Saturday, June 14, 2008


I tell my homeschooled son that mistakes are the way we learn. I hate it when I make a big blooper of my own, though.

This week I came home all fired up to make something after my classes at Bead & Button. I started right away to consume the leftover bits of PMC+ and Art Clay from class -- those worked well for bead caps. Then I committed a new pack of PMC+ to make another Looking for the Way style pendant. That dragged out, as the desire to make something more original battled the perfectionist streak that said it wasn't good enough and the voice in my head that said just make another similar one to get in the flow.

Eventually, I put the lot into the freebie kiln I use for small stuff and fired it up. It's not like I have a dearth of kilns -- I have FOUR! The 18" square one is for big fusing projects (a bit of overkill for less than two packs of metal clay). The Chili Pepper, which is perfect for beads, isn't rated for 1650. The first kiln I ever got is a stacked kiln with a bead door that can hold a 6" square shelf, but it has no controller and I've never been able to work well with it. The final kiln is a burn out oven from a lab. It only holds a 4" square shelf, so it's perfect for small loads. It has a pyrometer and a meter on the front, but only an infinite switch controller. That means that it kicks on and off and can potentially maintain a given temperature if you find the right set point. I've used it for my enameled glass and PMC before.

Somehow I decided to try it out at a higher temperature than I've done before -- all those discussions of strength in metal clay made me worry. (Why? None of these items were going to be subjected to serious stresses!) So I worked with it and thought I had it controlling pretty well. I set a timer, walked away to paint some enamel on glass (only a few steps distance) and got absorbed. More time passed than intended and when I flew over to look at the temperature, of course it was just a few degrees too hot. ****!

They still resemble their intended shapes. ;-))

It's not like I melted the silver into a puddle. I did that once in grad school. A several hundred dollar slice of single crystal silver, oriented and polished (by ME to the tune of many, many hours of grad student slave labor) suddenly dripped inside the vacuum chamber. That's even worse than melting sterling while you're soldering some piece of jewelry. There's nothing like having to tell your Ph.D. adviser that you destroyed the silver that every student in the group was working on. You know the solution, right? Go back to the X-ray machine, reorient that big single crystal, put it in the spark cutter for a day to get a thin slice, then mount and diamond polish it to a mirror finish. Arc weld the heating wires on, mount it on the manipulator, put it back in the vacuum system, pump down, bake, spend a few more days cleaning the crystal to get back to where you were before that one extra degree. No problem.

You'd think I'd learn!

At least this solution is easier -- just open another pack of metal clay. Only $40-50, depending on how fast silver prices are rising today.

Anybody got suggestions for what to do with some big slugs of pure silver????

Were you wondering what this has to do with flowers? My DH brought those home to console me.