Straight-line stringer tutorials for your pleasure!
(Donations appreciated)
(Jessica Herrell or jc@jcherrell.com)


Practice Is...           Finding your home in the zone           Your grip

Practice is...

1.  Practice is mental.  Practice starts with the decision to learn and improve your skills.  Without this decision it is easy to become frustrated and walk away.  Once the decision is made your mental awareness of the causes and effects of viscosity and heat become exciting, as well as how your actions affect the outcome You also will find yourself remembering important details and reflecting on what did and didn't work.  Intention, awareness and reflection are important mental skill builders. 

2.  Practice is physical.  Accurately performing a task over and over creates valuable muscle memory.  Once your body knows what to do and gets good at doing it, your mind is free to think about other things, such as design, more skill development and variations on the skill.   

3.  Practice is practical!  Not only are you learning a skill but, you're producing products as a result of your practice.  Practice is a double scoop of awesomeness when you consider the skills you learn and the inventory you'll create.  Best of all, the more you work at the torch the more you'll have of both!

4.  Practice is emotional.   It's unlikely that anyone will create "perfect" lines right from the start.  The struggle can sometimes be discouraging, creating a wall that divides those that gain confidence and those who don't. You can either spend time navigating to the other side of the wall or you can stare at it, being mad at its existence.  I encourage you to keep climbing that wall until you get to the top, straddle and ride it (scream "WAAHOOOO!" a few times) and then enthusiastically, confidently leap to the other side. 


Finding your home in the zone

What is the zone? It is an area of heat, right next to the visible flame, where the temperature is great enough to soften a stringer but not hot enough to heat the glass to liquefy the glass causing the stringer to ball-up and become uncontrollable.  Once you get the hang of it, you might even find that the zone can be a pretty big place.  

Just about any flame can be a stringer flame, some are just easier than others.  Every flame size has a zone of heat outside the visible flame that's ideal for stringer application.  Adjusting the size and temperature of the flame also adjusts the size and temperature of the zone around the flame.  A large flame has a large zone of "stringer heat" but also moves and wafts with airflow so it is a very challenging flame for precision placement, in particular for thin stringer.  A small neutral flame is ideal for most stringer applications.  This picture gives you an idea of the size flame I typically like to use.   

Here's how to find the zone.  Put the tip of the stringer on your hot bead next to the flame.  Apply very gentle pressure with the tip of the stringer.  Maintain this relationship between bead and stringer while slowly approaching the flame.  As you enter the zone you will feel the stringer give as it softens enough to move under your pressure.  You have entered the zone.  Now it's time to start rotating the bead and laying the stringer. 

Your home in the zone depends on two things: your comfort level and the stringer size.  The smaller the stringer the less heat is needed before the stringer softens and/or becomes molten.  A hair thin stringer will barely need to enter the zone to be worked (in fact, base heat from the bead can provide most or even all of the heat needed to work the thinnest of stringers).    A thick stringer needs either more heat or more time in a cooler part of the zone.


Your grip

There are many ways to hold a stringer.  With experience you will naturally find the most comfortable one(s) for you. My grip choice depends on the size of the stringer and the application.  I encourage you to experiment with your grip and find something natural and comfortable for you.  Here are a few examples of my frequently used grips, starting with grips for larger stringers:

I like this grip for drawing rings and other lines perpendicular to the mandrel.  The stringer rests on the top of my index finger while my thumb can feed the stringer or rotate it.  I can loosen the tension on the stringer allowing it to be pulled through my fingers but can also easily gain firm control.  This is not a gentle grip; it does not work well for thin stringers. 

I like this grip for horizontal lines.  The stringer rests on the inside of the middle finger while the thumb applies pressure.  Both the thumb and the finger can feed the stringer onto the bead.   This is also a great grip for dragging a line.  The grip works well for both thick and thin stringers. 

I like this grip for drawing diagonal line, and sometimes for horizontal lines.  The stringer is held between the thumb and index finger with as little or as much pressure as needed.  I can rotate my whole hand or my fingers for a wide variety of ways to apply tension (handy for starting and stopping lines).  This grip also works well for thin stringers, but be careful not to apply too much pressure or the stringer will break between your fingers. 

I use this grip to make touch-ups and use the last bits of stringer.  It won't work with long stringer, but it works well for both thin and thick stringer. 

I use this grip to draw rings or other lines perpendicular with thin stringer.  The stringer is held between my middle and index finger, thumb at the ready. I only use this grip to hold very thin stringers. 

I use this grip to draw horizontal or diagonal lines with thin stringer.  I also often use the same grip with the stringer resting above the thumb instead of below, as shown in this picture.  I only use this grip on thin stringers. 

Did you find this information helpful?  Will it enhance your work?  Any donation is appreciated!

Questions or comments?  Let me know so I can make these tutorials even more user friendly!


The Joy of Stringer Menu           www.jcherrell.com       Purchase work

Written and photographed by JC Herrell; Copywright, JC Herrell 2010