When I first decided that I wanted to try lampworking, I started doing a lot of research. I watched YouTube videos, visited forums devoted to lampworking and read just about every article that popped up in my Google search. I read a lot of posts about “What you need to get started.”
There wasn’t a whole lot of variation from site to site. Things were pretty basic.
- Torch – obviously
- Fuel for the torch – again, obvious
- Didymium safety glasses – filters out the soda flare from the glass meeting the flame and stops hot glass from flying into your eyes
- Stainless steel mandrels – that’s what you wind the glass on to make the bead
- Bead release – this goopy clay stuff that keeps the glass from perma-bonding with the mandrel
- A few rods of glass – pretty freakin’ obvious.
- Fiber blanket – see, the glass is hot, hot, hot and it can’t cool down too quickly or it will shatter. The fiber blanket slows the cooling process
You can buy basic starter kits for about $150 or so. “It’s everything you need!” Not. Actually, I take it back. It’s everything you need if you want to make very simple beads that will never be sold. Very quickly, you realize that you are going to need more. Lampworking is like crack. And one could make an argument that it’s more expensive.**
First, those colors that come in the kits – pffft. You’re going to need more and better colors. Time to find a glass shop. And that little propane torch with it’s little one pound canisters, well, it’s kind of limiting. You might need an actual torch that uses propane and oxygen. That means, a bigger propane tank (or stealing the one from your husbands BBQ) an oxygen tank or an oxygen generator, hoses and regulators. And you can’t overlook your actual workstation and safety. You’ll need an actual desk (preferably with a non-flammable surface and some ventilation and a fire extinguisher (safety first!)
And isn’t it a shame that you can’t really sell your beads that you’re getting so good at because they haven’t been “annealed?”*** Yeah, you’re going to need a kiln, and those babies are expensive.
So, yay, you get all that stuff and you go to town making your round beads. Then, one day, you realize that round is boring. There’s only so much you can do with “round.” And that’s when the trouble really begins.
You start tooling around the interwebs and, what’s this? This is a cool little brass thingy that you put your hot glass in and squish/PRESS it into a new shape! OMG, it’s a whole new world of possibilities. So, you debate for weeks on which one to get. It’s $60, so it’s got to be a shape that you are going to use forever and love because you are only ever going to buy and use one. You make posts on lampworking forums that are titled something like “If you were stranded on a desert island with only one press, which one would you choose,” and it actually makes things worse because you get like 50 different answers.
Eventually, you choose THE press and it comes and you’re so excited that you can’t wait to smoosh your glass into a new shape and you’re incredibly happy… for all of about 5 minutes. For, it is then that you think, “I should have gotten the other one.” Rinse. Repeat.
So, here I am, four years and about 20 presses later, and I still don’t own all of the presses I need to make me happy. I have slowed down on the purchasing quite a bit, though. I now buy myself about 3 presses a year (maybe more if I can find a good deal on a used press or a cheapy tong-style press). The main problem is that the press manufacturers keep coming up with new shapes. My life would be so much easier (and my wallet, fatter) if they would just STOP!
Seriously. Stop the presses.****
**No, I’ve never bought crack. I’m just guessing because it seems like there are A LOT more crack users than lampworkers. If lampworking was less expensive, then everyone would do it and there would be a lot less actual crack addicts. Maybe.
***Annealing is the process of slowly heating then cooling the glass in order to remove stress and toughen it.
****See what I did there? 😛