Lampwork boro beads are being made with a GTT Cricket torch and one Invacare Mobilaire V oxygen concentrator in place of bottled oxygen. Cost for bottled, in Anchorage, for 125 cu foot is $40 ($36.73 plus $2.50 hazardous materials fee) at Airgas. And just about $60 for the larger bottle.
Bead making is slow when sizes approach 22 to 24 mm in diameter using boro glass for the final melt down. In planning for a larger GTT torch, a pair of DeVilbiss oxygen concentrators were obtained. These units produce 9 PSI in comparison to the Invacare at 5.5 PSI.
A test was done with the DeVilbiss and the Cricket. The flame looks about the same, but not the heat. Now the boro glass melts faster and it is necessary to work farther out in the flame. This indicates a much hotter flame. Even though the Cricket is designed for low LPM oxygen it would appear that 9 PSI produces a noticeable increase in torch power.
The next test will be to combine both DeVilbiss machines by using two check valves and a Y connector. The new torch will have a Cricket inner flame with an outer ring for additional heating. Thus the need for 10 plus LPMs. The Invacare may be sufficient for just the outer ring, but at this point it does look marginal.
It would be nice to test the three units for actual LPM, pressure and oxygen purity. These devices run from $250 upwards. Thus making limited use too cost prohibited.
This creation uses a combination of commercially available Green Goldstone and Carnelian beads. Plus a 15 mm handmade boro glass bead as a focal point.
The glass bead is one of a kind, made and annealed in our own torch room. The glass is boro (borosilicate) with colored glass from Northstar Glassworks and Simax for the clear. The hole is made with a 1/8 inch mandrel (3.2 mm).
It would have been nice to offer this necklace, to our clients, here on Alaska Handmade Jewelry. However, the boro glass bead necklace is a commissioned creation.
This Chinese Red boro bead with undertones of silvery tan will be the subject of another Alaska Handmade Jewelry creation. The bead is 22 mm in diameter and will work nicely as a larger focal point.
Thank you for your extensive response. It is awesome and very informative.
I am glad you suggested starting out on cheaper glass. what a great idea. I also thought maybe I should just go with the Hot Head and a crock pot with some vermiculite. A lampwork artist from Anchorage gave me the crock pot idea when I called on her add in Craig's List for a used minor torch. I figure I will just have fun and learn how....selling is a long ways off.
Glad that I could be of assistance.
A crock pot has its limitations. It will NOT anneal beads. So do keep that in mind.
For glass, if you are using COE 104 look for seconds or shorts. What I have are firsts, but they are all colored boro Northstar glass (boro costs more than soft glass). And I have some clear Simex boro in 1500 mm lengths. Stock 3, 5, 7, 9 and 12 mm Simex solid clear boro rod in 1500 mm lengths (59 inches) if interested. Plus some tube.
Some folks like soft glass while others boro. They are both different in what can be obtained in colors and how it can be worked. Boro is like honey in January. While soft glass is like honey in July. Some like to use both and I can not say which one is better for any individual. Of course, they can not be used together as the COE's are not compatible.
COE 104 (soft glass) melts at a lower temp than COE 33 which is boro. I use a Cricket torch which is designed for lower oxygen use. Thus using an oxygen concentrator with propane on this end. Limitations is that working size is limited with the Cricket. Did make a bead with clear boro at 20 mm diameter and 12 mm thick. It went slow, but was workable. Would not even try that with a Hot Head.
In Anchorage it is just too costly to use bottled oxygen. It is about forty bucks per fill for the smaller (125 cu ft) and about 60 for the larger tank. The smaller size is good for about 20 hours of touch work, so you can get the idea on costs. Of course, how long the tank lasts depends on which torch is being used. The Mini CC uses more oxygen than the Cricket, as an example.
You may want to find someone that has a hot head and get a demo before buying. They make a lot of noise and eat up a number of tanks of MAPP gas. (check MAPP and see the cost per bottle) Also, it is not as hot as oxygen/propane. But for 104 should do fine but will just take longer for any given bead. Not at all useful for boro work. Just check the forums for other opinions.
