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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June Socks, Right on Time

Although my knitting has slowed considerably what with the new job and all, I got these done in time to keep up with my one-pair-a-month year of socks.

indiansummersox2

Looks like I made the foot a touch too long. It can be a bit hard to judge with the afterthought heel, and I always want to err on the side of too long rather than too short.

So what’s next? Well, I brought almost all of my sock skeins to my friend Kristi’s house this week, and between my swift and her ball winder, we got them wound up.

skeins

Interesting how different a colorway can look from skein to yarn cake. I actually like some of the ones I didn’t like so much better than the ones I thought I loved. (Of course, I learned a lesson about expectations in the socks above, in which the colors seem a bit muddy and muted now.)

But I did neglect to bring one special skein which I bought online after falling in love (I’m generally not the type to do this.)

qbertsox1

This will probably be my next project. It will be both simple and Totally Awesome, in a 1980s kind of way.

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A Job and a Commission

bethsowl

Well, I now have a job! So my life lately has been all about adjusting to that. Plus, the new cat is still being a crazy shelf ornament who won’t come down, and my husband was away on training for a week, and it feels like laundry never ends . . .

. . . but I got this commission done for a friend who saw one of these somewhere and wanted one. I feel a bit iffy about it because I think the original was better. I might tweak this a bit before I hand it over.

And that’s about it, except to say I might be taking casting again in July, if enough people sign up for it (yes, Bob is back.)

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The Leaf at Last

 

 

So I finished this up yesterday, although I gave little evidence here that I’d been working on it off-and-on for six months:

leafdone

 

This project is a mash-up of two things. First, it’s a lacy leaf pattern I found in Jewelry Craft for Beginners (1974), a book I have had since childhood. It’s not the greatest guide by today’s standards, the equipment used in those days was questionable (hello, asbestos), and most of the projects were just . . . ah . . . typical of the era, but the book had a certain charm, especially the hand-drawn illustrations. I always liked this leaf template, which was meant for plique-a-jour enameling (think stained glass, with enamel in every little cutout space.) So, ever since I started metalsmithing in earnest, I’d been wanting to just make the leaf in copper. Getting a flex shaft last winter made the idea even more appealing, because I could easily drill a hole in each cell and saw them out at home, at my leisure. Which I did.

leaf1

 

I also made a matching leaf shape from a piece of brass I’d used in the rolling mill, which had a bit of texture on it. I started thinking about how’d I’d rivet the two together, and then I got interested in the pendant on the cover of my new favorite jewelry book in the whole wide world, The Complete Photo Guide to Making Metal Jewelry. This features a copper piece and a brass piece riveted together, with tubing spacers keeping them a bit apart. That seemed nifty, because that way the lacy top would make some pretty shadows on the brass below. So I sanded and polished these two up, and stuck the copper part in the oven at 500 degrees for some 10-15 minutes to get a nice magenta/green going on. I thought I should seal both pieces right away with some spray Krylon–well, I ought to have waited.* Riveting tends to make dings, no matter how careful you try to be, and I should have waited until that was done and the dings polished out. But anyway.

leafpieces

 

The riveting itself made me nervous–imagine screwing that up, after all this work–so I dug up some small discs and some tubing and gave the concept a shot.

leafpracticeriveting

 

Making rivets is a bit of a pain, as you have to get the pieces exactly the right size, and I didn’t have the right drill bits and had to order some, guessing the exact size I needed, but . . . no big deal. Just fuss, and ordering, and waiting, and getting busy on other projects. After months of sitting on this one, I decided to finish it up last night.

Because these holes are so teeny–smaller than my center punch–I used a tiny, tiny bur to just barely divot the center of each black spot where a rivet would go. Then I was able to drill on the marks with no skittering. These holes were just a touch too small, so I reamed them out a bit with some diamond-plated burs (new toy!) until the rivets fit.

leafholes

Did the same with the brass piece (taped the two together to make sure they were exactly the same) and now, the fun part: assembly. I picked up a great tip from The Complete Photo Guide . . . hold the rivet in your pliers, and hammer one end to spread the metal a bit (do NOT have anything under the rivet; do it over the V in your V board or something.) Now you can put them in the holes of your bottom piece, and they won’t fall out (from the bottom, anyway). I added tape under mine, just to make it easier to get the whole thing over to the anvil.

leafbottom

 

Did that make sense? Hope so. Because now you put your carefully-measured, annoying little tubing spacers on each of the rivets (they should be of a diameter that fits outside the rivets perfectly) and finagle your top piece over those. If all goes well, and you didn’t drill anything a little off, you can start whacking the rivets with the spreading end of a riveting hammer. Once you’ve got them all going, you can flip the piece and start doing the same to the back . . . back and forth, back and forth . . . until it’s all neat and together, at which point you switch to the square head of the hammer and whack them all down one last time.

leafdoneAnd there you go! I screwed up a bit on one spacer . . . just the tiniest bit smaller than the others! . . . but besides that, not bad for my first time! I’ll have to get a brass chain for this.

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*Also, in the end, I’m not sure I like the shiny-shininess of a glossy finish. Perhaps I ought to have left it unsealed and open to tarnish, but that magenta is just so darn pretty.

 

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