The round bead is the first one you learn how to make. And most of our other shapes take off from the humble round bead. So it is the building block and our most popular bead shape. We buy and sell many thousands of round Gold Foil beads each year.
Murano Glass Torch for Making Beads – the Cannello
First you’ll need a torch, the kind we use in Murano is known as a cannello, it burns without oxygen and at a lower temperature (about 200 degrees) which allows our bead makers to add millefiori, exterior gold foil and to work the bead for a longer time than can be done in American torches. On the other hand, the American torches allow the bead maker to work in a pinpoint flame, which is useful in small decorations but require oxygen.
Effetre Glass Canes – Let’s Make Some Beads
It All Begins With the Canes
It all begins with the selection of the glass canes and there plenty from which to choose. We use Effetre, known generally in the industry as Moretti. It is a soft glass with a COE of 104, Soda Ash Glass which contains no lead and is worked at temperatures of about 945 C which is about 1733 F. Our bead makers work with larger diameter canes and we buy the canes 20 kilo at the time. They know to the gram how much glass it takes to make a bead! So, if we are working on a large order, we want all the beads to be from the same glass batch in the factory in Murano. Because, like carpet and fabric, each batch of glass is slightly different.
Decorations on a Round
Tools of Bronze for Round Venetian Bead
Bead Makers – Can you Rub Your Tummy & Pat Your Head?
While we say that the round is the easiest shape to make, it’s still difficult work sitting in front of the heat, attempting to roll the mandrel in one hand while making sure that the cane is in the heat and wrapping around your mandrel. Well it takes some practice, rather like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time.
Shaping the Round
After you master the round bead you can advance to making many other shapes, it is about learning how much glass you need on the mandrel to make squares, bicones, hearts which we make with tools especially made for forming the shapes.
All these shapes begin as a round
The bead must be thoroughly heated so the temperature is the same throughout the bead which is part of learning how to recognize this when the entire bead is red hot. In Murano, the maestro speak about “knowing” the glass. It is a feel and knowing the exact shade of red you need to be sure the bead is thoroughly heated. Once you are happy with the shape and any decoration, it still must be flash annealed (again to be sure the temperature is consistent).
Rounds Ready to Cool – Vermiculite
Many of our beads are annealed in an electric “furnace” which lets the beads stay at a consistent temperature and then slowly bring the temperature down to prevent shock and breaking. Some of the smaller beads are annealed in vermiculite as in the picture above (the traditional method, though in early days it was just sand from the lagoon).
And they are made one at the time, and as we like to say “No two ever exactly alike!” the beauty of lampwork.
How long are the glass rods? They look too long to handle without breaking! There is so much talent & expertese in making beads, I do admire those who have such a talent.
They are about 3 feet long, it’s the standard size used in Murano. Their tables accommodate the length. Those you may see sold in lampworking supply stores have been cut for selling to hobby bead makers are about 18 inches and they are much smaller in diameter, 3-5mm. Yes it is a talent, several of our bead makers started in the industry as glass blowers in the furnaces of Murano and their skills working the glass are exceptional.
I have several questions, thanks in advance for your patience with me.
In the photo with the cannello torch; the grey stone looking hollow oval enclosure around the working flame and bead – what is that called? Are their shapes & details standardized based on the type of work or the beadmaker?
In the same photo, what is in the small bowl that appears to be white powder (soda lime? baking powder?)? And, what is it’s use?
The 200 degrees on the cannello torch I’m assuming are centigrade? And, what type of gas is being used? Is there ever a use for multiple torches, such as using a cannello for the basic bead, and the ‘American’ pinpointed oxygen-mix torch used to add fine detail?
Bead release; I’m assuming that the volume of bead release used at this level of bead production requires either a simple recipe or a very good and reasonably price source. Can you tell me more about it?
Also, I notice that the small red beads do not have and release showing – is it not used? If not how are these beads removed from the mandrel?
Sadly, this is just a few questions I have, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with too many.
Ok, we’ll try to answer your questions.
1)The curved back is used for reflection of the heat. There is only one shape/size and they are produced in Murano for the beadmakers.
2)The small bowl is frit as we were making a Nuvola bead which puts small flecks of an opaque white cane inside. The frit is just ground up glass. We grind for the specific decoration.
3)In this case it is Farenheit. The gas they use is similar to the propane of the US. The American type just adds oxygen to the mix, which burns hotter. While I suppose you could use both types of torches, it would require us to work in a 2 person team, which is of course a possibiity. One on the cannello and one on the American torch.
4)Bead release. The beads you see are on copper mandrels. The copper is etched out with acid. For a more detailed discussion, visit our website: http://www.venetianbeadshop.com/Beadmaking_ep_38-1.html We do use bead release in a limited application for some beads which we do not want to put into the acid as the acid has a reaction with exterior gold and silver foil.