Instructional Articles

Optimize Your Bead Release for Maximum Performance

I always recommend Sludge Plus from Arrow Springs for my tools. I don't get any compensation from Arrow Springs for this. It is just an excellent product that works perfectly with my tools. Not surprisingly, since I was using it when I developed the BeaDreamer prototype.

Here is how to optimize it for the best performance in the flame, and for maximum efficiency of the BeaDreamer. You can also try this with other brands. Some will work this thin, and some won't, so try a small amount of release and some test beads first!

As supplied, Sludge Plus is typically quite a bit thicker than necessary. Thinning it down considerably according to these directions will lend the following advantages: It will be very smooth, with no lumps or bumps, conforming perfectly to the mandrel, just like a fresh coat of paint. It is much stronger in the flame and can be worked for very long periods without problems. It can be flame-dried, fired, and used immediately.

To flame dry it, (after you've thinned it as outlined below,) dip, then place the mandrel at the back of the flame well beyond the tip. Bring it forward, turning, until you find the spot where it starts to dry quickly, (still not in the flame though,) turning light gray as it dries. The trick is to dry it without letting it boil. Boiling is the only thing that will damage it at this point. So just dry it first, and when it has all turned light gray, you can go immediately into the flame to fire it. The whole thing takes about 10 seconds or so.

In the range of thickness, on the thin end, your bead will be stuck on the mandrel, or at least hard to remove. On the other end of the range, it is so thick that the hole it makes is considerably larger than the BeaDreamer, and you have to orbit the hole to get it all out. What we are looking for is the "sweet spot" in the middle, where the beads come off easily, and the BeaDreamer diameter closely matches the hole so you get straight-through, one-pass cleaning. It's not hard to do, there is a "window" of thickness on the scale that will work, so it's not hard to get it within the optimum range.

Get a tall thin bottle, such as a pill bottle. Fill it 2/3 full or so with release. Close the release jar. The little bottle will be your "working bottle." This lets you get a long dip with the least amount of release in the working bottle, without having to keep opening and closing your main jar, which helps avoid drying out your main bottle, and lumps from dry release falling from around the edges. Keep the sides and lid of both jars clean and that will solve a host of problems right there.

Since Sludge Plus is always shipped thick, from my experience anyway, it is safe to assume yours is thicker than we want at the start, so add a teaspoon of water and stir it in thoroughly. Dip a mandrel and make a small wonky bead. We just want a hole to test, so don't bother to make it pretty, and don't bother with annealing it.  Just flame anneal it at the back of the flame for a bit, and behind the tip for about 30 seconds or so. Then stand it in a sand pot or something else to let it cool to room temperature.

Remove the bead and clean it. If it isn't clean in a single pass, it is still too thick. Add another teaspoon of water. If instead, it is hard to get off the mandrel, it is too thin, so add a little release from the original jar. From my own experience, I can say you will probably need several teaspoons of water before it starts to get close to where you want it. When it is right, it will be quite thin. It will look shiny and perfectly smooth on the mandrel, just like a fresh coat of paint. Thin like cream, not thick like pancake batter!

Repeat with another test bead until it is right; Easy release from the mandrel, and one-shot cleaning. Once you see how it looks and behaves, you'll be able to get it right just by looking at it. It is well worth taking the time, maybe 15 minutes, to do this. You'll only need to do it once, and you'll thank yourself for it when you see how remarkably well this works!

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