Tuesday, November 25, 2014

dead things

Did I mention I have another dead critter in the wall of my house exactly where the last one died? Probably another rat. I heard gnawing in the wee hours in the wall behind the stove several weeks ago. It was directly above the access to beneath the house (we're on pier and beam) that I had opened up about 4 years ago so the plumbers could do some repairs on the kitchen sink plumbing. I had replaced the wire mesh but when I looked it had been pushed enough to allow entrance.

Have I mentioned how much I hate rats in the walls? The old house in the city had them and in the winter they would wake me up gnawing in the walls by my head in the bed. I hate killing things. I don't kill things with a few exceptions...copperheads if they are near the house, rats if they are in the house, wasps if they are building a nest in my areas of activity otherwise I leave them alone.

So I put one of the poison baits (which I really hate, it seems so cowardly but how else to get rid of a rat in the wall?) through the hole in the wire mesh and tried to close up the hole and forgot about it. Until last week. The odor is fading now and I suppose I should be glad the weather is cooler. Even so, why, why do they always want to die in my walls!

Speaking of dead things, there was a dead red shouldered hawk on the roadside a couple of streets down from ours. I saw it when we were heading in to the city Saturday. I sure hope it's not our local hawk, the one who comes to visit to get water and a bath.

We got back late and it was rainy so Sunday morning I jumped in the truck with leather gloves in hand to check it out, hoping it hadn't been run over, which it had. I threw the water logged thing in the truck anyway for closer inspection at home. I couldn't tell if the skull was damaged but it's lower beak was a bit broken. I wonder if it was intent on some prey and blasted into the side of a moving vehicle. I can't imagine how else it would come to be dead on the side of the road.

Anyway, I got the long handled nippers and cut it's head off which is now buried in a fire ant bed. It will make a nice addition to my bird skull collection if it's not too damaged. I also took one wing that I have no idea what I am going to do with (the other was too damaged) and the feet with talons, also buried in a fire ant bed. Don't ask me why.  


Sunday, November 23, 2014

the results of all that cooking

Well, that was fun. We had our Thanksgiving dinner yesterday because the Girl and her family are going on vacation over the Thanksgiving holiday week. Instead of everyone coming out to our place though, we went in to theirs. The Boy and Wife came too so everyone was there and the food was all really good and it was great to all be together and be having a good time.

mold material cleaned off but not washed

Before we left, Marc opened the kiln and broke the little castings out of their molds. They all came out pretty well, even the peach. It came out pretty darn good. I was a little nervous about the peach and the first report was that I might be disappointed as it looked kind of dark and when I went over there to check it out, it did look dark in the mold, in the kiln. But once popped out of the mold and brushed off, it looked pretty good. I even gave it a quick wash and set it in it's little recess on the side of the cast box.

As you can see, the box still needs to have some excess glass ground off. And I might have changed my mind about having the feet cast in bronze and just use actual peach pits since I'm not making any progress on the finding a foundry mostly because I'm not looking. And instead of casting the top in glass or bronze, I've been thinking about making one of wood only that will only work if I can find a piece of peach wood big enough to make it. There's a small peach orchard down the road so I'm going to go see if they have any dead trees.

So, those few nights of the temperature dipping down to freezing last week triggered the two ginkos and Friday I thought they looked definitely lime green and this morning, they had turned yellow. I think this is the first time the whole tree has turned yellow. Usually, they just drop their leaves over a period of time or the weather will come later when they are already naked from the top to the middle. And the sky has been clear blue and dry today so they have had a beautiful blue background.

Well, I got the last mold filled today and so the last two are in the kiln. Tomorrow I will start the cold work.

For those that wanted the pecan pie recipe, here it is:

Pecan Pie

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup blue label Karo
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups pecans
1/2 stick butter, melted

Beat eggs, then add sugar,Karo, salt,vanilla, and 1/2 the butter. Stir well. Stir in pecans. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Springkle the remaining butter over top of pie – give pecans a kind of glaze. Bake at 350˚ for 45 minutes. Be sure and get blue label Karo – that makes the difference.

Friday, November 21, 2014

cooking one thing or another and yay, the Friday selfie!

I woke up to rain this morning and Emma the cat was huddled against the back door waiting for someone to let her in. Fortunately it wasn't raining too hard and we have deep eaves around the house. It has stopped now but still overcast.

