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.

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

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