Making recycled glass beads

Today I made a necklace featuring beads from wine, gin and tonic bottles. I love taking the time to talk to people about how these beads are made, so here goes:

  1. I get lots of donations of gin and wine bottles (thanks to everyone who takes the time to do this). When I get the bottles I have to first of all clean them. This involves soaking them in hot water to remove the labels and clean the inside of the bottle. Sometimes the labels are a bit sticky, so I will use Eucalyptus oil to do the final clean for me.
  2. The next step is to smash the bottle! I put the bottle in a pillowcase and hit it as hard as I can with a hammer. I then take the broken pieces out of the bag and put them in a container with the same type of glass. It’s important that I don’t mix glass as they may not be compatible.
  3. Next it’s time to make the beads. Before I start making the beads I heat the glass on a hot plate. The reason I do this is because glass is temperamental! It does not like to be heated up too quickly (and it does not like to be cooled down too quickly). If I were to place glass straight into the flame it would just smash into a million pieces. So warming it up helps a lot. Less wasted glass.
  4. My torch runs oxygen and LPG (which is the gas you use for BBQs). I use really long tongs to pick up the warm glass and then carefully introduce that to the flame and warm it up enough to make it melt. Once it has started to get a bit “drippy” I will wind the glass onto a stainless steel mandrel (coated in bead release) and start using different tools and techniques to make the beads.
  5. Once the bead has been made it goes into the kiln to go through the annealing process. This is where the molecules align and the bead is strengthened. The beads stay in the kiln until I have finished for the day. They will sit at 510 degrees celsius for a further half an hour before I start ramping down the kiln.
  6. The next day the kiln is cool enough to remove the beads. They then need to be removed from the mandrels, and the holes then need to have the bead release cleaned from them.
  7. Phew! After that, the beads are ready to use to make necklaces like this:

recycled glass bead necklace