Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pulse bracelet construction worries

The things that gnaw at me in the middle of the night.

Reticulation silver has a more brittle temper, post-reticulation, than does sterling and definitely more so than copper. I have intended all along to rivet the reticulation strips to the copper wires prior to forming the cuff into, well, a cuff. How else am I going to do it? The wires have to be formed as a group. Sure, I could attempt to shape each wire and shape them each the same but that's not realistic. There will be differences from one wire to the next. And there are seven wires. In some contexts, this would not matter. But as I will be laying six strips across these seven wires and then riveting them all together, and as those joints will have no play in them, the differences will quickly become glaring and, I fear, insurmountable. Thus my decision to rivet first and then shape.

Pillage then burn.


Will the increased temper pose its own problems? Will one or more of these strips crack? Removing the rivets and replacing the strips will be difficult and I suspect I would damage one or more of the wires and possibly the nearby strips. How would I even get those rivets out? The only thing I can think of would be drilling them out and that would be nightware, even with the drill press. And what of the sterling wire rivets (I'm planning to use sterling wire at this time, would something else be better, I want my mommy) and the rivet holes? Will the rivets deform or crack even if the reticulation strips don't? Will the rivet holes get enlarged?

Why did I think this bracelet was a good idea?

I had toyed with the idea of backing the reticulation strips with sterling sheet (or copper) for stability and strength. I had set that idea aside. Now I revisit it. Should I back each reticulation strip (actually I would layer the piece, sterling strips, copper wires, reticulation strips) with a sterling strip and hope that it takes most of the stress? How can I decrease the stresses as I'm forming the cuff? Why did I want my mommy? She'd be no help at all.

Could I wrap each riveted joint with some sort of tape, perhaps the glassworker's best friend, electrical tape, to try to take up some of the stress? Wire would possibly cut into the various surfaces and mar them. I'm going to try that, I think, the electrical tape. It's flexible enough that I can get it into nooks and crannies but not likely to mar the surfaces.

At least I'll feel like I'm doing something.

The reticulation silver has been slow to deplete. I don't know why? Is it the bulk of the piece? But why would getting the piece up to a uniform temperature affect the formation of copper oxides. The rosebud tip is absolutely useless. Even the big, big torch is slower than I would expect. Holding the door of the kiln open from time to time to replenish the O2 is not helpful. Kiln depleting is still my fave rave idea, though, as I can work on other stuff while the oxides are forming. Read More!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pulse bracelet update

I've put the reticulation silver through several rounds of depletion silvering in the kiln. The first time, a few Sundays back, I hauled it out with a goodly layer of nice, charcoal gray oxide coating it. Tried quenching it directly into the crockpot—experience is a great teacher. After I rinsed out my dress and mopped pickle off the floor, I moved the crock back to its usual spot. A bit of the oxide came off into the pickle and then the process seemed to stop. The sheet maintained a sooty, coppery look, very coppery. The pickle did not get particularly blue. After a bunch of time, I pulled the sheet out. Turned out the firescale was just sitting there loose on the surface and came off with some rather lackadaisical rubbing, most of it anyway. Since then, however, the sheet has only taken on a mild haze whenever I put it in the kiln. I have wondered if the oxygen level is too low to support good firescale production. What, then, explains the first time with the lovely charcoal gray? Could it be that the available oxygen was enough for the more surface copper molecules but not enough for anything deeper?

I can't believe that the initial pass would have created such a thick layer of fine silver so that no appreciable amount of copper can get through anymore.

Pat has suggested removing the thermocouple to allow more oxygen into the kiln. This scares me. I'm afraid the temperature will rise to dangerous levels and my silver will either turn into a worthless, molten mass or that some sort of heat hardened temper will make the thing unusable. (Since I'll only be cutting the sheet into strips, at least that's all I have planned for it so far, and won't be shaping it, does temper matter? Can reticulation silver reach a state of such brittleness that it would snap with any use? On reflection, that's a silly question. Duh! Of course it can but under what circumstances?) I could leave the thermocouple in and maintain a decent temperature until I'm ready to throw in the sheet, only removing the thermocouple when I'm there to monitor the process and for limited amounts of time. Temperature does not rise that quickly inside the kiln.

