Thursday, December 31, 2009

More Car Problems, More Copper

Another day home with no car, another post. Lucky you!

First off, I finished the hanging star thingy. I'm still kinda undecided on it - I don't know if the thicker chain on top makes it look top-heavy or not. But, I'm sure I'll find something to do with it. I'm not sure if it's in the 'sellable' category, but I might save it and see.

Next up on my list, a copper corner hugger for my mother (hopefully to be done by mother's day). It's going to be based on viney nasturtium flowers, which are a favorite of both of ours. One bad thing, I'll need to get a soldering iron and learn how to use it for this project. Erf! I can add burns to the scrapes and cuts I get. Right now, it's just in the 'cutting out' stage. I'm giving the hacksaw a try, to cut out the middle part. It's slow going, but seems to work well.

Last but not least, I got some sea glass as a gift for Christmas, hand-picked from the beaches of Maui. It came with one caveat; I need to use some of it to make something for the person who gave it to the person who gave it to me (the person who picked the glass has now passed away, so it's sentimental value). Well, as I sorted through it, something jumped out at me right away - two pieces that would make a wonderful necklace.

I think using silver wire instead of copper, wrapped around a couple times, then through a hole drilled into the top of the white piece to make a hanger. Hang it on a silver box chain, and it would look very nice. It'd capture the feel of the ocean and Hawaii and still look modern and almost professional! I can't wait to see how it turns out.

But first I'll need to buy silver wire. And I need another copper sheet, soldering supplies, a new glass-drilling dremel bit... And before all that, I need a working car. Will this need of stuff never end??

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Silver Lining (Is Copper)

Well, due to car problems, I've been stuck in my apartment the last couple days. I've been playing with my metal more than that, I just haven't been able to take good pictures what I do. And I just don't feel right posting without pictures!

I have roughed out my next suncatcher - one with stars. The hanging stars were relatively easy to cut out. I actually cut out a star-shaped hole in the lid of a peanut-butter jar, and used that to to get them the same size (more or less). The top swoosh was just done freehand. The tricky part was cutting out the star shapes inside the swoosh. (I know you can't see them very well in the picture, but they are there.) They're about the size of dimes. The hacksaw that I got won't cut it (haha) for something that small. I ended up using the etching tool on the dremel, which worked ok to rough out the shape, but it left rounded points. So they look more like starfish than actual stars. *sigh* I can't have everything.

The texturing and coloring went better. I think I'll need to buy more sanding disks soon, as they give a wonderful swooping swirling shiny texture to the metal. And I'm getting better with the blowtorch too - that really is my favorite part of the process. I'm not sure if you can see in the pictures, but I'm getting some brighter colors, especially orange and magenta. And one of the stars is almost all green! Now that's fun!

Not EVERYTHING went well, though. While doing some etching, my dremel slipped and jumped into my hand. I was suddenly very glad I was wearing gloves. Even though it tore up the rubber coating and even through some of the knit, my fingers weren't bloodied at all. I was very thankful for that. I've managed to get this far without any serious injuries! A couple nights ago, I did have a bristle from my brass brush fly into my mouth as I was polishing some pieces. I guess I sit there with my mouth gaping like an idiot when I'm concentrating!

With any luck, my car will start tomorrow (with or without a jump from a towing company). If I have less luck though, I'll finish up this suncatcher. And perhaps I'll try my hand at photographing my works in some daylight. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I really suck at updating...

Well, a lack of updates means two things. I have been busy and not playing with art so much, and I've been uninspired to blog. This is a bit of both. :( I did finish the suncatcher, which I am pretty pleased with, for a first attempt. (There is a picture, but it's included as the very last thing, because it's...big.

My thoughts on it... I still need to figure out how to re-harden then copper after heating it. I think re-hammering it might work...but I'll have to test it out on the next piece. I also am a little annoyed at the quality of some of the chain I have, but I guess that's to be expected when buying things online. I still haven't gotten any of my playing chemicals - curse real life and real bills!

I have made a few necklaces, but I can't get them to photograph well at all. It's very frustrating. I may need to invest in one of those fake torso/neck stands. I think I saw some at Michael's last time I was there.

I've also been making camera straps. This has been just for my own use, but a couple people who have seen them have commented that I should sell them. That's always an idea - they are very pretty! If I do decide to sell them, I'll include a photo.

Not sure what project is next. Until then (and probably another month before I post) here's the first hangy-thing I made! It's already been gifted away - sorry!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Disaster and Resolution

So, you may have noticed I haven't updated in a while. (Actually, one person did. So *hugs* to them. Anyway...) To me, one of the most important things I include here are the pictures. It breaks up these long blocks of text. But perhaps a week ago, I went to turn on my camera, and it wouldn't. The horror! Really, I was incredibly mad. I hadn't dropped it or abused it...and it was no longer under warranty. So I bought a new camera. A better camera (another of my hobbies is photography). So, I bring you updates! With pictures!

