Sunday, March 12, 2017

Self-challenge, self-gift

Just a quick post for this week's completed item.

While I was getting things put away in the new studio storage space I came across a piece of brass that I had air-chased for a cuff a while back and never finished. So I tested how well the new layout worked by seeing how fast I could finish it. Pretty fast, as it turns out. About half an hour.

To make sure it worked I tried it on. Darned if I didn't like it. I'd never made a piece for myself and decided this one would be mine.
What do you think?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

While I was out...

Apologies are in order. I haven't posted for nearly four weeks. The purpose of my self challenge was to push me to be more productive in the studio and to tell the world about it. It worked for a while but I think the pace of the Super Bowl Challenge burned me out. I needed to absorb the lessons and regroup. It showed me the pain points in the studio and pushed me to fix them. But I ought to have told that story to my friends on-line. So I'm going to do that. It's March, the days are getting longer and warmer. Spring is coming and I'm going to renew my art, my studio, and myself.

Here's what's happened while I've been absent from posting.

I installed a keyboard tray on my desk. That makes working at the computer a whole lot easier, particularly typing long blocks of text. It was a PITA because of the way the desk was built but now I can write without straining my back.

I also did a lot of adulting - going to doctors appointments, filing taxes, dealing with family issues. The death of a friend caused grief and care. The graveyard where my maternal grandparents are buried was the target of anti-Semitic vandalism. Their graves were not disturbed, but it was yet another emotional blow.

Toward the end of February I decided to change the jewelry bench topper and rearrange items in the shop. That took several days of clearing things from the bench, moving the topper off, moving power tools and shelving units around, rearranging boxes. I moved two sewing machines from near the bench to over by the bathroom. I made a path from the left side of the studio to the right side so I don't have to walk all the way around the hot bench and the stuff past it. I took a pair of shoe racks and put them on top of the bench to make a more useful organizer. I moved a shelving unit from its awkward location in the middle of the floor to the wall at the left of the bench.
Before the rearranging. Note the bench topper and the shelf sticking out on the left.
Afterward. New bench topper, Shelf moved. Stuff neatly placed on wall.
After resting from that work, I started on the next upgrade by salvaging pegboard from the garage and painting it white. Then I built a support frame for the pegboard and attached it to the wall next to the bench. I added hooks and put tools on it. It makes a big difference in the accessibility of hammers, saws and other tools that were either hard to get to or ended up in a clutter on the bench.
A lovely, easy-to-get-to wall o' tools.
With that done I tested the improvements by making a non-conforming die out of scrap acrylic sheet and tested it by dapping out two identical shapes in much less time than repousse would have taken.

I wanted some sort of holder for files that could be mounted under the bench top or under the shelves on the bench. They were stuck in a coffee can that was filled with a roll of carpet scrap. The files were protected from banging into each other but it made them difficult to get to. A better design would be a set of plastic tubes for them to rest in; each file in its own tube, handle out, ready to slide out and slide back in.

So I bought 10 feet of 3/4" PVC pipe for a file holder. The small pipe cutter I had raised a blister on the inside of my thumb just making the two cuts needed to get the pipe into the car. So I searched for the large pipe cutter that I knew I had but hadn't found before going to the hardware store. I sorted through all the boxes of tools and miscellany, ended up combining some, finding places for other stuff, generally clearing and consolidating for hours. But no pipe cutter. Then just as I was cleaning up and preparing to go upstairs it showed up - sitting on the shelves next to the jeweler's bench. Hours of searching, bending and standing, sorting, kneeling, all to find the thing I was looking for in plain sight. So I sat down and started cutting 8" lengths of PVC. Got 9 of them done before my arms gave out. The next day I finished cutting the tubes and hot glued them together. Let everything cool then loaded it up with files and put it in place on the bench.
Before - files in a can. Note the lazy susan lash-up on the right. That's gotta go

PVC and hot glue, So easy (once you've got the pipe cutter.)
Added a tube on the bottom to tilt everything up a little.
In place on the bench and loaded with files.
I cleaned up a rotating tool carousel that I'd gotten in a batch of crafting supplies and put tools into it, replacing the makeshift that I had on a lazy susan. Cleaned the bench top and sweeps/tool tray. That put the bench in good working order.
A clean bench top.

Much better now.