The home made kiln, to give you an idea, has $100 worth of bricks in it plus all of the other things. Much less costly to build, then to buy. Figured that a similar kin would run in the $1500 to $1700 range give or take.
One book that I found of great assistance is "Passing the Flame" by Corina Tettinger, 3rd edition. Amazon carries it through 3rd party vendors. It is pricey, but a lot less costly than going to workshops. It is for soft glass, but I am using it for boro.
Another must book for boro is "Contemporary Lampworking - A Practical Guide to Shaping Glass in the Flame" Third Edition. It is geared toward boro and glass sculpture rather than bead making.
And be sure to get either a Didy (Didymium) shield or glasses. Without these you can not see what you are doing in the flame.
Alaska Handmade Jewelry
I Goggled AK kilns and found your blog. I am just getting started in lampworking and cannot afford a kiln. I was hoping to find a used one or build my own.
It looks like you built one. Are you sharing how to do that or do you have any suggestions on making a kiln, at this point I am doing small stuff with 104 soft glass so don’t need anything huge. I saw a thread on wet canvas by Mark Wilson about making a kiln out of a mail box.... Any news would help.
If you have not been here give this forum a try.
And of course there are a number of others to view. Also give You Tube a try as there may be some videos on kiln building, but again maybe not.
Building a kiln is a long but interesting project. You need a supplier of the basic materials. IFB and ceramic blanket. The kiln on the site is mostly welded together, not to say that using other ways of holding steel together would not also work.
Have not tired either the mail box or tool box kilns. The down side is that they do not retain heat very well. The plus side is that they are a lot easier and faster to build and thus less costly.
Use boro on this end so my annealing temp is 1050 F. For soft glass it will be less. IMO using a temperature controller is a must. You can use the Fuji PXR-3 for about $80 or get one of the units already setup in the hundreds. (Fuji $69 plus SSR $10 plus shipping - See eBay)
If you got the dollars, then take a look at some used kilns. Perhaps Craig's List would be one source. You could even place an ad there if you like. Or build one if you are handy with tools and have what you need plus some experience with the electrical end of things.
You may find some top loading kilns, but one with a front door works best for beads on mandrels. Make sure that it is deep enough for your rod lengths. Perhaps in the range of 9 to 12 inches for the mandrel plus, a few extra inches to spare in the back.
Also found that when you are getting started try using some inexpensive rod to hone your skills. Using $8 per pound clear Simax in place of the $55 per pound of colored Northstar is a plus. And you do not need to anneal the beads if they are just for practice. But they should also not be for sale as they are unstable.
Alaska Handmade Jewelry
Some additional kiln building and related links that may be of use.
Boro glass creations are starting to happen at Alaska Handmade Jewelry. Our initial turtle, made of boro (borosilicate) glass came out looking nice. The base is clear Simax with Northstar colors added for interest. Now to make up a dozen plus to experiment with colors and design.
The annealing kiln is setup with the Fuji PXR-3 PID controller with two annealing programs for our boro glass turtles. One for turtles that require striking and one for non strike boro glass turtle colors. Both are setup as a pair of four ramp/soak patterns. More than sufficient for boro glass turtle annealing needs. The best part is low cost of the controller. On eBay a PXR-3 is available in the $70 range.
The kiln heats up to 1050 F (our all day long garage temperature) in 52 minutes which is the temperature set point or set value as Fuji calls it. And as most kilns go, it takes twelve plus hours to cool down once off.
Being in Alaska and making jewelry can lead to some strange bedfellows. We have Moose and we have jewelry. The two together make some interesting topics of conversation. Yes, Moose and jewelry go together!
At Alaska Handmade Jewelry, Moose nuggets and jewelry are now a reality. The nuggets are 100% Alaskan made. The surrounding shinny sparkles are not. Click here to view our latest Moose Nugget creations.
The original source of our nuggets are the local Anchorage Moose. Spring is the best time to find these clusters of sawdust. Each individually processed to Nature’s perfection.
Our task is to take these items of perfection and process in a most human way. They are dried, coated and drilled. Depending on the finish, the results can vary from dark brown to just brown. Alaska Handmade Moose Jewelry uses a matt/satin finish to avoid the shinny tourist trinket look.
