Jim's blog

Borosilicate Beads

It was about time to try something new. Found a person by the name of John, here in town, that was using Boro to make his art glass. He also had a torch (GTT Cricket) and the best part, an oxygen concentrator. i.e. no more need to head off to the welding gas store!

Up to this point, had been using soft glass namely Effetre with a COE of 104. Boro has a COE of 33 and is used to make Pyrex which is found in glass kitchen baking pans.

Boro does melt at the higher temperature of 1510 degrees F. And if using a stainless steel 1/16 inch mandrel that will also melt unless one is very careful. There is a big difference in how the glass feels. Effetre is like molasses on a hot day, while Boro plays thick on a cold winter day.

No need to preheat the Boro rod. Of course if that is not done with Effetre, you end up with glass breaking off and ending up someplace in your studio. Cost is also a factor. Soft glass is less costly. But clear Boro rod is even less costly and in the range of $4.00 per pound. (a lot of science labs use clear to make their in house glassware) However, colors can range from $30 to $70 per pound. That is why Boro beads command a higher price than soft glass.

First pair of Boro beads at Alaska Handmade JewelryHere is what the first Boro beads look like. Not perfect, but in time they will get better. The blue bead is mostly clear with a hint of red and blue – marble like! It is made on a .096 mandrel - .451 length and .454 diameter. The dark bead used a .125 mandrel - .562 length - .495 diameter. Both have to be annealed, but it is not as critical as it is with soft glass. That is where the homemade kiln will come in handy.

Now to try a tungsten mandrel, with and without bead release, to see if it will work in the smaller sizes without melting. Just another experiment or a trip to the lampwork beaders forum.

Kiln Progress

Kiln making progress at Alaska Handmade JewelryThe lampwork annealing kiln is beginning to take shape. The kiln parts have been in storage all winter. Now that the weather is nice, it is time to use the garage as a convenient workshop.

The bricks are IFB, lightweight and easy to cut using woodworking tools. The issue is how to hold the bricks together. Some wrap the entire assembly with a stainless steel sheet metal shroud. That would work, but would require the use of a local steel fabricator and extra cost.

In this case, kiln brick support was devised using a removable steel cage. All of the major sections are removable and held together with 5/16 inch machine screws. This is in case there is a need to remove and replace any bricks or the heating element.

The cage is made of 1/2 inch .0625 thin wall square steel tubing. The ends are fitted with 5/16 inch nuts which are welded in place using a MIG wire feed welder.

MIG works well, but is a bit difficult to use when the steel is 1/2 square material. i.e. not much room for error! A better choice may be to use oxygen/acetylene gas welding torch for more control. It is slower, but less costly than purchasing a TIG machine to perform the same basic function. i.e. however, in a production shop TIG would be a necessity.

The entire kin, with the excision of the front door, will be wrapped with one inch ceramic blanket. This serves two purposes, 1) to cushion the bricks and 2) Side view of handmade kiln at Alaska Handmade Jewelry, Anchorage Alaskato add additional insulation. In the image, the top is missing a piece of blanket which will be installed after testing.

This front loading kiln has a useable opening of 8” H x 11” W x 13” D. The heating element is placed high to avoid the possibility of hitting an energized element with a bead mandrel.

An additional production step is to add two center supports on the left/right sides to hold the blanket against these sides. Plus adding a removable blanket holding grid to the back of the kiln is another part of the project.

Then it will be the design of the front door and its supporting members. And it is not finished yet, as a six inch stand will be welded up to support the kiln. And so on and so on with the project.

And gee, I thought that forty feet of steel tubing would do the job. Guess again and buy another stick!

Sliver Clay Ring

Alaska Handmade Jewelry is impressed with "The Arty Crafter". This site was located through one of the jewelry forums. Check out their "Gallery" page for a wonderful variety of handmade objects.

Silver Clay Ring made out of silver clayThe Arty Crafter also has an excellent PDF on how to use Silver Art Clay to make a ring. The best part is that a person does not need specialized equipment to fire the completed ring. In this case, just a butane touch. Most interesting. To download this helpful PDF use this link.

Many sites on the web sell Silver Art Clay. Prices will vary for this fun product.

The Thaw

Winter time is interesting in Anchorage. Just last week it was in the -10 F (-23 C) temperature range. This week there was a lot of wind and much warmer temperatures up to plus 50 F.

Some power outages and downed trees, but nothing major. Car in driveway as it should be placed. Our little street was all ice including many driveways.

Winter has its little surprises. Many folks just like to wait until June and then their snow covered paths to the garage melt away. Nothing wrong with packed snow with a hill for a driveway. But mother nature may have other ideas.

When the temperature hits 50 F (10 C) and it rains, all of those slanted driveways become down sloping ramps. Our neighborhood was no exception. Residences found their cars parked in the street. Car after sliding out of driveway due to ice and water and warm temps in Anchorage Alaska. Not because they wanted to, but due to mother nature's desire.

Seems that gravity, plus lack of friction works well on moving one's car. Just a slow slide into the street. No damage, but a thought that perhaps driveway snow removal may become a bigger priority!

January Thaw

Just a week ago the daytime high temperature in Anchorage was at -10 F (-23 C). Today it was 45 F (7 C) on the plus side. All of that cold ice is now water plus ice!

Schools have been closed for two days. On day one there were 180 cars in the ditch. Day two was better. Winter thaw this week at Alaska Handmade Jewelry
Some roads were more like ice skating rinks than roads.

