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~ Bead-release breakage problems ~


Bead release is a compound which allows you to remove a bead from the stainless-steel mandrel after it's made.  There are many different kinds of bead release, but my favourite has always been  "Alice's bead release" - I have been using it since I started lampworking, and I love it!  It air-dries in a couple of hours, it's a creamy-white colour, and makes the bead very easy to remove from the mandrel.
Occasionally, the bead release can "break" while you are in the middle of making a bead.  From my own experience, I've noticed that there are a few situations in which Alice's bead-release will break off the mandrel while I'm at the torch:

Force - My beginner students occasionally pull on the bead or push cold glass onto the mandrel with more force than required, usually when making their first bead, which unfortunately breaks the bead release.  I always think that this is great because it instantly illustrates that you have to be gentle and wait until the glass is hot/molten enough to begin adding the glass to the mandrel...

New mandrels -  The surface of a new steel mandrel  is very smooth, and sometimes the bead release doesn't quite stick as well as it should... If this is the case, just lightly rub the new mandrels with some high grade sandpaper or heat the first two inches of the mandrel in the flame, which will burn the steel a bit (cool the mandrel off in a jar of water and dry with a towel before touching or adding bead release).  This process is kind of like sanding a wall before painting it - it gives the steel 'tooth' for the bead release to hold onto...

Overheating -  If you heat the mandrel where the bead-release has dried for any longer than a few seconds, especially using an oxy/propane torch (like a Minor or Lynx) which are generally hotter than a HotHead torch, it starts to burn and break down the release and that can cause the release to break off. I usually pre-warm the mandrel I'm going to use by waving it in and out of the flame for about 3-5 seconds, quite high up in the flame. I find that this is long enough to warm the mandrel sufficiently to allow the glass to stick to the mandrel...

Time I've noticed that the bead-release is more likely to break if left sitting for a while on the mandrels.  If I prepare my mandrels, let them air dry, but then don't get a chance to work at the torch for a few days, the moisture in the air seems to get absorbed by the bead release.  It causes the release powder to breaks down a little bit each day, until it's not really the same consistency as when I first dipped the mandrels... If I've been away from the studio for a few days, I just wash off the old release and prepare the mandrels with fresh release - there's the waiting time for drying, but I try to time it so that I do it a few hours ahead of when I want to torch again...

If you are having bead release breakage problems, I hope that the above ideas will be helpful :-)


 
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