Please read Making Glass Beads by Cindy Jenkins. Most bead-making catalogs sell it, and it can be ordered from any bookstore. This book has all the basic information you need to teach yourself to do hot glass work: tools, setting up your workspace, heating glass, and many techniques for putting designs on and in glass.

It would take me weeks to type all this information, so I’m only going to include specific bits as I go along. I strongly recommend the book as a resource.

I want to point out that I am entirely self-taught ( I used the book mentioned above), and some of my methods are the result of “figuring out a way to make it work” and may not be the methods used by other marble makers.

Also, although I am a professional illustrator with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from a prestigious art school, learning to make marbles was a whole new world for me! None of my art experience (except perhaps the ability to visualize what the finished item should look like ) was of much help!

Humbling discovery for me, but hopefully encouraging for you! It took me many attempts to get to the point where I could consistently make good marbles. It was an entirely new skill that required practice.

As with any skill, glass working must be learned, and as with any craft, I believe it can be learned by almost anyone who is motivated to try.

The following instructions are my methods, requiring the tools that I use, to make marbles with a Hot Head torch. I am assuming that you have a table, fireproof surface, and the holder for the torch/gas, know how you want your tools arranged, and have practiced heating glass to get the “feel” for it.

Read “Making Glass Beads”!!! My tools: a Hot Head torch, MAPP gas, sparker for lighting torch, a torch marver, a 10″ serrated end tweezers, mellon, rod nipper (tile cutter), marble mold, a holder for final fire polishing, Moretti glass rods: 5mm transparent light/medium blue, 5mm transparent yellow/amber, 5mm opaque white, 2 rods 8mm transparent clear and a Kiln, (if you don’t have a kiln you will need to ask someone else about how to use vermiculite or a fiber blanket.

IMPORTANT–My technique involves cutting hot rods of marbles, so you will need to have a place to do this that is fireproof and somewhere the cut rod can not roll away
(your hands will be full, and the rod will drop free).

ONE MORE THING–Do a “dry run”. I still do this when trying some new idea; practice each step without the torch on. PRETEND to do each step–pickup the tools, go through the motions, note where you tend to set things back down, watch out for having to reach awkwardly for items.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR A PRETTY RIBBON CORE MARBLE approximate time to make: 20 minutes.

1. Sit straight! The work involves intense concentration and you don’t want to be a pretzel when your done!

2. Decide exactly what you will do and lay out everything you will need. In this case, the glass will be opaque white, transparent blue, and transparent yellow.

3. Turn on your kiln, if you haven’t already.

4. Light the torch and heat one end of the clear 8mm rods. When it is hot, roll the end on the marver to make it narrow to a blunt point. Set it aside and do the same with the other. these will be your “punties”.

5. Heat one end of the white rod. Allow the glass to slump back into itself to make a blob on the end of the rod (like my technical terms?).

6. When the blob is drippy hot, squash it into a lollipop by pressing it against the torch marver with the side of the marble mold or knife blade or other flat tool. The lollipop should be about 5/8″ to 3/4″ wide to make a marble of about that size.

7. Return the lollipop to the flame to keep it warm but don’t let it melt. Wave it slowly back and forth about 3″ above the flame.

8. While continuing to do #7 ( this is where you need to be able to do two different things simultaneously), take the blue glass rod and heat the end of it into a ball big enough to make a hemisphere that will cover one side of the lollipop. When it is drippy hot, press it against the side of the lollipop so that it spreads to the edges (or nearly–it will “ball up” a bit).

9. Melt the blue rod off the blob. It is not a hemisphere at this point, but more of a Hershies Kiss.

10. Repeat #8 with the yellow rod and press in onto the other side of the lollipop.

11. Melt the yellow rod off the blob.

12. Heat the big blob thus formed until the glass begins to melt together. KEEP TURNING IT SO IT HEATS EVENLY AND DOESN’T DROOP. Be careful not to heat the white rod too much! You may lose the marble off if you do.

13. Hold the glass out of the flame, take your big tweezers and grasp the blob opposite the rod where the three colors meet. Twist the blob to make the white ribbon into a spiral. Do it slowly! Only half of the white may twist–that’s fine. 

The blob will become cylindrical (push the tweezers gently into it to keep it from stretching), but should not become lopsided or fold in on itself (it will crease a bit). If it does fold or droop, stop twisting–the design may come out lopsided, but don’t worry about it. This technique creates a modest spiral.

14. Let go with the tweezers and reheat the portion of the marble you just twisted until the holes made by the tweezers melt together. REMEMBER TO ROTATE THE MARBLE TO HEAT IT EVENLY.

15. Time for the mold. Press the hot end of the marble GENTLY into a hole that is a little bigger than the marble and roll and rotate it gently to round it. Do this quickly–the glass will harden. Return it to the flame to reheat it. Repeat this step until 2/3 to 3/4 of the marble is round.

16. Next, while keeping the marble warm–but not melting–in the flame, heat the end of one of the clear rods.

17. When the tip is soft, press it against the marble opposite the white rod (you are out of the flame, here), then pull back a little.

18. Wait a few seconds for the rods to harden, then place your work over your cutting surface and let the end of the white rod rest on the surface. Hold the clear rod and DON’T LET THE MARBLE TOUCH THE SURFACE. Pick up the cutters and cut off the white rod as close to the marble as you can (don’t worry if there’s a bit left).

19. Quickly, but CAREFULLY return the marble to the flame. Flash it in and out at first! It has cooled quite a bit and will shatter if you just stick it back in the flame.

20. Now concentrate the flame on the unfinished portion of the marble. If there is a white nub left from the rod, you can melt it and pull off the excess glass with the tweezers.

21. When the marble is melting hot, repeat steps 13 and 14 to finish the spiral. Finish rounding the marble in the mold as in step 15. If the marble rounds well, go on to step 25, if not, continue with step 22.

22. Repeat step 16 with the second clear rod, and press the rod against the warm–but hard– marble opposite the other clear rod just as in step 17.

23.Repeat step 18, cutting off the original clear rod.

24. Alternately heat and mold the marble until it is round as it will get (I have yet to achieve perfection).

25. Keep the marble evenly warm, pick up the mold and warm a small hole near the edge. It should be a hole that is small enough that the marble doesn’t rest in the bottom of it, but big enough to keep the marble steady with the mold tilted slightly ( I have made a holder out of graphite for this part because I found the mold draws too much heat out of the marble, but maybe a mold with fewer holes {smaller with less mass} would work better).

26. Set the mold down, place the marble in it (hold the rod vertically!), and cut off the rod.

27. Quickly put down the rod and pick up the mold, I blow once on the marble to remove any glass chips. Then hold the mold in the flame so that the cut mark on the marble is heated and melts into the marble. I use the mellon tweezers (the back of one scoop) to gently turn the marble so that the cut melts evenly.

28. Set the mold down, wait a moment for the marble to harden, pick it up with the mellon tweezers (they need to be warmed {but not red hot}, and will already be if you turn the marble with them), and pop it in the kiln (depending on the kiln, you may need gloves for this part). That’s it–well there is the torment of waiting hours for the marble to anneal and then the kiln to cool enough to see if the marble came out right! Peeking to soon will get you cracked marbles! It Sounds Complicated, but that’s only because there are lots of steps–each step is simple. Just take them one at a time. It’s also all right to pause and relax for a minute as long as you keep the marble warm.

VISIT JANE WALKERS WEB SITE http://www.walkerillustration.com/~janewalker/index.htm   The content of this page has been copyrighted by Jane Walker


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