Instructional Articles

Lining Beads with the Impress


Thanks for choosing the Impress Bead Liner!

The fact that the Impress is screw based gives you a big advantage. Each turn of the Impress' handle moves the cone downward exactly 1.25 mm, so you'll know at each step exactly how far you've gone, without having to judge it by how hard you are pulling a handle, etc. This allows you to do each side of each bead exactly the same way.

You have some control over the look of your rivet ends by varying the length of the tubing, and how far you turn the handle at each stage of the process. Once you decide on a tubing length and a look that you like, it will produce the same or very nearly the same results every time. I won't say you will never crack a bead or have a fluke, but it is rare if done properly. You can keep a notebook of "recipes" for styles you like and make any of them again.

Changing centering pegs and / or flaring dies.

To avoid misalignment, do not remove the anvil (ie, the bottom post) from the base. Pegs should be changed from the top, by removing the cone, or, if you prefer, by removing the base.

By Removing the Base:

What you'll need:
  • #2 Philips screwdriver (1/4 inch shaft.) Don't try to use a smaller screwdriver. It will damage the slots of the peg
Before removing the base, notice one leg of the Impress has a number in the casting. Mark the end of the base that is on that side, so you can put it back the same way it was.

Now remove the two large flat-head screws from the bottom which attach the legs to the base. once it is off, you can easily access the centering peg. Change the peg by unscrewing it from the bottom post. Take care not to twist the post, which might loosen it. Hold it with a pair of pliers if necessary. Do not over-tighten the centering peg. Just use one finger and thumb on the screwdriver. The bottom post is hardened tool steel and will cut into the softer screw threads quite easily, damaging the peg and making subsequent removal difficult.

After changing the peg, re-assemble the base onto the Impress body. Screw one screw in almost all the way, but leave it loose enough so the other screw can self-center as the tapered head aligns with the hole in the base. Gently tighten the second screw, and then go back and gently tighten the first one. Now tighten both equally. This ensures correct alignment of the base assembly and upper body.

By Removing the cone:

What you'll need:
  • #2 Philips screwdriver (1/4 inch shaft.) Don't try to use a smaller screwdriver. It will damage the slots of the peg.
  • A small bowl or container.
  • A 1/4 X 20 nut, old bead, short tube, or something similar in size that fits over the centering peg.
There is a single ball bearing inside the cone. Be prepared to hold the cone upright to avoid losing it.

With the tool upright on a table, grasp the cone lightly. Turn the handle counter-clockwise, until the cone is at the top of its travel. Continue unscrewing the screw untill the cone slides off the shaft. The ball bearing will either be inside the cone, or stuck to the end of the shaft by grease. Capture the bearing in the cone, and set them both aside in the dish.

Unscrew the shaft completely from the tool and set it aside.

Insert the #2 Philips screwdriver into the peg, and unscrew it by turning counter-clockwise. Insert the new peg and screw it in by hand. Tighten it GENTLY using ONLY your thumb and one finger on the handle of the screwdriver. Over-tightening will damage the peg.

Place the nut, bead, or whatever you chose over the centering peg. Screw the shaft back into the tool until the end of the shaft is visible by about a half inch or so. Place the cone with the ball inside it, onto the bead or nut. Screw the shaft down, guiding it into the cone until the spring clip contacts the cone, keeping it straight. Continue tightening the handle until the cone is fully seated on the shaft, good and snug.

Back off the handle and remove the bead or nut. The tool is now ready to use.

Measuring tubing and beads:

There is no way I would ever want to do this work without a digital caliper. It makes it so easy, you'll thank yourself every time you use it. Harbor Freight sells a very nice one in two different lengths at a very modest price. For this work, the smaller 4 inch one will be fine, but I prefer the 6 inch since it is so handy for other things as well.

The caliper has three buttons:

(1) On/Off - (It will also turn itself off after a period of disuse, but why waste the battery?

(2) mm/inch mode - Very nice for conversions!

(3) Zero - This sets the reading to Zero, regardless of where the jaw is. This will come in very handy, as you'll see below.

There is also a little metal knob at the top. Turn this to lock the caliper's jaws at any width.

There is a little thumb wheel at the back that helps to move the jaws open or shut by very tiny amounts. You can use that, or simply push or pull the jaws for longer excursions. The wheel feels loose. That is normal. Push it against the slide with your thumb to engage it.

The long thin thing that slides out the end is a depth gauge. You can stick that into a blind hole and slide the tool down till the butt end contacts the top surface, and the reading will be the depth of the hole.

Using the caliper to measure and mark tubing:

Let's say you have a bead that is 9.6 mm wide, and you want to cut your tubing 4.2 mm longer than that to make a fairly wide rivet.

Close the jaws of the caliper, and press the mm/inch button so it reads mm on the display. Press the zero button if it does not read zero already. (Always be sure the caliper's jaws are clean, so you are not measuring a bit of metal or grit, and calling it zero. :)

Now, measure your bead at the widest point. (9.6 mm.) Next, rather than doing the arithmetic, turn the locking knob to lock that position, and then press the zero button again. Now loosen the lock, and slide the jaws open until it reads 4.2 mm. Lock the jaws. Now your caliper is actually set and locked, to 9.6 mm + 4.2 mm = 13.8 mm, but without having to do the math.

The caliper's jaws are hardened tool steel, and very sharp at the tips. Put one end of your tube against the tip end of the back jaw, and scribe the tube a short distance with the other tip. You now have a very accurate mark exactly where you should cut.

