The Twist and Shout of Lampworking!
By: Brian Kerkvliet copyright 10/94
There are literally hundreds of different types of twisted decoration cane you can make on the torch. I shall describe several of the basic steps involved, These are the foundations for the most common types. Once these different variations of twisted cane are mastered you can improvise on the color and multi layered possibilities limited only by your own imagination!
THE LAY UP
These few drawings will show you the three basic steps to making different cane. The first and simplest is a two color twist . Start with a rod of one color in your left hand and a rod of contrasting color in your right hand. Begin heating about one inch of both rods in the flame. It is best to start out by heating a shorter segment at first and progress to longer sections as you become familiar with the process. Heat these one inch sections to a point where they are hot enough to stick but not hot enough to flop all over the place. Attach them together so that they are parallel to each other (Fig. 1) .
Once the two rods are attached, the single rods on each side will act as handles. One at a time, heat each towards the end of the overlapped section so that you can move the handles on axis with each other (Fig. 2).
Heat the overlapped portions so that they become more or less a homogeneous mass of hot glass. See the cross sections (Fig. 3). You don't want to "stir" the different colors together or you will get an uneven twisty. You want to keep the different colors as evenly defined and parallel as possible so that the result is a nice even twist with equal amounts of colors showing. Once the glass is heated evenly, try to get it into a football shape. This is the best shape for pulling any kind of cane in the torch, it allows you to get the heat where you want it, in the middle of the mass. The ends of the "football" will be heated by the residual heat from the flame (Fig. 4).
When the glass reaches a nice even yellow heat, ( but before you loose control of it !), take it out of the flame and rock it back and forth for a few seconds. This allows for the glass to form a thin chill skin, which gives you a little more control of the next step. The trick is to learn when is the exact moment to start twisting and stretching. Once you start pulling there is no going back, If you try to heat after you start pulling you will end up with a very uneven twisty. Heat the glass evenly, then take it out of the flame for the twist and pull all in one shot! It will take a few times to get the feel of this timing. When I was first learning these type of things I was always told to do a few hundred or so and then ask questions. SO... I expect no less from you! Just beware that If you are not careful and pull too fast you may have glass unexpectedly drip all over your lap! Pull slowly at first and then twist as fast as you can. When I say twist I mean twist! You want to twist the top of the rod in your right hand towards you and the top of the rod in your left hand away from you.
It is best to twist the cane in a counter clockwise direction if you are looking at it from the end. The reason for this relates to how the twisty will be applied to the bead while it's made. When I apply a twisty to a bead I usually tighten the twist up as I wrap it onto the piece (Fig. 6). This does two things. Firstly, it gives a tighter looking design, secondly by rotating the twisty slowly in the flame it heats more evenly, enabling me to apply it with a lot more ease and fluidity. This also helps the over all appearance, after all isn't that what we are all after? A nice looking piece! The twisty will flow on smoother if it's twisted counterclockwise because of how the flame hits it. I'll explain why, the flame will hit the twisty on the bottom, so if you rotate it in a counter clockwise direction then the hottest part of the cane will go down onto the piece allowing it to stick and flow nicely. If you rotated the twisty clockwise, then the hottest part of the twisty would go up and away from the piece and the cold part of the twisty would go down onto the piece, which wouldn't allow it to flow as well. Try it both ways for yourself and see what I mean.
These basic steps that I just described apply to all the other types of twisty shown here, only the lay up portion differs. Once you master the steps of heating, gathering without twisting, getting an even heat on the football shape, taking it out of the flame, waiting for the right moment to start slowly pulling, pulling slowly at first and twisting fast, pulling faster towards the end as the glass heat dissipates, then... Voilá!! You will have the most perfect twisty!!
The simple twisty described above can be done with two or more colors, or by using filigrana instead of solid colored rods for the delicate lace look Fig. 7. shows several cross sections of other possible lay ups. Keep in mind that when you melt the rods together you want to avoid trapping air in the bundle as much as possible. The best way that I have found to do this is to bundle the colors together so that when you heat them you work the air bubble out from one end to the other. This is done by heating one end of the bundle first and gradually working your way to the other end of the bundle with the heat, until the air squeezes out the open ends at the far side. It's kind of like zipping up a zip lock bag. Remember to keep it hot and keep it turning!!
The other way to put together bundles without trapping any air is to apply one very hot colored rod to another cooler base rod. That is to say the rod that you are applying is hot and the rod that you are applying it onto is comparatively cool. This heat differential allows you to spread the hotter of the two glasses evenly over the other without trapping air.
