Free How-to Lampworking Tutorials by Devardi Glass: A Critter Tutorial



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Fine Folly Glassworks


.•:*:•. A Critter Tutorial .•:*:•.


Introduction & Critter Making Tips


How To Make

'KATIE The Kitty'


...How To Make Critter Beads...


This Workbook is a nice big collection of Critter Tutorials with lots of How-To Information and

general lampworking tips. You are welcome to make these Critter Beads for your own use or to

sell if you like. The Workbook has been assembled using a Spiral Binding to allow it to lay flat, in

case you want to use it as a reference at the torch.

Each Critter Tutorial includes many pictures and the step-by-step text to show you how to make

it. Every Tutorial has a list of the tools used, but you can substitute whatever you like to work

with. Variations of the Critters are shown in the Tutorial if they have been made up. A simple

Sweet-Heart Tutorial is included because many people would like to know how to make a basic

heart shape easily.

All of the Critters were made with COE 104 glass. You can change the colors of glass as you like.

If a softer glass is needed to form the Critter we have indicated it. Softer glass will help make

some of the Critters like Slim the Lizard, Freddie the Frog and the dinosaurs. It allows little toes

and details to merge easily and allows slumping or free-form sculpture work to go more

smoothly, but feel free to substitute and experiment!

The Tutorials show you how to make Critter Beads with the mandrel in the sideways position.

Creating Critters in the sideways position allows for easier work on the face and head details,

which is a big plus if you are new to making Critters. It will also allow you to be able to string

them sideways. You can make these Critters with the mandrel in the upright position with just a

bit of adjustment.


.•:*:•..•:*:•. .•:*:•. .•:*:•.

These Workbook Critters have flattened bodies, but you can apply the faces and limbs to

rounded body shapes if you prefer. For example, the center bead above is from the 'Blue the

Dog' tutorial with a flat body and a sideways mandrel position. His pesky friends on either side

of him have rounded bodies that were flattened a bit on the sides, with mandrels in the upright

position and faces made using the tutorials in this Workbook. Most of the challenge of making

Critters is in learning to make their faces and limbs. Use these tutorials to make faces and limbs -

but apply them to any body shape you like.

As you can see below, 'Teddy the Bear' can be made in the round just as easily. Any of these

Critters can be created on rounded bodies. Have fun and experiment!

Making these larger Critters in a flattened shape can be a benefit to those who use Fiber

Blankets, Vermiculite or Annealing Bubbles to cool beads, instead of garaging them directly into

an annealing kiln. Flat beads cool easier and are less likely to crack.

These Critter Tutorials were made using a Hothead Torch, to demonstrate that all torch types

can make them. We hope that using this Workbook will give you many years of pleasure.

Please feel free to email if you have questions. We can be reached at



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One Beary Important Final Note

If your chosen glass is stiff by nature, it may not droop or slump easily when you are making the

beginning base-bead for the flattened body shape. If you are using a stiff glass that will not

droop in the flame, heat the glass through and then press it to flatten it for the body (instead of

waiting for it to droop in the flame). If needed, heat and press again to get the right body


.•:*:•. .•:*:•.

Critter Making Tips

People with all levels of beadmaking experience will be using this Workbook, so I want to list

some basic tips for those with less time on the torch. The list could go on and on, but here are a

few of the biggies. If you are new to making Critters I would encourage you to make Willy the

Worm for starters, and then the Katie the Kitty as your first flat Critter bead. She will help you

practice making faces, eyes and controlling stringer-work on her tail.

.•:*:•. BASIC TIPS .•:*:•.

KEEP YOUR CRITTER WELL WARMED AS YOU WORK… As you go through the tutorial steps to make

your Critter, at each natural pause in the steps be sure to roll your bead in the higher part of the

flame to warm it all over. Be on the lookout for glass color changes in an area you are NOT

working on. If your Critter bead has a section returning to it's cool-glass color it is getting to cold

and may crack or some details may pop off. Take the time to gently and thoroughly re-heat

the bead as frequently as needed to keep it warm and keep it the color it should be while it's

hot. You do not need to reheat to the point of losing details, only to keep it warm throughout

the bead.