The molds are in the kiln, went in yesterday instead of Wednesday. Marc moved the other kiln over to the shop and by the time he figured out why it wasn't coming on, he decided to wait. As you can see, there are 5 molds in the kiln. The one in the middle is the peach mold. I finally took the bull by the horns and and selected some colors and filled it and, as so often happens, I changed my mind at the last minute about using a combination of transparent and opal glass and used only transparent. So, fingers crossed.

I know y'all are probably sick of hearing about all the pecans I am still picking up. Today I intended to take the bulk of them to the wholesaler and sell, but because of the rain the back of the truck has water in it and they are all contained in one form of paper or another. In the last picture there were 7 containers. I've added two more large brown paper grocery bags and another small box (I'll spare you a picture) and I still haven't managed to get all the ones off the ground because they keep falling! OK, I just did some rough calculations and I've determined I have at least 300 pounds of pecans sitting on the floor of my workroom right now.

I did finish filling the bee/flower mold today that I started late yesterday and I finally got the dressing in the oven for our Thanksgiving dinner which we are having tomorrow in Houston because the Girl and her family are going on vacation during Thanksgiving week. Marc cooked the turkey today and I made the cornbread yesterday and 

I was in there getting started but I relinquished the kitchen so Marc could quickly make the pie.

yes, that is a pecan pie and yes, I did shell those pecans

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

filling the molds

Friday I intended to get at least two molds filled. I got one done, the simple bee. It took me a while to get set up, trying to decide where in the shop, but get set up I did, got my colors out and measured and my tools and I reached for the gum arabic solution I mix with the dry frit...and no gum arabic. It was at home in the refrigerator.

When I went back to get it, it had a big hunk of nasty looking mold floating in it. Fortunately Marc was on his way into the city so I called him and he brought me back some new. In the meantime, I used a very small amount of a different bottle of gum arabic I had left over from a printing with powder sort of lithography technique class I took. I'm sure it will be OK. I could have used Karo syrup which burns out clean. Later, in the middle of measuring out more glass frit, the battery on my scale died. So off to the store for a new battery.

On top of all that, when I opened my notebook I saw that it has been over a year since the last time I filled a mold and while I hadn't completely lost my skill set, I was a little rusty.

The bee is very detailed and takes over an hour just to get the frit in the negative bee space. Here, the frit is flush with the surface. The colors have to be built up from here because the frit packed into the negative space contains a lot of air and as the glass melts it sinks down so to be sure the proper color fills the entire space after firing, the frit has to be built up at least as high as the negative space is deep.

Here I am starting to add in the background/block color, building up the bee colors as well.

Most of the frit I use is size 'fine' which is about the same consistency as sand. Sometimes, I will use powder for really tiny areas like the toes of the lizard though here I have noodled fine frit into those toes. I don't usually like using powder because it comes out more chalky looking. And sometimes I will use size 'medium' frit, which is about the size of minced garlic, for backgrounds but mostly I use the size 'fine'.

I did manage to remember to photograph the lizard on the bark throughout the process. I think I have posted about filling molds before but it's been a while so here it is again.

the mold and the colors for the lizard and the acorn

filling in the lizard

this chameleon will be changing colors

building up the frit and filling in the acorn

lizard and acorn complete

laying in the color for the bark

bark color filled in

a thick layer of size medium clear frit to allow for a soft illumination from the sides

a thin layer of white for the very bottom

Now they are ready to go in the kiln where it will take about three days to heat up, cast, and cool down.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

botanicas, tropicals, and pecans

Cold, overcast, and drippy though it is supposed to get up to 62˚ today.

I'll be over in the shop filling the other finished molds later. I got one done last Friday, a sort of comedy of errors which I'll go into next post.

While I have been waiting for Marc to get the molds made, I did the finish work and mounted the last of the cast Botanicas. Well, except for two which I have to grind some extra glass off or re-fire them but they are sitting in their frames for this pic.

After we get the little lizard and bee pieces finished for the open house, we will start casting the last seven, the new models, of the Botanicas. I'm really excited about that since these have been in the making for over 3 years. It's been over a year since the last time I cast any (all that commission work and then moving the shop).

I moved the tropicals...plumerias, desert rose, nun's orchid, staghorn fern, night blooming cirrius (produced four blooms this summer and I missed every single one!), and other cold sensitive plants...in last Wednesday. We will still have warm days but it dipped down to 30˚ Thursday night so in they came and in they will remain til spring. I am not hauling those things in and out until winter settles in.

