Lampworking 101 - How can I get started

I want to make beads !

In general

When I first started I did not have a proper set up to start lampworking- I had to put it away every time I sat down and played - I then decided if I wanted to do this  - I needed a space that had good ventilation lots of fresh air and a place I did not have to set up and pack up every time.

I opted for a  window that had a fan and an open door  for the make up air  to start - something that  was circulating the air in the area I was sitting.  I put four floor tiles down on a bench  then I  got a sheet of the galvanized metal at home depot to cover my table.

There are beginner kits such as  the fireworks kit - that has basically a hot head torch -
mandrels , glass release for the mandrels and the fittings for the MAPP gas container (you have to buy the mapp gas  at Home Depot or Lowes) .
Nothing wrong with this version - its just slower at glass melting and this can frustrate you to no end  which means you may not enjoy the process.

So what do I really need

A table that can withstand hot glass dripping - ideally if you have a stainless steel table that would be perfect - but not always feasible - As I mentioned go to Home Depot and buy a flat sheet of the galvanized steel  sheeting  in the HVAC section - this is used for duct work and easy to cut to fit your table .

Positioning the table - if you can have it so that the flame will face to an open area rather than to a wall that would be great - but if facing a wall  (your table is typically about 2 feet wide ) you want to protect that wall as well - again a sheet of galvanized metal on your wall will help and protect it.

Ideally a vent of sorts that will take fumes and heat away from your torch while you are playing .  Again visit the HVAC dept go get round or rectangular vents , some metal flexible tubing (like you get for your dryer) and you will need an exhaust fan of sorts that go to the outside  for venting -  I went to  Southern Supply in Oshawa and had them build me a vent hood (was 8 x 5)  the price was ridiculously low - I thought it would be expensive but it was only about 350.00   and then I bought the exhaust fan which was also about 350.00  but the whole thing covers a huge work area in my studio-  you may have to pay about the same for the exhaust fan but in the end well worth it.

Alternate ventilation
to start get a fan that will halp with the circulation of air.  Have a window partially open - this is good in a large open space - like a garage .  Or buy a cheaper vent fan at home depot or princess auto that will extract  air from the room where your working


A proper  torch requires propane and oxygen to give you a hot flame for melting glass . I suggest the Nortel Minor (my fav of 17 years )

or the Nortel Mega Minor
either one are ideal torches


 a standard BBQ tank - a full tank lasts a long time
-Image result for bbq propane tank
guages for the propane tank (fuel guage)  there are various brands out there  - in Canada check out Praxair

flash back arrestor for the propane Image result for lampwork northern flashback arrestor(green oxy - red propane)  I prefer the quick connects (praxiar)

Hoses and fittings - praxair/princess auto , home depot  Gas Twin Hose Set

an oxygen concentrator - there are a lot of brands out ther - the higher LPM  are the ones you want  -   the cost may seem high but compared to tank gas pays off  in the long run(matter of months) and is more convenient

 I have the same 4 concentrators for the last 17 years  ( I use two concentrators on my set up but there are now oxy cons that product sufficient amount of oxygen that you only need 1 to start.

And of course a bead kiln -  Many choices out there - I love my old mailbox kiln and my big silver bullet by the Glasshive  but I also have  a 9" kiln that has a center ring that has an opening for mandrels and I can fuse with it too - so again many choices out there - I prefer the brick kilns - but the fiber kilns are equally as good - its going to be  a huge cost plus shipping here in Canada to find the best deal so check around with various dealers who bring them in such as Nortel for the Paragon kilns.

Other than a kiln options to get you started right away 

If you cant get a kiln right away  then you can use a fiber blanket  (is purchased in two pcs per pack )  or some vermiculite to start - but you need to anneal the beads in the end -
fiber blanket 

vermiculite in crock pot

Tools-Basic tools

  • Didymium Glasses - there are various out there - even basic pair to start is best - I added  bifocals to mine so I can see up close - get something that fits that your not pushing up your nose all the time 
  • Mandrels of various sizes - I prefer a 12" long of any size 
  • Bead Release - there are various brands out there for bead release - I love my fusion bead release in the large bottle - that way you can have larger dips on the mandrel 
  • Graphite paddle for shaping -
    I prefer a basic graphite paddle but there are lots out there to choose from - I like the larger  paddle so you can do from small to large - on one paddle 
  • Tungsten pick - small med large - pick the med to start 
  • Parallel mashers 
Hate to tell you but there are hundreds of designs for paddles and paddles with designs , tools of all sorts - 

 My basics on my table I use all the time 
1 pair of Didymium glasses 
1 leather apron  ( I like to torch in the summer and it protects my bare legs ) 
1 large graphite paddle
1 pair of dollar store pliers with ridges
1 pair tweezers (small )
1 pair tweezers (large)
2 tungsten pics (large) (small )
1 Sharon Sculpting tool (ss handle with razor )
1 set of parallel  mashers
lots and lots of dipped mandrels 

and of course Glass

some places will sell you a mix  grab that as you can then try the different colors 

Ongoing update to this start up - this is to just get you going

will post Nortels version of a start up  which lists all the items you need as well

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