I was out looking for sea glass last week, and I found THE most spectacular piece. It's hard to tell by the picture, but it's perhaps an inch tall and egg-shaped, and pink. Not only is it a rare color, but it's the biggest piece I've ever found. When I first saw it, I thought it was a turtle egg. Then I picked it up, and thought it was a discarded piece of candy. Nope - just the best piece of beach glass I've found. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it - I might just save and enjoy it.

I did get my liver of sulfur...finally. Sadly, they didn't send the vice I ordered too (I'm going to have to write and complain.) I did attempt to patina my copper beads, with mixed results. Some beads colored unevenly, some turned black in about two seconds, and some didn't take color at all. *sigh* I need a lot more practice. But at least now I've got some workable beads.

Speaking of practice, I did stop by the renfest last time I was in Minneapolis. I was feeling rather ill that day, so I didn't stay long. I was able to talk to the guy who does all the artwork for "Ye Copper Burning" (I searched for a website in vain.) He was very friendly, but basically told me the only way to get bright colors was...practice. Which is kind of what I was expecting, but copper is expensive just to buy to practice on. But, I won't let that stop me!

Unfortunately I don't have many updates - life has been busy! 'Til next time!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Personal Accomplishment

I am STILL waiting on my Liver of Sulfur. This really annoys me, as it puts me at a standstill with the simple jewelry making. Most of the copper beads I bought are much too shiny and bright. And the liver of sulfur will give them that dark patina that I prefer. But it's not here yet! ARGH!

In the meantime, I tried something that makes me nervous. I started drilling my collection of beach glass. Why would this make me nervous? Well, several reasons. First of all, I really like beach glass, but it's hard to find around here. I haven't even gone out looking recently - though hopefully next weekend I can go out. Most of the shores of Lake Superior that are within easy distance of me are picked very clean by agate hunters. So, if I ruin a piece by drilling badly, even a bad piece, it's hard to replace. Second, these pieces are tiny, and I have to hold them down while drilling. So, I've got a rapidly spinning diamond bit drill just millimeters from my fingers. One slip, and I'll have tiny blood spatters everywhere. *laugh*

But, I've drilled three pieces now, with no mishaps. No flying pieces, broken glass, or bloody fingers. It takes longer than I'd expect - at least 15 minutes per piece, depending on how hard the glass is. But now I know I can do it!

Getting ever closer to finishing the first hanging thingy. I've decided I need heavier gauge copper, because once I heated the stuff I have, it got very bendy. Also, I need WAY more jump rings!

I'm heading down to the state fair this weekend. Perhaps I'll find inspiration! (If I get really bold, I could stop by the MN Renaissance Faire. I know they have a booth there that sells copper pieces colored like I want to learn how to do. I could ask for pointers...if I was brave!)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Trading Ska for Fairy Wings

I was planning on going out tonight. I was going to go to a bar, have a couple drinks, and listen to some local kids play ska. I've heard them before - I like them! But I decided to do a bit of crafting before I left, and by the time I looked up at the clock, it was 11:00. *sigh* I guess I'll need to catch them again in September.

Good news is, I made some stuff! Or at least, got a good start. And I experimented, too. This is going to be a learning process, for sure, but a fun one. I started out with finishing drilling the holes in the copper moon shape. That went well, though I was covered with copper dust by the time I was done. My black tank top looked very pretty! (As an aside, this made me google the effects of breathing in copper dust. Luckily, seems like I've got nothing to worry about. Anything that it's gonna do to me, is likely already happening to me anyway. And it's not like I'm making THAT much dust. Anyway...)

After I made the holes, I used a grinding bit to try smooth out the inside curve a bit more. It went well, until my hand slipped and I left a scratch in the front. :( I though I might be able to sand it out, so I put a sanding disk on the dremel, and gave it a once-over. It left a very cool wobbly pattern, though the disk got a little chewed up near the end. I wasn't able to buff out the scratch I gave it, and actually put some new scratches in the back. Oops! Then, I tried blowtorching it. Now, I did get it to turn colors, but not that much. I mean, not the vivid and astonishing colors that I've seen before on copper pieces. I might get down to the library tomorrow and see if I can find any books on metalworking that might be helpful. I did manage to get a very faint patina, though. After that, I decided to put that aside, and start working on something else.

I have a neat (in my fanciful opinion, anyway) idea for a wind-chime-type thing. It involves these seed pods that look like maple seeds but bigger. I can copper coat them and string them and, well, hopefully I'll be able to show you as things go on. For now, though, I started preparing the seeds. I got a jump ring through them and laquered then, and now they're hanging to dry. They look very much like fairy wings - an effect I was not expecting. Next I need to paint them with conductive paint. Then plate them. Then, I've been thinking about etching them to give them a lacy appearance. But that's getting the cart MILES ahead of the horse.

For now, I'll be happy with what I got done. And hope that I didn't miss TOO much by not going out!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Seed Beads and Power Tools

I've been slow getting started. I've been waiting on mail orders from five or so different places, and of course shipping isn't the speediest. But that's ok! Today I finally broke down and bought a dremel, so I've done enough productive things to write about. have I been spending the last week? The thrilling project of sorting seed beads. Yes, really!

