Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do it yourself lampwork tool

There are lots of discussions in the lampworking community about "pandora" or "troll" beads (like this one) which are basically just large-holed beads that fit over a thick chain.  There are tools available that hold the bead in place and bring pressure to the silver to add the center core.  Word on the street (well, in the forums) is that these can really increase consistency and efficiency to the process, but it takes practice and it's easy to chip or crack the bead.  Most of the tools I own have some sort of learning curve to them, so that didn't bother me too much. I found one online and considered it, but the cheapskate inside me was unwilling to spend a couple hundred dollars for a tool I would only use occasionally. 

The silver core is really just a large rivet.  But I know from experience that treating this process the same way as adding a rivet to metal is a mistake; the length of the tubing that runs through the bead makes it prone to buckling and the hammering puts a lot of stress on the bead and it can break or crack.

Someone (sorry, I can't give credit because I don't know who it was!) posted in a forum on Lampwork, etc about how to make your own tool to add the silver core to a lampwork bead.  I followed his basic instructions, and it didn't cost me anything at all because I had the materials laying around in the garage already.

I started with a large nut and bolt--this one is two and a quarter inches in length and a quarter inch in width on the threaded end.

I took the nut off of the bolt and measured down the threading about a quarter of an inch.  That would give me enough room to use with a larger bead--one I would use for a focal bead.  Then I used a bastard file to take the threading off and fit the silver tubing I had. 

That's it--the whole tool is a nut and bolt with the threading filed off.

Here it is in use:

First I measure the amount of silver tubing I will need to cut using the tube cutting jig:

I put the nut and bolt combination into my vise and added the tubing, then the bead.

The nut cradles the bottom of the bead to help keep it from breaking during the riveting.

It's still easy to chip the bead around the rivet, especially when the bead is off the nut/bolt and flat on a stainless steel block putting in those last few taps.  If the hammer comes down a bit off center, it can take little chunks out of the bead close to the rivet.

The final product:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Beachy cupcakes and shower cookies

I made these cupcakes for a birthday celebration at work last week. Since the guest of honor loves going to the beach, we decorated the office with all things sand and sun. I have seen people use brown sugar on frosting to create a look of sand, but even I thought that might be too sweet and sought out another way to go in that direction.

I made the red velvet cupcakes and topped them with cream cheese frosting, then used a piping bag to add graham cracker crumbs to the edges of them.

I also made three dozen baby shower cookies for a friend:

I knew that humidity could be an issue with the icing, but I have to admit that I underestimated just how much of a problem it could create.  It took forever to dry and certainly didn't end up as smooth as the cookies I made during the winter for my sister.  I'm sure that if I had been doing them on a regular basis, it would have been easier to tweak the recipe to respond to the weather...maybe I will only make them from October to April from now on!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Side trip: fireworks show

We spent the Fourth of July with family and had a great time.  The boys and I shopped for fireworks in the tents that are put up for three glorious days and opted for fewer, bigger items rather than a ton of little crappy things.  I blocked all attempts to add firecrackers...I don't understand them.  They scare animals (and me) and don't really do much visually, so I'm not a fan. Sara complained loudly about fireworks in general, but when it was time to light fuses, she was front and center.  She and Gage handled all of that and put on a beautiful show, and I got to try out the night setting on the camera.

I should disclose that I read absolutely *none* of the instructions about using that setting. I'm sure they could be better, but I was surprised at how well they did turn out with no effort from me.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Broom cast pendant and turquoise earrings

This pendant is made with sterling broom cast pieces and has a matte finish.  I selected pieces that created a sense of upward movement and would fit together well in order to try to make it easier to solder them to each other and the backplate.  The broom castings take a lot of time to arrange and solder, but I really like the outcome. 

These turquoise and sterling earrings have copper rivets and have a matte finish.  I used a chasing tool to add texture to the sterling and oxidized it to bring out the contrast a bit.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Red, white and blue cupcakes

Just a quick post--I have been thinking about cake decorating most of the day and got materials to make dummy cakes to decorate. (And then, what, I'm not sure.  They can't really sit on my dining room table.  Maybe I could take a tiered, decorated styrofoam cake to work as a backdrop while I work on fiscal reports?)  But it was getting late, so I decided to go the cupcake route tonight.  

I made these cupcakes to share with the neighbors for the fourth of July holiday using the same technique I did for the rainbow cupcakes a couple of months ago.