I'll use the big torch this Wednesday. If I go in on Monday to trouble the fabrication toddlers, I'll try the rosebud. Oxygen will not be an issue under those circumstances. I can even boost the O2 to speed the process. Prepping metal for reticulation is just about the only instance I can think of when you want an oxidizing flame when working metal. (I wonder if enamels can react differently to reducing and oxidizing environments? That would be something interesting to explore.)

It's highly unlikely I'll manage to get in this weekend to work; temps are supposed to reach an easy ninety degrees. With the A/C turned off on the weekends, there's no way I could work in there except for an hour or two, and that's if I get there smack-dab at eight in the morning. Read More!

Random facts

My first word was pickle. This never made sense until I started working with metal. Now I wonder if I was referring to Sparex or citric acid. Alas, some questions will never be answered. Read More!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The anvil is not afraid of the hammer.*

I bought the anvil. I did. I've taken a couple pictures of it. Quick snaps, no glamour, so I need to put some vaseline on the lens, set up Butterfly lighting, hmmm, how would that work on an anvil, maybe I should go for modified Rembrandt—strike a pose! You're beautiful, baby! Beautiful!

Unfortunately, I didn't have enough roses today to do this up to true American Beauty standards but really anvils don't need sexing up—they're dead sexy just as they are.

UPS delivered my silver Thursday last. Even put a 'raincoat' on it. And knocked. They knocked! So all is forgiven. Though they did almost break the anvil out of its packaging. They're not big readers, I guess. After all, the box did have a label on it, big white letters on a bright red background—ANVIL.

I did get into the studio on Sunday, at nine. I feel so virtuous. Sandi showed up a bit later. This time we actually worked. I threw the reticulation silver, the new piece, 16 gauge, in the kiln for its first round of depletion silvering. Quenching it in the crockpot, not a good idea. Dramatic though, especially when you're a bit sleepy. I rinsed the pickle out of my dress, mopped up the floor and I moved the crockpot back to its usual spot and turned it on. The sheet turned coppery right off, to be expected. It stayed that way. As it was, by the time I got around to throwing it in the pickle, already approaching 2 o'clock, I chose not to put more sparex in the crock. My mistake. I stayed for at least another half hour. The extra pickle would have helped, might have helped. The coppery stuff never sloughed off, the pickle never turned blue, no bluer than it was. Pat hasn't come back to electric blue pickle for months and months, I so wanted to surprise her. When I rinsed the sheet, much of the stuff came off as I rubbed. It needs more pickling and, of course, has yet to be burnished. (I wonder if stale beer actually works better than liquid soap or was just what was on hand?) Still it looks to be a much easier, less time consuming process than using the torch. I can do other things, while the oxides form.

I've had a "vision" of a choker, articulated, made from reticulated silver. Variants have followed—alternating plates of reticulated and smooth, reticulated and enameled (one version in black, another in drop dead red). Cabs have also raised their voices, though I'm not sure where I'd put them. I suppose they'll tell me. I'm not sure what gauge to consider. Something heavy enough to stand up to the neck, to hold its shape. It's going to be just straight out plates, no forming to give it strength and structure. Hmmm, and here's a question, if some plates are enameled and some reticulated, do the reticulated plates need to be a heavier gauge to look right juxtaposed against the enameled ones? How about cloisonned ones or champleve? Decisions, decisions.

I wish I could get a clear idea of how to articulate them, though. I know I don't want jump rings. I still believe that jump rings are too often the lazy man's out, a failure of imagination. And I want articulation, I want joints of some sort, hinges, I don't know. I want something—mechanical. I will have to ponder and peruse. I know it's out there, the solution to my problem.

