Ceramic Bead Artists Tutorials by Marsha Hedrick -- Making a Lentil Bead
Making a Lentil Bead

Making a Lentil Bead
A Tutorial by
Marsha Hedrick

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Skills Taught in this tutorial: This tutorial shows an easy way to make lentil shaped beads that are of consistent size and shape.
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For making these lentils I made molds/tools using these plastic cups.  If you notice you will see that they have a perfect 1/2 lentil shape in the bottom of the cup.  These plastic cups are from Dole mixed fruit cups.  They come in 4 packs.  You will want to check the cups if you are buying for this project as some varietys have a little flat divit in the bottom rather than the nice round lentil shape.  These are from the mixed fruit in jello.

The first thing to do is eat the contents.  Then mix up some plaster and pour it into the cups.  You will need two for each lentil mold that you want to have.  It is good to have several as that allows you to make more beads in a quicker time.  Fill the cups about 1/2 to 2/3 full of plaster and allow it to cure.  The plaster will pop right out of the cups if you haven't filled them up to the top.  Just grab the edges of the cup and push down on the bottom and the plaster should pop right out.

An added benefit if you fill the cups about 2/3 full is that you can carve a design stamp into the flat side of the plaster for stamping pendants or other things.
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After you have the plaster out you will need to lightly sand the depression with some fine sandpaper as there is a slight imperfection due to some text that is molded into the cup it is very slight and just a few passes with a fine sanding sponge will smooth it right out.

Next take a bisque saw (in the picture) or a file and file a groove directly across between two of the grooves in the plaster.  Make this groove deep enough that your wire for the hole will fit down in the groove half way or a tiny bit more.  Mark in the grooves of the plaster with a sharpie so its easy to recognize the groove for the wire.
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Here you see one completed mold set for making lentil beads.
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Next you need to roll out a slab of even thickness.  I use slats that I cut from some cheap trim strips that I got at Lowes.  They are approximately 1/8 inch thick and are a sort of plastic composite so they clean easily and don't swell with dampness like regular wooden ones would.
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Use a cutter that is just a bit smaller than the diameter of the mold cavity.  Cut two discs for each bead.  This cutter is about 3/4 of an inch and the mold cavity is 1 inch.  I am using porcelain rolled out to 1/8 inch this is ok if you are going to paint the bead if you wish to carve it you should roll it out a bit thicker.  For earthenware I would recommend rolling it out thicker.
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Press the discs into the mold cavities.  First gently spread out the clay to reach the edge of the round depression in the mold.  The press down and roll toward the side of the mold with your thumb as shown in the photo to raise a small rounded bead of clay around the edge of the mold.
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Here you can see both discs fitted into their mold depressions and the very slight bead of clay around the edge.  Press your wire into the groove on one side of the mold as shown in the photo.
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Coat the small bead of clay with slip on the side with the wire.
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Line up the marker lines and the mold edges and press the two mold halves together firmly.  Set aside to dry out a bit.  This is where it helps to have several sets.  You can proceed to repeat the steps for several beads before removing them from the mold.
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I use a rubber ball on the end of a stick to gently tap the sides of the molds to loosen the contents if they are somewhat stuck.  If you hold the mold in your hand gently holding the two sides together and tap the sides it will rattle a bit when it comes loose.
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Remove the bead from the mold.  Here you can see a slight edge where the clay as squeezed out between the mold halves.  It is desireable to have a very slight bit of this as it insures a nice sharp edge on the bead.  If you get a large amount of this you raised too high of a bead around the edge of the discs and you have made the bead very thin.  With practice you will be able to recognize how much of a bead you need around the edge of the disc.  Also  if you don't raise enough of a bead or if you didn't first smooth out the clay to the edge of the round divit you will get a slight groove around the edge of the bead.  This can be filled with slip and the bead salvaged but it makes a neater edge and a nicer finished bead if this is not necessary.
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Smooth off the edges of the bead using a wet sponge.  Then remove the wire from the bead by twisting it then pulling it out.  Set your bead aside to dry.  After it has dried you may wish to sand it slightly to further smooth out the edges and take off any sponge marks etc.
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Here is your finished bead.  They come out about 1 inch in diameter a very nice size.  If you are using porcelain they should shrink to about 7/8 of an inch in diameter.

You have just created a nice even bead with a hole directly through the center.  You can make multiples that will be very close to identical in both shape and weight.  With multiple molds you can make lots of them in a pretty short period of time.