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.

Variations of Black and White Classic Necklace

What fun I am having with the design of the Black and White Classic Necklace. Take a look at for a larger image of this Black and White Necklace.

Classic Black and White Necklace Alaska Handmade JewelryThis design has been well received. It has been requested that variations of the design be created. And that is what is in the works. The first variation is light Grey and Blue Zircon Cultured pearls with a few surprises you will enjoy.

When this creation is finished it will be posted under "New Creations" on the home page catalog.

There will be other variations of the design in other colors. We welcome any comments that you have on this or any other of our creations.

Thanks for visiting.

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 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 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.


Alaska Handmade Jewelry is expanding its artistic product line. The acquisition of a kiln has made this possible. No, it is not new, but is in like new condition.

The Skutt kiln came Skutt 609 Kiln at Alaska Handmade Jewelrywith a kiln setter. However, in the age of technology, this device has been replaced with a Fuji PXR-3 digital temperature controller. Now, the kiln can be used without the need to purchase cones for temperature measurement.

The planned use is to design low fire clay pendents for jewelry focal points. And to work with PMC (precious metal clay) which when fired will be 99.9% pure silver.

Fuji PXR3 Temperature ContollerAnd our third use for the Skutt will be to anneal lampwork glass beads. With the Fuji controller this becomes a simple process. For COE 104 glass the aim point will be in the 940 to 960 F degree range.

Wire Adventures

Here is the first peek at our adventure into Wire Sculpture jewelry.

There are several points to perfect. Wire Sculpture is a free form creation. Wire Sculpture Earrings Even if repeating the same design each piece will be a little different. This fits right in with our style of handmade one of a kind Alaskan jewelry.

You will see different gauges (sizes) and shapes of wire used. Three of the more common wire shapes are: round, half round and square. There are different hardness levels of wire too.

As you can see from this post and the previous one, we are making progress in adding to the choices you have here at Alaska Handmade Jewelry.

We hope that you will check back often to see what is new, Wire Sculpture Earrings at Alaska Handmade Jewelry both here at the Blog and at:

Thanks for stopping by. We are looking forward to hearing from you.


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