Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do it yourself lampwork tool

There are lots of discussions in the lampworking community about "pandora" or "troll" beads (like this one) which are basically just large-holed beads that fit over a thick chain.  There are tools available that hold the bead in place and bring pressure to the silver to add the center core.  Word on the street (well, in the forums) is that these can really increase consistency and efficiency to the process, but it takes practice and it's easy to chip or crack the bead.  Most of the tools I own have some sort of learning curve to them, so that didn't bother me too much. I found one online and considered it, but the cheapskate inside me was unwilling to spend a couple hundred dollars for a tool I would only use occasionally. 

The silver core is really just a large rivet.  But I know from experience that treating this process the same way as adding a rivet to metal is a mistake; the length of the tubing that runs through the bead makes it prone to buckling and the hammering puts a lot of stress on the bead and it can break or crack.

Someone (sorry, I can't give credit because I don't know who it was!) posted in a forum on Lampwork, etc about how to make your own tool to add the silver core to a lampwork bead.  I followed his basic instructions, and it didn't cost me anything at all because I had the materials laying around in the garage already.

I started with a large nut and bolt--this one is two and a quarter inches in length and a quarter inch in width on the threaded end.

I took the nut off of the bolt and measured down the threading about a quarter of an inch.  That would give me enough room to use with a larger bead--one I would use for a focal bead.  Then I used a bastard file to take the threading off and fit the silver tubing I had. 

That's it--the whole tool is a nut and bolt with the threading filed off.

Here it is in use:

First I measure the amount of silver tubing I will need to cut using the tube cutting jig:

I put the nut and bolt combination into my vise and added the tubing, then the bead.

The nut cradles the bottom of the bead to help keep it from breaking during the riveting.

It's still easy to chip the bead around the rivet, especially when the bead is off the nut/bolt and flat on a stainless steel block putting in those last few taps.  If the hammer comes down a bit off center, it can take little chunks out of the bead close to the rivet.

The final product:


  1. These pictures do not explain to me how to make my own bead. Or how to use my own lampwork tool.

  2. Um, Sara, I just saw this. You come over and I will show you how to make your own bead!!!

  3. Thank you! I'm looking forward to trying this.

  4. You're welcome, Marlene! Good luck with it!

  5. Yeah, I tried the dapping on a bench block. I had uneven rivets, broken beads, bent tubing. I bought the expensive tool(s). They work great for me, but cost a lot. Wish I had known about this trick. It supports the tube, starts the rivet on the bottom, and keeps it even. Can't beat that!

    1. I couldn't justify the cost of the tools - there are SO MANY TOOLS I want and I don't do glass very often. Glad you have something that is working for you - thanks for the comment!

  6. Yeah, I tried the dapping tool and bench block. I got uneven rivets. bent tubing,broken beads. I bought the expensive tool(s). They work great for me. They also cost a lot. Too bad I did not know about this. It would support the tubing, start the rivet on the bottom, and keep it even around. Way to go!