Jim's blog

Camelian Necklace

Red necklace at Alaska Handmade Jewelry This is an intriguing variation of the Classic Black and White necklace. The focal beads are Carnelian and the Cultured Pearls are a variegated color.

If you look at the older blog entry that is titled Peridot Necklace at http://www.alaskahandmadejewelry.com/node/159 you will notice a different style of bead cap. I found that these bead caps were very different from the typical bead cap. And these caps seem to hint at wire sculpture.

Upon completing the Carnelian creation, I achieved the mood and look I was aiming for. This necklace was intended to be posted on Alaska Handmade Jewelry website. Well, I showed it to one person and now it will not make it to the site but into their collection.

So, I wanted to share a picture of the necklace so you can see what it looked like. Hope you enjoy the picture.

Casting Slip

Mixing ceramic casting slip Alaska Handmade JewelryToday was a nice and sunny so it was a good excuse to make up our first batch of ceramic casting slip for pouring. It takes a 50 pound sack of powered white clay, a few chemicals and three gallons of water. The brand in use is Xtra White Casting Slip. The suggested cone firing temperature is 04 to 06.

Mixing was easy using a five gallon bucket from Home Depot. However, it would have been better to use a larger container. The mixed contents came almost to the top. Perhaps a nice plastic 10 gallon container will be on my list. And having one person mix while the other adds the powered clay is a good plan.

Home Depot had the perfect stirring device. It fits on a 1/2 inch electric drill and is used for mixing heavy liquids. The all steel Husky spiral mixer runs six dollars even here in Alaska. It can be All steel spiral mixer from Home Depotfound in their paint department. However, other types are also used for mixing wallboard mud.

The casting slip is available locally at Sheila's Ceramics. Considering the weight, it would be costly to ship one sack from Seattle. Sheila buys the material by the ton which is shipped up by barge in pallet load lots.

Keep in mind that the weight of the completed slip will be in the 75 pound range. So plan ahead, as moving a full container requires some effort.

Suggestions are to not use the slip for one week. The idea is to have the material "ripen" prior to use. In our case, it is setting by the door. Close for use and out of the cold weather. Later next week some molds will be poured to test the newly made slip.

Then there will be a new batch of greenware to fire to cone 04. It then will be called bisque, glazed and fired once again but this time to cone 06 for a finished product.

Peridot Necklace

This is a variation of the Classic Black and White Necklace that makes for an interesting color change.Peridot Green Necklace Alaska Handmade Jewelry This color scheme is based on olive green. The green Peridot is a great accent when combined with creme Cultured Pearls.

This style in black and white has been requested in different colors for specialized gifts this season. It seems to be the leading look for this fall and winter. And we do welcome custom requests. Feel free to email us at: jewelry@alaskahandmadejewelry.com

The other variations of this necklace are accented with other gemstones. Alaska Handmade Jewelry plans to have these items posted on site soon.

There is another variation that is designed as a single strand. And it has a different look and feel than the double strand.

I am thinking of doing a very light blue variation of the same classic design.

Hope you enjoy the different looks.

First Kiln Firing

Wednesday evening was our first kiln firing. The Skutt 609 was modified to use a Fuji PXR3 Fuji PXR-3 temperature controller at 1806 degrees Alaska Handmade Jewelryelectronic temperature controller. Programming is not as simple as a Skutt unit, but the Fuji is more cost effective and will serve our application well.

Skutt provided a nice Excel spreadsheet to calculate the proper ramp times for a cone 04 fire in slow, medium and fast. The starting point for fast fire is room temperature to 1695 F in 171 minutes or 570 degrees F per hour. Peep home on Skutt kiln at 1806 degrees Alaska Handmade JewelryThen from 1695 F to 1945 F in 109 minutes or 137 degrees F rise per hour. There was no need to fire 30 minutes on low, 30 minutes on high as the controller turned the elements on and off to reach the programed heat rise per hour.

This being our first try ended up with a surprise. Gee, you can not see the witness cone when everything is the same color orange! Tried looking through a Diddy shield but no go. Have a few suggestions from Skutt and Mary on making the cone more visible. And yes, this is the actual peep hole with a cone in place. It is there, but just blends in with the background.

All of the greenware fired properly. Fired greenware Alaska Handmade JewelryEven tried a few glazes without first firing to cone 04. The Art Glass from Duncan called Maple Sugar produced an excellent surface with only one firing. i.e. the pictured brown sea shell.

Now to glaze the remaining items and then fire to cone 06. However, since the pendents are only one sided it will be possible to glaze greenware and then only fire once.

Duncan Glaze

Selection of Duncan glazes at Alaska Handmade JewelryCraig's List has once again come through. Located a surplus supply of low fire cone 06 to 04 ceramic glazes. These are made by Duncan and come in 4 fluid ounce containers.

Also had the chance to view a demonstration by Mary on how to pour ceramic slip into a mold. Have same samples to work with to fire and then glaze. It will be interesting to experiment with the different colors and glaze types.

Now there will be a trip to the ceramic store to purchase either the ingredients to make slip or for a gallon or two of premixed slip. Marine Pendent unglazed sample at Alaska Handmade Jewelry, Anchorage Alaska The need is for a thin based slip to make thin body ceramic pendants.

A count indicates there are 165 colors now in our palette. There are a variety of types including Low Sheen, Gallery Opaque, Sandstar and Gloss spread throughout the 165 available colors. These glazes will make for some very interesting pendents that will enhance our jewelry collection.

Kiln Element Track

Where to place the track for a kiln can be an issue. In this case the decision is to place one element in the top brick layer. This is to protect the user from inadvertently making contact with the element when placing a beadmaking mandrel into the annealing kiln.

