The Secret of the Paradox Cane

Let me start out by saying that this is not a post on how to make a Paradox cane, rather, it’s a post on how I learned an easier way to put together a Paradox cane.  Some background:

I have been having a ball these past few weeks trying out the various canes put forth in the cane challenges sponsored by the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild.   We are given a link to a tutorial or a video on how to make a polymer cane.  We post the results on the Guild’s private Facebook  page and share what we’ve learned in online meetings.

The first cane challenge was the Paradox cane, a beautiful cane that lends itself to so many variations.    Here’s a picture of one that I made.

Paradox6 sided

Motley Woods has a good tutorial for making a Paradox cane, as does Polymer Clay Workshop on YouTube.  There are many others which I have not seen and a great many variations on how make one.  Meg Newberg’s tutorial on Etsy comes highly recommended.  You can purchase it here.  If I ever get back into serious caning, Meg’s tute is probably one of the first tutorials I would purchase because I’ve heard so many great things about it.

The Paradox cane patterns that I have seen consist of three  triangle components joined together and formed into a larger triangle which comprises the cane.  A big problem many people face when assembling a paradox cane is putting the three component triangles together to form a larger triangle.   After you select your clay, arrange it in accordance with the method you are using,  and form it into a square, you are normally directed to  form that square into a triangle, reduce it, and cut the triangle into three pieces to form the final cane.

 

And this is where the problem comes in. Most people think Equilateral  triangle when they think of a triangle, but that won’t work here with the Paradox cane.  Instead, think Isosceles triangle.  Like this. 4IsoscelesTriangle

From there, it’s easy to alter the triangle as per the instructions, cut the cane into thirds, and then fit the three pieces together into a triangle for the final cane.

 

 

 

ThreeIsocelesTrianglesTogetherForming Isosceles triangles enables you to bring the edge of each component triangle right up to the edge of the neighboring component triangle.  The sections in the middle are pinched into wave shapes that interlock and become solid when all the components are joined and compressed into a larger  triangle which forms the cane.

Paradox

And the cane is done!  From there, you decide how you want to reassemble and/or reduce your creation.Paradox 2 canes

 

 

 

Bronze Clay Success!

I have been fooling around with my special blend of home made bronze metal clay for awhile and have made some beautiful things but have gotten inconsistent results.  Then I moved up to a Paragon Max 119 kiln so I could fire cone 6 pottery as well as glass and metal clay.  I also started trying to make hollow forms in the bronze clay.  I was having problems with under firing and over firing, so I needed to tweak my firing schedule.  I found this article by Mardel Rein to be invaluable.Top Shelf before firing All sintered

Here’s a pan of unfired bronze clay before kiln firing.  I prefer to fire in these heavy, shallow stainless steel pans I get from my local Asian supermarket.  I find that the more you use them, the less they flake.

The ring on the right is perfectly sintered and not overfired.  The one on the left, from an earlier firing, is over fired.Hollow forms

Here are a couple of hollow beads.  The one on the left has been repaired.  The one on the right has not.  I have found that you must put hollow forms through two firings.  The form will come out of the first firing looking sintered, but will break if you drop it or hit it with a hammer.  I save up beads that have made it through one firing and put them through the next firing with whatever else I have.  I don’t plug the holes and I don’t construct screen cages to fire them in.  I just cover them with carbon and whoop-de-do.  You can’t use cork clay to make hollow beads from bronze clay, because you will never be able to get the cork fired out in an oxygen-free environment which is what you create when you fire in activated carbon.  But if you can construct a hollow form with holes and get it through two firings, you should be able to bounce it on concrete without it breaking.  In theory.

OverfiredLThe piece on the left has been over fired.  The pieces on the right went through a later firing and the tip of one broke off.  Rather than try to reattach it,  I just sawed the other tip off and will design something around the new shapes.

Repaired pair

The piece on the left broke in the middle during an earlier firing and I repaired and refired it.  The piece on the right is made up of broken sintered and unsintered pieces from earlier firings for a kind of mosaic pendant.

These pieces went through one firing schedule and sintered perfectly.  What I learned from all my experiences is that when you have thicker pieces, the trick is not necessarily to fire hotter, but to ramp up to temperature more slowly.  I started out firing to 1550 and holding for two hours.  Then I tried two and one half.  Then I tried three.  Thin pieces  were over firing, but hollow beads were breaking.  Then I tried lowering the temperature to 1500.  A little better but same problem.    Then I read that a slow ramp worked best with bigger pieces.  I tried ramping at 250 degrees F to 1000F, holding one hour, then ramping on full to 1500F and holding for three hours.  That did the trick.  All the single layer pieces are coming out fine.  I take the hollow ones out and put them in the next kiln batch through the firing cycle a second time, and they have been fine so far.   You have to experiment to find out what will work for you.