It is important not to trap air because when you have bubbles running the length of the stretched cane, it tends to pop apart when you use it. Even if you get it hot and applied to the bead without it popping apart, the air will form small bubbles and eventually burst through to the surface, causing distortions in your design. This can be very frustrating when you are trying to add those final touches to a piece on which you have worked so hard.
The next cane that I will describe is a little more complex. It is an internal ribbon cane (fig.14 a). A simple way to make a ribbon cane is to take a large diameter rod of clear glass (10-12 MM) and slowly heat it up. I prefer to preheat about 4 " of the end of the rod in a kiln so that it is less apt to thermal shock when put in the flame. Keep that 4" warm In the back burner while you heat up the color you have chosen to apply. The trick here is to keep the clear hot, but not so hot that it moves, while getting the rod of color hot enough so that you can stripe it onto the clear. Once you get that dance down, stripe the colored glass onto the clear lengthwise starting about 2" from the end and coming towards you. It might take two or three stripes to cover Approximately 1/3 of the clear rods diameter (Fig. 8). Hopefully by now you haven't heated the clear so much that it starts to move. If that does happen just stop heating it and shape it back in line. Let it cool down a bit and start heating the farthest end of the color so that you can fold that bit of clear at the end back over the color stripes. (Fig. 9,10 & 11) The first part of encasing the ribbon color is now complete.
After folding the clear on top of its self, resulting in the encasement of the color, you want to heat the clear where it first touches the color and jog it over so that the center of the clear handle lines up with the ribbons of color (Fig. 11). Then heat up the end of another rod and attach it to the far end of the color so that you have two handles, one on either end in axis with one another (Fig. 12). Now heat the bundle using full rotations and an even back and forth motion until the whole mass forms that nice football shape. Try not to twist it before you get that shape. You may need to marver it slightly at first to coax it into a cylindrical shape before heating it into a football. The rest of the pull has been described earlier. The pull and twist are basically the same for all twisties. All you need to do is ask yourself how long and how tight a twist. Then put your hands into motion to create it. This ribbon cane can be made with several different embellishments. (Fig.13 b-d) Play around and make up your own!
Another fancy twisty is made with a white core and transparent colors placed on top. First a large amount of white glass is gathered up by heating the center of a long white rod and gradually pushing the ends towards the middle until you have a good sized acorn of white. Marver it out into a cylinder and allow it to cool down until it stops moving. Now begin to stripe transparent colors from the tip towards you. Focus the flame mainly on the transparent glass, being careful not to heat the white core, or it will start moving again. Stripe the transparent colors on hot enough so that they smoosh into the previous stripe, reducing the possibility of trapping air bubbles. (As described above.) After you have completed the first layer of colors, go around again and add a second stripe of corresponding color giving you two layers of color. This will render a higher density of color after it's stretched. (Fig.14) This same barber pole effect can be achieved using filigrana over clear or clear with a central color as shown in Fig. 15. Even trickier yet you can combine the two techniques of the internal ribbon and the barber pole to create a twisty that is totally out of this world! (Fig.16) The gist of what I'm trying to explain here is that with a few basic techniques one can cross pollinate, experiment and come up with some wild cane! These different cane can be pulled thin so they can be used to applied to beads etc. Or you can pull them short and stubby to use for making marbles and the like! The sky is the limit!
In my last article I mentioned that I was going to evaluate the types of kilns that are out there for bead workers. Well I sure fooled you didn't I? Actually, after starting to compile the data on the kilns I realized that in order to do a proper job on this topic I will need more time to gather information. So keep your eye on the mail box for the next BIG edition of GLASS ART with my column that will evaluate bead kilns and controllers. In addition to that I will describe how to heal beads and other unusual kiln tactics! Amaze your friends and confuse your enemies with your healing powers! If you have any specific kiln technical question, or want to know what I think of a particular kiln drop me a line C/O Glass Art Mag. Happy Beading!
Twisty: Any piece of glass cane with a multi colored twist going along the length of the cane. Hence the name twisted, flip city man!
Filigrana: This is a type of glass that has one or two layers of colored glass in the center surrounded by clear glass giving the optical illusion that there is more color then there is really. I think that the Italians came up with this one!
Chill Skin: This is a term I use to describe a particular heat state in the glass. A chill skin is achieved by allowing the glass to cool down just enough so that the surface chills a little bit before the inside cools. This give the worker more control of the piece in certain circumstances.
Back Burner: This describes the use of the outer part of the flame. The back burner is mainly used to slowly heat up a peace of glass, or to keep a piece warm but not moving while another piece of glass is heated up.