The track design was copied from an existing Skutt kiln. The track crosses over in the theory that the electromagnet forces will somewhat cancel each other out.

Jig track for bean annealing kilnThe element tracks were first drawn out on graph paper to size. Then a RotoZip tool base was modified to add a router plate. This has a 3/4 inch opening with a collar that is used to guide the RotoZip along the cutting guide.

The guide is made of two pieces of 1/8 inch scrap paneling and was cut using a scroll saw. The drawing was glued to the surface prior to cutting with a 3M brand spray mount adhesive.

The RotoZip uses a standard 1/4 inch shank 3/8 inch straight router bit. The cut into the IFB (insulated fire brick) is 3/8 inch wide by 1/2 inch deep. Element track cut into fire brick using jigThe brick is so soft that the RotoZip made all cuts without issue and created very little air born dust.

Cuts were started on the lower left and moved counter clockwise. Top cuts, the farthest way from the operator were made from right to left.

The image of the kiln with the cut fire brick is a mock up using the cut brick to check for fit. Element tracks in kilnHowever, the brick is not yet cemented in place. When the final assembly is complete, the brick with the element track will be on the top layer and not on the bottom as pictured. The dark spots along the edges of the fire brick are caused by the high temperature stove cement which is dark gray in color.

The top and bottom of the kiln has a 1/2 inch deep by 2-1/2 inch wide lip on three sides. The purpose is to strengthen the sides and back as this is an open front design kiln.

Adding a cement board backer to the bottom for strength and completing the design of the steel support cage is the next part of the project.

Beadmaking Book

Passing the Flame bookThere are a ton of books about making glass beads. One of the best is "Passing the Flame" by Corina Tettinger. This 200 plus page book is a great 'how to' guide in getting started in glass bead making. The price, well it is not inexpensive. Prices, on the net, will range from $50 to $75.

Corina's book is a step by step process for making an array of popular bead styles. Pages and pages of colored pictures as a guide in the how to process.

In reviewing a number of beadmaking forums it is apparent why "Passing the Flame" is top rated. And of course, I do like her take on using Effetre glass. ISBN 0-9726602-0-8

Kiln Progress

Work on the homemade bead annealing kiln continues. The elements arrived 9 days ago and are made out of 15 gauge wire. The coil is .315 inches in OD. The total resistance is 13 ohms, but that may be reduced to about 11 ohms to achieve a rating of 1.3 KW. That will be sufficient for an annealing temperature of 940 to 960 degrees F.

The project for today was to use the woodworking router to cut a lip around the edge. This will allow the top and bottom (floor) to support the three sides. The lip is 2.5 inches wide by 1/2 inch deep.

The overall interior size will be 11 inches wide, 13 inches deep and 8 inches high. The total cubic volume is .662 cubic feet. The depth will be perfect when using 12 inch mandrels. However 9 inches is also a commonly used mandrel length.

The layout for the kiln elements is completed. The track for the element will be about 75 inches in length. This will be placed in the upper layer of brick. The idea is to keep the elements high so as to not inadvertently hit an element with a mandrel when the kiln is turned on.

The next task is to make up a router template to place a 3/8 inch wide by 1/2 inch deep slot for the elements.

Lampworking Setup

The glass bead lampwork setup is almost complete at Alaska Handmade Jewelry. The table came from the Salvation Army used, but is a most functional metal computer workstation.

The top is covered with 12 x 12 inch floor tiles. The Minor CC torch is uplifted with a pair of 2 x 4's on edge. This provides a more conformable working position than a table height mounted torch.
Lampwork setup at Alaska Handmade Jewelry
The Didy shield (Didymium) is used to filter out the sodium glare when glass is heated to its melting temperature. It also acts as face protection in case of glass splatter or breakage. This particular shield is made by Blue Moon Glassworks in Austin, TX. See http://www.austinbluemoon.com for more information.

The supply hose (red and green) is a special "T" type as standard gas welding hose is not suitable for propane use. The oxygen side is fine, however the "R" type on the fuel side will deteriorate with propane usage.

So far production is limited to using bottled oxygen. Should that prove too costly, then it will be time to consider the purchase of a 5 psi 5 liter per minute oxygen concentrator.

Annealing Kiln Parts

Finding parts to build your own annealing glass kiln in Alaska can be a challenge. Thank goodness for the internet.

Lightweight Firebrick at Alaska Handmade JewelryFound IFB, the lightweight firebrick, locally for $3.90 each. A good buy considering shipping costs. The bricks are attached (glued together) using Imperial Stove & Gasket Cement (KK0067) that is rated up to 2100 F which is available at the local Ace Hardware store.

The Fuji PXR3-RCY1-4V0A1 temperature controller was found on eBay from Brinker Controls. The retail selling price is in the range of $135. At Brinker, it is $64 plus $7 for shipping for a new unit. Not bad from a Chicago location. And be sure to include a SSR 25 amp (solid state relay) for an extra ten dollars. The Fuji uses the SSR to turn the elements on and off at the rate of one or two times a second. A standard mechanical relay would fail in a week!

Kiln elements can be purchased from Skutt or your favorite kiln manufacture. Prices will vary depending on model number, etc. For the Skutt 609, elements range from $78 to $37 per pair. Ordering from http://www.kilnelements.com/ seems the most economic. Shipping is $4.75, a deal for sure.

The next part of the project will be to use a router to place the element groves in the fire brick. Woodworking tools will work, as the brick is very soft. Even a 'dull' blade will cut IFB without a problem.

Then it will be to the steel supply shop to purchase 1/2 inch square steel thin wall tube to fabricate the support cage. Plenty of steel here in Alaska. And the MIG welder will once again be pressed into service.

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