These products of nature are light in weight and have no smell. Try one of our handmade in Alaska gifts of Nature. It is the perfect gift for that special someone who needs a little surprise in their life.
Boro (borosilicate) rod storage is always an issue with lampwork bead makers. Just having rod lay around and collect dust is not a good idea. The best plan is some form of organization. In this case, Alaska Handmade Jewelry chose a rather traditional storage form for boro colored and clear glass rod and tube.
The boro cabinet consists of 12 rows of 12 tubes each of schedule 40 two inch PVC tube cut into 19.5 inch lengths. This provides 144 tubes to store each individual color. Each tube is large enough to hold about two pounds of boro glass.
The Northstar glass that is on hand, uses up 55 of these slots. As Northstar glass colors are expanded or more is ordered, the remaining 89 slots will come into use. At this point, Northstar boro glass does not use any numbers above 133.
The top row uses 3 inch plastic drain pipe and is 9 tubes wide. This area is for clear Simax boro rod and tube.
The interesting part is that at both Lowes and Home Depot the two inch PVC is priced at $5.25 per ten foot length here in Anchorage. The four inch drain is $5.31 with the three inch drain at $8.44 per ten foot length.
Alaska Handmade jewelry will be using a number of designs created with lampwork glass beads. These future designs will be created with Northstar Glassworks of Tigard, Oregon boro (Borosilicate) glass. The Northstar palette, for the present, consists of 55 colors of Northstar's most popular colors.
These colors are not only transparent and opaque but also include striking. The striking colors react differently in the flame and produce a variety of interesting color combinations.
Some of the handmade lampwork beads will be encased with clear boro rod made by Simax. The Simax clear rod and tube will also be used to perfect a number of different flame work techniques as the cost per pound is significantly less than colored rod.
The glasswork studio will also make available its selection of clear and colored boro rod to other local lampwork artists. This new website is under construction and will provide a listing of boro rod/tube for local Anchorage availability.
It has taken most of the Alaskan summer, but the kiln is now completed. The plans for the door have changed. The original idea was to have a swing door with two hinges on the left. That migrated into a guillotine door that opens bottom to top. A good idea but much harder to implement.
Door springs are hard to find in Anchorage, but the local building center had standard household door replacement springs that were adequate. One spring, on each side, was planned to offset the weight of the door (16 lbs). However, one set of springs were not strong enough for the task, so two on each side were used. The door opens easy and will either stay completely closed or fully open.
The planned annealing temperature for borosilicate glass is in the range of 1050 to 1100 degrees Fahrenheit. With the built in Fuji temperature controller it is just a matter of setting the proper ramp and hold times for boro glass.
The supporting kiln structure is made from 1/2 inch square steel tube. This is welded together using a Millermatic 200 wire welder. The bricks are IFB (Insulated Fire Brick) obtained from E.J. Bartells, located on Whitney Road here in Anchorage. They also carry the one inch thick ceramic blanket that is used for added insulation.
The next kiln task will be to calibrate the Fuji controller, move the kiln into the studio and start making lampwork boro beads.
The kiln is progressing nicely. The support cage is complete with bricks installed along with the heating element. Remaining is the installation of electrical boxes for power connections and a switch. Plus mounting brackets for the door hinge.
Powered the kiln up and it does get hot as expected. The element is at 11.8 ohms. Thus at 117 VAC, the kiln is rated at 1160 watts which will work well for annealing beads.
Once the door is installed, it will be time to check the rise time to 1050 F degrees for annealing Boro (Borosilicate) beads. Installing the controller, testing and making sample beads are some of the next steps.
For door hinges it is planned to use a small pillow block. However, local bearing firms do not carry pillow blocks that have a small footprint. The overall width should in the range of 2 inches. Looks like a trip to Home Depot or Lowe’s to see what is in their hinge department. Maybe something in the cabinet hinge line would work, but again maybe not!
It would be nice to use either ball bearings or a brass bushing for the hinges. Temperature should not be an issue as the kiln is externally lined with ceramic cloth to provide additional insulation. At 1050 F (internal) it is anticipated that the external temperature should be in the range of 100 to 150 F after 2 hours of use.