I worked some more on the 7 Rings Collar, the solution I think might actually work. I spent a good deal of class cutting and filing and sanding. I spent more time on Sunday cutting and filing. Never got around to the sanding. And I still need to cut more out. I'm almost done with that coil of gauge 4 copper wire from Lowes. Time for trip. I will be picking up another five gallon bucket and lid (for quenching in clean pickle, I think I'll make some more vinegar and citric acid, lots of citric acid. I'll still be transfering the reticulation silver to the crockpot for the main pickling.) And, no, I still don't have the clasp exactly worked out. I'm closer. And no jumps rings.

I have some lovely pieces of sterling wire for making big rivets. 2, 4 and 6 gauge, 6 inches of each. Then 8, 10 and 12, 24 inches each. I could have gotten more of the larger sizes, I should have, but when she told me how much the order was running already, well, my hands got a little clammy and my heart or my courage failed just a trifle. Between that order and the anvil one, I spent what I count as a bunch of money. I have broad shoulders. I will soldier on.

And I have yet to buy any more copper. I need copper or will not be able to make the next generation of fold-formed cuffs. The difference in price between Storm Copper and Contenti is amazing. No wonder Storm Copper doesn't charge you shipping. You're already paying for it. Unless Contenti's prices are way out of date and that could be true. I will need to do a little comparison shopping. And Storm Copper really is a great resource for the heavier gauges. They don't quibble about 12 gauge, try to talk you into 14 instead. Hell, they carry 8 and maybe even heavier. 12's a walk in the park. And the dimensions they will supply are nice--up to 36 by 48. Most places, you're lucky if you can get a square foot.

Oh, Hauser and Miller now makes 12 and 14 gauge sterling available in 12 by 12. This is good to know. This is very good to know.

Bob and Martha's baby was born Thursday last. A busy day all around. I went to Weirsdale and shot for two hours (all I could handle as I was extremely sleep deprived and the day was hot and humid). I got at least a couple pictures I like. Lily Sentz was born a month early. UPS did not lose my metals package.

Good thing the package from Rio arrived the day before, good thing I ordered it. I now have 12 inches of heavy walled sterling tubing and a niece in need of a teething rattle. Well, probably not much of a need as yet. No teeth. Probably not that much interest yet in making things rattle, either. I have a little wiggle room. Damned overachiever, being born early.

I'll need to get her full named nailed down—good luck getting that answer from Bob. Then come up with a lily design for the etching. I don't know where I'll come up with lettering for her name. My calliging skills aren't up to the job and somehow I think that carolingian miniscule just doesn't say Baby Rattle Thing. I could be wrong. Maybe it's a job for Rustica? Half Uncial? Humanist Bookhand? Lombard Caps?

The internet is my friend. I'll find a nice font online.

I've thought of cutting posies out of sheet, simple round, five-petaled dealies and then etching, chasing or carving some detail into them or would that be onto them. I don't know. Chasing is likely to mark the back of the posy was well as the front and I don't want that. The five-petaled dealies have a certain symmetry that I find pleasing in this context but wonder if I could work on the lily motif some more. Is there something I could use that would say lily but would not be too pointy? More pondering to follow.

I have decided on a cross (not a crucifix, I don't want lightning to strike when God sees my wax carving non-skills) for Beatrice for her you're not a baby anymore, sorry I wasn't working metal when you were born so you didn't get a teething rattle present. So far I'm thinking I will do champleve and basse taille on it. Pat says she has gold foil if I want to use some and I might buy a little bit from her. And after all, it will be a very little bit. It will be a cross wearable by a child after all. I'm trying to remember if I've ever seen enameling over granulation and I think I have but maybe I'm making it up. There's no reason that it wouldn't work though. Only problem would be in the not burning up, the not melting, the cross or of the walls of the cells. But it could be, would be, a really neat effect. I have to pull out my books and see what I can see.

I need to make up a design. I wouldn't mind coming up with something that is vaguely reminiscent of a crucifix. Or otherwise make it all symbolic and spiffy and not just attractive. It is after all going to be a cross which is for some people more than a goth fashion accessory. Do goths wear enameled crosses?

