There are lots of options for shop bought mandrel racks, but looking around, they seemed flimsy and only suitable for a few beads. My kiln is a Bluebird Junior, and doesn’t have a huge amount of space inside, so I wanted to make something to maximise how many beads I could fit in there.
The metal I bought is untreated 1mm punched steel and was originally purchased (from B&Q) for making raku firing racks. This was the off cut and is a little bit rusty from sitting in the garage, but it will be discoloured by heat anyway so doesn’t need to look pretty.
To start you need to measure the dimensions of the inside of the kiln. First take a measurement from top to bottom. I took 10mm off the height to account for the inside of my kiln being ceramic blanket and being uneven. Then take a measurement from front to back. If like mine, your kiln has the thermocouple sticking out of the back, make sure you measure up to a point before thermocouple, so that the rack won’t touch it when you fit it.
Mark the first measurement on the sheet metal. Line the marks up with a straight edge (a worktop or bench) and hold the metal flat with one hand while bending it to 90 degrees with the other.
Now mark the measurement from the corner you’ve just made to the second bend and repeat the bending action so that your metal looks like this…
You may need to trim the end of the metal if it’s too long at the front. You can do this with a hacksaw or a dremel tool (wear goggles if using a dremel, it will spark!), and watch your fingers on the sharp edges!
Remove the mandrel rest from the front and fit the rack in to the kiln. If the ceramic blanket is very uneven, you might need to tilt it to fit it in. Don’t scrape it along the insides or you’ll ruin your insulation. Also, be careful not to catch the thermocouple!
Then replace the mandrel rest. The rack should be clamped in to place when you tighten the rest making a safe and sturdy wall to hold your beads as they anneal.
When your bead is ready to go in, just find an empty hole. There’s no danger of them rolling together and touching, and you can fit plenty in!