out of Perth and back to earth

Melissa gets down and dirty… earthy… sandy…? Anyway, she’s back in Melbourne.

An explanation of my title: I’m now back in Melbourne, and am going back (all of 2.5 weeks) to what I learned in Perth at the workshop presented by Elizabeth Turrell, which was, in essence, about how to apply sand to metal.

So, what’s to know about earth then? Well, very kindly, Inari put her hand up to make an order to Thompson Enamel in the US on behalf of a few fellow Victorians. She is currently studying at RMIT and keen to keep using this process in her works for examination, so was quick off the mark with her order, which I have been told arrived yesterday. (Yup, a Sunday…)

For my order I went over to Thompson’s website where I downloaded their comprehensive catalogue (on the main page) and set about trying to find the enamels we had used during the workshop. In the end I ordered (in 8oz dry powdered form) from the section – Liquid Form Enamel, Water Base, Base Coats:
BC-1070 Medium fusing white
BC-969A Low fusing clear transparent
BC-303L Medium fusing clear transparent (not used in the workshop, I just added this one to be a completist)
and in the Liquid Form Enamel Colors:
533 White
930 Chinese Red
772 Black

Being in the possession of a sand blaster (too many posts to note sorry, do a search if you’re interested) I will be testing these enamels (once I have mixed them with water and got them paint-brush ready) on mild steel and stainless steel (why sandblast? Elizabeth suggests blasting the surface to help the enamel stick). And with any luck on some recycled pre-enameled metals as well. One of our group has already approached her local white goods retailer and been given a bounty of fridge doors to attack/beautify.

Now all I need is a kiln. Coincidentally, TurboNerd sent me a link to this little sucker yesterday. It’s maybe a little small (dimensionally and in possible heat output) for my current needs, and definitely lacking in a thermometer, but it’s perfect for my current price range…

For the moment I think I’ll attempt flame-enameling instead.

making

Melissa make a piece of jewellery! A brooch, in fact. She is very impressed with her efforts.

Finally some output from the new studio. Following the Helen Britton guide to brooch-backs, I’ve given this baby a double pin. For my work it’s a pretty heavy piece, so it needed it. It’s 86mm in diameter at the points.

The colouring was fun; I didn’t expect my gas-only torch to be up for the job, but I guess that’s the difference between a dedicated source of compressed gas and a multi-torch setup. I hadn’t planned a colour scheme before-hand and found that getting consistent colours was really easy, so I went up the steel-heating-spectrum and then had a play when I reached the end.

As for the texture, I tried sandblasting with the glass beads first. While they gave a lovely finish, they didn’t get rid of all the soldering muck and discolouration, so I had to go back to a heavier grit to clean up the joins. I stuck with the aluminium oxide it for the whole piece in the end, but I might try a two step process next time, since the more shiny finish did look appealing to me.

pumped

Melissa’s blast cabinet might have come down in the last shower. Meteor shower, that is.

My studio buddy thinks that my blast cabinet looks like something out of Dr Who. I’d like to disagree; it has an interesting colour scheme of shiny white and matte blue, which, while delectable looking on a cupcake, would never have made it onto tv (the shiny bit would have, I’m aware, given the many lens-flare moments I remember from some of the older series.) The thing does have, however, a clumsy un-ergonomic-ness, and rather 1970’s pre-aerodynamic-design bulk. Not to mention the above hose air hose is conspicuously connected to a regulator which is acting more as a pressure gauge, since the adjustment knob does not actually turn.

OK, so she seems to have a point. Of all the blast machines I auditioned, I get one that’s part tardis

studio setup

Melissa complains about having to work hard. And lift heavy things. All in the name of jewellery

Yep, I’m still at it. Don’t be fooled people, setting up a studio is bloody hard work. It combines the physical and mental drain of moving house, with the decision challenging complexity of buying a mobile phone – before the days of the iphone (and if you found that relatively easy, try thinking of having to buy one for your mum, or better yet, your grandma) and the stamina necessary to run a marathon. Or at least a half marathon.

Monday I bought torches from AJS and Koodak. I could have got a cheaper gas only number from Koodak, but I liked the quality of the AJS setup. From Koodak I got a good little microtorch – based on the design of the famous Smith Little Torch but slightly cheaper. If you’re after the brand, Tool World downstairs (all this went on in the Century Building in the city) had Smith’s for pretty cheap, but I like shopping at Koodak, and got a good deal.

Tuesday I bought gasses. BOC South Melbourne got me fitted out with regulators for oxygen and LNG, as well as a rental bottle of oxygen and a 9kg swap and go bottle of LNG. Apparently jewellers don’t buy 9kg bottles, they like to get 4kg ones instead. Having hefted our BBQ gas bottle all the way to Richmond for a refill recently (we got the BBQ there, so we get a free fifth refill, and meanwhile ms neck injury 2005 has to escort the empties) I figured more pain but less often would suit me fine.