*Charles Haddon Spurgeon Read More!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom
of that september afternoon*

How perfect is the day when UPS leaves prezzies at your door? It's something I bought myself but those are some of the best kind.

The Fairy Princess alerted me that 'something was different, someone was here.' I had to investigate, though I knew what I'd heard was a car door slamming. How wrong I was! Oh my goodness, a brown box more than half filled with packing peanuts. I now have two different fluxes, each in two mesh sizes (the 6/20 sounds especially intriguing. I like things that are hmmm globby and unkempt). Kiln wash and cement. Millions of colors—at least six or seven—of liquid enamels (in dry powder). I'm hoping to make my first attempt at sgraffito this week.

Thompson Enamel, they don't have everything (they don't carry Schauer) but they sure have a lot. And if you're anywhere near Bellevue, Kentucky, they have classes and even make studio space available for enamelling projects. How wonderful is that? They also carry titles that you can't find at your local bookstore or even on Amazon. Someday I plan a pilgrimage.

I need to make a copy of Two Judges at the Weirsdale Keuring and see if I can figure out how to make a stencil of it. Thompson sells Pellon but I don't see how that would suit my purpose. Some sort of vinyl or plastic will be more useful. CFOP claims to make stencils. I did not inquire as to material, price or level of detail. I was in a hurry to find a hake brush for the kiln wash and then be on my way. A phone call should answer those questions, though. I'd like to find some place to scan my sketches on to disc for me. I want to include sketches from time to time to show you all what I'm doing, where I'm going and maybe bounce ideas off people. I've been stuck on how to complete the Jumblies Suite for a while now, the Jackapellis are no longer pleasing—they seemed whimsical, now they seem forced, I've got conflicting ideas about the Jackalope at Home, and so on.

I found a great blog, and boy howdy, the artist's a foldformer, too. My people, I love my people. We are a proud and a noble race. We use hammers. Her name is Wendy Edsall-Kerwin and her blog is Hammermarks . Oh, she does some beautiful work. She's got great foldformed cuffs (Cuff #1 ). She's also a fan of firescale—sigh. And what wonderful brooches and pendants—the girl rivets, dammit. She rivets! Foldforming and rivets and firescale. What's not to like? I'm especially drawn to the the Drunkard's Path Pendant.

So much work still to do on this blog. I wish I'd taken the time Thursday to talk to Mark about software that I might be able to use to make a banner for it. I don't like using the header gadget, it just is too rigid and not sparkly enough. Joining the Digital Photography Meetup was a great idea. I've met some nice people, finally got over to the Teaching Zoo and am meeting people who care a lot more about digital photography than I ever will (I miss film) and know all sorts of great tips, tricks and software. With their help, I'll be able to craft a much nicer header. Right now it's clunky, earnest, amateurish and dull.

Still, I have made some changes. I've added some stuff to the sidebar—a subscribe gadget and Blogs I Follow. I'm still trying to figure out how to rework my About Me bit, to add space between the me as metal artist and me as a bunch of other stuff. I'm toying with adding another gadget, a For Those of You Who Can't Get Enough Biographical Minutiae gadget (though that name isn't zippy enough—it lacks charm) and hiving off the non-metalworking stuff. I need to take more pictures, add more pictures (get rid of the blue background, shudder), and yes, and add those sketches. And how cool is this, I googled Feathered Horse Classic and keuring/weirsdale and lo and behold, my blog came up in third and fourth in the search. Whoa! I must use this power only for good.

Moti Kittenheart, the weather predicting cat, after a false start earlier this summer, has been cuddling with me consistently for the last few days. And the Noodle Cat took a nap—almost—with the Fairy Princess. Yep, that pumpkin is definitely getting frostier. I'm predicting sweater weather before the month is out. And if Moti's forecast holds, a first frost some time in October. Really going out on a limb here, but Moti knows her stuff.

