Important note to my readers. If you "left click" on this image, it will be expanded so that you can read it easily!
This is an amazing size chart for mandrel and bead sizes that Sue Beads created. This chart is so informative and it's in my opinion, perfect. So, thank you Sue Beads for compiling all of these sizes for us to use as a reference! I use this chart, myself. When I'm buying mandrels, I occasionally forget all of the sizes of mandrels available, so I look this chart up and voila, it has all the answers!
Ok, so now you are either wondering what mandrels are, OR you want to know why mandrel sizes even matter at all. Well, to begin with, mandrels are steel rods that lampworkers wind their hot glass rod on to, to make their beads. (I'll take a picture of some of my mandrels soon and post them on my blog-asap).
Luckily mandrels can be used over and over again. Occasionally new lampworkers will accidentally heat the mandrel too much while working and it will either bend or break off. Once a mandrel is bent, it can't be used because it becomes difficult to remove a bead off of a bent mandrel. Of course the mandrel can be turned around and the other end of the mandrel can be used.
When the bead is done, annealed and cooled, and removed from the mandrel, the spot where the mandrel was, is now the hole where you can string your bead! Luckily steel mandrels do not conduct heat very well, so that means that a lampworker does not burn their fingers while holding a steel mandrel in a hot torch flame while making a glass bead! Now-- lampworkers also must use something called bead release to coat on the end of the mandrel so that the glass does not stick to the steel mandrel. I will get into bead release in another posting, too! Plus I have a few tips for trying to remove stuck beads from mandrels.
TIP: If the bead release didn't work , and the bead is permanently stuck on the mandrel, the bead and the mandrel will be ruined, now left unusable. SO, it is nice to save these "ruined" beads" that are permanently stuck on a mandrel. Cleaver glass artists can make flower pot decorations with them, thus creating a new use for them. Just take the mandrel with the stuck bead on it, and push it into a flower pot or in an outdoor garden and it becomes.... garden art!
The hole in the center of the bead can be important to jewelry makers. Large holed beads can be used with thick leather cording, and other fibers, or thicker chain, theses beads are what jewelry makers call "Troll beads and Pandora beads". Thin stringing wire is used on beads with smaller diameter center holes. Bead pens and letter openers usually use beads with a center hole that is made using 3/32 inch mandrels. BUT, that also depends on the type of bead release the lampworker is using on their mandrels. Not many people know that little fact! I make my own bead release which I'll also get into when I blog about bead release. My bead release is very thin so the hole in the center of my beads is actually smaller than other artists using thicker release, on the same size mandrel.