Ever since I was young, I've played with seed beads. From stringing them on fishing line when I was small, to weaving them on a loom when I was a bit older, I've done a lot. And I've collected a lot of beads. Over the course of life, through many moves and many years, they've all become mixed together. Pretty, but not very conducive to using them. So...I've been separating them into slotted boxes. One at a time. With tweezers. Yes, really!

It hasn't been all bad. I've done some of it at work (I work from home) and a lot more in the evenings while watching movies. The 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy seems greatly improved when I can keep my hands busy. I've also had help from my cat. Admittedly, a lot of her help isn't that helpful, but she sure does look cute!

But...back to the more fun things! I had another shopping trip today - this time to Home Depot. Sadly, they didn't have a lot of what I was looking for - no liver of sulfur or conductive paint (both things I've ordered online, but I prefer to buy local). They did have a rather attractive guy working in the lumber section, though, who let me take a couple pieces of wood out of the scrap box under the cutter. So, now I have wood to use as a drilling and hammering surface - just in time, too!

Today I cut my first bit out of the copper - the base for a sun catcher. It was both easier and harder to cut out, than I expected. The tin snips cut easily around the outer edge, but not well around the inner edge. I may need to buy a pair with a curved blade to get the accuracy I need. I was left with a very raggedy and sharp edge. Luckily...I have a dremel! The grinding edge smoothed it out, though did not shape it as well as I would have liked. I also started hammering the piece with the round end of my hammer. I might want to get a hammer with a larger end, but it was starting to look ok! I would have worked it more, but I was starting to worry all the hammering and whirring would disturb the neighbors. I did take the time to try a cutting bit, and drilled a hole through the piece. It worked quite well - I'm having fun with my new toys!

This weekend I will hopefully have all the supplies I've been waiting for, and I can start working in earnest! Except, I'm not sure my weed killer is copper sulfate based. That may be a problem. :( I had a very smart friend staying with me for a couple days and he gave me a lot of tips on chemicals (part of his job is etching computer parts). This means I may yet have to buy more things online, but he showed me a very...interesting...web site. Along with the more simple chemicals I need, I could also buy things like solid cesium, heavy water, and even uranium! I had no clue that 'normal' people could even buy things like that. Anyway, I'm not planning on buying uranium...but I just thought it was interesting.

If nothing else, I'll see what I can do about hanging the beach glass I've picked up. Either drilling it...or mounting it on a jump ring...or wrapping it with many options to try to see what works best! Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Getting Started

I am a girl with a blowtorch.

I haven't even taken it out of the box, let alone started torching things. But the fact that I now own my own blowtorch gives me a silly sense of pride and and excitement. Right now, I am hoping my skill can keep up with my ambition and creative ideas.

Hello, and welcome to my blog. I'm Liz, and I'm glad you stopped by! Today I start writing, keeping a record of my trials and errors, successes and adventures. Adventures doing what, you ask? I'm starting to craft with copper. Copper plating small objects, etching it, hammering it, coloring it, jewelry making, whatever I can think of! As a small part of that, I also plan on making jewelry incorporating dried herbs - adding the subtle dimension of smell to pieces. Understand, I've never done ANY of this before. But I've always had a creative streak, and I love copper. So, I decided this was what I wanted to do, and this is the time to do it!

Why now? I just got my renter's tax rebate in the mail. Disposable income - huzzah! And I have a steady job, my own place with room enough to work, and the free time to put effort into what I'm doing. So this weekend, I hit up some stores, to start getting what I need. It felt almost empowering, walking around Harbor Freight Tools knowing what I need, and picking up other random things on impulse. No, thank you, I don't need help - but I'll let you know if I do! A trip to Menards and a trip to Target rounded off the weekend, with the stuff I remembered to buy, anyway...

I've gotten sheet copper and lacquer, weed killer and brass brushes and a ball peen hammer, paint brushes and electric leads and plenty of other things. Two VERY important pieces of equipment I did not have to buy. One was a CD player. I expect to be playing great music as I work; the right music can be greatly inspiring (once I start working, I'll let you know what I'm listening to!) The other is a pair of safety goggles. What I have are actually welding goggles, but I assume they will serve the same purpose. Normally, a pair of goggles wouldn't warrant more than passing mention, but these goggles... These goggles are the same type worn by my favorite evil scientist - Dr. Horrible. I hope you agree - that makes them worth praising!

Sadly, I still have more things to buy or acquire before I can get started. Most of the things I need can only be ordered from specialty stores, or will require some searching on my part. For example, I need a chunk of wood to use as a hammering surface. I need to find ferric chloride, too, and liver of sulfur. If I'm successful enough, I'll even get a digital rectifier!

For now, though, I close this initial post thanking you for stopping by. Please come back again soon. You may either see some of my first attempts in crafting...or pictures of me after I accidentally burn off half my hair with a blowtorch. Either way, it will be worth it!