Christine Cox

Posts tagged ‘Volcano Arts’

Alice Comes To Life in Books


In August, bookbinder Fran Kovac taught a class at the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory & Educational Foundation in Cleveland, OH (

The class focused on various decorative techniques, such as framing, attachments and foundation molding, and worked with leather, paper and book cloth, as well as various charms and illustrations suitable for Alice in Wonderland.   The text blocks were made using books-in-sheets from Volcano Arts. The students added illustrations throughout the text before sewing, and the books were sewn with the French Link stitch on parchment straps.

Each student took home their own bound and decorated copy of Alice in Wonderland.”

The students were Edith Briskin, Michele Cotner, Margo Libman, and Amy Fishbach.

Beautiful work, ladies! Thank you, Fran!

Post by Fran Kovac and Christine Cox
Sponsored by Volcano Arts




Metalsmith: Kitchen Tools in the Studio

(A typically occasional series by Christine Cox)

The sweeps drawer under my bench used to be a mess. I had tools mixed in with metal scrap, used sandpaper, leather pieces, broken saw blades, and lots and lots of metal shavings from sawing and filing. It was a major undertaking to clean it and a job I avoided. At a local store I found a metal mesh drawer organizer. Now my tools all have individual homes and all I do to clean up the drawer is to lift the organizer out, dump out the sweeps and put the organizer back in. The mesh organizer is a great holder for my most-used tools too.

Silverware holders are also wonderful for organizing tools in drawers. Mandrels, sanding sticks and other hand tools will stay in their assigned slots without beating up their neighbors.

Metalsmith: Triangles and Squares

Metalsmith: Triangles and Squares
(another installment in a typically occasional series by Christine Cox)

templateA fast way to accurately mark 3 or 4 corners on a piece of work is to use a drafter’s template. For example, let’s say you want to put 3 tiny feet on the bottom of a round box. It can be difficult to line up 3 points that look good. Simply lay a triangle template over the bottom of the box and then find the triangle that is closest in size to where you want the feet. Mark the 3 corners with a Sharpie marker and you’re done. If you want the feet in a perfect square instead, simply use whichever square template is the correct size.


Bookbinding, Metalsmithing and Stained Glass



Metalsmith: Twist to De-Bur

Metalsmith: Twist to De-Bur
(another installment in a typically occasional series by Christine Cox)removebur-done

After drilling in metal there is often a large bur around the hole. It’s unsightly, dangerous and can throw off how your piece goes together. Eliminate it easily by using a drill bit that’s larger (by far) than the hole you’ve drilled. Chuck the large bit up into a pin vise. Place the metal, bur side up, onto a surface that allows the tip of the drill bit to drop down through the hole. I usually just place the hole over the V in my bench pin, or slide it off the edge of the bench, whichever is easiest. Press down firmly and twist to remove the bur. Caution, don’t go all the way through or you’ll be left with a hole much larger than you intended. Lightly twist back and forth a couple of additional times to clear the swarf and you’re done.

This is also a quick and dirty way to create a countersunk hole. Just push down a little harder as you twist to get the characteristic flared out edge around the hole.

removebur  removebur-dtl

Available from Volcano Arts:

Metal stock

Small pin vise

4th Century: Coptic Alphabet

Books, Miniatures, Writing and Supports
(Timeline Project)

Coptic Alphabet
4th to 9th centuries – The Coptic alphabet was used in Egypt and was perpetuated thereafter by the Coptic Christian church. It was the first Egyptian writing system to indicate vowels.

This post is part of an ongoing series on books, miniatures, writing and supports since the year 1. Please consider it a kick-start for your own private timeline and a springboard for further research. See my blog for the rest of the series.

2nd Century: Printing from Stone Rubbing in China

Bookbinding, Miniatures, Writing and Paper
(Timeline project)

Year 175 – Chinese invent printing from stone rubbing (soft paper mashed into text inscribed in stone) – ink was rolled across the back of the sheet

This post is part of an ongoing series on bookbinding, miniatures, writing and paper since the year 1. Please consider it a kick-start for your own private timeline and a springboard for further research. See my blog for the rest of the series.

Cross Pollination: Metalsmithing and Enameling


Being both a metalsmith and an enamelist means that I’m constantly using tools made for one medium while playing in the other. I’ve made some fascinating discoveries that have made both jobs easier.