 

 

Oval Jump Ring Ovation!

I like to use oval jump rings in my jewelry because they are strong and attractive.  But it can be difficult to make them.  I tried the oval winder you see below.  Unless your wire is very stiff, it twists when you take it off the mandrel  making it hard to cut jump rings with consistently-positioned seams, and even harder to saw them in a jump ring jig.

After some experimenting,  I found the best solution for me is to make my own mandrels that I modify slightly so I can saw even, consistent jump rings.

Tape two round mandrels together, wind the wire evenly around them and saw, positioning your saw at an angle as you would for round jump rings.   The notch or space between the mandrels allows you to angle your saw and cut a perfect jump ring.  Here are some pictures of the process of sawing oval jump rings using two 10 mm mandrels. Be sure to securely clamp  your mandrel to something to hold it steady while you saw.  And don’t forget to lubricate your saw blade.

The size and shape of your jump  rings are limited only by the size and shape of your mandrels.  I wanted some smaller jump rings and used drill bits I taped together at the drilling ends so I could use the smooth parts as mandrels. Again, the space between the two drill bits allows you to saw your jump rings at an angle, one jump ring at a time.

I used 1/4″ drill bits here.  You could go smaller if you needed smaller jump rings.  You could use nails with the heads sawed off, or any kind of smooth mandrels taped together.

Some more mandrels to try:  Paint stirrers and Popsicle sticks make great oval-shaped jump rings.  Just clamp them to a steady surface, wind the wire, and saw.

I All sizes

Here’s a sampling of different oval jump rings you can make with the mandrels I’ve described.  The ends are nice and flush for soldering  or you can close them with pliers and leave them unsoldered.  Give it a try!

 

McGyver Your Ring Clamp

I bought a ring clamp when I took my first metalsmithing class years ago but could never figure out how to use it.  Then I saw Helen Driggs’ article on how to use a ring clamp and decided to try.  But my wedge was too small and I couldn’t hold anything very tight.  I was too cheap to buy another ring clamp so back in the drawer it went.

Then I saw Nancy L.T. Hamilton’s article on how to convert a ring clamp with a too-small wedge into one that would actually hold something.  You basically drill a hole in the clamp so you can insert a bolt with a wing nut to hold the clamp shut.  What a great idea!  I went to drill out my clamp and saw that it was made out of plastic, not wood.  I didn’t know whether I would destroy it by drilling it so back in the drawer it went.

And while this seems like a non-sequitur, it’s not: I ate a lot of popsicles last summer  and the sticks are littering my workshop.  And I have duct tape.  And that was my solution to my non-functional ring clamp.

 

1
Duct tape four popsicle stocks to the wedge.
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Break off the excess on top

 

3
Cover the wedge tightly

 

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The wedge should fit tightly into the clamp
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A ring ready for sawing

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I was able to saw the ring comfortably.  The altered wedge held it tight.

 

May your days be merry and bright and may all your ring clamps hold your jewelry tight! (Sorry)

Still on Hold

I wrote a few weeks ago about how my basement studio was in a state of upheaval due to the installation of New Gizmo in the back part of the basement.   Since New Gizmo replaced the  boiler and hot water heater,  does not use the chimney for ventilation,   I decided to move my kiln and polymer convection oven to the back basement and install a ventilation system using the chimney.  I already have a ventilation system in the front basement that I installed for soldering but which I found worked beautifully when I was cooking polymer and firing bronze clay.  Read more about that one here.

I still haven’t decided whether to install a downdraft vent for the kiln or to go with a hooded vent that I can use for the kiln and the convection oven.   I already made a plenum cup that fits into the kiln’s rolling stand  right under the kiln, but I have hesitated to drill the small hole in the bottom of the kiln that the downdraft vent would need to function.  If I made a downdraft vent for the kiln,  I would have to be able to detach it from the inline fan and connect separate ductwork to hood to ventilate while the convection oven is operating.      I think I am going to set up hooded vent first and see how it does before I make the final decision.

1inlinefan

Here’s the inline fan I ordered from Amazon.  It’s the same one I have in the front basement.  It’s not too loud, has a variable speed controller, and does not require any special wiring.   I will have to bolt it to a piece of wood to steady it.   I could bolt it from the ceiling, too.    I will need two 4″ to 6″ vent reducer/increasers to connect each side of the fan to the ductwork.  I also ordered them from Amazon.   One will connect to ductwork that hooks into the  4″ chimney opening behind the fan and the other one will connect on the other side of the fan to a longer section of ductwork and the vent hood.

My electrician installed an extra outlet  for the fan and the convection oven.   The Paragon Max 119 kiln runs on 120 volts but does require some additional wiring and a special outlet which Stubewan the electrician also installed.   He also left me some metal tape and ductwork to use.  Thanks, Stu!

