Christine Cox

Archive for May, 2012

Beveling Metal

Susan Robson Tobin writes:
I was wondering if you carry a piece of equipment or a tool that helps one to create a beveled edge on metal? I want to put a beveled edge on some of the metal I bought from you but have no clue as to how to go about it. Is there a cheap and an expensive way? Whatever advice would be appreciated.

My response:
To bevel the edges of metal, you’ll just need a flat hand-file. Nicholson is a good American brand, available at most hardware stores. Buy one with a handle. You’ll file better if your hand isn’t being poked with a steel tang. You can also buy a handle separately and install the file yourself.

Beveling with a file

Think of beveling as just knocking off the corners of the edge of the metal

Remember that a file only works on the push stroke. Hold the metal against something solid, like the edge of a table, so that an edge faces up. Hold your file at a 45 degree angle to the edge of the metal. Push. I think of it as cutting off the corner of the edge of the metal. The steeper the angle between the file and the edge of the metal, the more bevel you’ll have.

If you are doing a lot of pieces, use blue painter’s tape to adhere 150 or so grit sandpaper to a flat table. Hold the metal at a 45 degree angle, being sure to support it carefully so that it doesn’t bend, and pull the metal toward you. This sandpaper-on-the-table thing is also my favorite way to get nice round corners on metal sheet. I keep a piece of 150 and a piece of 400 grit taped to my table at all times.

Cracked Enamels

Enameled shape

This 18 gauge flower only had 2 layers of enamel, so no doming was necessary.

Studio artist Vicki Potter and I were talking about enamels yesterday. Vicki said:

After total success with my green flower necklace and another black and white necklace, I ran into some trouble with the yellows/oranges.  The enamel on all 3 of the flowers I did in those colors cracked.  So, I got out 3 more copper flowers and repeated the process all over again.  The same thing happened!  I’m pretty sure I did the exact same process with all of the pieces, as I was working in “batch mode”.  Any suggestions?

To which I replied:

That is COE (coefficient of expansion) at work. The enamel and the metal are expanding/contracting at slightly different rates as they heat and cool, and the glass, being the only thing that CAN break, does. I can’t say why one color worked and the other didn’t, but I’d guess that it’s either chemistry (different minerals used to color enamel = different rate of expansion), OR (more likely) that you used a heavier hand when sprinkling the yellow/orange enamel.

Are the flowers domed? A domed shape (even slightly domed) will resist the expanding and contracting movement.

Counter-enameling is probably the solution at this point, if you didn’t dome the metal. Next time you can work in a thicker gauge of metal. That will also prevent cracking of the enamels and warping of the metal.

Counter-enameling is putting a layer of enamel on the back of the piece to counteract the stresses caused by COE on the front of the piece. Almost all cracking in enamels is caused by COE problems. Some things disguise themselves as other types of problems, but they most often turn out to be COE issues. Taking enamels out of a hot kiln into a cold garage? Crack. That’s a COE problem. Enamel too thick? COE problems. No enamel on the back to counter the weight of the enamel on the front? COE problems. Warping caused by a rectangular shape? COE problems.

Oh, you can save your currently cracked flowers:

  • Enamel the back (I keep a container of contaminated and junky enamels to use as counter-enamel)
  • Fire upside down on a firing trivet
  • Clean up any marks left by the trivet with your alundum stone
  • Fire-polish

Remember to keep the torch off the front, if possible. It could discolor your enamels.

Let me know how it goes, Vicki, and thanks for letting me post this.

A Goal Met (Years late)

I have put off selling my work in public venues for years. Oh sure, I’d sell, barter or gift with friends, but I wouldn’t take the final step and actually offer my work to strangers. I finally overcame that (thank you to my friends who pushed and helped) and so far have put 2 items on Etsy!

A quiet moment of joy as I appreciate a completed job, done well.

The truth? It was nerve wracking! My husband calls me 90% woman because I do 90% of everything and leave the last 10% for him (usually the clean up, poor man). Figuring out the last 10% of selling my work on Etsy meant photos, descriptions, shop design, and so many details that I’ve, until now, avoided. Oh, and pricing! I just got the willies thinking about it.  Anyway, I’ve made the mental leap and am so happy to finally share my handmade books and jewelry with people that I don’t actually know.

My next personal goal? To keep putting new things in my shop and not falling into my usual, “There, that’s done” mode. I’m an excellent starter, but I get kind of cranky when I have to maintain things. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, I encourage YOU to go the last 10% and finish something important to you, whether it’s putting up an online store or sewing your first Coptic stitch!

Have a glorious day, and FINISH something!

Christine Cox

Lark Call for Entries

Lark Books is doing a new one! “Showcase 500 Handmade Books,” a collection of handmade artists’ books, juried by Julie Chen. They’ve just put out a call for entries.

Here’s a flyer they did to let us know: handmade books flyer

It’s a call for books with content. Send in your photos. I can’t wait to see YOUR name in the new book!

Bookbinding Tools Series: It Rolled Off the Table and Onto the Floor

wooden awl

Don’t worry about your awl hitting the floor

Binding books is about so much more than just the finished book. I love the process of designing the book and of choosing the materials. The subtle texture of paper and the smell of leather are irresistible. The simple act of calculating the thread or stringing a sewing frame starts focusing my mind on the tasks ahead. I love that transitional time when all the design choices have been made and I’m ready to start binding. With my journal — ripe with ideas represented by drawings and notes, ephemera, erasures and failed concepts — I feel that the future is known (and the bookbinding gods laugh). It’s a magical moment when I start gathering my materials and laying out my work space. The biggest enjoyment I get from the process is in using tools that I’ve made myself or have customized to my liking. Through years of binding over 300 books, I’ve amassed a very personal collection of modified or hand-made tools.

It rolled off the table and onto the floor

Are you tired of your awl making like a meatball just when you need it? If you’re using a round-handled wooden awl, just sand or file a flat plane on one side of the handle. If I’m modifying one of our Light Duty Awls, I modify it on a small belt sander

As long as you’re sanding, remove all the stain from the handle and then paint it to your liking with acrylic, milk or other paint. Waxing the milk paint after it’s dry and then buffing it will give the handle a nice glow. Stamp your initials on the handle using StazOn Ink and rubber alphabet stamps.

sanded awl

I have to decorate everything

Etching Silver

Awesome texture from rolling mill

Sterling necklace (reverse)

Elaine K. emailed about etching silver:

Q. I’ve been fascinated with your website and its offerings, but am not sure I am ready to equip my studio for etching sterling silver.  Can I etch silver, either sterling or fine?

A. One can etch silver, but it takes a different chemical and different equipment than one would use for etching base-metals (copper, brass, nickel-silver). Most people use nitric acid to etch silver (either sterling or fine), which can be very dangerous (I burned my eyes a little the first time I used it), and it has a short shelf-life. I etch base-metals in ferric chloride (relatively benign). If I can avoid etching silver, I do. For texture, I tend to either use a rolling mill or else hand-texture the silver with a hammer or flex-shaft. If you absolutely must use nitric acid, please follow all the safety instructions.

Thanks for the great questions, Elaine.

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