How to Make Glass Beads. Man has made glass beads for more than 2,000 years and has used them in many ways, from decorations to currency. Techniques of the glassmaking industry were trade secrets until the early 17th century. A popular method of bead making produces "lamp worked" or "wound" beads, so-called because the glass rods were heated in the flame of an oil lamp and the molten glass was wound onto a rod.
The hottest part of the flame is the tip of the inner, blue cone.
Keep turning the glass rod and mandrel to heat them evenly. If the glass is too cool, it will be hard to wind around the mandrel and may cause the bead release to release too soon. Use gravity to help shape the molten bead. Thick areas of glass cool more slowly than thin areas. If you use vermiculite, heat it in a Crock-Pot. Wet or soak the mandrel with water when removing the bead to help reduce airborne bead release dust. Grind off any sharp edges around the hole with extra-fine emery paper.
Heating the glass rod too quickly will cause popping, sending hot glass pieces flying. Putting your bead into the fiber blanket or vermiculite when too hot will leave marks on the bead. The bead should make a clinking sound when lightly tapped against a hard surface. Do not attempt to reheat a cooled bead. Internal stresses may cause it to shatter. Using a torch will create a lot of heat and carbon monoxide. Prevent a buildup of both of these by working outside or ventilating your work area with an exhaust fan. Always keep your heatproof work surface clear of all flammable material. Molten glass exceeds 1,000 degrees F and can cause severe burns on contact. Even glass that doesn't look hot can still be hundreds of degrees.
Always remember which end of your glass rod is hot. Bead release can create hazardous dust when dry. Keep your work area clean and wipe up any dry bead release with a damp cloth. Tie back any long hair and avoid wearing loose-fitting long sleeves. Improperly heated or cooled glass can pop and shatter, sending glass pieces flying. Always wear safety glasses and shoes in your work area.