Make it your habit to continually roll your bead in the higher part of the flame whenever it is

needed. It should become second nature to keep the bead warm. You will develop a sense

about the timing of it. You will not melt off details if you are re-heating it high enough in the

flame. Watch your bead details as you re-warm, and if you loose any detail simply stop and

correct the problem. You can take all the time you need as you make these little guys… don't

hurry any part of it. When your Critter is done, take the time to stop and look it over carefully for

details that need touch-up.

.•:*:•. .•:*:•.


usually re-heat the cracked area to a glow from behind the bead (the backside) and use your

tools to join the crack and heal the damage. Don't automatically assume it is ruined. Re-heat it

at the widest crack-point and help the crack close up using your tools. Return the crack area to

a beginning molten state/color and follow the crack-line while re-heating it and working it with

your tools to re-smooth it and heal it. I have repaired Critter beads that have cracked this way.

After you heal the crack, take a deep breath and go back to look for and fix any drooping or

melted details. Often the challenge of fixing damage will advance your skills quicker than

making things will, so make the effort before you give up on a Critter that develops a problem.

.•:*:•. .•:*:•.

GLASS HAS NO MEMORY AND IS IN NO HURRY… Someone once said that glass has no memory -

you can work and re-work it to your hearts delight in most cases (unless it is a particular glass

that is prone to devit). Sometimes as we work WE start getting stressed, and then we need to

remind ourselves that glass isn't on a timetable and it isn't going anywhere - it's in no hurry at all.

This can be a big help to remember.

When you feel yourself getting stressed and hurried, stop, continue to patiently roll the bead

higher up in the flame to keep it warm and take a few breaths… then smile and start in again.

You can continually settle yourself and advance your work and skills by doing this.

.•:*:•. .•:*:•.

KEEP YOUR GLASS ROD-ENDS NEAT… As you finish using a rod of glass, take a second and roll

the end of the rod on a marver while it's molten before putting it down to cool. It will be ready

to work with the next time and the end will be neater when you put the rod away.

.•:*:•. .•:*:•.

BEAD RELEASE… I use 'Sludge Plus' bead release. I can usually remove it from a bead using

simple pipe cleaners and running water. Shake or stir your bead release well before each use.

Add water to thin it when it starts to get to thick. Dipping and then slowly removing your

mandrel will give you a thinner, smoother coating of bead release. Covering mandrels with a

thick coating of bead release can cause flaking in the fire. Be sure to dry them carefully before


If you need to dip and use a mandrel right away, dip your mandrel and then wave and roll the

mandrel high in the flame until the bead release is dry from end to end. Then bring your

mandrel down into the working area of the flame to heat it and apply your glass.

.•:*:•. .•:*:•.

REMOVING YOUR BEAD FROM THE MANDREL… To remove a bead from your mandrel, dip it in

water that’s the same temperature as the bead and then, using long-nose pliers (also called

needle-nose pliers), grip the mandrel just above the bead – about 1/4 inch. Use your fingers to

hold the bead and gently start to turn it on the mandrel – gently turn back and forth (make 1/8

inch or less turns to start) to break the bead release. Then make small half twists back and forth

as you move it toward the end of the mandrel. Move the pliers along after your bead (as your

bead moves toward the end of the mandrel) to keep from torqueing and bending the mandrel.

The reason to wet the mandrel is to prevent the bead release from producing dust that you

might breathe. Such dust can accumulate in your lungs and may contribute to a disease

known as Silicosis, which is a lung disease caused by inhaling particles of silica, etc.

.•:*:•. .•:*:•.

WHEN USING A STIFFER GLASS… This was in the Introduction, but we are adding it here too

because it is important to consider when choosing the glass you will use for your Critter.

