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:
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:
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:
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!