Mr BOC had a great sense of humour, and couldn’t believe that little me would want a whole 9kg bottle of gas as well as all the rest of his expensive equipment, so I think he went easy on me and discounted the oxygen regulator. In all I think I got a pretty good deal, which was confirmed by Vito back at the Monash studio yesterday who showed me an alternative price from a supplier who could provide the torches and regulators as a package. Had I but known… Anyway, all I know is that the package mob are in Preston if you ever want to seek them out.

Now I’m arranging delivery of the most complex item, the blasted sand-blaster. I went with Pan Abrasives as they had their PB250ES model on ‘sale’. Since signing up for that one I’ve been investigating air compressors, finally settling on the Peerless P14. It’s made in Bendigo, and is on a par price wise with the others (Ublast again had a Royce contender, and there was Machinery House’s Super 12) but it’s a slight bit better in terms of L/min free air delivery. Yeah, I know a lot more about compressed air than I ever thought I’d need to. The Peerless unit will likely be light on for what I need, but it’s the biggest you can get to run on 10Amp power.

I am perilously close to being able to solder something, I bought plastic containers for storing pickle, but forgot the chemical itself, as well as bricks/a mat to protect the workbench. (I had one, but it got busted in a move.) So I’ll be schlepping back into the city sometime to arrange the last bits. Meanwhile, I’ve been checking out how to actually set up the torches, and have come across a good (on the face of it), safety aware, description. Of course, I never remember to check Oppi Untracht’s books, so I have just found some more good advice in Jewelry Concepts and Technology, P409 + 410. (From here on in to be known as Oppi’s Bible).

Yessir, I’m pooped. And in this last week I’ve sometimes found myself questioning if it’s all worth it. But I’ve come so far, and I’m so close to being able to get to work…

traveling

Melissa and the sandblaster = riveting conversation about cfm’s and amps…

I’ve been racking up some miles in the last week, having an in-person look at some sandblasting equipment, and carting tools and equipment around the city. As promised I went out to Dandenong last Friday to check out what Hare and Forbes had to say (not much on the cabinet, but a little more forthcoming on air compressors) and earlier today it was off to Pan Abrasives to check out a blast cabinet that’s on special.

It seems that owning a compressed air unit that’s big enough for the type of cabinet that I want to run might be a challenge, as many of the larger units need to run off a 15 amp power supply, and not your regular 10 amp wiring. Still, that may not be a problem, given that I’m still not sure on the best choice of blast cabinet.

Bob at Pan this morning showed us around, giving myself and my friend a quick lesson on how to adjust and take care of your sandblaster. Plus he threw in a quick pitch about sandblast grit which will definitely be of use in the future. He even gave advice on what to do to get the most out of a cheaper model should I happen to go with the one which I had been comparing his product to. In all I left quite impressed. And keen to take one of his machines home! (If only I didn’t have to think about cost, oh and how to get it up the stairs in the studio…)

I also managed to score a few pieces of second hand equipment late last week, some of which I delivered to the (still incomplete) studio. I had to hire a ute in Elwood to do the carting, while the muscle was provided by TurboNerd.

Ahhhrgh!

Sandblast Cabinets retailed in Australia? Melissa is suddenly an expert on where to find them (or at least their web pages).

Week two: still no studio! This is going slower than even I expected (not because I’m a pessimist mind, mostly because I’m a slow… well, lets say deliberate, decision maker). The space is getting closer to being fully signed off – but it’s currently still under construction.

I would have had a drill press by now, but after waiting a week for it to come in stock, the one that had been delivered to the store was faulty. Next week it will be mine…

The workbench store (mentioned last week) turned out not to do the sort of custom work I’m after, so despite drawing plans over the weekend I haven’t been able to send them off to get a quote just yet. Luckily, a hint from another maker (thanks Candice, wherever you are) has netted another economical workbench manufacturer.

The biggest time burner in the last day or so has been the sand blaster or ‘abrasive blast cabinet’. Once again, the internet was my friend, but to get beyond the superficial some serious investigation was necessary. The reviews I’ve seen of the cheaper models, which are seemingly available everywhere at the moment, say that they leak media and the internal fluoro light and dust extraction are both a bit iffy. Finding a better product sees the price jump from a range of $200-$900 to over $3k. (Burwell, Pan Abrasives, ABSS, Blastmaster all have models in a similar price range) That’s not in my budget, suffice to say. Tomorrow I’ll take the long drive to Dandenong to check out a couple in the flesh.