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Bead-Making Advice Wanted.

Q: Believe it or not, my engineer hubbie, Kris (many of you know him from selling tickets at the 'IBS' shows), wants to start making lampwork beads (don't laugh too loud, he might hear)! I have wanted to learn how to make them for a while now, but he is gung-ho! Before we spend a lot of money on stuff we don't need, we'd like to hear from any lampwork artists that would like to offer advice. We need the whole setup: torch, glass, kiln, etc., and one thing I'm very concerned about, is safety. So, bead artists, those of you that can take a minute, please share your experience and advice with us!!!

A: 'Cheryl Keggan', of 'Dragon Beads', put together a complete FAQ section on lampworking, complete with safety concerns. You can visit her website at http://www.dragonbeads.com They have a free starter kit that has everything but the torch & glasses - for $6.50 shipping. We have them, and the kits are very nice. I got mine for free because I happened to be in the area, but they will pack it up & ship it to ya for $6.50. They also carry everything you need, including books & videos. I operate a glass studio in Glendale, AZ where I teach classes in glass beadmaking and glass blowing/marble and paperweight classes. I am glad to hear that you are concerned about safety. Safety is the main focus in my classes. If you are going to invest in an oxy/propane torch, the best advice that I can give you is the proper handling and storage of propane, because the refillable cylinders of propane, such as used for a barbeque grill, are refillable, they are subject to being overfilled or filled improperly, causing them to relieve pressure through the built in pressure relief valve. For that reason, you should not haul a propane cylinder in a closed trunk of a car. Prop the trunk lid open so that air may circulate and not allow a gas buildup in the event of a leak. I would also recommend that you do not store the propane tank in a non-ventilated area. I store all of my propane tanks outdoors. It would also be a good idea to never bring the propane into your home or studio. Rather, run the hoses out through a window or a door to the oxy/propane tanks outdoors. Quick releases can be added to the hoses and regulators, for ease of attaching and disconnecting. Be sure to anchor your oxy tank in an upright position to prevent it from being able to fall over and possibly damage the shutoff valve which could turn it into a rocket! With a few common sense precautions and some good instruction, anyone can enjoy safe glass beadmaking. Many companies sell the equipment, shop around. You should be able to get completely setup with an oxy/propane system including a bead annealer for just over $1000.00. It may seem like a lot at first, but your only consumables will be oxy, propane, bead release, and glass.