All of the Critters were made with COE 104 glass. Glass comes in all varieties of soft and stiff

workability. If your chosen glass is stiff by nature then it may not droop easily when you are

making the base bead for the body shape. If you are using a stiff glass that will not droop in the

flame, heat the glass through and then press it to flatten it for the body (instead of waiting for it

to droop in the flame). If needed, heat and press again to get the right body thickness.

...Useful Tools...

I want to show you the tools I routinely use when I make a bead. Everyone has their favorite

tools, and I have found I need some version of these to manipulate and create the Critters.

Here are the tools I use and what I use them for most of the time.


graphite marver for all the basic marver uses. To flatten a Critter's base-bead, I use it and a tiny

child's antique cast-iron Iron. It's the simple things in life I guess! You can see the child's iron with

it's wooden handle in the picture just above the marver. You need to be able to flatten beads in

most of these tutorials, so you will need to get the pressing tools that you like best. You can get

creative like I have or there are brass presses that have spacers that you use to set the height,

and you can usually find them online and on Ebay. I like the separate Iron because I can give it

a little twist as I flatten - to spread or round a bottom shape – like a tummy. It's not a must-have,

it's just what I use.

BRASS TOOLS - FOR MOVING GLASS & SHAPING IT: Brass grabs glass but doesn't stick until it gets

to about the same temperature as the glass. I love these small brass tools. The blue and the

green handled ones above have a flat edge and a pointed tip. I use them all the time.

With brass tools like these you can scoot glass or press molten glass to move it, and you can tuck

encasing glass around your mandrel. You can also heat a little face and draw a mouth or

make expressions (for just a few examples of uses). I dip mine in water after each use to

immediately cool it and be ready for the next use. If you do use your brass tool in the flame you

will need to clean off the minerals, etc. that build up as you dip in water to cool, otherwise,

eventually the accumulation will come off on your bead.

It can be hard to find small and more delicate brass tools like these, but I found mine on Etsy for

$25 to $30 for a set of four. On a Hot head you can use brass tools in the flame briefly and then

put them in water to cool them, but on a surface-mix torch they would probably get to hot to

quick. You should move your bead out of the flame before using them if you are on a surfacemix


DENTAL PIC - FOR RAKING AND PULLING: I really use and abuse this $2 tool! I use it to pull the

dots for leaves into pointed ends, and I use it in the flame to rake hot glass designs. I get away

with it on a Hothead, but I hear that you can melt it into your bead on a surface-mix torch. I find

on a Hothead that dragging dots or melted frit or a design in the flame while molten produces

neat effects but it is hard on tools! I dip the pick in water after each use to immediately cool it

and to shed any hot glass that may have stuck to it.

Some of the Critters in this Workbook are on a base bead that can be decorated in endless

ways – including being sprinkled with frit and twisted or raked, or with flowers and leaves that

you can draw to a point.

When you use a pick to rake glass on your bead, try to hook only the teeniest surface area

(depth) to pull with, don't dig it into your hot glass surface or you will shift your bead.

TWEEZERS - FOR SHAPING, FLATTENING & PINCHING: I use bent-tip tweezers to shape and flatten

things like ears, legs and wings. I gently grip the area to flatten it or shift it. I use the pointed-tip

tweezers to pick things off, or remove air bubbles, or for whatever need arises. I cool my

tweezers in water after each use. They can start to conduct heat otherwise.

GRAPHITE RODS - FOR SMOOTHING, PRESSING & POKING: I don't think I could work glass without

graphite rod tools. They are that useful once you try them. Graphite slides on hot glass. It is

wonderful to smooth with. You can get them at a lampworking site online, or a glass store that

carries them. Be sure to set yours into a base (like these wood dowels) because they

immediately get hot - they are soft like lead and conduct heat right now! I sharpened one for

poking and fine work, and I sharpened and then blunted another one for softer shaping.

PLIERS - FOR PULLING, TWISTING, HOLDING, PINCHING: How can you live without pliers and do

hot glass work? I use mine to pull stringer, pinch off bad tips of rods, and many other uses.


