Learning to Make Disk Beads

My latest challenge has been learning to make disk beads. The shape looks simple at first, yet (for me anyway) the disk shape is taking a lot practice to master. I’ve made hundreds of disk beads over the past month or two, and I think I’m only beginning to get the hang of it!

Here’s one of my recent sets. I’ve started by making chunky disks which are easier for me than the really thin ones. I love fall colors, so I’ve blended lots of earth-tones together in one set:

earthy disk beads beadabundant

The challenge with making disk beads starts with winding a very narrow “footprint” of glass onto the mandrel. I have to touch only the very tip of the molten end of the rod onto the mandrel when I start winding. If I can do that, then the bead is more likely to stay thin. Also, a wide footprint can leave sharp edges around the holes.

If I’ve made a nice narrow footprint, and managed to wind on more glass as evenly as I can, the next challenge is to keep the disk shape. The bead tends to collapse on itself and become wider as it’s heated.

There are a few techniques I’ve been using to keep the shape upright and narrow. One is running the edges of the bead along the flat side of my marver, which cools the glass and helps it keep its shape. I also use my mini-mashers and run them around the bead (very lightly so they don’t leave dents in the glass).

Even with these techniques I often end up with a bead that does not have a round disk shape. It’s more like a wonky square or triangular disk! I’ve decided that’s okay if I’m going for an organic look, yet I’d love to be able to make a nice round disk shape like a coin. Sometimes I have to add bits of glass on one side of the disk or the other to try and round it out. A little trick I’ve discovered is to lightly heat the edge of the disk that’s too high, and very gently use a cool rod to pull the hot glass towards the side that’s too low.

Here is another set I’ve made recently, this one is etched:

etched disk beads karlen deupree

This is my latest disk set, made from Double Helix’s “Nyx” glass. I’m giving thin, textured disks a try. They’re not “perfectly round” but I think the funky look suits them:

double helix nyx disk beads glass

I’ve always loved the beads made by our resident “Disk Queen” here on Watch Me Create, Kerry Bogert. Her beads are a big part of what inspired me to give disks a try. Nothing like trying something to gain a vast appreciation for the skill involved!

I think I’m obsessed with disk beads now. Back to the torch!


8 Responses to “Learning to Make Disk Beads”

  1. kabsconcepts Says:

    LOL, Disc Queen that is me! Did you know that I researched the spelling of the word “disc” and using the “k” on the end is the British spelling,”c” is the American. Tells you how into discs I am.

    Your discs look GREAT!! Keep at it, they get easier.

    Hey, did you see my tutorial on discs? It is the featured project at http://www.stepbystepbeads.com.

  2. Ellen Says:

    Kerry inspired you and you inspired me. I’ll give ’em another try (never have made a decent disc) this afternoon.

  3. Natalia Says:

    Wow that first set is just flawless

  4. beadabundant Says:

    Thanks for the comments Kerry, Ellen and Natalia!
    Kerry, wow, “disc” and “disk”….. I’d never even thought about the different spellings. Thanks for pointing that out to me. And, I must read your tutorial on discs!!! I know they do get easier with practice…. a lot of practice!

  5. darleenmb Says:

    Your disks are LOVELY. You seem to have the same problem I do and that’s expecting them to be perfect. I’m not saying they should be all wonky but these are not round beads you’re aiming for. Some of the best disks I’ve seen have been playfully NOT perfect. (mine aren’t at all playful, they’re just fugly).

  6. beadabundant Says:

    Thanks for the comment, Darleen! Being a perfectionist is exactly my problem… and I really need to lighten up on myself, have some fun! I’ve been thinking about this so much lately. Being a perfectionist and being too self-critical keeps me from enjoying my life to the fullest. Maybe I’ll write a WMC post about this in the future! Thanks again Darleen!

  7. Flonche Says:

    Hey Karolen,

    I am travelling the same journey these days, I could relate to every word in your post.
    Not only your shapes are excellent (IMHO) but your colors rock, too! I’m so proud to share an Etsy customer with you!


  8. beadabundant Says:

    Thank you Flonche. I am still practicing this tricky disc shape but getting better. At this point, I no longer care if my disc beads are “perfectly round.” I kind of like them a little funky-shaped and organic. I bet I know who that Etsy customer is! She buys all my disc beads! 🙂

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