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Flower Power!

Lately, I’ve been making flowers. I purchased 3 used flower presses, but while I was waiting for them to arrive, I started making these lovelies:

wpid-wp-1442719562431.jpeg wpid-wp-1442719526988.jpeg

I’m having so much fun free handing it, that even though my presses have arrived, I haven’t been using them. I tried 2 of the presses, but the free hand flowers are way more fun to make.

I’ve never really liked flowers much (not a girly girl), but I absolutely adore these! They’re so pretty! They make perfect little desktop bouquets!

 Desktop Bouquet

These little bouquets are available for purchasing in my shop, with your choice of a clear, blue or tall vase. Or you can get just the flowers with no vase, single or bundles of 3.

I’ll also be adding more items to the shop this week, including angel wings and hearts, so keep an eye out. (Shameless plug 😉 )

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Cleaning Brass Tools Without Chemicals Or Harsh Abrasives

wpid-wp-1442632799541.jpegAs a glass artist, I use a lot of brass tools because hot glass doesn’t stick to brass.  They tend to get tarnished (patinaed) when left sitting unused, which really isn’t a big deal, as this doesn’t generally affect the use of the tool, but it’s not very pretty.  Recently, I’ve come across a bunch of antique brass German fruit knives, which are AWESOME for moving hot glass! They’re over 100 years old, so some (most) of them have a lot of tarnish. I’ve been reselling them, so if you’ve purchased one, here’s how to get it all nice and shiny, like new, again.

These methods work on ALL brass, so if you have some old presses, doorknobs, buttons, etc., that need a good cleaning, here are a couple of inexpensive and environmentally friendly ways to do it.

Method #1

Ketchup (Catsup or however you want to spell it.)

Yep. That’s right! Good ol’ Heinz isn’t just for hotdogs & hamburgers. Just spread some wherever the tarnish is, let it sit for a while and then rub it off, rinse and dry. You may have to repeat a few times, depending on how bad the tarnish is.

wpid-wp-1442632835652.jpegSmear ketchup on tarnished area. Let sit.

wpid-wp-1442636412826.jpegRub ketchup off. Repeat, if needed.

Method #2

Lemon juice

Put your tool in a container and pour enough lemon juice in to cover the area to be cleaned. Let it sit for a while and then wipe off the tarnish. If needed, repeat. Once all tarnish has been removed, rinse and dry.

wpid-wp-1442636146075.jpegPlace item in container. (baggie or shallow dish. wpid-wp-1442636159644.jpegPour enough lemon juice to cover item. Let sit.
wpid-wp-1442636429091.jpegWipe off tarnish and repeat, if needed.

Once the tarnish has been removed, there might be a little discoloring (orangey or pinkish color). This can be removed by polishing with super fine steel wool (000 or 0000). This will give your item a nice shine and won’t scratch it as long as you don’t press too hard.

If you would like to purchase a knife, I have them listed here.

Tips:

1. Vinegar can also used, as well as citric acid dissolved in water.

2. If your item is really bad, you can add some salt to your lemon juice or vinegar to make the reaction stronger. Make sure the salt is completely dissolved in the lemon juice or vinegar BEFORE you put your item in the container.

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How To Remove A Stuck Bead

DSC_0145We’ve all been there. You work so hard and the bead turns out absolutely beautiful! You can’t wait for the kiln to ramp down so that you can take it off the mandrel and show it off before listing it. Finally, it’s all cooled down, so you pop it in a glass of water to soak a bit before taking it off. After a good soak, you twist, and nothing happens, so you twist harder. Then you get the rubber gloves and vice grips… Still nothing. Someone suggests a vinegar soak but that doesn’t work, either. You try it all: vinegar, the freezer, fabric softener, dragging the mandrel on concrete… All of it and nothing works! Dammit!! You worked so hard and it’s the most beautiful, perfect bead you’ve ever made. It’s going to sell for hundreds! Thousands, possibly even millions. Okay, maybe only $50, but in our minds, it’s a bucketload, but oh nooooo… It had to get stuck on the freakin’ mandrel! Stupid ol’ crappy bead release…

Yep. We’ve all been there. Well guess what? There’s a super duper, easy peasy way to get those stock beads off without so much as a struggle.

Rivet Guns!!

