Double Helix To.b
– Fast Reduction
– Repeated Reduction for best effects
– Metallic, opalescence and iridescence
For this test I did not batch anneal, I’m using my Paragon which allows me to go flame to kiln. I have set my kiln up specifically to anneal large beads for soda lime and silver glass. I don’t have any “before” photos but I can say with confidence that every single bead made with To.b struck a tad more in the kiln, so keep that in mind when you’re encasing your bead, keep it cool and encase slowly so that the bead doesn’t overheat.
To.b is probably a test production of a batch of glass that eventually became Thallo, its obviously one of those test batches that was near to the mark, but not quite it. The code indicates that it belongs to the Thallo family, but there is a good reason for why it is a test batch that didn’t make the grade. I didn’t find this glass particularly easy to use, I’m not sure what other people have experienced. Personally, it is not that To.b is particularly hard to get a reaction from, it’s more that the window of opportunity to pull a nice colour from the glass is quite small and over heating either in the flame or the kiln will rob you of a beautiful bead. I’m sure if I had another rod of To.b I probably would have got it to produce some really nice results but it was quite finicky to get anything near to what Thallo can produce for a first time user.
Essentially, I found two ways to use To.B that yields nice results. The first is encasing To.b on top of black and reducing for a metallic super lustre shine. The second is to wrap To.b around a core of clear glass, reduce multiple times and encase for that opalescent and iridescent effect. Essentially, I used the tricks that are known to get Thallo to produce good results with To.b and I found that some of these tricks apply well. There are other interesting things about To.b that will probably translate across to Thallo as well.
Firstly, To.b hates CiM Hades. I mean hates it. Some of the Double Helix range works beautifully on Hades because it tends to hold a lot of heat, but To.b isn’t one of them. Lets talk about the beads on the left in the picture. The top bead (darker blue) is a base of CiM Hades, a wrap of To.b that underwent one light reduction, before being encased in Effetre Clear, everything stayed warm, with only a brief cooling phase between striking and encasing. I can’t say that is what I expected to get, but I didn’t get a particularly strong lustre on the top of Hades so it stands to reason that what was encased wasn’t so great either. Only later when I used Vetrofond Black and discovered just how intense the lustre should be did I realise that Hades and To.b are not friends. Nevermind, moving along to the paler green bead. Same method as above, but this one had repeated reductions between cooling. Perhaps I didn’t cool the bead enough, or perhaps the Hades was just holding a lot of heat that day but the Hades wanted to web over the To.b and the whole effect just wasn’t worth persisting with. I’m not a fan of having to work hard to make glass do something, so I’m canning this combination.
But To.b over Vetrofond Black (which is similar to Effetre Black) produces much nicer results, as you can see from the picture to your right. This bead got the same treatment as the dark blue and Cim Hades bead in photo one. The first difference is just how much more depth and vibrancy To.b has over Vetrofond Black, the second (even though you can’t tell in this photo) is that it kept some of that lovely opalescence under the encasement. It was about the fourth bead where I realised that I was probably encasing To.b too hot, which is one of the problems with Effetre Clear, you need to get it stinking hot so that it encases nicely. I honestly thought I’d get a lot more green out of To.b, so I was really surprised to see all this blue, I was pretty sure I was going to get a green super lustre but perhaps that is the nature of To.b on black? Well I found out later, that of course it is. Looking at the etymology of the word Thallo, which probably has its roots in the Greek word Thalaso, this word translated directly means ‘sea’. Some sea’s are green, some are blue and Homer would have you believe the sea is “wine dark”. So blue it is… for now.
I’m going to go out on a limb here (because I haven’t personally tested this theory) and suggest that if you have To.b or even Thallo and you want to use it over black I would be picking a dense non reactive black, such as Reichenbach (preferably) or Effetre or even Vetrofond Black. A stable dense black seems to provide a better surface, avoid “soft” blacks. Layer your To.b on the black and after a few flashes in a cool reduction flame encase in Double Helix Zephyr to maintain the opalescence. I’m suggesting Zephyr because it doesn’t need to be really hot to encase smoothly. To.b seems finicky to work with, so if you have a load of it and want to use it on black, then go with the more expensive clear and black glass brands to make it sing. I haven’t used Thallo, but going through other peoples notes on this colour, they don’t say its a hassle. So this could be one of the reasons why To.b is a test batch that never made the grade, its a bit of a hassle.
Its hard to tell in a photograph but the bead to the above left captured some of that opalescent flash under the dots, when the bead turns the dots shift and the colour moves, which is really lovely. It looks as if I’ve trapped a tiny bit of water under the encasement. In summary, using To.b on black will turn it blue and the metallic sheen that appears on the bead before you encase is a dark olive to metallic blue colour, depending on how many reduction passes given to the surface. Whatever blue appears under encasement is completely down to heat control. Less heat, more intense royal or peacock blue colours and opalescence and iridescence. More heat, more washed out sea greens and faded denim blue with very little or no opalescence or iridescence.
