Mongo’s Toes: Parte the Seconde

When we left off this casting project, I was about to cut the excess wax off my mold-in-progress.

mongostoes2

A heated exacto knife will do. But speaking of heating, you really want to use an alcohol lamp, not a candle: burns clean, no soot. So I got that done, and tried to be careful about keeping the toes connected for a good cast (but not so connected that I’d have to cut off a lot of unwanted material.)

toeswaxSorry for the very poor photo quality; I swear I’m about to buy a better cell phone now that I have an income again.

So here we’ve got that done, and the mold is set at an angle on two thick sprues attached to the detachable bottom of the casting flask (or as I like to call it, the soup can.)

After that, Bob put the can together, mixed up some investment and poured it in. I’d show pictures of us actually casting a week later, but I had my hands in giant heat-resistant gloves at the time, taking the can out of the furnace with a looong set of tongs and setting it in the machine just as the brass was nice and liquid. Close the lid and BAM! Centrifugal casting accomplished.

One thing I learned about brass is, it doesn’t behave like silver (well, duh.) With a silver cast, you could take the can out of the machine as soon as it’s done spinning, plunge it in cool water, and fish your casting out. Brass isn’t so instant like that; you have to let it sit maybe 10 minutes–and if you look at the button (which used to be the plug of wax just under the sprues) it’s a very wild shade of hot hot orange.

And so, with just a bit of cleaning:

toescastbrass

So adorable! But now what? It’s pretty much up to my husband what he wants the toes to be mounted on. He’s interested in a silver medallion type of thing that he could frame and hang up. I’d like it to be . . . I don’t know, something that’s not just plain silver sheet. I’ll have to look around, and think about it, so Part 3 is probably not going to happen for a long while.

Meanwhile, I’ve got just one class left for the summer session, and it involves a big project I’d hoped to have finished already, but there was a touch of difficulty. More on that next week, I’m sure.

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SetBACK

So, a week and a half ago, I bent over to pick something up and threw out my back pretty hard. Go figure. The good news is, I was able to take a few days off work and lay in bed reading novels. The bad news is, I had to miss a jewelry class plus quite a few days of tinkering in the basement. I’m doing better now, though, and am recommitted to getting back in shape (hello again, yoga) and losing a few pounds.

I’m also back to the jewelry, and hope to have an awesome silver project to show soon.

Meanwhile, I finished up a pair of socks.

peasandcarrots

Nope, these aren’t my hairy gams; I gave this pair to my significant other. They’ll be nice for wearing around the house in winter. I didn’t keep them for myself because they are rather large, which is my main problem with the pattern. I didn’t quite make gauge, though, so I shouldn’t complain, but based on my experience and comments I’ve read, I’d advise anyone thinking of trying it to go down a size.

Here’s something I do like about the pattern: garter stitch heel. It’s pretty quick and easy and looks like it will stand up to wear. And the star toe is cool if you don’t want a really fitted, pointy kind of toe. The slip stitch ribbing can break up a busy yarn nicely, but may be a bit much with a very busy yarn; here’s a close-up from my first attempt at this pattern with a different yarn, as you may recall:

frogged

So, that’s my sock for August. As the Year of the Sock continues, I’ll be doing another slip stitch pattern with a stash yarn. Stay tuned!

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Bravery

Ha! I did finally muster up the nerve to rivet amethyst beads into the earrings I was working on a couple weeks ago, but first . . . oh crap, I completely forgot my mother-in-law’s birthday is coming up! She likes my stuff; what do I make her?

Well, thanks to my classroom friend Beverly (who you might remember as the nice 85-year-old lady who made broom straw cast pendants with me last winter) I got my hands on a nice dichroic glass cabochon. Beverly makes them, and she had donated quite a few that she couldn’t use or didn’t quite like enough to the classroom. The one I picked out was Just. The. Thing. So pretty, and so fancy all on its own, it called for a simple wire setting. And so:

dichroic

I regret having forgotten to take progress shots, but I did something quite similar to this old copper ‘n’ glass practice piece from last year:

IMG_3954

prongpracticeI’ve recently ground down these prongs and made them a bit nicer, by the way.

For the dichroic pendant, I kept the middle wire long on both ends to create a bottom prong and a top loop (which curls in the opposite direction of what you see in the green glass pendant.) The problem with that was, the stone could slip out the top, so I had to (carefully!) solder a bit of wire up top and make a prong of it. Well, that was cool and all, but I neglected to realize the pendant won’t lay flat with a big old loop on the back. Duh. Something to remember for next time, because this sort of pendant is definitely something I plan to revisit again and again.

Now. Back to those earrings. Boy, was I scared. Especially since Bob told me amethyst is easily shattered and I’d need to be careful.

Me.

Careful.

amearrings2Ha.

I actually worked it out, though! And thanks to my trusty new smoothy-smooth steel bench block, I barely messed up the backs of the domes doing it.

And so, here we are at the end. Yay!

amethystrivetearrings

 

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Mongo’s Toes: Part the First

Last winter, when we had to put our old cat Mongo down, I mentioned I was thinking about making a piece of tribute jewelry for him. Since I started learning a bit about casting last spring, I had an idea on how to make something really personalized. I wasn’t totally sold on the idea, but I told my husband about it and he really wanted it done. So: I’m going to cast his pawprint. His toe beans.

mongo2009

Deez beens.

