Perler Beads (or fuse beads) Experiment

I've always got my hands in something.  Strange piles of "stuff" appear on my studio tables, counters and shelves to be considered at a later date.

Today, it was perler bead time.  These remnants from my daughter's childhood have been poking my brain for months.  You know, the ones you put on a peg board then iron so they melt together?  But what to do with them?  What properties do they posses that could be useful?

My first thought was forming them like pointillism such as Seurat, but I knew they'd be tricky to place since they're little tubes that like to roll.  It would also mean that they needed to come in quite a few colors since they wouldn't blend easily.

So my mind went to work.  I thought, if I could grind them into smaller pieces, I could mix colors to widen the color range.  It would also allow me to add more detail depending on the size of the pieces after ground.  I tried our emulsion blender and bought a regular blender from goodwill.  The emulsion blender was a complete bust.  The blade only pushed the full container of beads around with very little contact.  The blender from goodwill was only a little better. I blended for 6 hours and managed to get a little amount of small bits in the bottom.  I researched online how to grind plastic and there are diy videos to concoct a plastic grinder, but I'm not that interested!

On to the actual experiment...

I first tried to melt the beads onto a gesso board.  I threw some regular beads and small bits onto the board then turned on a heating gun.  As expected, the blower from the gun moved the beads and blew the bits off.  No quick melting here.  Then I put a few beads on the board, covered with parchment paper (from baking section of grocery store)  and no-go.  The beads fused to each other but didn't stick to the board or the parchment paper.  This could be useful if you want to melt a form then place it on top of something, but it would need to be an abstract shape unless you figure out how to wrangle those suckers while melting (wood burning tool?).

Any-hoo.  I looked around for something that would absorb and bind with the oil from the beads.  Cardboard it is.  I had a tub of beads with about 7 colors that I was not about to sort, and used those to see how colors blended.  The longer I had the iron on the section, the more the beads melted, to a point.  I'm not sure if my iron wasn't hot enough but they never changed to a form where I could use anything to blend or move the colors.  Layering is an option to add or cover elements.  I also noticed the see-through beads added another layer of interest and melted quicker than the solid colors.


The ironing took a long time melting section by section to build layers and the cardboard started to warp which made bead placement difficult.  The entire process took about 4 hours (minus the previous 6 hours of bead blending).  I'd need to figure out a sturdy base that wouldn't warp and would stick to the beads before I tried again.

I'd want to do this on a larger scale due to the size of the beads.  My 6" x 12" piece looks pretty elementary even with about 20 colors.  Enlarging the canvas would give the eye more room to smooth lines and fill in the gaps.  Cost wise, building layers takes more beads, that means more dough.  I didn't count exactly how many it took, but I'd need a lot of colors and a decent quantity as well.  It was fun to see where I could take this process and if I had a million bucks, I'd find a machine to grind the colors and build a huge iron press because this would be a kick to play with.

Perler beads after 6 hours in blender
Perler Beads on cardborad experiment start
Perler Bead forming base on cardboard
Perler Beads adding layers over base
Perler Bead final product

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