  • Better detail in Keum-boo (photo above)
    Keum-boo is the Korean art of fusing gold leaf to depleted sterling silver. The complicated technique involves heat and burnishing. Dissatisfaction with the level of detail I was able to obtain with traditional burnishing tools led me to a fiberglass brush used in enamel work. (Available from Thompson Enamel). Since the fiberglass can take the heat, it’s the perfect tool to pounce the leaf down into the smallest textural details while the metal is still on the hotplate. The photo above shows a piece of keum-boo over a texture made by passing the sterling silver through a rolling mill with a skeleton leaf. Just look at that awesome detail!
  • Glue that can take the heat
    If you are soldering something and you have difficulty getting the solder to stay where you put it, try this trick. Get some Klyr-Fire from your favorite enamel supplier. It’s a low-tack adhesive liquid which is made to take the heat of a kiln for just a little while.
    Using tweezers, dip each piece of solder into the adhesive before setting it into place on your piece. While soldering, the Klyr-Fire will last just long enough to keep the solder in place while you bring everything up to temperature. This is great for beginners who might burn their fingers while trying to heat flux to the glossy point and then add solder, or for those who tend to upset the soldering set-up while placing balls or chips of solder on a precarious surface. If you’ve been using hide glue for this type of thing, you’ll appreciate the lack of odor in the Klyr-Fire. (And in case you were going to ask, it won’t work for granulation)
  • Saturated pickle
    Sometimes a metalsmith needs pickle that’s really saturated to electroplate the silver line left on copper after soldering with silver solder. Save the pickle from enameling on copper. I keep a truly nasty pot of saturated pickle around for use in both enameling (to remove oxides) and for electroplating.
  • Polishing papers
    After years of experimenting, I have yet to find anything better than our 400 grit polishing papers for cleaning metal prior to enameling. Simply sand the metal under running water and with a few strokes the water will sheet off and not bead up. Perfect!
Triangle kiln support

Triangle kiln support

  • Triangle kiln supports
    You know how it is; every soldering operation is a new adventure in supports, clips, third-hands and binding wire. I’ve found that for flat items, which need to be heated from below as well as above, there’s often nothing better than a triangle kiln support (also available from Thompson Enamel). They’re made of steel, so they can take the heat, and they stay out of the way while you move the torch. They’re small and therefore not a giant heat-sink, as a soldering tripod would be. They’re far more stable than a nest or coil of metal. Use them right-side-up or upside-down for the best support option for the job.

    • The triangle kiln supports are listed in the Thompson catalog as “three point trivets” and are numbers TPT-1 through TPT-5
  • Old soldering tripod use
    If you have an old soldering tripod, use the steel mesh that came with it for transporting enameled items in and out of the kiln. Just bend the corners down so that you can get a kiln fork underneath. A piece of mica on top of the mesh will stabilize the piece during the trip to the kiln.
  • Silver Dust in the Sky
    If you work in either sterling or fine silver, save your silver dust when you are sawing. When you are enameling, use a sifter to clean out the silver dust and then sift a tiny bit of the silver onto your last fired layer of enamel. Fire it one more time and remove it from the kiln when the silver and glass have just fused together (think: fire polish). A quick polish and the silver will look like stars. This looks especially gorgeous on a dark enamel. You can also use the silver dust under transparent enamel (as you would silver leaf), but spend more time cleaning the silver ahead of time. You don’t want to pollute your enamel.

    Silver dust on a blue enameled copper flower

Metalsmith: Hardening Sterling

Great question in my email this morning:

Natalie: I recently ordered a wood base steel bench block from you, and am so in love with it! I’m now looking to upgrade my hammer for wire hardening, as I’m finding that the finer wire (28 gauge and smaller) is not hardening well with my current plastic mallet. Would your rawhide mallet do the trick, or is there anything else you would recommend? (It would be a bonus if the rawhide is quieter than the plastic too, since I work out of a home studio and have a 4-year-old). 🙂

Christine Cox: Yes, our rawhide mallet is what you want! When they are new they are a little stiff, so they can be noisy. As the hammer wears in (a desirable trait) it gets quieter. You didn’t mention what alloy you’re using, but if it’s sterling, you can bake it for about an hour at 600 and it will increase the hardness. Copper and fine silver don’t really harden much.

Rawhide mallets are here:

You might want to consider a pounding mat to help quiet your hammering. Put your bench block on top of it and then you don’t have wood smacking wood while you hammer:

Thanks for your inquiry. I hope this helps.

Christine Cox
Volcano Arts

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.

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

Tag Cloud