The view from the driver's seat.
There's yet more work to do. I still want some better storage for metals and a heavy bench that can take pounding. Racks for raising forging hammers and stakes. I'm debating moving the hot bench around the corner from the jeweler's bench. I could do that if I can pull electricity from elsewhere. I don't want both benches on the same circuit. The power tools still need a home. The whole place needs some decoration.

But that's in the future and I'll be back to posting weekly.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Self-challenge Week 11

A while back I posted my progress on two bowls. The first one got finished in week 6 of this self-challenge. And today, the second one is done.

In the time between January 8 and now, I decided to do something with the interior and finally settled on etching in a text. This is intended to be an enigmatic object, so I won't be revealing the nature of the text. LSMW-2017-EA-003 is a Bowl of Unknown Use With Interior Text. It was found in a non-grave context in one of the mounds excavated by the Elsewhen Antiquities project.

Exterior patina is ferric nitrate with a little cupric nitrate.

Liver of Sulfur patina on the inside.

Some of the text. Any guesses what it says?


Thursday, February 9, 2017

SBC 9 -What's in a Name?

The bowl I made for this year's Super Bowl Challenge is now finally, completely, absolutely, finished. The last little tweaks are done, it has its patina, the finish is sealed. Thanks to Meri Ellen Taylor it has a name. She pointed out that the shape is that of a Scottish vessel form called a quaich. I'd intended it to be a ceremonial vessel, possibly a libation bowl. So it's now the Libation Quaich. Accession Number LSMW-2017-EA-002 in the Elsewhen Antiquities catalog.
Ready to shine.
I had thought about doing the kind of patina that's on all the other Elsewhen Antiquities pieces; an all-over aged, restored-from-out-of-the-ground look. But when I started to do the final prep before applying the patina I had to do some polishing. Ended up polishing the whole thing, just to see what it would look like. Oddly, I've never high polished a vessel of mine before. I found that I could not bear to cover up that shine. So the only patina it got was some darkening in the etched lines, to make them stand out a bit better.

Hope you like it.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

SBC 9 - Last Day

This is just a short post to let you all know that I've completed the Super Bowl Challenge.

Before anything else: Thank you!, Wendy Edsall-Kerwin, for hosting this challenge. It has kicked my butt and forced me to grow as a metalsmith. I've learned a tremendous amount in the past week while I struggled to get this project completed. I'm a better artist because of it.

That said, here's the (mostly) finished piece.



This is part of the Elsewhen Antiquities project. Notionally, it's a libation bowl or drinking cup from a culture that doesn't exist in our history, but might have in an alternate time. It's 2 7/8ths inches tall, 3 5/8ths inches diameter, 5 5/8ths inches across the handles. 16 gauge brass, raised, chased, etched, and fabricated.

Today's work included masking off the interior and etching the bowl, making the handles and attachment brackets and rivets, and assembling the whole thing. Of all the things to give me trouble, assembly was the worst. I'm not used to small precise fabrication. The piece still needs its final patina and finish but I am out of time and energy. I intend to make more bowls like this, partly to see if the lessons stuck, partly to see if I can improve it with some different decisions and better tooling.

Like I said, just a short post today. I'll post an overview with lessons learned in a few days after I catch my breath.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

SBC 9 - Days 5 and 6

When you don't know what the result will be, it's an experiment. When you think you know the result but want to check, it's a confirming experiment. When you know the result and want to show the method to others, it's a demonstration. When you need to use the result by itself or as part of a larger process, it's a technique.

Day 5


This was supposed to be the day I got the band design laid out on the metal and etched. Instead, it was a day of trying all sorts of ways to scale the repeating design element so that it would fit evenly into the space. Nothing I tried seemed to work. I ended up frustrated and running out of time for the day.

Finally I decided to resort to a method that I knew would work. It's not a good methond. It's incredibly labor intensive but I knew it would work because I've used it before. It's a technique, not an experiment.

I spray painted the bowl with Rustoleum flat white spray paint. It works as a resist and takes pencil. The paint comes off with mineral spirits when you're done etching. That was all I got done - spray painting the bowl. It felt like I'd wasted the whole day.