You will need to pull stringers in different thicknesses to make the Critters (or buy them). There

are many web-places to learn to pull stringer, so I won't go into it in much detail here except to

give you these two descriptions.

In the picture above you can see the stringers and rod needed to make Freddie the Frog. I pull

the stringer to make his legs and arms in and above the flame, and I pull the toe, black for eye pupils

and contrasting (back-dot) stringers outside of the flame. I find pulling from a gather

outside the flame allows for more control to make a finer stringer. You can see the bottom left

stringer that was pulled in the flame has more thickness variation than the thin stringers pulled

outside the flame. You will want to try both methods to see what works best for you. To pull in

the flame remember that it's all about learning where to hold the rod to keep it just hot enough

to pull, and the rate to pull at to keep the same size stringer coming along.

To pull stringer in and above the flame, heat the end of your rod, make a small pinch with

needle nose pliers for the tab you will pull with, and then slowly begin pulling. You should hold

your rod in and above the flame at the point that keeps the glass flowing at the rate you want

to pull at.

How fast you pull determines how thick your stringer is. Also, pinching a tab first gives you a

slightly cooled, basic width, at the start of the very slow pull, instead of getting a hair thin stringer

right off. Experiment with slowly moving your rod along just above the flame as you pull your

stringer. Then flame-cut your stringer and set it down to cool. Pull the rod away from the stringer

as you flame cut and you get a better ending on the stringer.

To pull stringer outside of the flame, have pliers close at hand and heat your rod to form a

gather at least the size of a large pea. Take it out of the flame and watch as it's skin changes

color. As soon as you see it 'skin over' use your pliers to pinch a bit and pull down. You can also

pull the rod/gather away from the pliers. How long you wait to pull and how fast you pull

determines the thickness you get. Try it a number of ways and see what happens!

.•:*:•. .•:*:•.

…How To Make Katie The Kitty…

This sweet Kitty will give you practice slumping and flattening, and then putting a little dot face

on and drawing a tail with a stringer. Her ears may give you a bit of a challenge because they

lose their point pretty easily in the radiant heat. Be sure you apply big enough ear dots and a

bit more to spare to allow you to remove the 'spare' as you pull the ear tips to a point a few

times - until you are happy with the shape. When you draw on her tail you roll the bead from

back to front, so be sure you preheat the area before you start, and then apply the stringer with

light firmness so that you seat it onto the body, or you may have a tail section that you didn't

seat well pop off.

Have fun making her in different colors. For example, put transparent stripes or dots on her and

melt them in before you press…or put flowers on her tummy or at her ear, the options are

endless. In the Variations below you can see her with a Yarn Ball made from a twisty on the left,

and with paws reaching out to you in the middle. If you add the paws and inner ear dots, wait

until the end to add them or you will melt them in by radiant heat (from working the face). You

can see that in the picture below so beware! I show the picture to remind you that sequence



1. Rod of yellow

2. Green stringer for eye-base dots

3. White stringer for the nose/cheek pads

3. Thin black stringer for eye pupils and nose

4. Pink stringer for the tongue

5. Thick yellow stringer for the tail

6. Thick mandrel with bead release

7. Smoothing/flattening/shaping tools (like a marver and graphite rod in a holder)




1. Heat your yellow rod molten on the end and wrap your mandrel in a barrel shape. Make sure

it is at least 5/8" to 3/4" wide. If you make your barrel the same height on the edges as in the

middle it gives you the glass you need to make a nice round. Glass wants to pull to the center

and form a round, so the barrel shape is the start of a good round bead.

2. Round the barrel into a ball with nice sides. Use a bead shaper or heat it molten and then

remove it from the flame and slowly turn. The cooling will help pull it into a round shape. Reheat

and repeat to get it to come more round if needed. Perfection is not required because you are

going to make it droop when you are done.

3. Once you get it rounded with nice sides, slowly heat the front to a glow and cause it to start

to droop (slump) and then switch hands and heat the back to increase the droop (see the third

and fourth pictures above).

