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.

Celebrities Visit

This morning we were surprised by two very Alaskan celebrities. Our very capable IT department quickly grabbed a camera and snapped pictures of them as they approached the back door.Alaskan moose We remained very quiet knowing how they shun the spotlight.

Time to reveal the names of the Alaskan celebrities. Momma Moose and Baby moose (aka Moose cow and her calf). Moose are celebrities here. People visit and want to see Moose. When you look for them, typically, you don't find them. And their antics are always surprising.

By the way, right now they are very happy if anyone has left out a Halloween pumpkin. Pumpkins are like candy to them. To bad that in Spring, tulips are the same.

Thanks for sharing the fun of Alaska.

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.

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 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:

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.

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