Public schools along with the two universities found their parking lots to be unusable. Plus the hillside was not found of 105 MPH wind gusts. Some power outages, trees and other usual things occurred.

Friday will be another warm day in the mid 40’s. Schools open or closed? Students will not know until 4:30 am when public school officials make that decision. The university status will be known at 6:30 am.

Cars with studded tires do better with this type of ice and water. Those without end up in the ditch or drive very slowly. Overall, some are very cautious, while others have no fear.

It is nice to see warmer weather in the north while the lower 48 is in the deep freeze. We were there for 2 weeks and it is nice to share the cold.

By next week they say in the mid to upper 20’s. So it is once again back to winter, some snow and the usual crop of winter activities.

Winter Time

Alaska is known for its overall beauty. And of course, its interesting winters. Here, in Anchorage, we all have been exposed to the beauty of nature. Its necessity for winter cold. For its snow and ice.

Some feel that winter is just to many tooooo's. Too long, too dark, too slippery, too snowyWinter at Alaska Handmade Jewelry and the best for last, too cold! It has been that for sure. Normal highs in the plus 24F to 28F range have just not happened.

In place of these nice warm temperate climates, the folks of Anchorage have been exposed to two weeks of sub zero cold. The temperature did not make it up past zero F or -17C. It is in the range of -32F (-35C) to -15F (-26C) in most parts of town.

Colder on the East and warmer on the West. The ocean does help moderate the temperatures. Now, if you live in Fairbanks expect that -45F (-43C) with no wind chill factored in. That is cold. Here in the banana belt we all live in the luxury of -15F (-26C).

It is winter and we all expect this type of weather. It makes for great indoor activities. In our case, more jewelry and more time to study wire wrapping techniques.

Stay tuned to spring. More jewelry, more green, more warmth!!

Snow Time

Light in Anchoarge with snow at Alaska Handmade JewelryEarlier this week the weather forecasters let us know that snow was in the forecast. Well, they were correct. At our location in Anchorage, the total was 8 inches of nice light snow. Other parts of town, received up to a foot.

The best part is that our snow comes straight down and makes for some wonderful looking trees. Branches covered with inches and inches of light fluff snow. In other part of the county, it just blows in from 'Kansas' horizontal to the ground. Lots of drifting and blocked roads in those parts.Tree branches covered with 8 inches of new snow at Alaska Handmade Jewelry, Anchorage Alaska

Snow in Anchorage is a good time to make jewelry. To come up with creative designs. It is also nice to think about the warmer parts of the lower 48. But here is where Santa starts that long trip. In the cold and the snow!

Looks like by the end of the week, some additional items will be posted. Take a look and let us know your interest.

Acrylic Paint

Another nice find on Craig's List. Located a heavy cardboard box of over 200 Ceramcoat Artist's Acrylic paint. Acrylic paints supplies at Alaska Handmade JewelryThese will be used for painting bisque in place of glazing.

There are many colors to choose from. Some of the 60 ml containers have never been opened. Others partially used, but still in good shape.

Also found one hundred plus brushes for glazing and painting at a cost of less than fifty cents each. They range in size from 18/0 to 1/8. These are made in a variety of places including Japan and Germany. No doubt some will become favorites. And with Craig's List, the price was just right!

Auto Tune

The Fuji PXR-3 temperature has a feature that automatically sets the temperature control parameters. An individual could do this manually but would require substantial knowledge about the inner workings of digital temperature control.

To use, the kiln is turned on high with a setpoint of say 500 degrees F. In my case, the kiln was kept at 500 F for 30 plus minutes to stabilize the temperature. (note: it may be better to use a higher setpoint for ceramics - perhaps 1500 F).

AT (auto tune) is selected on the controller menu. Of course, AT when displayed on a seven segmentFuji controller with auto tune setting at Alaska Handmade Jewelry display looks like Ar. A little confusing, but with the manual handy it is an easy transition.

When AT is selected, a choice is provided to enter a 0, 1 or 2 for a function selection. Zero is off with one for auto tune start. Start AT and a right most decimal point will blink. This indicates the kiln is being setup for its proper control parameters.

The Fuji controller will turn the kiln on and off to determine temperature rise, fall, etc. All of this information is stored in the unit. As an example, the values for proportional band, integral time, derivative action time are automatically set. These values can be overridden with other values, if desired.

It is easy to setup the Fuji. And for sixty-four dollars it is a wise first investment in a simple but effective kiln temperature controller.

Kiln Conversion

The Skutt 609 kiln came with a manually operated kiln setter. This takes a special small cone for activation.

Thermocouple socket for Skutt kiln at Alaska Handmade JewelryThe modification is to remove the manual system and replace it with an electronic system. This mods are based on a Fuji PXR-3 controller that can be found on the internet in the sixty-dollar range. Skutt does sell a very nice controller unit, but $800 is just a bit too much for my liking.

The first try was using a small thermocouple supplied by Brinker Controls. This did work, but after the first firing, to cone 04, the thermocouple showed signs of abuse. Thermocouple kiln interior placement Alaska Handmade Jewelry, Anchorage AlaskaA model 1515 Skutt replacement unit made of 8 gauge wire is now in place. It will deteriorate over time, but not as fast as the first thermocouple.

Clay Art Center in Tacoma, Washington stocks the thermocouple socket, insulators and thermocouple wire. They ship using USPS which is so much less costly than either UPS or FedEx to Alaska. With the parts from Clay Art, the modification from a manual to an electronic kiln setter is now complete.

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