A rivet gun will push a stuck bead right off without you even breaking a sweat. And they’re cheap, too! You can pick one up at Harbor Freight for less than $5! ($4.99, usually: http://www.harborfreight.com/hand-tools/hand-riveters/hand-riveter-set-38353.html) Check out this video to see how it works:

Although I’m not using anything in the video, you should really use something to cushion the bead from the rivet gun, like a piece of leather or a buffing pad. Just put it on the mandrel to provide a buffer between the bead and the metal part of the rivet gun. (Dremel buffing pads already have a hole in them and work great for this.)

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Mini Tutorial – Ribbon Cane

ribboncane2I made this mini tutorial several years when I had an “Aha” moment.  I’d never been able to make a proper ribbon cane until Jeff Barber took a moment to demonstrate it for me in a class I took back in 2006. (I raved all about it in this post.)  I posted the tutorial on LE, but not to my blog. Pretty dumb, huh? So, anyways, I’m sharing it here, now.  I certainly hope it helps someone!

First, choose a rod of a pale transparent (clear or whatever color you like):
1. Melt a blob (gather) and mash it into a paddle.
2. Square off the sides.
3. Paint a color (thinly) on 1 side of your paddle.
4. If you want a 2-tone ribbon, paint another color on top of the first color.
5. Cover the colored side with a big blob of the base transparent.
6. Flip the paddle over and put another big blob of of the base transparent on that side and all around the edges. (your color should be right in the middle of the blob, now.)
7. Attach another rod of the base transparent to the other side so that you now have a handle on each side.
8. melt the blob evenly, keeping it from getting distorted.
9. When it gets soft enough (melty but not quite drippy), flip it semi-vertical and start to pull and twist at the same time.

Don’t twist too fast or pull too fast because that will cause the ribbon to become distorted.ribboncane1

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Random Tip: Inexpensive Frit Trays (Repost)

ssfrittraysIn my never ending quest to find a suitable (and cheap) replacement for my beloved stainless steel frit trays, I have finally succeeded! I used to get these cute little sauce dishes from Target. They’re stainless steel and came in packs of 6 for around $5, but woe is me… Target stopped carrying them several years ago and I haven’t been able to find them anywhere else, since. Well, a few months ago, I was wandering through the garden section in Home Depot (God knows why because I have the blackest thumb on Earth!) when I noticed these cute little flower pot saucers in various sizes. The 4″ one is a perfect replacement and it was only 68¢. I later found some at Michael’s, as well, for even less if you have a coupon.

tcfrittray

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Gnomio, oh Gnomio…

I am still a  slacker!  I still  hardly ever torch at home, although I’m trying to get in the studio at least once a week. Emphasis on trying.  Nothing new going on except these little guys. They make me smile!

 

gnomes

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Lampwork Cabochons, No Mandrel!!

Glass cabochons are really easy to make and, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a mandrel to do it! I free-hand all of mine. Not that I make a lot, and since I don’t, I never felt like a cabochon mandrel was something I wanted to add to my already overwhelming collection of stuff I don’t use.

So anyway, here’s a short video showing how I make mine. I hope you enjoy it!

 

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Horizontal Hearts

I shot this impromptu video a while ago because someone asked for tips on making heart beads and since Valentines Day is closer than you think, I figured I’d throw this post up.  And I also need more blog entries. I’m sooo LAZY!!!

So anyways, back to the matter at hand: Heart Beads!  Heart beads are super easy and super quick. This is a quick video on how I make my hearts. I prefer horizontal holes because it makes stringing them easier. I really hate wiring beads. : HATE IT!!

Steps:
1. Make a good sized bead, kinda fat. Make sure the ends are good (not jagged or lopsided).
2. Roll the bead lightly on a marver to flatten it and then heat the middle.
3. Using a straight edge tool, (like a butter knife or razor blade) roll the bead along the edge, like you’re cutting it in half . That’s your crease.
4. Heat the bottom center pretty hot and roll the mandrel back & forth quickly to form the tail. (watch the video)

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Glaskolben on a Surface Mix Torch

Whoa! This year has really flown by!  I was in the store the other day, looking at Halloween stuff and guess what was in the next aisle? Christmas stuff!  What’s up with that?  Can I get my trick or treating in, first?  Sheesh!