I used a wok lid for the vent hood in the front basement.  I will use a stainless steel mixing bowl for the vent hood in the rear basement.

BowlHood
Bought at a house sale for $5.00.  I will saw out a hole in the top and  attach the ductwork.

At this point, I plan to attach the ductwork and hood to the wood beams in my basement ceiling and raise and lower the hood with a chain.

 

 

I plan to stow the kiln under the stairs and move it out to the middle of the floor for firing.   I was hoping to get it all hooked up this week, but Amazon sent the wrong size reducers.  Back they go and new ones ordered.

Wish me luck!

Peyote Triangle Patterns for Dummies

I start off with a confession. I am horrible at following patterns. I am not making this up. OK, I can follow sewing patterns because they are all flat on the table and you have a basic idea of what you are supposed to come out with. But I could never pull off a paint-by-number picture when I was a kid and my first attempts at origami went into the trash can.  I can, for the most part,  follow simple beading patterns.  (In fact, one of my first published articles was a beading project.)  But unless I can count beads easily, I am lost.  This means I am mostly ok with loom graphs, Cellini Spirals, bead crochet and  flat peyote graphs.  So I learned how to make a peyote triangle with little trouble.

When I began to salivate over  beaded kaleidocycles, (you can read all about them and download a free pdf  from the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork website here) and wanted to try making one,  I hopped over to YouTube to learn how to make peyote triangles. ( VPBiser has an excellent video tutorial here.)  But for the life of me I could not figure out how to make anything more interesting than a two-color basic  triangle and I wanted some more exciting variations for my kaleidocycles.

After making a few peyote triangles, I began to notice some patterns emerging.   I figured out how to make a three-color pyramid! (See chart below.  I am assuming you already know how to make a standard peyote triangle).

tricolortrianglediagram

 

You can use the same reasoning to make a two-color pyramid.  If you simply alternate colors for each row, you can make a striped pattern.(See kaleidocycle picture in the bottom row.

 

 

 

You can see that for some triangles, I merely beaded rows in different colors much like you would crochet granny squares.    For the  triangles in the  bottom left-hand corner,  I started the triangle with white Delicas for the first two rows and began adding red Delicas in the third row.  From then on,  I added a red Delica whenever I could see that it would be totally surrounded by white Delicas.  This gave me a lovely chicken pox pattern.   If you double click on an image, you can view it full size.

I realize this might not be clear to some people, but the real aim of this post is to encourage you to find new ways to solve problems even if you think they’re over your head.  That’s the only way we learn.  Now that these peyote triangles make more sense to me, I think I’m ready to start tackling some more complex designs.

Embrace the Handle

Many people, including yours truly, are daunted by the thought of pulling a handle for a mug. So rather than face the task with fear, I decided to pay special attention to my mug handles to see whether I could come up with handles that are fun to make. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1.IMG_20180209_113045But I will not be making mugs this week because Clayathon starts today!  And I’ve been looking forward to it for some time.  To read about past Clayathons, press here.

Pain and Soldering Revisited

 

I am making a setting to hold a coin.  Or I am trying to.   I set a coin in Richard Salley’s metalsmithing class at Hacienda Mosaico a couple of years ago.   I didn’t like the results and vowed to try again.  I had my class notes but wanted to find something a little more tailored to my capabilities.  And so I looked for a tutorial in every dog house, out house and waffle house and didn’t find anything I like.  So then I decided to improvise.  Uh oh.
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This is the coin.  A lovely specimen (from before the time the Republic  of Ireland went on the Euro)  that a friend gave me so I could make the pendant for his wife.  I would love to show you the other side, but I have lost it.   My husband says it will turn up somewhere.  Brilliant.  Maybe on one of the moons of Jupiter or the other side of the state, but not with me.

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I start off with 18 gauge silver

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And measure very carefully.

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My trusty scribe and metal cutting scissors.  By the way, these scissors are fantastic!  I forget where I read about them.  (Maybe Helen Driggs’ column in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist?)  I have a few pair of metal cutting scissors, but these are the best by far.  You can buy them from Amazon.

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I cut my bezel.

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I straighten my bezel

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I wrap the metal around the coin, cut to fit

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and solder

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I planned to cut tabs on both sides of the bezel for fold over tabs

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Soldering on the jump ring

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And phooey phooey phooey!  But his story has a happy ending!  I managed to design a coin bezel based on a basket setting.  This took several hundred many attempts.

4.coin

In the coming weeks, I will post a tutorial on  how I made it.  In the meantime,  here are two new ideas for making your own jewelry tools!

3.Hammeringmat This one is great!  Who uses phonebooks anymore?  You can also use a thick catalog or maybe stacks of magazines.  Just secure them with masking tape or duct tape.  They make a great hammering surface or a cushion for a bench block.

