In the lampworking world a “short” is the last few centimetres of a glass rod. It’s too short to melt because your fingers would come dangerously close to the flame. So, a recurring discussion on lampwork forums is what to do with the shorts.

There are a few choices. One is to fuse the short onto another rod of the same colour. But if not done correctly the short can pop (or explode) off when introduced back into the flame. Another method is to use a special tool to hold the short. Several years ago I bought one of these tools, you basically clamp the short rod onto a biggish metal tube. I think I used it about once or twice before deciding that it was too awkward. Not only that, there’s still a centimetre or two left over. And then some people take the path of least resistance and don’t bother using the shorts. Which is a pity because there is enough glass in a few centimetres to make a small bead. Or when the glass rod is sold at $200 per kilo then you want to use every last little bit that you can.

A tip I picked up several years ago from a now defunct UK lampworking forum (I think it was called Glass Harmony?) is to pull a handle. It’s simple enough to do: melt a small amount at the end of the short (where it was cut), wait several seconds, then pull a short thick stringer, about 2 mm thick and about 4-5 cm long. Try to make sure that the handle is straight with respect to the short.

You now have a handle to hold the short rod. I write the colour number on the rod and keep my shorts in a shallow dish (old ashtray), keeping the hand-pulled colours separate from the “everyday” colours. When I’m looking for a specific colour I’ll rummage through my collection of shorts first.

Shorts with handles

The shorts with handle can be used in several ways, mostly variations of the same theme:

  • Warm the end of another, longer rod of the same colour, then melt the short onto the end of the rod. Use this gather to make your core bead or to pull a stringer.
  • Melt the short directly onto a mandrel and use it to make a bead. Normally there’s only enough for a small bead so you often have to add more glass to it.
  • Start a core bead with a same-coloured rod, then use the short to increase the size.
  • Melt part of the short and use it to add a stripe or two of colour to a twistie that you are making.

One thing that I don’t do with the shorts is use them to make stringers. My handles are never perfectly parallel to the rod so it is difficult to keep a gather centered on the end of the short. Instead, I use the indirect method: melt the short onto another same-coloured rod, then pull the stringer from the longer rod.


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