*Lawrence Ferlinghetti Read More!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Monsters from the Id

I'll confess I've been naughty. I don't much read blogs. I've been, slowly, delving into the whole blogosphere thing over these last months, getting my feet wet, dipping a toe in the water, slowly, slowly, slowly immersing myself--the water's dark and deep, mysterious and more than a little scary. I have Artful Blogging magazine to blame--thank--for it, for thinking about me and blogging in the same sentence: you know, sort of a gateway drug. I found it, Artful Blogging, at the local Borders and leafed through it while I sipped my tea, my British Breakfast. Whoa, that's some kind of pretty. Blogs before had always existed in a world of argument, politics and celebrity gossip. Thanks, but no thanks, there's enough strife and loud discordant voices. And thus, so far, I have no favorite. I need a favorite, though, so I can be envious of it. I can tell you, though, what I have admired: those blogs that are pulled together, down to the last accessory, like a model at a fashion shoot, perfume layered and subtle, makeup flawless, seams straight, hair perfect, no spinach in her teeth. And they're not off the shelf, either. These are custom blogs or look it. Expensive. Not Wal-mart, not even the softer side of Sears. They're warm and welcoming and very very pretty.

Oddly enough, I'm often attracted to ones that have pearls and lace and doily-like things. To gauzy, fluttery curtains at a morning window, a teacup on the window ledge. There's often a surfeit of pink. There might be a weathered barn. A tumble of roses on a stone fence. I haven't been able to figure out how to work all that in with what I do. Somehow, putting the anvil on a large doily and draping it with long, luminous strands of baroque pearls, eh, well, I don't see it. A bit like something my mom said years ago, something about putting a tutu on a boxer.

That's the thing, isn't it? How to pull together the many threads of me, the seemingly contradictory, conflicting bits into a cohesive, meaningful whole and present them, a finished piece, a jewel upon a velvet pillow, complete, unerring and unchanging. And that's doomed to fail. Because I'm not complete, unerring or unchanging and never can be.

Things I do want and that are achievable--more control over the look of my blog. I've been studying, piecemeal, CSS and HTML but not applying myself enough. Little things frustrate me, discovering that the template I'm currently using--Scribe--does not have ordered lists, no way to do a numbered list until I figure out how to manipulate the template. Imagine my horror when I published the thing the other day and discovered the damned posies again. Posies! And they were indented this time. Since so much is happening behind the scenes (Edit HTML, my ass!), changing OL to UL did me no good. I had to strip everything out and put the coding back. It looked the same from my end but it published with non-indented posies. A slight improvement. Posies! They make my skin crawl.

Random stuff

The frost is on the pumpkin. Well, no, but when I went out to my truck last night, there was still ice in my tea. After two hours. Time to break out the parka. Brrr. On the other hand, it was too hot to entertain working in the studio this weekend. Temperatures anywhere above the mid-eighties and the room turns into an oven. Next weekend looks promising but campus might be closed for Labor Day. You never know. I'll have to check the schedule. I do intend to go in Monday night. I'll wait until seven or so; that should allow the new Fabrication students a chance to get settled in, to mark out their territory and for good spaces to open up in the parking lot.

Less than three weeks to the keuring in Weirsdale and I am so stoked. I don't know if I'll take any drawing materials or just the camera. There's plenty of time to decide. I'm toying with the idea, too, of driving up to Perry, Georgia, for this year's Feathered Horse Classic. Last year, my knee was still too painful to attempt such a trip. This year, God willing, I'll be fine. Friesians, boy howdy, and Gypsy Vanners, maybe other Gypsy Cobs as well. Loads of pretty horses with feathery feet. It's in October and who knows, maybe I'll even be able to see some autumn color. Read More!

Friday, August 28, 2009

If you can't make your mind up,
we'll never get started*

I've worked on my About Me gadget; I've made a few changes. It's harder than, well, really hard things. I've tirelessly searched countless blogs, maybe a half dozen or so, to feel how other bloggers have handled it, to understand what moves me. One thing I can tell you--longer is not better. Size matters, in an inverse way. I'll need catchy, random, quirky facts. Those are good. You'll like those, dear mythical reader. That's what the all cool kids say. I'm going to be like them and sit at their table.

