Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blowed up REAL GOOD

Wow - I seldom have a bead failure this epic!

Not sure if it came out of the kiln cracked, or fell apart coming off the mandrel - as I wasn't in the studio at the time.

It's kinda cool looking though - almost like a geode!

Must of gotten a rod of boro in the core - it's a clear core with just surface decoration.

There's incompatibility for you!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Kiln Troubleshooting

A couple of weeks ago - I started to have trouble with my kiln. My studio is a room over from my office - and the kiln is out of sight from my desk - but you all know that distinctive click that the relays in your kiln makes? That sound carries a fair ways. So - I'm sitting here at my keyboard, it's early in the day, and suddenly - I hear beeping - followed by the kiln "clicking." (I have the Paragon F120, btw.)

Well - that's odd, thinks I, and I get up and go look. The kiln is happily sitting there, displaying "Idle" and the room temp. Ok - go back to work.

It took me a while, but finally, I caught it in the act - the display would come on full - lighting all the LEDs and giving me 88.88 on the readout, then it would beep, and then the relay would click, the kiln would heat up a degree, and then it would shut off and go back to idle.

Well - a kiln that decides to spontaneously heat up a degree doesn't sound like a good thing, - it might be habit forming and decide next go for 2 degrees, or a 100, or a 1000! So I shut it off and called a friend. She suggested that sometimes the fuse can be getting "weak" - and I should replace the fuse. Fuses are cheap, (replacements at Canadian Tire), so I did that. And thank you to whoever decided that the fuse should be easily accessible on the front of the kiln. Seriously - thank you. Hint. Put the serial number on the front too.

That appeared to stop the spontaneous turning on and off, but, to be safe, I left it off when not in use, so it's hard to say. It was a few days later that I managed to clear some time to actually torch - so I fired up the kiln - and it had been on an hour - when it spontaneously failed, all 8s readout - alarm beeping, and then when back to running.

Only now - when I checked - it was running program 01. Program 04 is my normal annealing program. (I think my rationale to use my most commonly used program buried down the list was that if someone comes along and randomly pushes buttons and messes up a schedule - they are less likely to mess up Program 04 than 01.)

Program 01, I have set up as a fusing schedule. So the temperature rapidly overshot my normal garaging temp, and started to shoot up into the 4 digit area. I reset the program, but the kiln continued to fail and reset itself to running Program 01 from the beginning. Ok - call it a night.

Next day - I talked to Paragon kilns - described the saga in detail - to which they listened patiently, and then had me repeat the conditions for the failure - to determine whether the lights on the side came on - which I hadn't noticed. (I realize now - the Program/Review/Run lights on the side were not well lined up with the holes they shone through - which made them difficult to see unless you duck your head down - so I have been pretty much ignoring them.) Once I knew that (all of them came on at once) - I called them back - and the verdict was - the digital controller board was toast.

Paragon overnighted a new controller to me - it was in my hands by 10 the next morning. It was the work of a few minutes to replace the controller. Hubby did it - it's electronics, so he finds it interesting. This is what he did. Unplugged the kiln. Took out the four screws holding the controller in place - the display and board came out together. Unplugged the wires from the left and the right. Plugged them into the new controller. On the sensor (thermocouple) side, he matched the wire colours to the blocks on the board - although he says this is not strictly necessary. Put in back into place, reused the screws to put in place. Plug the kiln back in. Well - actually - he also unscrewed the board from the display panel before discovering that the new board had it's own display panel, but you don't need to duplicate that step. ;-) I only mention that because you can see it in this photo.

Kiln reassembled and starting a test run.

Overall - it took longer to find a Phillips screwdriver than it did to remove and replace the board.

Paragon kilns - both the kilns and the company - continue to impress me. This kiln has been working flawlessly for about 5 years, and when I called with a problem, they were super helpful on the phone, and had a replacement part to me the next day.

I wish the whole world was like that: helpful, competent and efficient. What a nicer place it would be. ;-)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Helios - Take Three - And some more thoughts on Reduction

My kiln is unhappy. The board in the controller appears to be toast - so while I wait for a new one to come (Paragon is expressing a new board for me - I spoke with them on the phone today and they were super helpful. Can't say enough good things about Paragon.) Anyhoo - I can at least catch up with past stuff.

I took another run, again, at Helios. Helios is the new Double Helix colour. It is an Amber colour that can strike darker, and reduces.

This time, I had much better success - because I finally remembered something so fundamental - I'm kicking myself.

