I first saw large mandrels on the BerlinBeads website and I was intrigued to play with them… so, whilst in Berlin, my good friend ‘Coach M’ kindly visited their shop and purchased a range of them on my behalf 🙂 Having the tools to create different size holes in glass beads, or create larger diameters in glass sculptures, is pretty important!

Glass beads in the kiln for annealing… on a nice variety of mandrel sizes!

The occasion to try them all out at once was rather tantalising, so I promised my mother that a nice bracelet would be created on her behalf should all go relatively well!

As you can see from the kiln photo, I did manage to create some glass beads of varying hole sizes… The mandrels shown here have widths of: 8mm, 6mm, 5mm and 3.2mm (5/16″, 1/4″, 3/16″ and 1/8″ respectively).

In previous projects I have only used mandrel sizes of 1.6mm (1/16″) and 2.0mm  (1/12″), so handling the new sizes was quite a joy (and an arm ache)!

My mother chose a green and white colour scheme for her bracelet, so I selected some glass rods and prepared the flame!

Flame and glass all ready for my larger mandrels experiment!

When the mandrels are prepared with the ‘bead release’ fluid – I do this the night before and leave them to dry naturally overnight – air will be trapped within. To remove this trapped air, the mandrel is pre-heated in the flame  just before molten glass is applied.  You will see lots of tiny sparks fly away from the dried ‘bead release’, and after a few seconds the mandrel is ready to work with 🙂

Preparing the large mandrel to receive molten glass

Preparing the large mandrel to receive molten glass

Trying out one of the slightly larger mandrels

Here, I’m assessing the glass weight on the 3.2mm mandrel. The size of the hole versus the size of glass applied is a delicate balance. I am becoming more aware of this aspect of the aesthetic as I wire up more jewellery with different materials (rubber cord, leather cord, metal cable, silver chain, etc.), and the tension created on the clasps and split rings (termed findings in the jewellery design world!). Ultimately, the wearer must feel comfortable with the weight and enjoy the glass artefact!

Cracked ‘bead release’ during a work in progress!

Here is a good example where the stainless steel mandrel had not been cleaned enough before the ‘bead release’ was applied. New mandrels are usually a bit oily (from their production) and you are advised to place them in the dishwasher for a very good clean or soak them. I hand-washed these the first time, and a few mandrels were obviously still harbouring invisible oils!

The result is simply that once the mandrel is heated in the flame, any such weaknesses in the ‘bead release’ will become very apparent as it cracks or sloughs off the mandrel. The glass creation has to be aborted if and when this happens, and sadly you lose the glass art too.


Larger mandrel = larger hole = wider scope for wiring beads!

So… working for 4-5 hours each session using these big mandrels, you will attain a very good hand and arm workout! 😉  This is because throughout the whole torching process, the mandrel must be evenly and continuously rotated in the flame, whether you are applying molten glass, flame-polishing or just keeping it warm before putting it in the kiln for annealing. Else, the glass will ‘shock’ and break during the flame process or shortly after, and then the art work is lost!

And so, the result of two days atelier work with these mandrels created enough beads for two full bracelet sets (4o+ beads) and about 10 very large-holed glass beads useful for necklaces, clothing decoration (as seen often in bikinis and scarf ties) or put to one side for a future project!

Bracelet for my mother!

And now, with this new interest in mandrel sizes, I have just bought some 4mm (1/6″) mandrels!! 🙂

The 4mm’s could be used to create beads to fit the commercial Pandora , Chamilia and Biagi bracelets… if I was so compelled to do that of course! These particular brands place a metal grommet in the glass charm hole and usually have their brand name stamped all over the metal, which I personally find too intrusive.

In my humble opinion, there should always be an aesthetic balance between the glass art and the other materials used when constructing a piece of jewellery, otherwise the piece can easily edge towards ‘bling-dom’ 🙂

More mandrel articles to come I’m sure!!


Glass rods used: The opaques – Nile Green (#1214), Mint Green (#1213) and Pastel White (#1204), and; the transparents – Light Grass Green (#1020), Medium Grass green (#1022) and Dark Grass Green (#1024), as well as Clear Special (#1006). And a little Ivory (#1264) and Dark Ivory (#1276).

Originally published: Thursday, May 29th, 2014 at 22:44 in Atelier, Inspiration


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

No tags for this item


You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Size matters!”

  1. Julia Akers says:

    Stunning work Juss – just shown Ma this after she received it today! She loves it. I’m sure these will sell like hot cakes with cream tea in Ilkley too ;-))

    • 😀 I had to hold off publishing the article until I knew she’d received it 🙂 Didn’t want to spoil the surprise!

      I have a backlog of several atelier articles at the moment (torchwork and fusing) as I’ve been creating artefacts for people but can’t publish until they’re delivered! All part of the experience of sharing my work now I guess!


Security question * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

See also:

%d bloggers like this: