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Beads of Courage

Old 2007-08-14, 7:39pm
RyanTheNumberImp RyanTheNumberImp is offline
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Join Date: Oct 30, 2005
Location: Calgary, Canada
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Default Aquarium Bead Tutorial

This tutorial focuses mainly on using murrini. I find that murrini don't always mix visually with fish made via dots and stringers, since the style is so different.

I have a tutorial on making fish murrini here:

I am making a marble in the photos since I have been wanting to try an aquarium marble, but beads are done in a very similar way.

To start, here are some of the materials I have prepared

These are the murrini I am using:

Here I have some blue dicho scraps puntied onto some clear, as well as the fire polished murrini arranged in the kiln

With exception of the one guy at the back (I decided I had too much blue the way it was so I moved him away so as to not accidentally use him), they are all organized in an easy to pick up manner on a graphite plate.

Here is some cane I am using:

These are all hand pulled from scratch, the bottom one was made with hand pulled filligrana because I didn't have any on hand. I find that adding too much green to aquarium beads can take away from them so I avoid using green in the background.

Here are a few notes about murrini and cane. I find murrini that have been flame polished (in either the kiln or by hand in the flame) are slightly easier to use. The optimal murrini slice will be 1-2mm thick. Super thin slices look nice, but as soon as you waft them through the flame they become soft and get smooshed. Very thick slices are harder to push level to the surface of the bead. Murrini are rather shocky for their size so should be preheated. I use two categories of cane, seaweedish cane and cane for the ground. Seaweed cane should look very delicate and generally involves 6-10 bits of filligrana spiraling around a clear core. This cane looks best when it is rather thick. The ground cane I use is normally some silvered ivory and encased striped cane.

To begin the bead, I form a core of cobalt blue and encase it with the dichro

I simply work the dichro like a very heat sensitive rod and encase in the normal fashion, I have never had any problems with burning off the coating.

The dichro is then quickly given a very thin coating of clear to protect it, and carefully melted in.

I also heat and pull off the ends with tweezers to bring the dichro to a point and clean it up.

I then add swipes of silvered ivory stringer to the background.

When making aquarium beads, since you generally have fairly thick layers of encasing, I try not to melt in designs so much that they become flat. If you leave them partially raised during encasing you will be able to see the depth.

And here I have added some of my cane.

This is about as much as I will melt the decoration in

Here I have added some swipes of pink and teal striped cane.

I encase the decoration with large swipes of clear from a 10-15mm rod.

bubbles are't much of an issue with aquarium beads, but I still like to reduce them where possible.

I have added my first murrini, a starfish. Adding murrini can be tricky. I heat the spot where I want to put it while wafting the murrini through the flame with tweezers. I then take both the bead and the murrini out of the flame and press it in as far as it will go.

I find that the bright oranges and reds of starfish peeking through the various canes really brightens up the bead.

I slowly melt in the murrini by heating it then pressing the tops of the murrini in with a brass stump shaper. To do so, rest the tool on top of the murrini long enough for it to harden so that you don't distort it.
GTT Mirage, GTT Lynx, Smith's Little Torch

Last edited by RyanTheNumberImp; 2007-08-18 at 8:15pm.
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Old 2007-08-14, 7:40pm
RyanTheNumberImp RyanTheNumberImp is offline
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The same process applies to the fish, work slowly and carefully. I find that being able to narrow down the flame is very helpful when placing murrini close together. I love my lynx

Again, slowing adding murrini and working them in carefully into the surface.

Here I am applying the encasing, it is important to apply the encasing so that you don't have to move the glass around a lot during the final shaping. You really don't want to smear the design underneath it.

Switched the punty and finishing the other side:

Now at this point you could finish the bead, but I like to continue with a second layer for depth.

Adding a layer of cane over the murrini is almost painful, but it does look nice in the finished bead and my cane doesn't obstruct much.

Just like with the first steps, I am again adding silvered ivory. Try to set it up so that it partially covers the starfish. Being able to look behind the various elements of the bead and see even more behind them is amazing.
The second layer is melted in at least partially smoothly since I dont want to be adding pounds of glass to round it out. I have also been adding more fish.

After working the murrini in again, I begin the final encasing:

The bottom of the marble where all the cane ends is quite messy, and I choose to cover it with some dark silver plum. You may or may not want to do this, depending on how the bottom looks. I have never done so on a bead.

Finally, I just carefully start shaping it:

It was a pretty long process that I didn't really do properly (hey, all I have is a block of brass with a hole drilled into it which I made, and some paraffin wax...)

You can see a bit of smearing, I still haven't gotten the technique down properly. I am sure there are better ways of applying murrini, my method was mostly derived from trial and error.

When you are making aquarium beads, always try to distort the lower layers as little as possible. Since they tend to be larger than normal beads, cracking isn't as much of a problem so I like to keep the base bead cool. When encasing, don't let the glass move around. If you want a different shape, add clear there, dont shift it around. When melting in layers of encasing do so carefully and help it along with tools if you need to.

An aquarium bead can be a lot of work, but they are beautiful.

You can see my tutorial on fire polishing murrini in a kiln here:
This isn't necessary, but I found that it helped a bit.

I will try to make a tutorial on making simple fish murrini as well, although doing so takes a lot of glass and time.
GTT Mirage, GTT Lynx, Smith's Little Torch

Last edited by RyanTheNumberImp; 2007-08-14 at 10:49pm.
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Old 2007-08-14, 8:14pm
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Vena Vena is offline
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I love the tutorial. Your aquarium bead is one of the nicest ones I've seen. Thanks for taking time to post it.
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Old 2007-08-14, 8:23pm
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theglasszone theglasszone is offline
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Ryan! This is amazing!!! The detail and depth are absolutely beautiful...You KNOW I think you're great...Thanks so much for sharing this with us!

DeAnne in CA
I've got a murrini for that,'ya know! My Etsy

"Only a fool rushes to his own demise..." ~Zorro
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Old 2007-08-14, 9:11pm
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squid squid is offline
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I'd like to see a proper photo of that marble - very nice!

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Old 2007-08-16, 9:39pm
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bead-licious bead-licious is offline
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Beautiful marble!
Thanks heaps for the tutorial, it really helps seeing pics with the explanation.

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Old 2007-08-17, 11:26am
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jaci jaci is offline
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WOW! this is a great tut!!!
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Last edited by jaci; 2011-04-17 at 8:07pm.
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Old 2007-08-18, 2:32pm
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dichromary dichromary is offline
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Thank you. Your application of the various elements to add depth is helpful. Love all your cute murrini.
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Old 2007-08-22, 4:07pm
careergalley careergalley is offline
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Just got my butterflies! They are GORGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was absolutely blown away, can't wait to go downstairs and PLAY! Can't wait to see your next project...
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Old 2007-08-22, 6:43pm
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artwhim artwhim is offline
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Fantastic tut! The murrini I bought from you are just amazing!!! I hope I do them justice.
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Old 2007-08-25, 5:38pm
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PaulaD PaulaD is offline
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That's really a nice tutorial! Thanks for taking the time to do it!!

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Old 2008-05-26, 5:34pm
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ziggys ziggys is offline
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Wow! I want to learn how to do that!!! I'm so impressed with your learning how to do everything, from cane, to murrini, to marble/beads.

I would love to see a finished photo too!

Thumbs Up!

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Old 2009-10-13, 8:12pm
Fyrewerx Fyrewerx is offline
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Old 2009-10-15, 9:43pm
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myrdlebp myrdlebp is offline
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That is one killer tut and I think I would love my lynx too, if I had one!!

Thank you!
The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do. - Walter Bagehot
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Old 2009-10-15, 11:14pm
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theglasszone theglasszone is offline
I speak Murrini!
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Location: In a Glass House, CA
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I love this tut too! I don't have a fancy torch (good 'ole Hot Head) and haven't been able to go into the amazingly detailed layers that Ryan does here, but I've had some pretty good success with 3-4 layers of glass and using these concepts! If you don't have a super-duper torch, don't get discouraged - give it a try anyway!

First tries - 2 layers:

Getting a little more daring:

Trying a "Nautilus" addition:

Getting crazy!!!

See? You don't know what you can do until you give it a go!!! I'm forever thankful to Ryan for guiding me...

I've got a murrini for that,'ya know! My Etsy

"Only a fool rushes to his own demise..." ~Zorro
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Old 2009-10-16, 7:55am
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Silver Moon Lampwork Silver Moon Lampwork is offline
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Wow, that is stunning Ryan! Thanks for posting.
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Old 2010-11-20, 10:24am
Sandra Sandra is offline
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Hi Ryan

I really enjoy your tutorials this free one and your others too!!!
thatīs my first try to follow your instructions and Iīm verry happy with the result. So Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us


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Old 2010-11-21, 7:49pm
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Mitosis Glass Mitosis Glass is offline
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Beautiful marble, Sandra! Great work!

Thanks Ryan for this tutorial, and the others that are linked as well, such as murrini fire-polishing!
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Old 2014-06-22, 3:28am
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BarbaraD BarbaraD is offline
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Where can one buy fish, starfish and sea creature Murrini please?
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Old 2014-06-22, 5:46am
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Eileen Eileen is offline
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The author has some, go to the first (amazing) post and click on the link for the butterfly murrini, and you'll see some fish too.
Etsy. Just do a search on "fish murrini" or whatever.
We have a few members here who make it, but I don't have their Etsy links handy. Maybe they will see this & give links to their shops.

What a great tutorial, love it!
My current "hot" fantasy involves a senior discount on glass & tools!

Last edited by Eileen; 2014-06-22 at 5:58am.
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