That is, the temperature that the glass is when you reduce the bead is important. Glass that is hot and glowing will reduce differently than glass that is cooled to the point of not glowing. Helios will goes hazey and opaque when reduced from glowing, but if you let it cool to not glowing (hold it under the workbench, in the shadows, to see when the glow has gone out of it) - and THEN reduce it - you get more of the mirror/lustre effect.

Below - we have Ekho. This is a base of clear, encased in Ekho, Cooled, and reduced.

And because the lustre doesn't show well in that pic - here the same bead is again, on a different angle. A lovely rainbow lustre shows. Course - now the bead looks black. Win some, lose some.

This is Kronos. Base of clear, encased in Kronos, cooled, lightly reduced. The lower bead was still hot in a band around the middle when reduced - the difference is dramatic.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gold Coloured Glasses

Olympic Color Rods just sent out an email notice that due to the rising price of gold - all their gold-based colours are going up in price. Olympic sells mostly furnace glass - for casting and blowing - so if you aren't familar with them - that's why. But they do have frit and tools and some lampworking supplies, and even some 104 COE stuff (although it is mostly 96 COE - which is what furnace glass generally is) - and the site is nicely laid out and attractive - so it's worth a look.

But that's not where I was going with this - where I WAS going is that they included a list of the gold-based colours that are going up, which is decent of them, but more to the point - gives us an insight as to which colours have gold in them, and what gold does in terms of the colours it creates.

Notice the predominance of pinks, some purples (check out that r-14 Hyacinth - to die for!) and a smattering of browns (topazes). (Some of these links seem a little scrambled - but you get the idea.)

Pinks, Purples and Browns have gold in them - and that accounts for their higher prices. That's why Effetre's Rubino Oro (Ruby GOLD) and EDP are so much more expensive.

If nothing else - you can use this as a talking point when you sell beads. "Ah yes - isn't that a beautiful shade of pink? That colour is made with gold you know - real gold in the glass."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Graphite Shaping Tool - Saucer/Disk Bead

Well, well, well. I do seem to be on a roll! Success also with this shaping mold.

I think perhaps I have changed my approach to using these fundamentally - building up the glass slowly and gently and using the mold/shaper to finesse the shape - rather than hoping it will do all the shaping at once.

Also - I have adjusted my expectation that the bead will perfectly mirror the exact shape of the cavity and use it to shape the bead, not form it, if you see what I mean.

A selection of practice disks. Yeah - some of the holes aren't perfect - which is something I HATE about using molds - it seems that in order to preserve the shape of the hole, you need to be very conservative with the shaping at the edges. Or maybe I just need a narrower footprint and less pressure.
I also can't abide chill marks - so I tend to loose some shape definition that way too. I'm happier with this bead - which has good ends and no chill marks than ...

... I am with this one - which matches the cavity perfectly, but has a ridge one side at the hole.

A half dozen choices of various sizes. If you stare at this image long enough - it reverses in your brain to look like a relief image of 3 dark beads on a mandrel - then flips back to looking like cavities.
Anyway - really progress in getting my head around using these graphite shaping tools.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Graphite Shaping Tool - Long Cylinder

Wow. I may have had some kind of break-through in terms of using shaping tools.

Cuz this one worked for me too! After the blogged success of the open ended shaper - I tried this one. I figured that this had to be sized for some of the lampwork accessories, like the letter openers and stuff. (Some are shorter, like the butter knife and the fountain pen.)

Again, I started small and in the centre, and pre-shaped it into a cylinder using a flat marver - then used this to refine and check the shape - gradually building up both ends till it was long enough.

This actually combines very nicely with the open ended marver, using both to refine your shape as needed.

No tool is ever a slam dunk - glass continues to need your full attention - but these tools can make it easier and less frustrating to get from A to B.

Bead illustrated is Hades at one end, ivory at the other, with Raku Jitterbug frit.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Graphite Shaping Tool - Finally - One I Understand!

Finally - A graphite shaping tool that instantly makes sense to me!

No ends - so it doesn't matter how long you make the bead! Which tends to be my problem with molds and shaped marvers - too much glass - spilling out the ends, and then knocking the bead release and breaking it, and then it all goes downhill from there.

"Aha" sez I when seeing this one! This is a shaper for me!

And, in fact - it works really well. I really like using this tool!

And with two sizes of grooves - you have some choices of sizes.

