Combed & Raised


     This is a fun bead to make. This bead is achieved by laying out a pattern of dots and a centerline on a blank bead and melting it all down smooth. You will then comb the pattern into a design that you will leave raised. I offer this project as a way to practice two very important aspects of bead making. First, you will have to accurately place an array of dots and a line on a blank bead and keep the pattern precise during the melting process. Second, you will have to comb this pattern with a controlled and even touch to achieve the final design.

A lampwork studio and general bead making supplies.
2. A beginnerís skill level in bead making is required.

This pattern is simple and yet exact. You start with a single line of color around the perimeter of a fine round bead (see LP Oct. 01). [Photo #1, above, with this step]

2. Next, place eight dots, in two sets of four, on the sides of the bead. Each set is placed near the line of color but not touching it. When placing the second set of dots, be sure to place them out of step in relation to the first set of dots on the other side of the bead. Later, during combing, we will comb the edge of any one dot across the centerline and into the open space between two dots. [Photo #2 with this step]

3. Next, you melt all these applied colors into a bead. To be more precise, you will melt the ten elements you have placed together on the mandrel, into a single bead. The key to keeping these dots in their proper place after the melting process is this: Melt the raised dots and line first. Bring the raised work to a yellow heat while trying not to target the entire bead with the flame. When the dots are melted almost flat, the bead should still be somewhat hard through most of its depth. This prevents the dots from floating on a loosened core as you melt them down. Next, target the entire bead and bring it to a full yellow heat and allow it to loosen all the way to the core for a VERY brief moment. The entire bead must be loosened to the core so that surface tension can draw the base bead and all the elements of the design into a single unit of glass. You then capture the bead by centering its gravity as it cools and hardens.
4.As you melt the nine applied bits of glass into the base bead an interesting thing happens to the pattern. The dots widen and crowd the centerline into a perfect wavy line around the bead! Remember this effect as a design tool for future work. [Photo # 3 with this step]

5. Next, apply another dot of color to each dot already on the bead. These dots are applied slightly off center favoring the inner edge (near the wavy line). This placement allows the color of the first set of dots more visibility in the final design. [Photo #4]. It is now necessary to melt these eight dots into the base bead. Care should again be taken during the melting operation. First, be sure not to let the pattern rotate around the axis of the mandrel, and two, be sure to melt the pattern first then the base bead. [Photo #5]

6. The final stage is the combing of the pattern into a raised design. There are two methods of combing in use by bead makers today. First, there is combing with a metal hook or pick, and second, combing by glass stringer tip. Both methods are fine for this project.

     To comb this pattern, select a dot on the right side of the pattern and apply a small area of quick, bright yellow heat that covers where you will begin and where you will end your comb. Do not heat the entire bead or heat too deeply because your combing will pull the entire bead off center. Next, apply your tool to the edge of the dot and comb the glass to the left side of the bead ending between two dots as you burn off. [Photo #6]. Comb all the right-hand dots to the left, and then comb all the left-hand dots to the right. At this point you are finished unless you elect to melt the raised pattern into a smooth bead. [Photo #7 with this step]

7. The success of this bead relies on two points. The first is that you must achieve a well-melted pattern that stays in place before you begin to comb the design. The second point is that you must comb the entire pattern with an even touch.

     Enjoy the challenge and stay on center. James Smircich

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