After the old man shuffled off this mortal coil, and before he was sent to the crematorium, someone at the vet’s office cast his paw prints into a piece of polymer clay (Sculpey or Fimo or somesuch), stamped his name on it, and apparently sprayed a little glittery stuff on it. It’s a nice tribute piece, and I’m glad they do it. Especially since . . .

mongostoes1

Working in the kitchen: do as I say, not as I do.

. . . it’s super easy to use it as a mold. Here I’ve taken a few sheets of casting wax, melted them in a double boiler on my range top (using one of my “no food use” Pyrex dishes), and then painted the wax layer by layer in the paw print. I did this at home because Bob suggested I use a bit of olive oil to keep the wax from sticking and, well, I’ve got olive oil at home. I did a test patch on the back without incident, and proceeded to the front.

The good news: it worked. The bad news: It looks kind of doofy.

mongostoes2Seriously, what do I do with this now? 

Bob gave me a good idea yesterday–flatten the back by melting it a little on the . . . uh, wax-melting thing, and then cut out the pads with a hot metal tool. Cast them in brass, maybe, and solder them onto a silver disc.

Now that sounds awesome.

I did get the back flat in class last night, and I think I’ll use a candle and an old, dull Exacto knife at home this week to get the toes out. We’ll see how this progresses. Meanwhile, as usual, I’ve got a few other things going on but no time to talk about them right now.

 

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Summer Earrings, Having a Blast

So I polished the heck out of these, and set the stones. They’re my own design, and I love them.

rhodoniteearrings

The beads are rhodonite with a black matrix, and I got them at a local bead shop. I’m not saying that just to get all high and mighty about buying local (although that is a good idea); the real point is, when you’re riveting beads like this, you need to pick out ones that are drilled clean and straight. Those can be hard to find, and buying online is a crapshoot.

And speaking of beads bought locally, I have some amethyst rondelles that have just been sitting around my shop. I thought about riveting them onto silver discs, and after a bit of will-this-even-work with some scrap copper, last night I made up the real pair in sterling.

amearrings1

I have yet to polish, and rivet, and bend the ear wires, but so far so good. I was nervous about the soldering (especially since several beginning students decided to stand around watching) but it worked out.

I’d hoped to have a cast ring to show today, but alas we were unable to cast last night. Apparently somebody was screwing with the oxygen-acetylene torch and the oxygen tank was empty. Bob was very pissed off; he suspects the summer art camp kids, and it wouldn’t be the first time. There’s a lot I could say about that, but the community art center is not my circus, nor my monkeys, nor my lawsuit waiting to happen.

So oh well. One good thing did happen–Bob let me borrow this crazy huge comprehensive jewelry book for the week, so I’ve got a lot of learning to do.

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My Socks Are Truly Outrageous.

Truly, truly, truly . . .

trulyoutrageous

80s. I’m kind of a sucker for neon; it takes me back to my middle school years.

This self-striping yarn is by String Theory Colorworks. I like it quite well, though some of the black is a bit streaky in areas. I don’t think anybody’s going to notice, though. And I’ve got my eye on a similar colorway that also includes green for a particular sock pattern . . . but I don’t know yet. Want to use up some other yarns first, not to mention get away from socks for a little break.

So that’s it, except for an outtake. Because of course this happened.

trulyoutrageouscat

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Still Breathing

Still here, still crafting, just at a slower pace.

Good news! Class has started up again. There weren’t too many takers this summer session, and the beginners’ class wasn’t full either, so they’ve been merged. I’m actually excited about this! After months of quiet studio time with just one other person, I’m ready for a different vibe. And, since I never really got the full beginners’ casting experience, this will be really good for me.

Last night was the first session, and I don’t have any pictures, but some of us (including me) picked out rings we liked from Bob’s stash of old, commercially made wax ring molds. We learned how to resize them on a mandrel (so much easier to resize wax than metal, that’s for sure) and Bob set them all up (together but not touching) inside the investment mold. It was pretty much like the time I made wax leaf casts last winter:

leafcastsmoldThen he mixed up the investment (don’t breathe the silicate!), poured it in, vacuum mounted it, and shook the bubbles out on the . . . er. . . shaking thing, aided by a commercial vibrator. Bonus points to me for not snickering at “commercial vibrator.”

Next week he’s going to get the furnace going just before class starts. Three hours ought to be enough for just one project in the oven–and then we cast!

I worked on one little thing last night while the noobs got the safety lecture and tour. It’s the “real” version of a design I made up in copper and cheap beads some time ago. I’m kind of proud of it, because I didn’t just copy something off Pinterest or whatever:

rietearringsprogress

I soldered the silver headpins into the frame. On the copper ones, I just (cough) glued them in and that’s not a great solution. Soon I’ll rivet in the beads, but for now it’ll be a surprise what kind of stone they are.

The other thing I did recently, and probably forgot to mention, was a clear case of salvaging an oopsie.

carneliancharm

I was trying to make a perfect rectangle for a certain lapis stone I’ve been carrying around a couple years, but during soldering I held the torch on it a bit too long and it melted out of true shape. So, nothing for it but to clean up, hammer in a little random texture, and dig around my scraps for a little disc, and a bail, and a bezel setting. Pop in a carnelian from my stash, and here we have it: a lovely little charm.

Coming soon: well, hell if I know. Maybe a thick, twisty cuff bracelet. Maybe a cast paw print. Maybe something else entirely. All I know is, this weekend I’m spending my paycheck on tools and silver, and it’s going to be awesome.

 

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