Lampwork Beads

Q: A friend of mine has a couple of questions about lampwork beads. 1. Even though she holds them at least one inch from the flame, they still turn completely grey sometimes. Why does this happen? 2. Why do smoke-like trails appear in the beads?

A: I had this same problem when I started a few years ago. The problem with all black/gray beads went away when I went from straight propane to the bench burner with oxy/propane set up. Colors ever since. I still have to turn the oxygen rate up when using white or any light colored transparents...especially light blues, but after all these years I've got it down to a science! On Compuserve, there is a group called the Glass Forum. You may want to consider posting this question with them. I have heard that Brian Kerkvliet, a well known lampworker, answers questions all of the time. Are you presently using map gas? If so, they may be your problem and you might want to switch over to oxygen and propane. If this is what you are using now, perhaps you are too close to the flame or in the flame too long. I'm not an expert, but I have taken a workshop with Kate Fowle, who is a nationally recognized flameworker. I've found this is just trial and error on each individual torch (propane or Mapp anyway, I don't have and oxy/propane set-up). When I started my beads were grey for the first two or three sessions. Then the problem started going away. What I did is be really aware of what I was doing and every 30 seconds or so I'd take the bead out of the flame to see if it was getting smoky. If it was I would avoid doing whatever I'd just been doing. It was a combination of keeping the bead to close to the bottom of the flame and having the torch turned too high when using lighter colors. That, and being too close to empty on my Mapp gas bottle.