This was the first time I tried to make beads so this blog post is certainly not a tutorial, but the process was fun and interesting so I wanted to write about it. I've wanted to make beads for a long time to add to my Etsy supplies shop, but I believed you needed to use liquid enamels or 60 mesh enamels and I didn't want to buy a whole new set of. I've seen some gorgeous torch fired enameled beads but I wanted to use my kiln. I envisioned smooth shiny beads in bright beautiful colors! Someone I was talking to about beads (and I'm sorry but I can't remember who) told me I could use my 80 mesh powdered enamels as long as I counter enameled the beads with some liquid enamel on the inside. I bought a bead rack, copper blank beads, and white liquid enamel and got ready to experiment!
First I scrubbed the beads with Penny Brite and while they were drying I mixed the enamel. There were a variety of mixing methods and complicated sounding stuff in the pamphlet so I picked the easiest. You make a well in the powder and fill it with water several times until the top looks wet, then you mix until the consistency of paint. Easy! Then, using an eyedropper, I put some wet enamel in the tiny hole of the bead and rolled it around in my hand hoping to cover the inside. Very messy! I wanted the enamel to dry completely so I let it the beads sit overnight.
The next beads I cleaned again with the Penny Brite and they were more successful. I put three coats of enamel on my beads before I got the smooth and shiny surface I was hoping for! I think next time I will increase the temperature of my kiln. It took a long time to fire the beads and the enamel got a little bumpy with some colors, as if it flowed a bit in the kiln. Another problem I had was the beads got stuck to the mandrel. I had to bend and twist and broke off some enamel near the holes. I read that you could use bead release or Scalex on the mandrel. I don't have Scalex but I do have some flux (the kind you use for soldering) so I'll try that on my next batch. I also want to try some effects with different colors, transparents, and putting a coat of clear on first. I'm pretty happy with my beads!
|My colorful finished beads!|