Day 6


Today I figured exactly how the repeat element in the design worked and redrew it to the size I needed. I made sure that it would fit, then drew it again in ink on tracing paper. Flip the tracing paper over, redraw the lines in pencil on the back. Flip it right side up, hold it onto the bowl, and rub to transfer the pencil lines to the resist. That takes the pencil off of the tracing paper, so redraw it, hold it up to the bowl shifted one repeat to the right, and transfer the pencil. Do this twelve times. Now go over the pencil lines on the bowl and fix any dropouts, smudges, and errors. Make sure it's all linked up properly. Then - go over the whole thing again with a sharp tool, scratching through the resist to expose metal to be etched. Be careful not to slip or scratch through any place that should not be etched because that will require repainting the resist to repair the defect.
The repeating design drawn on.
The design scratched in and ready to etch.
That took hours. I have vowed to find A Better Way™ so that I never have to use this method again. But at this point I can mask off the interior of the bowl and it will be ready to soak for an hour or two in an etching bath. That's time I can use to fabricate the handles. Those will get attached with rivets and it will be ready to clean up and have a finish put on.

Tomorrow. It gets done tomorrow.

Friday, February 3, 2017

SBC 9 - Days 3 and 4

I've been working too hard on the bowl to take many pictures and have been too tired at the end of the day to post about it. So this is a catch-up post before I start today's work.

Day 3

I spent a little time working out how to chase in the flutes. The bowl will have 12 and they should be as even as possible. Since I'm not familiar with how this is done and my skills aren't great for repetitive motifs, I worried about putting them in consecutively. Errors might creep in and accumulate from one flute to the next. So I'm going to lay them out and then chase them lightly in an order that scatters them around the surface. Sort of like tightening the nuts on a car wheel. A drawing would show it best but the order will be: 1,8,3,10,5,12,7,2,9,4,11,6. Each one is offset by 7 from the previous one. That should keep errors from accumulating and as the flute deepen I can work to even them up. That's the plan anyway.

Layout will be done using a circle grade that I have laminated up. Put the bowl top down on the grid, center it, and mark the points with a sharpie. Then I can use a piece of wire formed with the profile as a conforming straight edge to line up and mark from edge mark to kernel. Then mark the top of the flutes, the bottom of them, and the widest point level when they start to pull in at the top. That gets done with dividers. I also want a center line for each flute since that's what I'll be following with the tracing tool. That should give me all the guidelines I need. I'll number the flutes in sequence of hammering so I don't get confused.

Layout seemed so easy when I wrote that out. Nope. Almost nothing I had planned for worked. I was always getting uneven divisions of the circle. I ended up doing it an entirely different way, tracing around the bowl rim, using a compass to divide the rim into 12 segments, and using a thread to guide my marks on the metal. Eventually the layout got drawn on.

Then I started preparing my large pitch bowl for fixturing. That at least went well and works much better than anything I could have devised. Thank you, Liza Nechamkin, for the video that showed me how to do it.
Layout done. Fixed in the pitch bowl and ready to chase.

By the time all of that got done it was 3pm and I could only get started on the chasing. I did follow my plan of staggering the order in which I chased the flutes and was able to get them all roughed in evenly.

Day 4

Today was all about chasing flutes. They got deeper, evened up, the ridges in between got sharpened and straightened. When I started, the bottoms of the flutes didn't match where they come into the foot. Now they do. In the middle of the day I had to melt out the red sculptors wax that I use for this, anneal the bowl, and refill it. That was a PITA.

The pitch bowl fixturing worked well, but I was hammering very hard at times and the bowl would loosen up making it hard to control. I ended up resetting it twice. Each time I got better at it and it lasted longer before loosening up. Finally I called it done, melted out the wax and cleaned it all up.


Day 5 - beginning.

So, the flutes are chased in, it's empty and polished (sort of), and now it's time to prepare for etching. It's also time to take stock of the piece, consider the time I have left, and see what I can do to finish it. Listen to the metal and find out where the piece is going. It's brass, not copper. If I solder on a copper rim it will look different from the rest of the bowl. It will take patina differently. If I plate the whole thing with copper before patinating it will all look the same but then I'm not taking advantage of the brass. There may not be time to gold leaf the interior.

What if I skip the rim and gold leaf and put on handles? Make it a drinking cup or libation bowl? In brass, it would actually be usable. I might still put a patina on - with brass handles it would all match. I'll need to experiment with how to attach the handles. But first I have to lay out the design for etching and get it etched.