The Bead Brace: How It Works and How To Use It
The bead brace, for the amazing variety of tubular clay objects it can produce, is very simple. It is exactly the same as the standard Z-brace used to hold the interior portion of all hollow dies, except that the threaded stud has been replaced by just a hole. It is intended to be used only in conjunction with a blank Z-slot die.
Blank Z-slot dies, made of HDPE, have only a center hole and a z-slot for the bead brace and it is easily worked with woodworking tools. It can be drilled, sawed, filed, etc. just like a piece of wood.
With these two parts tubular beads become very easy. First, the Z-slot die must be drilled to match the outside diameter of the bead you want to make, if that is larger than 1/4”. This drilled hole must be centered on the hole already in the die. Then a flexible cord, string or thread the diameter of the center hole wanted is hung through the hole in the bead brace. When the bead brace is mated to the die, both ends of the cord or string are trailed down through the hole drilled in the die and allowed to extend an inch or more below the bottom of the die. The bead brace and die are then mounted to the extruder and used exactly like any other hollow die.
Here are a few notes about making tubular objects with the bead brace:
To center the hole in the clay, the string must loop through the hole and both ends must hang straight down.
1. If a 1/4” hole would work, use the standard Z-brace. The bare threaded stud will form the inside.
2. It is often useful to use wax or paraffin to keep the ends of the string together.
3. Many different kinds and thickness of cord and string can used.
4. Allow for clay shrinkage. Both the outside and inside diameters will be affected.
5. The outside of the bead can be textured or deformed in many ways while it is being extruded. For instance, the drilled hole can be further shaped with a knife or file. Other materials such as thread or fiber can be glued or taped to the top of the Z-slot die and allowed to drape down through the hole to texture the outside of the extrusion as it is being made. One or more beads of glue or silicone sealant can be used in much the same way and are more permanent.
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