Sunday, June 28, 2009

Glass Enameling on Silver and Copper Class

Preparing a brand new class to teach is always a challenge but worth the effort. I taught glass enameling this weekend. We made silver metal clay pieces for Champleve with transparent enamels for the first project and then we switched over to copper and torch fired opaque enamels. It was interesting to see the difference in kiln firing vs. torch firing, each has it’s own advantages. I think I speak for all of us that the little Beehive Kiln we used was especially convenient for enameling, but the torch firing was also very fun.

A few things we learned, I had grabbed pieces that I thought were copper but they were copper plated only and therefore did not work. Poor Senta had her glass pop off twice until we finally figured out that it was another metal underneith. I should have known better when she cleaned the piece and it didn’t look right. The piece pictured above is her Champleve piece which turned out perfect! We also learned that glass takes no prisoners and so patience is required. I was very impressed with everyone’s creativity. AND a big thank you to Rena for her advice to explore torch firing, I think I am going to keep playing with fire now, her pieces took advantage of using firescale as part of the design. Jane and Kelly were new to metal clay, and so the class was a lot to tackle but they made fabulous pieces too.

Glass and metal are really fun to combine, I for one am going to pursue more techniques, well at least that’s the plan anyway.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Electroforming Twigs

Dan completed the process for using our E3 Etch controller to do elecroforming. I made these copper coated twigs with it. This is accomplished by using an adapter with our controller, that will be available for a minimal cost. I can’t wait to try this to plate gold onto copper and bronze. We will have a tutorial and supplies up on our website and shop by next week along with a bunch of other new items.

The puget sound bead festival is coming up fast, so if you are looking for a class in the Northwest this summer I will be there. We will be teaching green methods of etching on metal, even silver! (same controller that does the electroforming) and also a new class I am excited about- making your own Pandora style beads. Here is the direct link to sign up for classes:

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Copper Clay

I love copper clay! This is a sneak preview of a bracelet I made using copper clay for my upcoming book. It was textured using etched copper plates I made using Dan’s E3 Etch.

A bunch of people have etching questions from the Bead and Button Show. Here is the link to my site for the information page And Dan is trying to carve out time to build a new model which will do multiple etchings at one time!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Etching on Silver

Dan and I spent some time this weekend experimenting with silver etching using the E3 Etch controller. Here is the story with our findings, we are both pretty excited about the results. To start with, we are using a chemical called Silver Nitrate for etching silver. This worked better than other chemicals we tried and produced nice etchings. This is available in powder form and it is not harmful unless large amounts are ingested, so you have to keep this away from pets and children. It is extremely bitter, which helps that situation, but you should educate yourself on safety. The other caution is that it will stain your skin if you touch it. And I’m not kidding, look at my fingers! All I did was touch a few specs of it as we were measuring and pouring the crystals out of the container.

This won’t hurt me, but I am stained now for a good 2 weeks. I am shooting how-tos for a book right now with close ups including my hands, so now I have a lot of photoshop work to do. I suggest you wear gloves when working with it. Other than staining skin, it doesn’t produce fumes or pose an enviromental hazard in the small amounts we are using here. It is sensitive to light and air, so keep it in a bottle in a dark cupboard between uses. And, like the copper sulfate we are using to etch copper and brass, you can use it for a long time. With sterling, the solution will weaken over time as copper from the sterling dissolves into the solution. With fine sterling this shouldn’t be an issue. Simply strain it through a coffee filter and store in a plastic bottle-PET type (Marked with a POISON! label so no one drinks it).

To etch the silver, we mixed 10g. of silver nitrate with 1/2 liter of distilled water. The first piece we tried was sterling silver. The piece was sanding and then I wrote on it with a fine Shapie oil paint pen, it’s the little square that says “Dan & Sherri”. We etched this piece for 30 min on slow and it etched pretty quick. If left longer, the etch would have gone deeper. The silver etches about 3-4 times faster than copper does. The second piece was a PMC standard silver clay heart bead. This piece was originally overheated and melted a bit as it sintered so the outside was rough and bumpy. I wrote on this one with an extra fine Sharpie oil pen. I put a bent aluminum wire through one of the holes to suspend it and provide contact. I taped around the edge and sealed the back. I found it easier to “hang” the piece rather than using foam spacers because it didn’t have any sides to attach the spacers. Since it was a curved shape with a bumpy surface, I filled the the pan with enough etching solution to cover only the part I wanted to etch. The tape was used mainly to keep the piece level in the solution, and not as a barrier for the solution. We found that the wooden chopsticks did a great job to hold the wire. This piece was etched for 2 hours on slow speed. It was much slower than the sterling piece as it is larger and was suspened quite a bit higher from the bottom of the pan. When removed the metal clay has a very “crystaline” structure where the metal etched away. As soon as the piece was rinsed off and burnished the background was pretty smooth. I need to experiment more with PMC3 or + to see how they compare. This photo shows the set up for etching on the fine silver bead. Now that we have this figured out, I need to make some “wearable” pieces with cool designs.

PMC standard on left, Sterling on right