Choosing a Pipe Cutter

Use a good quality mini pipe cutter, one that is about 1 inch square or so. Don't pick a big honkin' one. They are awkward for small tubing and will not provide any better results than the little ones. Choose one that has two rollers in the bottom, not just a V shaped trough. Look for one that has replacement wheels on the rack, right beside the tool. Buy an extra one or two at the same time. A sharp wheel makes a big difference in the quality and look of the finished rivet. There are many good quality brands. Don't skimp. Get a good one. It will probably cost somewhere between $11.00 and $15.00.

Cutting Tubes:

Always check the ends of your tubing, and debur the inside edge of your tubing on each end if necessary. You can also rub each end lightly on a clean flat fine tooth file or black wet-or-dry fine sandpaper. If you do file or sand it, don't take off so much that you change your length much, or else allow for it when measuring for the cut.

Place the tubing into the cutter with the wheel at the point where you want to cut. Screw the adjustment wheel GENTLY.

Don't be in a hurry to finish your cut. Never turn the wheel so far that it dents the tubing even the slightest bit! If the wheel is sharp, it is cutting, but you probably won't see it. Turn the cutter's wheel just till it is good and snug, and no farther. Spin the cutter three times or so, (you should feel it getting loose as it cuts,) and snug it up again. repeat. It will take maybe three or four repetitions, and the tube will suddenly snap off all at once, perhaps before you even think you've cut it halfway through. When properly done, the tube will separate with a definite snap, and have a clean square edge. If instead it separates only partially, either your wheel is dull, or (most likely) you are turning the cutter adjustment too hard.

Using the Impress to line a bead

Read all of the instructions before trying this. My method may not be exactly right for your tubing if your cut was off, or your bead ends have a different pucker than mine. You may need to adjust the last couple of steps slightly.

This will produce a slim to medium width rivet with a slightly domed lip. The process takes about a minute to complete, after you are up to speed and confident of your technique.

Cut a tube 3.6 mm longer than the bead width at its widest point.

Deburr the inner edge of the tube on each end.

Place the tube and bead onto the alignment peg.

Screw the cone down till it contacts the tube, but apply no force at this point.

Slide the bead to the mid point between the top and bottom, and keep it there with thumb and/or forefinger as you perform the following steps:

Screw the cone down till it is good and snug, but not enough to begin flaring the tube.

Don't forget to  keep your bead near the center of the tube, away from the part that is being stretched by the cone, or it will crack. Glass does not flare very well!

It helps to imagine a clock face with twelve o'clock placed at whatever position the handle is in at the beginning of each turn.

(1) Turn the handle 3/4 turn. (9 o'clock)
(2) Flip bead and tube together, end for end. Snug it.
(3) Turn 3/4 turn.
(4) Flip. Snug.
(5) Turn 1/2 turn (6 o'clock)
(6) Flip. Snug.
(7) repeat 5 and 6 three times.

With a soft mallet such as rawhide or plastic, or a very small smooth faced metal hammer, gently tap the edges of the rivets down all around the circumference while turning the bead, until the core is tight. Note: because the practice nut-beads are smooth and flat, the core will never actually get "tight" on those, but it will get flush. With a little skill. you'll be surprised how hard you can hit it without damage to glass bead or metal, but go slow at first till you get a good feel for it.


Each time you re-flare a previously flared end, the flared edge curls slightly downward toward the bead. The more repetitions, the more the curl, and hence, the higher the dome. (You can actually curl it all the way back on itself!) On the other hand, larger turns will make for a flatter rivet. But I've found that anything over about 3/4 to 1 turn as the first step, may rip the tubing. You need to get it curled down some first, so the stretch is not focused at the raw edge of the metal.

You can also stop at any point, and use a hammer, then optionally go back to the tool, etc.

You can add length to the tube, or take smaller turns, to increase the number of repetitions possible on a given bead. Smaller steps on the same length tube will make a higher dome with a narrower lip. Experiment, and give me and others some feedback on what you discover. It is a work in progress, with many as yet untapped possibilities. Try longer tubes, larger turns, or small, then large, then small turns, to shape the dome differently, etc.

Your tubing should slide easily down the peg and fully contact the anvil post without any force being applied. If it stops before hitting bottom, you have done one of two possible things wrong, and you should correct that before proceeding...

(1) You didn't deburr it well enough, and there is a metal edge inside the end that is smaller than the normal tube width. Remove it.

(2) You tightened the pipe cutter too tight on one or more passes, which squeezes it inward, reducing the diameter. If either one of these has occurred, you can push it down with the cone, and the tapered peg will stretch it back, but, your tube will probably stick, and you'll have to tap it (and your bead!) carefully with your soft mallet, or the plastic end of a screwdriver handle to knock it off the peg. It is therefor better to stop, and deburr the tube till it fits without any force being applied. This is why I belabor the issue of proper technique when cutting your tubing.

Don't forget to  keep your bead near the center of the tube, away from the part that is being stretched by the cone, or it will crack. Glass does not flare very well!

Due to small errors in length of your cut or measurement and symmetry of your bead, you may need to do only a 1/4 turn for the last one or two pairs of turns.

Always try to judge how far is left to go and plan your turns to allow an equal number for each end, or your lips will be slightly different sizes.

Take your time, and turn the bead between steps, looking to make sure you are stopping before hitting any high spot on the bead.

Don't try to use the press to get the rivet tight against the bead. Use a small mallet for the final tightening. Stop using the Impress when the rivet has a total gap about the thickness of the metal, or a little less.

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