved, move the rod out of the flame.
3. Roll the hot enameled bead through the powders again to pick up more powder–either more of the same color or a new color–and repeat the process, turning the rod slowly and moving it into and out of the flame.
Note: You can't mix enamel colors to achieve a new color like you mix paint. Red and blue won't make purple, etc. The powders don't melt together, they fuse–and each color will remain present. You can, however, play with color by enameling in thin layers.
4. Continue adding layers to create unique color patterns and/or to increase the size of the bead. When all of your layering is done and you've achieved the look and size that you want, continue heating the bead in the flame, checking it occasionally until the powder's surface is no longer orange-peel textured but glassy and smooth.
5. After you remove the bead from the flame, keep turning it about 45 seconds to a minute to prevent dripping or drooping and also to allow it to cool slightly; then stick the bead in the warm vermiculite.
6. Allow the enameled beads to cool and anneal slowly in the vermiculite. When you're done making beads, turn off the hot plate and allow the vermiculite to cool slowly as well.
Voila! It's as easy as that–roll and heat, roll and heat. If you can properly roast a marshmallow on a fire, I think you can make enameled copper-tube beads! And aren't they gorgeous? You couldn't make two identical ones if you tried, and I love their truly one-of-a-kind nature. Plus it's so quick and easy to do!
Whether you're brand-new to enameling and mixed media jewelry techniques, or you're looking for some innovative new ideas and techniques for creating enameled jewelry, you'll love Explorations in Jewelry Enameling: Torch and Kiln Techniques with Susan Lenart Kazmer. Susan's cool techniques and tutorials for creating mixed media jewelry components with enameling techniques will have you creating hot mixed media jewelry-making components! Get your copy of Explorations in Jewelry Enameling: Torch and Kiln Techniques with Susan Lenart Kazmer and explore the world of enamel jewelry.