 

An old hammer head secured in a vise makes a great metal forming tool.

 

Adjustable Bangle (with Dangle!)

Adjustable Bangle with Dangle

This is a story of how I designed a new bracelet that are intended to be gifts. I love bangles and sizing is always an issue.  I know that the intended recipients are relatively small women but I didn’t feel comfortable enough to guess their hand sizes and make conventional bangles.  I decided to make something that could accommodate different sizes.

Brass1

I started out with thick brass  wire forms that I  purchased at Wolf Myrow  a few years ago.  I had originally thought they were tubes.  In fact, they were solid wire maybe 8 gauge.  I like the look of square wire so I annealed them and  squared the wire in my rolling mill.Stages of wire

This picture shows the same wire in three stages.  The top shows how it started out, the middle is after bending and the bottom is after a few passes in the rolling mill.  The wire gets  thinner and longer.  You have to be careful not to reduce it too fast or you will distort the edges.  And you also have to make sure the wire is properly annealed.  Brass wire is hard.

imageedit_30_2195065449

After I squared the wire,  I annealed it again and shaped it around a bracelet mandrel.  I hadn’t yet decided what to do with the ends.  I ended up sawing off a few inches,

Formed Wires

Here are three bracelets with the ends sawed off.

Design Consideratons

I was considering soldering some bronze metal clay medallions that I had made earlier onto one of the ends or the middle of the bracelets, but I thought it would look wonky.  Plus if the medallion was in the middle of the bracelet, the solder would get wear from the bracelet flexing when it was put on and taken off.  So why not try making a dangle from a medallion? The brass is so hard that I made a mock up in copper to see how I liked the idea.

Copper detailI drilled a hole in a copper bracelet and fashioned a dangle from a copper metal clay medallion.  I like the bracelet and the medallion-just not together.  For one thing, the dangle didn’t move the way I liked.   I was limited in the side of the jump rings I could use because the hole in the bracelet could only accommodate 20 gauge wire.  And the medallion only had one interesting side.  That would work for a pendant, but not for a focal dangle on this bracelet.

holes drilled in center of bangles

Speaking of hole drilling,  did I mention that brass is a hard metal?  Still I was able to drill a hole in each bangle pretty easily, with patience, the right tools, and some safety precautions.

Drilling

When you drill a piece of metal, you need to tape it  securely to a sturdy piece of wood with masking tape.  As you drill, the metal and drill bit get so hot that the wood smokes.  See the  dark spots?  Those are burn marks from prior drillings. You remove metal when you drill and it scatters like dust.  I like to wear safety glasses and a dust mask when I drill like this.

Bdangle detail

I finally settled on dangles made from brass shapes I originally made for a necklace clasp I designed.  I drilled holes in them, added porcelain beads I made many years ago, and attached then to the bracelet with a jump ring that I soldered for added security.B2

The bangles have enough give to open wider when you put them on and you can close them a bit when they are around the wrist.  I rounded off the ends with a file and sanded them smooth to make the putting on and taking off as comfortable as possible.

By the time you read this,  I will be on my way to deliver them to the recipients.  Of course, I had to make one for myself, too!

The Quilts They Are Finished!!!

I started making these quilts in 2011 right after I made Nathan’s baby quilt which was my first quilt. (I am not a quilter, so I decided I should start out with something small.) Ok, ok, it only took me four years to finish these, but I didn’t work on them continuously.

quilts

I started with sewing scraps of fabric together just to get a quilting mojo thing going.  Then I started buying old clothes at thrift stores and taking them apart for the fabric.  Some friends gave me fabric.  Someone across the street threw out boxes and boxes of great fabric!  I bought fabric sample books
on eBay and a box of scraps from a quilt maker on  Etsy.

A

Gradually, I settled on  Log Cabin Pattern.  Since the idea of making the blocks all the same made me want to stick a needle in my eye, I decided to make them all different and had fun with each one.  The only rule was that the colors had to work.  Oh,  and I settled on a size of 12 inches square for each finished block.  I taught myself to chain piece and I became a quilt block berserker for a while.

B

The quilts are 6 blocks across and eight blocks long

Headboard

 Years  ago, I painted a headboard  on my wall.  Makes it hard to rearrange the furniture!

Nightstand

My husband said he quit drinking in case he woke up one day and looked at his night stand.  This is from my painted furniture phase.

Quilt Back

I made my own binding, machine sewed it to the front of the quilts and hand sewed it to the back.  Here’s a good quilt binding tutorial.

QB2

I used fleece blankets as the filling and flannel sheets on the back.  I machine quilted by stitching in the ditch around the  blocks.  It wasn’t that difficult with a walking foot.

mirror

The view through the mirror on the wall.  This is the companion piece to the nightstand.

I don’t have plans to make another quilt although I do have a third quilt top left over.  It could happen!