Lampworking, also known as torchworking or flameworking, is a technique where glass rods that are either transparent or colored, are melted and then shaped into beautiful objects, mostly beads. Lampworkers have been practicing this art since 1 century B.C. It was very popular during the ancient Syrian times. They gained rapid popularity in Murano, Italy during the 14th century. Lampworking art from Murano in Italy are much sought after and they are quite expensive too. The primary difference between lampworking and glass blowing is that in the latter, a blow pipe is used to inflate a glass blob, whereas in the former, the glass is directly manipulated by the use of heat, tools, or gravity. Many beautiful arts and crafts as well as fashion jewelry can be created by this technique.
You will need high quality glass, that is soft and malleable and has a low melting point or hard glass like borosilicate glass. The only downside of using soft glass is that it does not react well to temperature changes. It expands a lot when heated and then contracts upon cooling. This makes it more prone to cracking due to thermal shock. So, you can opt for borosilicate glass, as it is flexible and can easily tolerate temperature change. You may also select different colors of borosilicate glass for your project.
The most important tool is the torch that burns with either natural gas or propane. The other tools that are required are marver, which is a flat surface used for rolling the glass or shaping it, tungsten picks for boring a hole through the piece, and steel jacks for cutting a glass piece.
If you are a beginner, you should first learn how to make glass beads, as they are the easiest to make. First, place all the equipment including the marver, steel cutting jack, tungsten picks, and glass rods on the work surface. Now, select the glass rod you want to make the object with and heat it in the flame of the torch until it gets very hot. When the glass rod is sufficiently warm and is nearing its melting point, rotate the glass tube on the marver. Now shape a bead with the glass rod by cutting it off with steel cutting jack. Once you have the glass bead, heat it to a temperature of about 950 ºF until the material reaches its stress relief point. Allow it to cool slowly so that it is not subjected to thermal shock. You have your first lampwork bead in your hand. The bead can be further decorated by etching, sandblasting, polishing, and other coldworking techniques.
This cool art can also be used for making glass block crafts and glass tile pendants. If you are keen to learn it, then it is advised that you join a course or a school which teaches lampworking. They will teach you advanced lampworking techniques through which you can learn to make many beautiful glass objects.