tiny tip: please release me, let me go

Fusion Bead release

Just hanging out, eating gluten free toaster strudel for dinner (I know, shame on me), and I spied my beloved bottle of bead release sitting on the counter. I’ve been meaning to say a few words about bead release. Ya, I know, boooooring. But the perfect bead release is sort of like the Holy Grail… Ye may seek and never find. What’s perfect for one person may not work for someone else, but I’ve finally found what works for me. If you’re just starting out, maybe I can save you some frustration.

For the non-beadmakers – bead release is a clay-like substance used to coat the mandrel (the stainless steel rod that a bead is made on) before you make a bead on it. It forms a layer between the hot glass and the metal so they don’t stick together. Thus, when the bead comes out of the kiln, you can actually get it off the mandrel. Here are what the beads look like still on the mandrel with bead release:

Beads on Mandrels

The bead release is dusty and powdery, and it has to be cleaned out of the holes using a dremel tool with an abrasive bit (under water, protect your lungs!). I use regular diamond whatever reamer tips (they’re cheap) but I’ve recently been told that the BeaDreamer is magical (and magically expensive – saving up for that).

There are as many bead release recipes as there are beadmakers. For good reason – if your bead release isn’t working it’s a major PIA. So there’s lots of experimentation going on to find the ‘perfect’ formula. All kinds of things can go wrong with your bead release, but the thing that’s plagued me the most is being nearly done a complicated bead with many many layers and tons of work in it, and having the bead release break. Seeing your lovingly crafted bead spinning around the mandrel with bead release flaking off is not a happy sight. Major sweatage ensues. Yes, there are a few ‘Hail Mary’ tricks that you can try in an effort to save your bead, but most of the time they don’t work.

Bead release breakage was happening to me so often that I finally began the search for a replacement for my old (and mostly ok for small beads) FosterFire. In my search, I came across a lot of weird and wonderful suggestions… blenders, chemicals, keeping the algae at bay (really!)… but in the end it seemed that a lot of people like Fusion Bead Release, and now that I’ve been using it for a while, I’m a convert. Here’s what I like about it:

– It has a nice consistency and when it gets a bit thick, adding water fixes it right up and it mixes well.

– It coats the mandrel with a nice thin, smooth layer of release, no bumps or gritty stuff. I think you could double dip very nicely though I haven’t tried it.

– It air dries quickly (within a few minutes) or flame dries in a few seconds – and I haven’t had any trouble with breakage either way.

– I can dip mandrels and use them weeks later and the release still doesn’t break.

– It holds up to large focal beads with multiple layers of encasing – and I am not particularly careful about pushing and pulling on the glass.

– It’s been perfect on every size mandrel I’ve tried – 1/16″ up to the 3/16″ for big hole beads.

The only small drawback I’ve noticed is that it can be tricky to get the beads off the mandrels. Really tricky. Especially with a long focal bead. Which make sense – the bead release doesn’t break when you’re making the bead, but it doesn’t want to break up when you’re trying to get the darn thing off the mandrel either. I’ve bent more mandrels in the past 2 months than I did in 4 years with my FosterFire. I just remind myself that I’d rather lose a 60 cent mandrel than a bead that’s worth $30.

So there ya go.

*This post is not officially endorsed by Grumpy Cat or Boo.

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2 thoughts on “tiny tip: please release me, let me go

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