About halfway through my testing, I finally saw the green that To.b is supposed to produce. Namely, To.b on top of clear will give you greenish hues. I played around with this concept using various light transparent base colours and expecting to get variations on the effect that clear glass produces, but it didn’t quite work out in the same way. Looking to the green beads on the right, the metallic donut bead is a base of Effetre Clear with the layer of To.b cooled and reduced several times, the metallic layer is quite pretty shifting from green to peacock green to gold.
The little round green bead has a base of Lauscha Superclear then a messy wrap of To.b, which has been lightly reduced multiple times, it turned all of the bead a greeny, amber colour (kind of what I imagine sunlight hitting a green sea would look like). The entire bead is then encased in Lauscha Superclear, the part where the To.b was layered turned an ethereal blue green and the rest of the bead fumed green. It appears that there is a reaction line between To.b and the Lauscha superclear and I think it is caused by the silver fuming the clear glass strongly at where To.B and Lauscha Superclear meet. I like the little green bead, even though it’s not a perfect example of what To.b can do, you get the idea that in the right set of hands an artist could really make the most of that floating wispy opalescence, but not me, not today. Its summer in Australia and that means its too damn hot to do anything right. I will have to buy some Thallo and make a set with this idea behind it when the weather cools down to something respectable.
These beads to the left (showing the two beads explained above) have just come out of the kiln. What is important about this picture is the third bead with the Effetre Ivory squiggle. That bead went into the kiln fine, it came out of the kiln fine then over the course of three weeks it developed stress fractures. I don’t think it has anything to do with how I made the bead, they look like the type of cracks you get due to incompatibility and they are, I never knew that Effetre Ivory doesn’t like to be encased, I can’t say I’ve ever had a reason to encase it but there you go. I did a search online to verify if this was true and yep, Effetre Ivory doesn’t like to be encased. So that explains why that bead went to hell. Now lets talk about that colour reaction on the squiggle bead. There is a photo below showing the crack that developed across the squiggle bead and it’s paired with another bead that developed cracks later whilst still on the mandrel. This black cone bead is encased with CiM Cirrus and only the part with To.b underneath cracked. Encasing in Cim Cirrus yields some beautiful opalescence, but not sure what it is, every time I got beads cracking. So, there is some slight incompatibility there with Cirrus encasing To.b.
I decided that I was going to do another To.b test bead on a base of Effetre clear and encase it with Effetre to show a comparison to the bead made out of Lauscha. I decided for the hell of it, to squiggle a line of Ivory, which was really pretty when it was not encased. The thin stringer line spread out and reacted with To.b producing a dark fume line and a separation line down the middle (see pic above). I definitely should not have encased, because it looked great against the metallic surface of To.b. Anyhow, encasing in Effetre always seems to push the colour along far too much and you get that washed out brownish sea green effect, which is how To.b looks on black too under an Effetre encasement. So, another interesting point to note is that for To.b if you don’t have Zephyr on hand, Lauscha clear is better than Effetre for encasing and this is what I mean about To.b being finicky. If you really want to save yourself a lot of heart ache, I would wrap a sticky note with your batch of To.b so that if you ever pick up a rod of it, you can remember what its quirks are.
To the left is one of the beads I made after I was a bit disheartened with the testing phase, usually I can get some pretty nice effects in test beads but I just didn’t get anything that wowed me this time. This bead to the left is fairly nice and I’ll explain what is going on. Firstly, the base of this bead is Effetre Straw Yellow and CiM Cirrus, shaped in a CGBeads beadroller. I’ve trailed To.b all over the bead and lightly reduced several times. Where To.b landed on the Straw Yellow I got a metallic oil slick lustre, where it landed on the Cirrus I got stripes of yellow. Lastly, I wrapped a stringer of Effetre Ivory over the top of a section that had a wide band of To.b. I gave it all a slight wave in the reduction flame then tossed it into the kiln. The straw yellow did darken where To.b landed on it (particularly around the middle) so I got a nice graduation in the colour without meaning to.
I wasn’t enthused about the reaction of To.b on Cirrus. Seeing as how I do love Cirrus so much, I used it again as the base for this bead along with Cim Thai Orchid. Once again I trailed To.b over the top and because I knew it would go yellow on the Cirrus I didn’t bother trailing it anywhere except on the Thai Orchid. I think the reduction on this one gave much more intense oil slick colours. I dropped a few dots of Ivory on the top then heavily reduced again getting a bit of a yellow fume line on the Cirrus. These beads don’t do much other than to prove that To.b will produce oil slick lustre on anything dark. I’m a bit surprised that the oil slick appeared on the Effetre Straw Yellow. I’m wondering if I tried with a Vetrofond Pale Transparent green if I would get the same effect? I’ll have to try that out. All in all, To.b isn’t one of my favourites in this garage box and I think it needs a lot more testing to work out exactly how to get it to do that magical green that Thallo is known for (or y’know, maybe it doesn’t do that which is why it is a test colour??), but this should give you enough information to have a good crack at it, if the colour has been languishing around in your glass stash.