Here's an update on the pecan harvest (not counting the ones I have shelled and I've lost count of those):

this is from 5 trees, two of which are natives

and still there are pecans laying on the ground and in the trees. I could just let them lay but if I do I'll be digging them up in the spring after they sprout as new trees.

OK, need to get over to the shop and get started. I'm already an hour late.

Friday, November 14, 2014

mold making and the Friday selfie

Here's an example of the reproduction molds we use. These are RTV, room temperature vulcanization Part A Part B rubber. These were made from plastic toys like Bag-O-Bugs from the toy store. I make molds of things I find in nature too like rocks and acorns and sticks (I have a butt load of stick molds) and tree bark and shells and other stuff.

You can also use a liquid silicone or latex or silicone caulk. I use all these materials depending on what I am making a mold of and how long I want it to last. The latex molds have the shortest life and take the longest to make.

After I'm done with the model and it is glued down (because it is not heavy enough to not float in the mold mix) with the piece of styrofoam (extra space to hold the crushed glass), Marc paints on isopropol alcohol which acts as a bubble release so that air won't get trapped on the surface of the model and create holes in the mold.

If I am worried about air getting trapped during casting, I will sprue the small, narrow, or deep parts. The blue wax wires will become tunnels that let the air escape to the top of the mold.

Next he builds a dam around the piece

and then pours a mix of hydro-cal plaster, silica flour, and water around the model until it is covered by the mold mix.

Then it sits until it has set, about an hour, and he removes the glass pieces that comprised the dam from the hardened plaster mold.

Now the model is encased in plaster and the next step is to remove it.

styrofoam has been removed

He places the mold wax side down on a piece of hardware cloth over a pan of boiling, steaming water. A bucket over it will help hold and direct the steam into the mold and melt the wax out.

the ready, steamed out molds

This is why it is called a lost wax process, because we are losing the wax model after the mold is made.

We also lose the molds which are called 'waste molds', to answer your question Steve, because they can only be used one time. Most of my work has deep undercuts so the only way to get the finished casting out of the mold is to destroy the mold which is very soft after firing. If the model were perfectly drafted, it would just fall out of the mold and then the mold could be reused. In that case, we would use a different stronger mold material formula.

One last step before I start to fill the molds...measure the volume and convert it to grams of glass. I do this by weighing a container of water, then pouring water into the mold up the the 'fill' point, weigh the container of water again, find the difference and multiply by the specific gravity of the glass to get the amount of grams (or ounces depending on what unit of measure you use) needed to make the casting.

So, here is me, bundled up in the shop on the coldest day of the season so far to start filling molds. I could have done it in the warm house except I have already moved all my frit (crushed glass) over here. Actually, it's not that bad now that the sky has cleared and the sun is warming up the metal building.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

stocking up

We went shopping yesterday. We both needed some new winter clothes and so even though it was still not winter; nice warm day yesterday, south wind being sucked in by the approaching northern wave of cold; now is the only time you can find your size if you are average. Even so, there was a definite lack of size M. I tried on 2 shirts; one, a size small, the shoulders hung way down and the sleeves hung past my fingertips, the other a medium which had a very weird boat neck that stood out. Held up a couple pair of pants and had a few inches of leg still laying on the floor and I'm not short, still stand 5'4", not tall but not short and the pants lay on the ground. Who do they make these for?

Anyway, Marc got a flannel shirt and we both got some new winter lounge pants. My choices by weight and feel were limited to Hello Kitty, Princess Elsa, Disney characters, and superheroes, specifically BatWoman and SuperGirl. Those are the ones I got.

On to another store for new long underwear. I have always preferred silk and will pay the extra for the lightweight warmth. They wear out fast though so I usually need to buy new ones every other year. Academy sports used to carry them but apparently not anymore so I had to settle for modern synthetics. But I did find a decent work-day long sleeve shirt.

Then the liquor warehouse and then a Costco run, where Marc scored another flannel shirt, and it was time to double back and hit Home Depot for a shop vac on the way home. Since, on the way in, right before our first exit off the highway, we passed an 18 wheeler that was being consumed by fire on the outbound side (fire trucks and police already on the scene) and traffic was backed up as far as our farthest exit and still at a standstill, we took some country roads and circled around til we could get past the truck.

I'm headed back to Costco today for a heater we saw for the shop, mused over, and then didn't get. A little butt kicking going on here since the first really cold front is early and imminent and we are working in the shop this week making molds and casting.

More on that next post.