I have a Versatex tool, which solders, as well as burns wood and which I plan to use for doll making projects.I would like to burn some "faces" on some 1 1/2 -2 inch diameter beads; but am wondering what is the safest way to do this.Do people use a certain type of glove to hold the bead while doing this fussy work? I plan on using a heat proof ceramic tile under my work. I would be interested in safety precautions for any type of wood burning or soldering.
Ah, pyrography ... anything with pyro in it sets my heart on fire! I love to burn and melt things. First lets address the safety precautions. Because you don't know what chemicals or other additives may have been used in the process of creating the beads I would recommend wearing respiratory protection. There are a lot of woods that release toxic fumes when burned. You can buy a half-mask respirator at your local hardware store or online. I bought mine (for toxic fumes) from ULine - it was recommended to me by some folks on an art quilt list. You should work in a well ventilated area and have a fire extinguisher nearby (although I doubt your tool will burn hot enough to cause a fire). Never leave your burning tool unattended and make sure your work area is uncluttered and free of hazards.
The other part of your question concerned how to hold the bead while you work on it. I would recommend a mini bench vise. You can buy tabletop vises or clamp-on types. A lot of the mini vises don't open very far so be sure to read any labeling when you shop. The Pony light duty clamp on vise opens to 2.5 inches. Dremel makes a nice one that opens to 4 inches but it is more expensive. To keep a tabletop vise from moving, mount it to a piece of wood and then clamp the wood to your work surface.
If you do buy a mini vise be sure to use some leather inside the jaws so you don't end up with marks on your beads (either drape it in a 'U' shape or glue a piece to each of the jaws) . You should be able to find mini vises at your local hardware store. If not, there are some on eBay.
Hope this helps!