What must I do, then, to draw you in, get you hooked, make you beg, make you scream, um, keep you coming back for more?

I must enthrall you--look into my eyes. I will cast a net of enchantment, of magic, of mystery...

Oh, hell, why can't it be something simple like achieving world peace or finding a cure for cancer?

So, beloved reader, what is in it for you? I have to be clear on that. Why would you stick with my blog rather than reaching for the remote or playing another game of Hearts? (Solitaire is so yesterday, isn't it, dear friend? Hearts is way better.)

First, you'll get to learn about hammers and, really, who doesn't like that? It'll be like Christmas and your birthday and Fourth of the July all rolled into one. With confetti. And cake. (Anvils are good, too, along with bench vises, sandbags and forming stakes.)

Next, you'll get to hear me use words like sinusoidal and anticlastic, chasing and repousse, grisaille and sgraffito, sinking and raising, forge and firescale. I'll drop names like Brain and McCreight and Seppa.

Lastly, it's better than a root canal. Trust me. Even with the drugs the dentist gives you, this is way better. Dentists never give you cake and you never get to hold the hammer.

Now that that's settled, it's time to move on to Solid Concepts. They can't be airy or tenuous, not and pass this class. Solid. And I'll need 20.

Yeah, twenty.

It's slow going, this slogging through the conceptual mud. But I have broad shoulders and am firm in my resolve.

My list so far
  • Guest blogger. I came across this idea somewhere and I liked it. I've already lined up Robin. She doesn't do metal or glass, she's into the needle arts and some photography, but she's game. When she reviews what she's reading, I like the way she writes--clear, concise.
  • Product reviews
  • Book reviews (ooh, here's one already--why Foldforming by Charles Lewton-Brain is so amazing. It's got pictures!)
  • Website reviews
  • A project from inception to completion--sketches, ponderings, photographs, wrong turns down blind alleys, the final ta da! everything
  • Interviews
  • How Tos--how to reticulate, how to keum-bo, how to electroplate, etc., with pictures and text, even line drawings where appropriate
  • Attempt at a new process or technique--how it turned out, what I learned, what I'd do differently, ideas it's suggested
  • FAQs--Liz Crain asked why Verthandi. Things like that could go in a FAQ
  • Humor--surely there are metalsmithing jokes out there
  • Vocabulary, jargon, glossary
  • Vocabulary, jargon, glossary, but a crack version
  • Injury prevention
  • Profiles
  • An account of my latest trip to FDJ or the like
  • An account of a group discussion/bull session--why we're artists, why metal, etc.
  • Replicating an ancient technique

The list is not complete yet but it's getting there.

Another idea, not exactly on point, but near the point, is to make a file of Pre-written posts, as well as a file of Best Ofs, for those times when I want to post something but am ill, traveling or what you will.

A few loose ends. Class started last Wednesday. Lorena is back with us. Talking with her got me thinking again about getting a kiln for home. I went back to Thompsons and looked at their selection. They have a Paragon there, more expensive than I was initially thinking, that is now quite appealing. It's the same size as the enameling kiln at school so I wouldn't have to compromise the size of my pieces.

Dohrmann's class got cancelled, low enrollment, I suspect. I was able to get a seat in Sarah's class at the last minute. I must be part salamander, I sure love playing in the fire.

Studio monitor form is complete and turned in, in time for this weekend. Now it looks like the weather will not cooperate. Temps were projected for around 85 to 88 degrees. Now they're talking 91. That's just too hot, especially on Saturday which they now say will be clear. Damn, damn, damn! I started work on a new copper bracelet and have ideas for at least one more. And have perhaps solved the problem of the clasp for the 7 Rings Collar. Damn, damn, damn!

*Osvaldo Farres/Joe Davis Read More!