If you've been making, on planning on making, bead handles for the bead accessories, like bead pens, letter openers, cutlery and other stuff, this is a great shaping tool. It is a whisker wider than the letter openers need - which is longer than the pens and some of the other items. But, you can make a reference mark on the graphite with a Sharpie, and use it to check the length as you work.

Did you know you can write on graphite with a Sharpie(tm) brand permanent marker and, in defiance of all odds, it shows up on the graphite, and does not burn off. Sharpies are amazing. I have no idea what is in them.

Here, you can see the profile of the two grooves in the tool. The back is flat, which is also handy for straight marvering.

Here you can see a bead in the slot - obviously I don't hold it this way in the flame - I just have a shortage of hands when it comes to operating the camera.

And the larger slot. The handle gets noticeably warm after a lot of marvering - but the squidgy rubber coating keeps it handle-able.

To use this - start small - I started with a very thin wrap of glass in the center - and marvered it out on a flat marver - then went to the grooved marver. I added glass in the center, and melted it and mavered it in, to get the size - and extending the length. When I had the size correct in the middle, I built up the ends to match.

Beads above are Raku Jitterbug frit on Hades. Bead below is Ghee + Ivory and reduced + Psyche, raked, and then reduced again.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Effetre 729: Lizard

Effetre 729 Lizard. All I can think of is the old Taco Bell commercials with the Chihuahua with the box trap chanting "Heeeeere, Leezerd, Leezerd, Leezerd." That was back when the Godzilla remake came out.

Leezerd is a streaky brown and grey - a coffee and slate combo

Here - this spacer is made only from Lizard, and you can see the wide range of colour possibilities.

This is Lizard with ivory.
This is Lizard encased. The streakiness and colour variation is much less pronounced here.
This is Lizard with Double Helix Terra Nova. They have played together very nicely. There was no appreciable reaction with the ivory (see above) but a strong reaction with the Terra Nova. Nice combo. Wonder how it would react with silver foil?

There was no appreciable reaction with the ivory (see above) but a strong reaction with the Terra Nova. Nice combo. Wonder how it would react with silver foil?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Lampworkers Trunk Show at BeadFX next week

Next Saturday (May 14) - beadFX is hosting a Lampworks' Trunk Show (10 - 5pm) at their Scarborough store.

This is a small, informal, one-day show where artists can get their feet wet doing a show in a safe, friendly environment. There will be some veteran lampworkers there too - and it's a nice low-key opportunity for them - without the pressure of a big show. Demo's go on all day in the attached studio - which is great for customers who come in and want to know more about how the beads are made. Customers can also shop for beads and findings to go with the lampwork.

If you're in the area - you might enjoy dropping in. I personally have another commitment, and won't be there for more than a few hours in the morning, if that - but I'm sure you'll find looking at everyone's work really inspiring.

And if you are not - perhaps you'd like to approach your own local bead store and see if they would like to partner with you on something similar. All it takes is a few lampworkers, some tables and a few tableclothes. Even if they don't have studio space, you could run videos of lampwork on a laptop so that people can see how it's done. It's good for the store, as it brings extra people and inspires them to shop. It's good for the lampworkers - they get to sell some beads and meet some potential clients.


Friday, May 06, 2011

Effetre 717: Green Dreamz

Effetre 717 Green Dreamz. With a z. This is a very dark glass - but when you dilute it enough - really cool streaks emerge.

The rods don't look so dark, - darkish - but not dark, dark.

They certainly don't look like they are going to go "so dark it might as well be black."

Bead on the right is self-coloured - the bead on the left is over clear - note the cool streaky dreamy underwater seaweed thing it has going on.

And over white! Awesome. Totally looks like you spent hours pulling sophisticated ribbon cane.

I haven't tried encasing it yet - so I don't know if it's ok with that - but this definitely looks like it wants to be in an aquarium bead!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Success with Frit

I think I may have ended my long-running hate-affair with frit and finally found a way to make it work for me.

Those of you who read this blog regularly will have noticed that I have tried a number of frits and been less than enchanted with the end results.

And then it struck me - it was a matter of scale! It's not that I don't like the random patterns of frit - it's that they just don't have enough room to play on your regular sized spacer!

So - I tried going bigger. This bead is 2 inches across. The base is Vetro 960, with trails of EDP and black, with the frit Mood Swings, with clear ridges built up.

This is also 2 inches across. Same colours, with out the textural clear.

This is a little smaller - about 1.5 inches across. A custom blend of frits that I had laying around.

I like a bead with heft - that you could lob throw a window. Without opening it first. ;-)

So - frit. Go big or go home. For me, anyway.