Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bell Flower Press Tips and Tricks

Thought I'd post a little bit of info for a change on how to use this great press. 

Since buying the bell flower press I've made hundreds of these pretty little flowers.  Because there are no instructions on how to best use these tools, everyone has to learn what is the best way for them.  There is a tiny bit of a learning curve but once you get the swing of it - nothing to it.  :)  Still I thought I'd post a few tidbits of info I found useful as I was learning.  Nothing major, just a few helpful (I hope) tips. 

- I use 20 gauge German silver colored wire purchased at Rio Grande.  I found this information online at  in a post by another beadmaker.  With this wire you can actually hold it in your fingers as it does not conduct heat to the end that's not in the flame. Copper wire DOES conduct the heat to the end of the wire that's not in the flame.  Ouch.  You can use something to hold the wire as you transfer it to the kiln however I find that's just another step that I personally don't want to deal with.  To each their own of course.  :)  **After re-reading this I found it might be confusing so I needed to add this bit:  When I mention holding on to the wire with fingers, I mean when you remove it from the wire holder you're using and put it in the kiln.** 

- Preparing the wire is pretty simple and basic.  I find that cutting it to a length of about 3" or so will give you plenty of wire to work with in making jewelry.  Once cut I leave some wire as is and do nothing to it.  With most of the wire, I take my round nose pliers and make a half loop on one end.  I then take my flat nose pliers and bend that loop into the wire and press it flat.  Doing that makes it easier for the hot glass to grab onto something.  It will still grab onto the wire if you did nothing to it but giving it just that little bit of extra wire helps a lot and makes it easier to wrap the glass.

- To hold the wire while winding the glass I use a tungsten pin vise that can be found on many glass websites.  I attempted to make my own holding devise but found ready made was better - for me.  :)

- It is unnecessary to heat up the wire before winding on the glass.  The hot glass itself is hot enough to grab onto the wire.  Sometimes you need to touch the glass to the wire a couple times.  Keep in mind, if the wire gets too hot from the flame, it will melt off and it'll melt off FAST !  lol !    

- Winding on the glass to the wire can be tricky in the beginning in a couple of ways.  You first need to determine how much glass you need.  With each bell flower press the amount varies.  Believe me, I've had all three sizes of the presses and it DOES matter.  :)  Another very important point I think is you can make the flowers different lengths.  The width will remain the same but the lengths can change according to how much glass you use.  For example: using the 20mm 6 point press the width will always be 20 mm BUT the lengths I have gotten are 12mm up to 16mm.  It just depends on the amount of glass you use and how hard you press.

-How much pressure you put on the glass once in the press will depend on the look you want to end up with.  The harder you press, the thinner & longer your flower will be.  It's a matter of personal preference of course.  I prefer a bit of a thicker wall.  The thinner the flower the easier it will be to chip and break.  No matter what, it's not a good idea to drop them on a hard surface.  :) 

- As you use your press it will become very hot.  I keep a couple of cool, wet rags next to me and wrap the press up as needed.  That is usually after several flowers.  I also add bees wax to the inside of the bell while hot.  It will help the glass from sticking after it does become that hot.  The wax will melt off the glass in a puff of "steam" or smoke and possibly a bit of a flame but it will not harm your flower.

- Now that your flower is done, pop it in the kiln and anneal like any other beads.  :)

These little flowers are so much fun to make !  I don't see myself NOT making them for a  long time to come !  :)  I have MANY ideas floating in my head on how to use them for home d├ęcor and jewelry.  

These presses are made by an Italian family run business called Carlo Dona.  They have been in the glass tool making business since 1923 so they really do know how to make the very best quality tools for glass blowers and bead makers.   

Below are a few photo's of some of the bell flowers I've made.  There will be more to come !  lol !  

Thanks so much for coming by !  I hope you come back again very soon !  :)

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Project

The time has come to do the big reveal.  This is something that has been in the works for months.  It takes months to do this sort of thing simply due to having to make all the beads/headpins for it.  Since I don't torch daily nor do I make these flowers at every session hence months.  ;) 

My big ball of bell flower beads and/or headpins.  I'm not sure what this would be called.  I looked up topiary and it is sort of like that so I think that's what I might call it.  Course it could just be called the ball of flowers too.  lol !  Either way, I rather like how it turned out and am very happy I can add it to a table or a shelf somewhere in my home on display.  

