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A mandrel is a length of stainless steel rod used to make beads. After being dipped in bead release the molten glass is wound around the mandrel to form the bead. Because of this technique Mandrels are also the way you get the hole in the bead, as the act of wrapping the glass around the mandrel makes a bead complete with ready made hole.

Mandrels can also be hollow to allow blowing techniques to be used.

What size mandrel to use?

There are several different sizes - in the UK, mandrels are usually sold in metric sizes (1.6 and 2.4mm being the main sizes), in the US, sizes are imperial. Mandrels such as 2mm aren't available as often in the UK, but are a common size in mainland Europe. Which size to use depends on what kind of bead you make, and on personal preference. If you intend to keep your holes as unobtrusive as possible, a smaller size will be better, but if you intend to put your mandrel under a lot of strain (through raking, pushing, etc.), a bigger size won't bend quite as quickly. Silver core beads are usually made on 4mm or 5mm mandrels - check that whatever you use to core (tubing or glue-in rivets) will fit the bead snugly, but without problems - and that this then fits the bracelet system you are aiming for.

How to make your own mandrels

Mandrels can be made by cutting non-coated 316L stainless steel welding rods to the desired length. The cut ends will need to be filed or ground down, using a grinding wheel, to remove any burrs or the beads will be difficult or impossible to remove.

They are also available in many different sizes from 1.6mm diameter up to 5mm used for big hole beads such as the silver core beads.

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