4. When you have a nice droop, use your pressing tools to flatten the bead. I press straight

down and just a bit from the top of the bead toward the bottom to get more width across the

bottom. It will depend on what tools you use to flatten. As you press be sure to leave at least

half the thickness of your mandrel in glass above and beneath the mandrel. Don't press to thin.

Usually the cooling stops you from pressing to thin, but beware.

5. Once flattened you will need to polish the ridges off. Ridges are created by pressing the hot

bead on a cold surface. Face your bead toward the flame on one side only (don't twirl the

mandrel and try to do both sides, that will destabilize your bead). Gently waft in the flame until

you polish out the ridges. Let it cool just a bit and then do the other side. Polishing only one side

at a time allows the cooler side to hold your bead flat (see the middle picture above). You

want a slick surface to work on. Ridges catch the light and your eye will notice them. Leaving

the ridges unpolished will make your Critter less attractive.


6. Roll your bead upside down or sideways to heat the top of your bead. Use your marver to

gently shape the head/top. You want a nice rounded shape above the mandrel for the ears to

sit on (see the second picture above). Now heat the bottom and flatten it a bit. Shape the

sides as needed.


7. Heat the end of your yellow rod and apply a large dot for the left ear. Apply a second dot or

wrap. Heat gently and use your tweezers to softly grip the ear dot and flatten it (see the middle

picture above).

8. Gently heat the ear and using your graphite tool or tweezers, shape it by smoothing upward

to make the rounded point at the top. Gently heat and pull to a point if you like, or you can

wait until the end to do it. It will return to a soft point due to referred heat as you work on other

things, so count on reshaping the ears at the end.

9. Repeat the previous two steps to make the right ear. Finally, heat each ear gently as you pull

them to a soft point. Wait until the very end to repeat this if you want sharper pointed ears.


10. Using your green stringer, apply two dots for the eyes. Heat them just long enough to make

them round. Heat the very tip of your black stringer and apply two eye dots. Don’t melt them in

because the radiant heat from making the cheeks will round them.


11. Heat your thick white stringer or a rod and apply two cheek pads just below your eye dots

and right against each other. Gently heat them and press them flat with a tool. The heat

should round the eyes. If not heat just a bit more to make the eyes go round.


12. Using your black stringer, heat the tip and apply a little dot for the nose. Then using your

pink stringer heat the tip and apply a larger dot for a tongue in the bottom center of the cheek


13. Heat them gently to make the nose glow and then use a pointed tool to barely press it flat.

You can also use a Dental Pic to pull down the bottom of the nose like an upside down triangle

if you want to get fancy (I didn't).


14. Gently heat the back of the kitty and then heat around to the front – preheat where ever

the tail will be applied. You want the surface to be preheated to ‘seat’ the tail as you draw it

on. You need to make sure it seats as you draw it on, or it can pop off where ever a cool

section happens.

15. Ready to draw the tail? With your bead above and/or beside the flame (as needed for

stringer control) hold your bead upside down (see the first picture above). Gently heat the tip

of your stringer. Set your stringer down and start your tail on his hiney (see the second picture

above) and lightly but firmly press the stringer as you draw his tail on. When you have drawn to

the side of the bead, hold your stringer steady and roll the bead to the front and then continue

to draw on your tail. Just before you get to where you will stop, begin to lift and flame cut the

tail end (see the third picture above and the first one on the bottom left below).

When you have applied your tail, gently heat the tip and use your tool to set the tail tip into the

position you want it in. Then go back and heat the length of the tail to a glow all along it's

route. Bring it to a gentle glow. You don’t want to melt it in, but you do want to be sure it is

seated on the body with heat.

16. In the left picture above you can see the tail before I used a tool to move the tip of the tail

into the final position. The right picture shows you the tail after it was placed and reheated.

Your kitty is now done. Take a breath and then heat the ears from behind and pull the tips if you

like. Check to see if any other details need touching up and then slowly reheat her and then

garage her.

Now congratulate yourself – you've made a PURR-fectly sweet Kitty!