I had so very many of these bell flowers that I simply had to do something with them.  They're so much fun to make that they kept piling up.  I have them for sale in my Etsy shop but the listings I have are for made to order so I just didn't need all these flowers to just sit.  They needed to be used.  Plus I will continue to make them so more "projects" will come.  

The only real problem I had during the whole process of putting this together was the little pot holding the whole thing.  It was nothing but Styrofoam and from the weight of the flowers it started rockin' and rollin' pretty fast.  lol !  The solution - remove Styrofoam and add cement.  Worked like a charm.  Not sure how heavy the whole thing is but it's HEAVY.  And very steady now.  :)  Something I didn't do was keep track of how many flowers I used.  I sure wish I would of but alas, no count.  I did measure around the circumference of the ball and it's 19" across.  The flowers cover every inch of that ball including around the trunk.  

I used 3 sizes of the bell flowers - 12, 14 and 20 mm but most of them are the 14 and 20mm size.  I also added a few other flower types I made plus a little butterfly critter at the top. 

The photo's below:  First one on left shows the entire thing.  Second one is a top view and the last one shows a close up of one side.  Make sure to click on each photo to see a larger and closer pic.  :)         

If you would like to see more photo's of my bell flower beads/headpins, check out my Etsy shop for a nice selection.  Just click on any of the photo's listed. 
Thanks so much for coming by !  I hope you come back again very soon !  :) 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Heat & Humidity ............. just terrible !  I really do dislike summer !  It's a miserable time for me.  UGH.  So, that said, no more complaining.  That's not what this blog is all about even though it does affect my torch time.  Moving on now............

I did get a bit of torch time in this last week in the early morning hours for a few days.  I managed to make more bell flowers of course for that project I'm going to be getting into now.  Limited or no torch time means more time to do other projects.  I did start it a few days ago but it has sat for about 3 days without me doing a thing to it.  lol !  I'll get there.  Life tends to get in the way sometimes.  Some of the bell flowers are pictured just below.  I mixed up some red, yellow and orange colors and made these.  I love them. Love the brightness of them.  Will be adding them to the project.  ;) 

Problem is, when I get going making these flowers, I end up not making any actual beads !  lol !  The bottom of the kiln get filled with these flowers and leaves which means there is plenty of room to add beads on mandrels.  The mandrels sit on a mandrel rest inside the kiln.  Oh well.........I figure as long as I'm enjoying it, go for it !  lol !  I can make sets or a focal another day.  :) 
Speaking of beads - I have lots up for grabs in my Etsy shop !  Why not go on over for a visit and see what's available.  You might find something you like ! 
Thanks for coming by !  I hope you come back again soon ! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Having Fun Again !

Being at the torch the past week had been rather fun for me.  That's what having a "hobby" is all about isn't it ?  Yes, this is pretty much a hobby for me.  If I were trying to make a living at it, well, let's just say I would be a "starving artist" for sure !  lol !  Actually no artist at all.  lol !  Anyway, I made more bell flowers for a project I have in mind that I will need LOTS.  That's no problem because they are just a blast to make.  So much fun.  The only problem with making them is deciding what colors to use.  lol !  I'm trying to make all I need before the major heat and humidity set in and I can't torch anymore til fall.  :)  The photo below is what I made on Sunday.  Just one more "bouquet" waiting to be used in that project.  :) 

As I was playing with the bell flowers, I decided it was time to try my hand at sculpting again.  I've wanted to make a new little octopus for my faux fish tank for the longest time so that was my goal.  At least to attempt to make one.  Five octopi(?) later, I achieved that goal.  :)  They aren't the prettiest -  but I like them.  lol !  They were fun to make and at least one will go in the tank.  :)  The others will most likely go to Beads Of Courage.  Oh there will be more coming.  They were a lot of fun to make that's for sure.  Sculpting was always my first love in melting glass and I had gotten away from it this year.  It was nice to give it a go again.   I think my favorite is the light green one to the right in the first picture.  Those two are Simon and Schuester.  The second two are Burns and Allen and the last one is Ollie.  Ollie is pretty cool too.  He's made with a silver reactive glass called Ossa and some of that silvery shine came thru but mostly it's a purple color glass with white dots.  I thought it would look good as an Ollie Octopus.  :) 

Technically, these are beads as the base was wound on a mandrel. They could be worn as a VERY large and very heavy pendant but better use would be to let them stand on their own just to admire. 

That's all for now.  Thanks once again for coming by !  I hope you can come back again sometime for a visit.