I work mostlywith borosilicate glass (better known as Pyrex), which tends to make me a mandrel-killer. These mandrels are stainless steel TIG welding rods so are meant to handle heat…just not the kind of heat I need to make that glass MOVE where and how it’s supposed to move.
I burn through 3/32″ mandrels routinely when working on bigger/more complex beads or when trying to do two or three basics on a single rod. I can even burn through a 1/8″ mandrel without any real problem. I haven’t quite burned through a 5/32″ mandrel (the ones I use for Pandora/Troll type beads) but I’ve come unnervingly close.
Trying to make small beads with small holes for earrings and such calls for a 1/16″ mandrel. With ordinary mandrels they are an exercise in futility for me. Fifteen seconds in the flame and POOF! PLOP! There’s my molten glass on the tabletop with a mandrel bit sticking out each end, destined only for a watery grave.
Then AuraLens came out with their “Almost Indestructable Mandrels” in a variety of sizes, including that impossible 1/16″ size AND two even tinier sizes. Their website states “Imagine being able to make three or more borosilicate beads on a mandrel and not having the mandrel melt from excessive heat.”
“Suuuuure you can,” said my Inner Skeptic.
I asked Mike Aurelius if that claim was for real. He assured me it was, so I promptly ordered three dozen 1/16″ Almost Indestructible Mandrels. I don’t make tiny beads every session, so it’s taken me a while to really give them a workover.
The verdict from here? “Almost” is the operative word. I’ve destroyed several of them so far, but I’ve had to work at it harder, quite a bit harder, than with regular mandrels. If I use a little common sense and turn my flame down a bit (which I should do for the smaller beads anyway), I really can make three nicely shaped 9-10mm or so earring beads on one mandrel and not melt through it. For me, they are worth it. If you find yourself being a mandrel-killer, you may want to
check them out yourself.