Well, since it’s obviously time to get a move on with the holiday stuff, I figure I should pull out my glaskolben and get to work if I want to have enough for the tree this year.  What are glaskolben, you ask?  Germany’s gift to Christmas, that’s what they are!!  Seriously, though, they’re pre-pulled points made from 90 COE glass (soft glass). They’re awesome!! If you’ve ever pulled points before, you know what a pain in the butt it is. Especially with soft glass. Well, that’s why glaskolben are so darned fabulous! The hard part’s done and all you have to do is blow to your heart’s content!

Because glaskolben are cylindrical in shape, some people have a hard time blowing a round ornament using them.  Well, it’s actually pretty easy to do so I made a short video showing how I do it. Also, contrary to popular belief, you do not have to use a fuel only torch, like a Hot Head, to use glaskolben.  I’ve always used an oxy/fuel torch for mine. Mostly the Lynx center-fire on my GTT Phantom, but I’ve also used my Bobcat & Cricket (also GTT) to make a few ornaments, as well.

So anyways, here’s the video. Enjoy!

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Building A Workspace On A Budget

So, recently I posted some pics on FaceBook and LE of my workspace and enough people questioned how I did it that I figure maybe it was something worth sharing. First of all, let me remind you that I put the “eap” in cheap. Mostly because I’m poor, but also because I must have a genetic mutation that won’t allow me to spend good money on anything other than running shoes and torches. I am ALWAYS looking for a bargain. (I found the best best BEST yoghurt in the world by being cheap!) That being said, I do realize that there are some things that you can’t cheap out on (running shoes and torches).

Anyway, on to my “studio”:

benchsetup2

Fan set up for use:

benchfan1a1
benchfan1b

 

The bench:
I scored a great deal on a workbench from Ikea. They were on sale for $25!! So I bought 3. It’s the perfect height, but a little too small so I bought a cheap 4×5 piece of plywood, cut it to size I wanted (3×4), wrapped it in some aluminum roof flashing and bam! Instant Awesome Bench! The roll of flashing was $15 for 20ft, the plywood was $8. I taped the seams with aluminum HVAC tape. (Already had it but costs around $8/roll).

The ventilation hood:
My ventilation consists of an inline vent fan and semi-rigid duct. The fan in the photos was found on Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) for $50 and the ducting is from Lowes. (Just happened to be closer to Lowes than Home Depot.) It’s 6″ and 435CFM. I’ve since upgraded to an 8″, 745CFM that I purchased on Ebay for $51. The 6″ actually worked a lot better than I expected, passing the “hot ball of glass dropped on carpet” test with flying colors. It also worked great for sucking stinky smells out when you forget about the half-eaten chicken sandwich you put behind your kiln. (Don’t ask.) This type of setup is much more effective if you have a straight run, rather than bends or arcs, like I have. Fortunately, I work next to a window so the run is short and I arched the duct, rather than using multiple 90 degree elbows. (Each bend cuts down the effectiveness of your fan) I suggest getting at least 8″, 700CFM for this setup. My new fan kicks major bootay!

To make a hood like mine, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 – 500CFM or more inline fan Ebay is a great place to look!
  • 1 – 90 degree duct elbow (around $5) Make sure you get a size that corresponds with your fan. (If your run is straight, you won’t need this.)
  • 1 – Roll aluminum HVAC tape (around $8. Multiple uses.)
  • 1 – Length of Semi-Rigid flexible duct (around $15. NOT the flimsy floppy kind for dryers!)
  • 1 – Register Boot. (around $6. Mine is 6×12.)

Getting the elbow, ducting and fan all assembled was a real Bee Eye Tee Cee Aych! Holy Crap! I do not envy HVAC guys at ALL. But even though it was a pain, it still only took about 30 minutes (20 minutes of jacking around with the stupid elbow!). I’ve since learned that there’s an awesome crimping tool you can buy that makes it a heck of a lot easier to fit the pieces together. I taped all the seams. The boot I taped inside, as well. The fan vents out the window to my right. I block the window with foam core board ($1.50) when I’m working. When I’m done, I pull the fan back and shut the window. I didn’t want to cut any holes in my wall or permanently block a window, so this system works very well for me.

Altogether, including the bench and vent system, I’ve spent less than $100 on my work space. (Some of the stuff I had laying around already.)
As you can see, it’s fairly simple. Don’t be fooled by this photo, though. It’s NEVER that clean! This how it usually looks:

20150304_190849