Whether you’ve been making beads for years or just months, you’ve probably seen CGBeadrollers. They’re the nifty bead shaper created by Donna Felkner. They come in dozens of shapes and sizes and help beadmakers create consistently shaped beads.
Donna was always the artist. In high school she took shop and did a bit of woodworking and tooling leather. She’s also quilted, crocheted, cross stitched, and sewed, so coming up with a tool for beadmaking wasn’t too difficult. She was first kissed by the glass bug when she worked with stained glass. That allowed her to make her own bobbles for the object chambers of her handmade glass kaleidoscopes. Donna began her beadmaking adventure in 2001 when she purchased a DVD by Lewis Wilson. Several months later she then took her first class and has been hooked ever since.
With necessity being the mother of invention, Donna says the thought of the idea came out of a desire for more bead shapes. She had been using a graphite marble mold, but wanted more versatility, “When I couldn’t find any on the market, my husband introduced me to a toolmaker friend of his and I had them custom made. After keeping them all to myself for a few years, I wondered if anyone else would like them.” The answer was a resounding yes! And Donna found herself more of a tool supplier than beadmaker.
Making the molds requires a CNC machine, which is a computer-controlled machine that automates the milling process, “After having our friend make the molds for two years, I invested in my own machine and now make them myself. I used to draw my ideas by hand, and then our friend would put them into a CAD program and convert them into a program the CNC machine could read. Recently, I’ve purchased my own CAD and am learning to do it myself.” Because of this laborious process, Donna produces only molds that she believes will sell well, “We had a special plate made to hold 10 blank paddles at once, thus the reason we don’t do one-of-a-kind custom work. Ten paddles are placed on the plate and held in place by a vacuum. I press the cycle-start button on the CNC and we’re off and milling. When they are done, they are placed on-end in a vise and the handle hole is drilled. After I glue the super-duper comfy flame handle in, they are placed in numbered storage bins, ready to wrap and ship.”
The donut-shaped mold is the most popular. Donna believes this basic shape gives beadmakers “a consistent bead over and over with no guessing and faster production work. The other main function is to make a well-formed base bead in less time, leaving more time for artistic decorating.” Other popular molds include the ones used to make big-holed beads and the ones used to make ribbed beads, “Those are extremely time-consuming to do by hand.”
Donna says she’s always thinking about new shapes, “In my first 3 years, I’ve come out with a new version on an average of every 9 or 10 days, so there’s always a new one in the back of my mind. As of late, I’ve added a line for helping to shape vessels, and am working on expanding into a ‘half press’ for shapes, those that cannot be rolled, such as lentils and boxy shapes.”
The success of her beadrollers has allowed Donna to expand her business. Just a few years ago she was able to build her own studio, “Customized to what I need in a work shop with enough space, light, and outlets to set up an area for lampwork, a spot for photographing it (still in a learning curve there), stained glass (I miss my kaleidoscopes), even a small space to dabble again in jewelry making and a few of my other miscellaneous hobbies – and a 10 foot wall for storage. I’ve amassed hobbies and equipment for over 35 years and I’m beginning to feel like I have a real business growing from the experience and equipment I’ve accumulated. Thanks to my husband Steve for giving me a place to put it all together.”
Donna loves to hear from her customers. She’s sent her beadrollers to all 50 states and more than 30 countries worldwide, “I have had so many heartwarming emails thanking me for producing a line of tools that is not only fun to use, but helpful as well. Several people have told me they were about to quit lampworking, then they discovered the beadrollers, and their frustration with making a decent bead was solved. This has been a fabulous adventure for me. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap my head around how the beadrollers have impacted people, and it tickles me pink to know I’ve help people enjoy their lives just a little bit more.”
Donna explains all about how to use her beadrollers on her website www.cgbeads.com. You can see videos on how to use the beadrollers or check out her Tips and Tricks page.