Melting Orphan Beads for Cabs

December 19, 2016 , In: General, Glass, Tutorials

I have a *pile* of orphan beads – really.  And I have tried to sell them, in bigger sets, in smaller sets, for pretty great prices, and I still have a *PILE* of orphan beads.  I am also struggling with carpal tunnel symptoms and have not been making lampwork beads for about a month at this point. So I decided to see what would happen if I used my kiln as a fuser (when making lampwork beads you use it as an annealer) and melt the beads into cabochons. If you don’t know, cabochons are beads without holes, used in bezel setting, tab setting, bead weaving, etc. 

This is the first set of beads I tried. I cut a piece of kiln shelf paper, put my little kiln doors in, and set all the beads on the paper. (next photo is the inside of my kiln all set up)

Next, the photo of the beads set out.

And, finally, the beads all melted.

I have an Arrow Spring Annealer/Fuser kiln, and in case you’re interested in my firing schedule, or trying to create a similar schedule, here it is:

RAMP to 1000F in 55 minutes.

RAMP up to 1550F fast; SOAK 30 minutes

RAMP down fast to 960F; SOAK 30 minutes

RAMP down 7F/Min; OFF at 400F

As you can see, some worked, and some didn’t.

I would say what I learned from this firing was the holes have to be VERY clean of bead release.  You can see some of the centers look white and crusty – I think that’s bead release.  Second, I’m having an inkling that transparent beads don’t want to melt the way I want them to.  So I tried a second kiln load. Note the many transparent swirly beads mostly in the center of the kiln.

And here’s how they turned out.

This was a disappointing firing, since I had really wanted the twirly transparent beads to work out.  Here’s a closeup of how they did not work out.

I decided at this point the transparent beads are not worth firing again.  Opaque colors work best, and I’m thinking it’s because the glass is “runnier” and therefore flows better.  I’m not going to show you all my subsequent firings, but I will show you some of the successful cabochons that came out of my next 3 firings.

I’m pretty happy with the success rate at this point and the reactions of the glass that are showing up.  So I will continue to take many of my orphans and make cabochons out of them.  I think they could also be used in mosaics, or at least the concrete stepping stones you can make.  They could also decorate plant pots.  Can you think of other things they could be used for?  I will begin selling these cabochons in my scheduled trunk shows on FaceBook, and on my FaceBook business page, SueBeads. Thanks for stopping by!


Susan Kennedy

Susan Kennedy Susan, the owner of SueBeads, started making glass beads in 2005 because she loved lampworked beads so much, but wanted to make her own instead of buying them on ebay! She also makes enameled components and dabbles in polymer clay, but her first love is glass. She has attended jewelry-making classes at ArtBLISS and has taken classes from Barbara Lewis (torch fired enameling) in addition to several classes at the Pittsburgh Glass Center.
    • Gerry Nickerson
    • December 19, 2016

    Wow they are gorgeous. Put in a bezel and you could have a nice necklace.

    • Divya
    • December 19, 2016

    Its interesting to see the different swirls caused by the colors and the holes in the beads. But I would rather have more beads than cabs as they are more versatile. But thats just me

    • Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Divya – yes, I can see if you don’t use cabs the beads would be more useful, but since I’m not making beads right now and experimenting, and since I can’t get rid of all these orphans, this is a good diversion for me!

  1. Wow those came out amazing!!

  2. Reply

    Just gorgeous Susan! These would be so beautiful set with different stones. I will be stalking your Facebook page!

    • Rose Mary Flint
    • December 19, 2016

    Did you try firing with the holes going across not up. Maybe grinding a flat spot so they don’t tip over. I may try that, as I also have a lot of beads!!

    • Laura
    • December 20, 2016

    I like them a lot better as cabs, they look amazing! Awesome idea! <3

  3. Reply

    I think they are all fabulous, even the ones you disappointed in. They are still beautiful colors! Love the idea of taking your orphan beads and repurposing into beautiful cabs!

  4. Reply

    Great idea! Do you think the same thing would work for melting a small pile of Czech glass beads or similar ? I have TONS of old glass beads (but none that are hand-blown like yours here) from my beading days that I no longer use but don’t want to throw away and this would be wonderful if I could melt into cabs as I now make sterling silver and copper jewelry. I am just not sure if something like this would be feasible. Have you had any experience? I have never done glass work but do have a small slumping kiln that is also used for metal clay work. Any advice or ideas? Thanks for your help and providing so much wonderful help for all of us!

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