Mandrels and Bead Release

As a boro glass beadmaker, I’m prone to pushing my “consumables” to the limit and beyond. Mandrels and bead release both take a lot of abuse at my hands. It’s no trouble at all to melt through a 3/32″ stainless steel welding rod as I smooth out the glass I just wound onto it…that is, if the bead release on that mandrel hasn’t already cracked and broken off in the initial heating.

Even if the bead release survives the initial heating, there’s a good chance that as I start shaping and pressing and reheating the bead it will either flake off the rod (often landing in the molten glass just where I don’t want it) or break loose UNDER the glass, leaving me with a free-spinning blob that won’t stay still to be shaped into a bead. If I try using one of the “super-holding” bead releases instead, the challenge comes when trying to remove the bead from the mandrel after annealing, and then in cleaning the bead release off the bead — dirty beads being a big no-no!

Trying to make boro beads on a 1/16″ mandrel to get the tiny holes so helpful when making earrings wasn’t something I considered at all until Mike Aurelius of Auralens started selling high-temperature steel mandrels. He claimed, when I asked, that the 1/16″ size would indeed hold up to boro work or I could have my money back.

At about the same time, I met John and Tara Roberts at the Atlanta Bead Extravaganza. John had reached the same conclusion about bead release as I and several others — bead releases formulated and tested in the Desert Southwest, or even the Pacific Northwest, just aren’t going to work well in the hot, humid Southeast.? John, though, had gone further and developed his own formula especially for this climate. He gave every lampworking vendor at the ABE a sample bottle and asked us all to test it out and see how it worked for us.

Finally I’ve gotten a chance to test both Mike’s mandrels and John’s bead release. Both are living up to their claims rather well so far!

I did manage to burn through the first of Mike’s mandrels that I tried, but let’s face it, I was TRYING to burn through it. Yes, I succeeded, but it took some work to do so! Since that one, I’ve taken reasonable care with teeny beads on those skinny skinny mandrels and have had no problems.

John’s bead release will eventually flake with enough hard pressing, but again, that’s real abuse. By and large it holds the glass very well without cracking and flaking at the first sign of heat and pressure like so many of the other formulas. The beads are coming right off the mandrels with just a little soak beforehand, and the bead poop cleans out of the holes with just a quick pass or two of my diamond-tip reamer in my mini-Dremel.? So far I’d say it deserves its name of “Best Bead Release.”

I’ll be getting more of both these products when I run low!

1 comment

    • Robin on January 4, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Wow, thanks for the info on the bead release. I’ve been having problems recently with flaking bead release – I’ll have to try it.

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