Thanks to some good advice, I made a sturdy bead rack for glaze firing. Sadly, the Amaco Bead Tree I bought was problematic at best, so I desperately needed another solution. An alternative was suggested by Dan Severance, pottery guru and ceramics tech at the Port Moody Arts Centre. I’ve taken his advice a step further, customizing it to my needs precisely.
How to make a Kiln Bead Rack
Materials: an N95 face mask, safety glasses, work gloves, one insulated kiln brick (the lightweight kind), a rip saw or hack saw, a ruler, a pencil, narrow chisel or flat blade screw driver, hammer, and short lengths of 11 gauge nichrome wire.
Your basically going to cut a valley in the brick lengthwise. Dan suggested I make a ‘V’ shaped cut, which I will do with another brick, but for my purposes today, I made a ‘U’ shaped cut.
- Set up a work station outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Use a sturdy table or flat surface. Place brick on its side lengthwise.
- Determine the width of your ‘U’ shape. Allow for adequate clearance on either side for the bead or pendant you are making. I decided on 7/8″.
- Draw two lines the length of your brick, keeping the area you’re going to cut out centred. The two walls of my ‘U’ turned out about 6/8″ wide.
- Determine the depth of your cut. My ‘U’ is about 3 1/2″ deep, leaving about a 1″ base.
- Put on your safety gear: mask, glasses, gloves.
- Using a rip or hacksaw, start making an even cut down through one of the cut lines you made. A rip saw cuts one way: pull it through the brick as you saw, move it back and start again. A hack saw works both ways: use even pressure and saw back and forth.
- Saw evenly through the length of both cut lines.
- Set aside your saw, then turn the brick over and shake the dust out of the cuts.
- Using either a chisel or flat blade screwdriver, carefully chisel out the middle part of the ‘U’, starting from the ends and working inward.
- After chiseling and removing debris from the ‘U’, stand it on end and do some ‘clean up’ of the bottom of the ‘U’ with the screw driver or chisel, making a flat surface on the bottom.
- Put your tools away and turn the brick over and shake out the dust.
- Measure out the lines indicating where the wire will sit on the top of your rack. I measured even lines about 3/4″ apart the length of the brick.
- Take your saw and cut crosswise over your ‘U’ to make indentations on either side of the ‘U’. I made mine about 1/8″ deep.
- Put your saw away.
- Gently widen the grooves with a nail by carefully raking it through the groove.
- Take nichrome wire and cut lengths to fit in the grooves. I cut my wire in lengths of about 2″. If you want, bend the wire into a very slight ‘V’. This will ensure your bead or pendant remains in place while firing.
- Test the wires out…place across the ‘U’ to see if they fit snugly. Adjust groove to fit your needs.
- Voila! Be careful with the insulated brick; it’s slightly fragile but makes a great bead rack that doesn’t take up too much kiln space.