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[Enamel Bits] making beads

Hi, Pam: Saw your website. I’ve been trying to make beads,
although my major work is in metals. I love the colors. I also
do enameling. So far my problem with making beads is getting two
beads alike, in size, shape and coloration. That, of course, is
important if you want earrings. Any hints?

Frances in Ohio

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Fran: I use one of those brass caliper things that you use to
measure they cost about $5. Make your first bead, then
measure it (quickly, to avoid cracking-) before you put it in
kiln or insulating blanket. Keep it set to the size you want, then
measure the second bead as you work on it. With experience, you
will be able to make them without doing much in the way of
measuring. Remember not to touch the brass caliper to the glass,
just hold it close enough that you can judge. Anne

Hi Frances,

When making enameled beads with a torch and working to get sets I
usually found it helpful to make 6-10 of the same bead aiming for
a similar size each time and in the end you get a couple that are
pretty darn close. As with any handmade thing…the slightly
differing nature is part of the charm, as I always say to the

Here are some ways I worked to make the beads similar though.
Make one bead, have it cool and set it aside on a heat proof
surface so you can hold your dups up to compare it with. Make
sure your tubing is the same size, exactly. Lay out any strings
of enamel or chunks you plan to incorporate into your bead ahead
of time so you make sure the sizes are about the same. These
sound like simple ideas but the beads look different when hot and
these things can be hard to judge in the heat of the moment…bad
pun not really intended.



My first “hint” would be practice, practice, practice! G I
guess you want something more substantial than that, right? One
thing I do is make sure all my tubing is cut to exactly the same
length and then I make 8 to 10 beads at one sitting. I do my
best to make sure they are all the same size, shape and
color/pattern. With that many finished beads to choose from,
and I can almost always pair them all up. At most, I end up
with two that don’t match well.

If you are making a white or clear bead, and laying the color on
top, be sure to pay close attention to how big the bead is before
you add the color. There is a tendancy to end up making the base
of the second bead as big as the finished first bead. Remember
that when you add the color you will be adding more mass to the
bead. You have to allow for that.

Honestly though, your ability to size and shape your beads the
way you want WILL improve with practice. It’s something you just
get a feel for after a while.

Good luck!

Pam East