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Is Making A Bead Carving?


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I have been a stone bead maker since 1978 and cannot tell you how many beads I have made over the years my guess at this time is in excess of 30,000. I have decided to make large stone beads for this years obsession and while working on them this past few weeks it dawned on me that beads are really a very involved carving. I decided to document one for all of you on the carving path to see if you agree with me that in fact a bead is a carving.


First off you need to find a piece of stone that is suited for a bead, once you find the stone your initial challenge is to cut out the proper bead blank, seen in the image below the blank measured 40mm 1.6inch X 21mm .828 inch. This stone is a banded New Mexico Rhyolite, Rhyolite is a stone formed from volcanic ash and this particular piece of stone is very hard and very well suited for bead making, in fact it turned out to be one of the most smooth cutting stones I have ever encountered.




The next thing is drill a hole in this case a long hole 1.6 inch. To drill a hole like this I started out with a 1.5mm diamond drill, I then worked my way up in steps until I reached my final size of 6mm (1/4 inch). You will notice that on one end the hole is not centered, this was expected as the blank had a taper about half way down one of the sides, when laid out for drilling I knew that if I centered the hole by the time the bead was made this would disappear in grinding.





Next comes rough grinding to come up with the basic shape wanted. You will notice that the hole was so well centered in the blank that there were witness marks on opposite sides once roughed out.





Next I removed the rough grinding from an 80 mesh to 260 mesh so I could get the bead in perfect balance fo the final shaping.





All of the final shaping is done free hand on the grinder with the bead spinning using a 360 mesh wheel, this is somewhat time consuming but if your after the perfect shape in the long run it is well worth the time involved. After final shaping is done you then take the finish to the desired shine in this case the bead is finished on a worn out 600 mesh sanding belt, I think this finish lends itself to this stone and gives the bead a bit of character. After sanding I expanded the hole with a tapered 600 mesh diamond burr, in doing this there is no worry with the hole cutting the cord it is hung on.




Finished bead size 39.25mm 1.55 inch X 20mm .788 inch I am quite pleased with the results.


All my best ............... Danny

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