Thursday, July 1, 2010

Part 1: Setting Up My Glass Studio - Choosing A Torch

After six days of lampworking, I knew I wanted to set up my own studio (below) to make beads at my leisure and begin to sell them online, as well as incorporate them into my current jewellery designs. With my very limited experience and indeed knowledge, setting up my studio seemed a daunting task! Which torch should I buy? Which kiln? Should I use oxygen bottles or an Oxycon system? What kind of extraction fan? How will I know if the air I am extracting is being replaced sufficiently? etc... etc...

I did some research in books and online, reading forum posts and various articles but I was surprised at how much time it took me to feel confident I had gained a reasonable understanding of what was on offer. I guess this is because we all have different preferences and ultimately there is no right and wrong. Anyway, I am going to share what I have learn't in the process of setting up my studio, what equipment I have brought and what I would change in hindsight.  Hopefully this will be useful to those of you starting out, facing the same hurdles as I did.

Choosing a torch

I did some extensive research into which torch I was going to purchase. I talked with several experienced lampworkers and suppliers to get a better idea of the options available to me.
This is what I found...

Single-Fuel Torch
  • Smaller start-up investment
  • Cooler flame allowing slower work pace
  • Sarah Hornik uses one! 
  • Slow to melt glass
  • Noisy
  • Uses up fuel quickly

Dual-Fuel Torch 
  • Hotter flame
  • Glass melts quicker, so faster production times
  • Adjustable flame for glass reactions and fine detail work
  • Higher start-up investment and maintenance costs
  • More complex torch, steeper learning curve
  • Harder to transport and move around with
Which torch?

I brought the Nortel Minor Burner dual-fuel torch (£175) as I was impressed at how quickly it melted the glass and as i'm a speed freak, this appealed to me. I was also told it was a great torch for those starting out in. I am using an oxygen bottle set up in my studio, which I operate between  5 to 15 psi and the propane at .25 to 5 psi. Ultimately, I would like to run an oxy-con system as it is more economical in the longer run. 

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