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Using a Bead Reamer to Clean and Preapre Beads for Use

Learn to Use a Bead Reamer and to Make Your Own Bead Reaming Tin

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Bead Reamer and Reaming Tin

Bead Reamer and Bead Reaming Tin

Paula S. Morgan
I've had a bead reamer for almost as long as I've been beading. But because I was never sure of the correct way to use a bead reamer, and because on those few occasions when I had tried to use it, I ended up inflicting various wounds on myself, it simply sat unused in my bead tool box.

I did some investigating about this handy little tool and now keep three or four of them in various places in my studio, and find myself using them constantly. Otherwise unusable beads become perfect with just a little work with the reamer. Rough edges are smooth, holes enlarged, uneven hole matched, and more.

The most important thing to remember, though, when using your bead reamer is to keep bead and the reamer bit wet at all times. Once the reaming bit dries out, the diamond coating will strip off in no time, rendering that particular bit useless. When it comes to any bead reaming job no matter how big or small, remember: water is your friend. It keeps the bead reamer bit lubricated and helps keep the bead cool and keep sit from overheating and cracking or chipping.

When reaming, some people swear by dripping water over the bead while working, as this keeps fresh water flowing over the bead reamer bit and the bead, and flushes out the powder made by the grinding reamer. However, this is not always an option if your work space does not have running water. In that case, if you can submerge your bead, you'll have the best results. Unfortunately for me, there's not one single bowl or other water-bearing receptacle in my home that has given me anything but headaches when it comes to bead reaming, so I finally had to invent a method of my own. I created a compact and padded, self-contained bead reaming unit for easy submersion of my beads with a product that is both sticky and waterproof to hold the bead or pearl in place while I ream away.

The container is one of those metal soap tin type boxes found in drugstores and bath shops, containing those wonderful bars of hard-milled soap. This box is deep enough and large enough to hold the beads and water I need to ream just about any bead in my stash. Here's how it's made:

First, I cut two pieces of craft foam in the shape of the tin, using the tin itself as my pattern guide, just tracing around the shape of it and then cutting the foam on the inside of the line, so that it would fit inside the tin. After trimming the foam for a better fit, I placed one piece of the foam on the outside bottom of the tin to keep it from slipping around while I work, and the other piece on the inside bottom of the tin as my pad. Later, I added a second piece of foam, as I discovered that the single thickness was not enough for me, so you may choose to do this at the beginning, or to try it with a single thickness.

Next, I used a glue stick and Hot Glue Gun to seal the edges of the craft foam to the bottom of the box inside and out. This is done to keep the water used in the bead reaming process from seeping under the foam and causing the tin to rust out prematurely. Again, I've learned since then that most of the time, I end up drilling little holes through the foam anyway, so skip the glue process if you prefer. Just be sure to remove the foam insert and dry the tin box well before you close it up and store it. Using the hot glue to adhere two piece of foam together works well and gives them some added stability, as does attaching two pieces of the new self-adhesive foam together before cutting them into the shape to fit your reaming box.

When I'm ready to use my bead reamer, I anchor the bead or pearl to be reamed into place with a small piece of a product called Adhesive Poster Putty. The poster putty is great because it leaves no mess on the bead. You can also use a dapping compound, soft wax, sticky wax, uncured scrap polymer clay, or even a dab of white glue to hold the bead or pearl in place. The white glue will clean up easily, since it will be in water after it has dried, and the other items will hold well, but are more difficult to clean, I've learned that the poster putty needs to be warm when you place it on the bead, then you'll need to be sure to use warm water. Otherwise, the change in temperature will cause the putty to shrink and it won't stick to your bead.

Next, I fill the newly-prepared bead reamer tin with room-temperature water, distilled if I have it, bottled, if I don't and tap if I have neither. No particular reason, except that I've read that tap water can leave a deposit on some pearls and other natural substances, even if they are exposed to it for just a short time. So, better safe than sorry.

After making sure I have a good "stick" of bead to reamer bottom, I let the reaming begin. It's easiest to roll the reamer back & forth between your palms (remove and pocket clip that may be attached to the reamer first) and to go slow. Stop and check the bead often, making sure that you are working straight, that the hole is enlarging, and that things are going well.

Next, turn the bead or pearl over once you get about halfway through and continue reaming from the other side. This ensures a smooth and even hole and a good clean cut. Commercial pearls and most stone beads are drilled from first one side, then from the other, so reaming this way keeps the hole path in line, plus, since the reamer bits are tapered, it keeps the hole the same size on both sides.

A word about glass bugle beads and reaming the rough edges: don't bother. It's time consuming, an "iffy" process at best, and simply adding a seed bead to each end of the bugle bead prevents them from cutting your thread and can save hours of work with the bead reamer. If you are planning to do your beadwork using glass beads with sharp

Reaming beads can be a rewarding bit of work and does not have to be a huge chore. Just remember to use plenty of water and to take your time. Don't push hard on the bead reamer; too many people make the mistake of jamming the reamer into the bead hole and then try to turn it with great force. This could cause bead breakage and will certainly cause a sore hand! So, slow and easy is the key here, and you'll be able to use those annoying beads with tiny holes in more of your beautiful beadwork.

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