Lampwork Question.

Q: I've been using 'Cindy Jenkins'', "Making Glass Beads" to teach myself how to do lampwork. Lately, whenever I case my beads in clear glass, I end up with dark grey swirls throughout the case, basically ruining the bead. What causes this? Could it be my technique? I simply melt clear glass rod over the bead....I'm not really using one of 'Cindy's' techniques. Also, I always end up with similar grey swirls when using my graphite marvers. What am I doing wrong there? It seems as though the graphite is rubbing off of the pad, and onto the bead.

A: The grey swirls are probably caused by too much propane in your oxy-propane mix, or if you're using a hothead, being too close to the torch head (if it hisses, you're too close). I haven't had any experience with graphite from my 'Marver' getting on my beads, but it wouldn't hurt to clean it. I use vinegar. Also, if the grey isn't too deep, you can try to remove it with tweezers and hope you don't mess up your base bead. That's much harder to do with a hothead than with a minor burner, because you can't do much to adjust your flame on a hothead. If you're just getting started, you might consider getting 'Jim Kervin's': "More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Glass Beadmaking". I often see 'Cindy Jenkins'' book recommended on this newsgroup, and it is wonderful for inspiration, with fabulous pictures, but I don't think she provides enough information on shop safety and setup, annealing, tools, or even instruction, to use it as the sole source of information. 'Kervin's' book is far more comprehensive and superior to 'Jenkins'' book for instructional info, safety, and shop setup, but it doesn't have beautiful, color pictures. Could be a couple of things. 1) Work higher in the flame. 2) Clean your glass THOROUGHLY before working it. Have clean hands, too. I never had the graphite rub off on the bead, but when I started making larger beads, I accidently touched the handle with the bead a couple of times, and some of that burned off onto my bead!