Jim's blog

Alaska Boro Beads

A new set of made in Alaska handmade glass beads is just about ready to be posted on our boro bead site. There are a number of silver cored beads on 3/16 inch and1/4 inch mandrels. In addition, for the first time a handful of beads on a 3/32 inch mandrel are now available.

There are some outstanding small pendants all made of boro glass. Some of the colors just stand out inviting one to look closer. To see more Alaska Boro beads visit our site at http:///www.alaskaboro.com .

Alaska Boro - New Bead Site

Alaska Boro glass boro bead websiteAlaska Boro is our ‘new’ handmade in Alaska boro glass bead site. It is associated with Alaska Handmade Jewelry. However, Alaska Boro’s primary mission is to offer locally produced handmade borosilicate (boro) glass beads to artists looking for that special creation to add to their work.

An interesting added feature is that the boro bead product inventory is updated after each sale. Each sold product is removed from the catalog once the transaction is complete. For one of a kind beads and sets, this is a great feature as inventory is limited to just one.

Future plans, for Alaska Boro, include the sale of Northstar colored rod and Simax clear boro rod and tube to local boro lampwork artists. Thus no shipping, small quantities and local pickups make this a plus for our local artisans.

To visit Alaska Boro click on the following URL. http://www.alaskaboro.com

Handmade Boro Bead Update

Alaska Handmade Jewelry has added a number of handmade boro beads to its collection. Beads have a hole size of either 1/8 or 3/16 inch. Some are cored in sterling and fine silver.

To visit our new boro bead collection follow this link or click on the "Lampwork Bead" selection on the home page catalog.

Beads priced at this level will not last long!!!!

Oxygen Concentrator

Invacare Oxygen Concentrator at Alaska Handmade JewelryLampwork 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. DeVilbiss Oxygen Concentrator at Alaska Handmade Jewelry, Anchorage Alaska 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.

Black Elk Jewelry

Green Boro Glass Bead at Alaska Handmade JewelryBlack Elk Jewelry Supply will be carrying boro glass beads made by Alaska Handmade Jewelry. Black Elk is located in Anchorage, Alaska at 8050 Seward. (phone: 562-2703)

Each boro (borosilicate) bead is unique with diameters ranging from 11 to 22 mm. Hole sizes are made with a 1/8 mandrel. Some beads are encased, which provides a lens effect that magnifies the unique structure of colored boro glass. These multiple colors seem to be never ending and provide a depth that most beads strive to have.

Plans are to offer, in addition to individual boro glass beads, bead sets consisting of 5, 7 or 9 beads. In some cases, the center bead will be larger to provide a nice focal point for the jewelry designer. Each set will be color match to maintain ease of use in the design process.

Some beads will be handcrafted with a larger mandrel. These beads will be corded with sterling silver. Many use this type of bead to accent their Pandora creations.

Handmade Boro Beads

Red Orange Boro Handmade Bead at Alaska Handmade JewelryFor 2010 Alaska Handmade Jewelry will carry Alaskan made boro (borosilicate) handmade glass beads. Boro beads come in a variety of sizes. Sizes are in the range of 11 to 22 mm in diameter. Hole sizes are either 1/8 inch (3.2 mm) or 3/32 inch (2.4 mm).

Each bead is handmade in our torch room using a propane/oxygen torch. All beads are made with Northstar Glasswork’s colored boro rod in combination with Simax clear boro.

For those in Anchorage, shipping costs are zero if picked up locally. Shipping and handling costs for those outside of Anchorage are at the flat rate of $1.50 per order. This includes one bead, ten beads or more.

Check out our limited supply before they are gone.

Lampwork Bead Focal Point Necklace

Lampwork Handmade Bead at Alaska Handmade JewelryThis 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. Chinese Red handmade boro bead at Alaska Handmade Jewelry, Anchorage AlaskaHowever, 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.

Lampworking Question & Answer

Question 11/30/09

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.

Thank you,

Answer 11/30/09


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
Anchorage, Alaska

Kiln Building Question & Answer

Question 11/28/09


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.

Thank you,

Answer 11/28/09


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
Anchorage, Alaska

Some additional kiln building and related links that may be of use.










Boro Glass Turtle

Boro glass turtle at Alaska Handmade JewelryBoro 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.

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