Buffer That Bead! Protect Your Stringing Material When Using Lampwork Glass Beads

Feb 7, 2012

Nothing gives your beaded necklaces and bracelets a bit of character like a handmade lampwork glass bead. These lovely little bits of glass art come straight from the human imagination, and I love the way they can infuse a beaded necklace design with a little splash of unexpected color or draw your eye to their unusual shapes. Working with handmade lampwork glass beads requires a few tricks for making beaded jewelry that lasts, particularly when it comes to protecting your stringing wire.

lampwork glass bead on a head pin
The easiest way to protect your beading wire is to string your glass bead on a headpin and make a wrapped loop.
Lampwork glass beads can have bead holes with rough edges, and after a while, these edges can cause significant wear and tear on your beading wire. I can attest to the fact that there's nothing worse than watching a beaded necklace fall apart after having your beading wire worn thin! Taking care of your beading wire can make your finished piece last a lifetime - or longer.

Smooth out any rough edges using a bead reamer. A diamond-coated bead reamer is the perfect tool for smoothing out any rough edges on your glass bead. Hold the bead and the reamer underwater and apply gentle pressure to the edges of the hole in your glass bead. A bead reamer can also be used to widen the hole in a glass bead to accommodate a thicker beading wire. Always use the bead reamer under water, preferably in a large pan of water. The water will keep the glass cool and prevent any stray pieces of glass from flying towards your face. (That said, you should also wear safety glasses when using a bead reamer to prevent injury to your eyes!)

For glass beads with larger holes, a bit of french bullion can protect your beading wire.
Use your seed beads. For glass beads with larger holes, you can string a section of seed beads on your beading wire the same length as your glass bead and then slip it over the seed beads. The seed beads will keep the edges of the glass bead from rubbing against your stringing material and prevent wear and tear. If you don't want the seed beads to show, use a bead cap over the ends of the glass bead. The bead cap will add a little extra protection to your beading wire, too.

Cover the beading wire with french bullion. If the bead hole is too small for seed beads, try using a small piece of french bullion (wire). Cut the wire slightly larger than the glass bead and slip it on your beading wire. Then slide the glass bead over the french bullion. Cover up the ends of the french bullion with some pretty bead caps or cones, if you'd like.

Wire it up! My old standby for protecting my beading wire from the wear and tear of glass beads is to put the bead on a head pin or eye pin and then string it as a dangle. Make a wrapped loop on either end of your glass bead to use it as a fancy link, too! In this case, though, you also want to make sure that you protect the hole of your glass bead by stringing some spacer beads or seed beads on either end of your head pin. The spacer beads will take some of the pressure off your glass bead and prevent the bead hole from cracking.

Now that you know how to protect your beading wire from the wear and tear that can be caused by your favorite glass beads, how about a little inspiration for some new beading projects? Every season, Stringing magazine brings you fabulous beading projects from your favorite designers using all types of wonderful jewelry making components and glass beads. In every issue of Stringing magazine, you'll learn new techniques and get the buzz on new beading products. Subscribe to Stringing magazine today and don't miss a single issue!

Do you have a tip for protecting your stringing material when you use lampwork glass beads in your beading projects? Leave a comment here on the blog and share it with us!

Bead Happy,


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klpost wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 9:23 AM

This article is obviously about mass produced lampwork beads.  Purchasing artisan lampwork beads assures that the bead is properly annealed, reamed, and has no sharp edged.   There are thousands of lampwork artisans in the world making beautiful one of a kind beads for use in one of a kind projects.  While the mass produced beads are cheap, you get what you pay for and ultimately risk the stability of your finished piece.

Karen7 wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 9:32 AM

Buy good quality, artist-made lampwork beads,and many of these problems won't be an issue. Granted, they are more expensive, but the artist has taken the time to ensure that you have an excellent bead to string. Buy a good bead, support an artist!

rosemarie23 wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 9:46 AM

Lol! I see others have already had the same thought as me. Any beads that I make that have sharp edges end up in the fish tanks, not in my customer's hands.

Since we all know that these sharp edge beads are out in the wild, this article does contain good advice on how to deal with them.

Dianne@90 wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 9:53 AM

As a lampworker myself,  I agree completely with all of the above.  Before I got into

this hobby, and I bought beads,  if I found sharp edges,  I used Swavorski crystals at each end butted up to the edges, that way glass to glass was a buffer also.  But now

even when I buy from an artisan,  I find nice rounded puckers eliminating this problem altogether.  Life is good!  

DebbieA@29 wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 10:28 AM

If you are using a good quality artisan made bead and not mass-produced crapola you won't have these problems.  In the end you get what you pay for.

Kokopelli wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 10:49 AM

I use seedbeads to fill up the hole or thin rubber tubing, like the ones that came strung in between stone beads to protect the single beads. Works fine!

Kerry Hart wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 10:59 AM

While we all try to support the artisan bead makers, there are those of us lured to the dark side by the mass produced beads.  Sometimes those beads are just the right size, color, or shape to go with the special (and yes, sometimes pricey) artisan beads.  My solution is to use the reamer and I also save the vinyl tubing that is used as a spacer of some strings of fine beads.  The tube can be cut to length and not only does it protect the beading wire it also help to fill up the space in the hole.  Some beads, one of a kind or mass produced, have quite large holes that need to be filled somehow to make the beads lay correctly.  It is usually the large lampwork beads that I use this on but some of the smaller ones get the same treatment..

Carol@633 wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 1:36 PM

Jennifer, may we use your ideas as a program for our bead society?  I think they would make a great program for our members--the more experienced ones and the old-timers.--I'll check here for your answer-thanks

BabetteC2 wrote
on Feb 8, 2012 4:09 PM

After reading your note about putting seed beads inside lampwork beads, I thought I'd add that you can put hollow rubber tubing inside as well - in fact, in my opinion, I think this works a little better.  

The tubing I'm talking about can be found in the kids section of the beads dept in craft stores with the name of SoftGlas.  It is also available at www.jewelrysupply.com -

I checked and found it on Amazon too It is listed as Tygon R3603 3/32" OD.  These work best when the lampwork has been made on a 3/32" mandrel.  

Cut the tubing short of the hole, add an optional drop of Super Glue to the side of the tubing and quickly slide it into the hole pushing down so that it does not show.  It's great!



Dita Basu wrote
on Feb 9, 2012 4:38 PM

Great ideas.  Also from all the comments this becomes a valuable article. And you are right, you can get lots of great ideas from Stringing magazine.  Even my old issues give me many ideas. Thank you for sharing.  Dita



on Feb 11, 2012 8:36 AM

I see by the other comments, that my thoughts are already spoken. Buy handmade artisan lampwork beadds and you'll get a quality bead. If you need a certain color or size, most lampworkers are happy to oblige.


honoralee wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 1:55 PM

When making earrings using either a mass-produced or artisan bead, the hole is usually much bigger than the headpin, allowing the bead to "lean" one way or the other. I've had success using little rubber and silicone earwire stoppers (the things that keep French earwires from slipping out of your pierced holes).  Slide one of the

stoppers down the earwire until it is inside the bead to stabilize it and keep it vertical. Then top the bead off with spacers, beads, or caps, and no one will know what's inside!

Anna_Gray wrote
on Feb 11, 2012 3:49 PM

I string thin metal or plastic tubes under a glass bead, then string metal beads on both ends to hide the tubes and prevent the glass bead from moving around.

On the production side, I agree with lampworkers above. Properly made beads do not have sharp edges. I work with polymer, not glass. Properly made polymer bead, baked on a smooth aluminum mandrel or wet-drilled/sanded after baking, is going to have the smoothest edges ever.