Welcome to my blog, random stuff about me and where I live, plus some bits about my jewellery.

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Sunday 16 November 2014

Magic 'Diamonds' from my metal cleaning solution.

I've been using cream of tarta,r in place of more usual solutions, to clean fire stain from my pieces after heating. Recently it's been much harder to buy in sensible quantities, I bought some from a local healthfood and baking supplies shop and it was obviously much better quality than I've bought before, I may have been buying the substitute version, or an adulturated version, previously as something has happened which never happened before.
These amazing crystals grew in the pot, I had made a solution a few days ago, maybe as much as a week, and wanted to use it again today, I stirred it with my finger to get the sludge off the bottom and found what appeared to be a piece of glass in there. Puzzled I pulled it out and found the largest crystal you can see on the left above.

At first I thought, broken glass, but I haven't broken anything recently and I live alone apart from the cat. Further investigation produced all these beautiful crystals.

Sadly they  will react with moisture and dissolve again eventually otherwise you can bet I'd find a way to make jewellery from them!

Apparently they will carry an electric charge and there's all sorts of stuff on the net about how to use them, none of the crystals I've seen there are as big or as beautiful, I did add lemon juice to make the solution a tad more acid, maybe that makes the difference?

I shall just admire them for now until they disappear.

Just beautiful

I'd appreciate any knowledgeable person giving me some more info about these beauties.

Meanwhile here's some of the work that I've made that needed to be cleaned

This is a bit of an experiment, I bought these copper stars and up to now I've made pendants just using one, I wanted to see if I could make something more complex, there's a bit of an industrial feel with the copper wire, because the silver is applied by melting with a blow torch the results are unpredictable so the earrings are not an exact match. I quite like that, hopefully others will too.

I call this one Planet, it has a sort of Jupitery, Saturny  feel to it. There are actually two stripes of silver wire but the top one was thinner and almost melted completely. 
These random effects are really lovely in my opinion. This one is domed slightly to give a more substantial feel to the piece. The chain is a recycled silver trace chain, bought from a collectors market with a fairly naff pendant on it which I discarded.
There are two new pieces soaking in the magic cream of tartar solution now, a heart and another disc.

Sunday 24 August 2014

Finally getting round to this one, copper and silver star set.

I have had these 5 brass and copper stars around for quite a while, I fused the silver onto them with the intention of making a necklace and earrings. Several months ago to be honest.

That's a very old laminated table top. had a lot of stuff thrown at it over the years.

As you can see I've finally linked three of them to start the necklace.

The reason for leaving it so long was the fear of drilling holes in those narrow points!
I have done it before, but only one hole, I don't have a drill stand, just a little cheap modelling tool.

Here it is in action.

Without a stand to lower the drill precisely down onto the piece the sliding around is really hard to control, I found that making a small dent in the surface with a tack (I'm sure there are more professional ways to do that)  helped, I developed a technique starting with the drill in the dent and switched off, then turned to it's slowest setting and gradually turning up the speed.
You need three hands really, I taped the pieces to the wood with masking tape and held the wood still with my right hand,  I had to use part of that hand to steady the drill too its a complicated manoeuvre. I actually had the wood on the heating block you can see on the table, (bit of  a staged shot that, drill not switched on and a hole already drilled).
So right wrist braced against the edge of the block, thumb and 3rd and 4th fingers holding the wood, 1st and 2nd fingers against the side of the drill near the chuck, left hand holds and operates the drill at the same time, phew what a way to work. Don't recommend it but worked for me.

Well eventually got all the holes drilled, the wire linking them is copper wire twisted and then fused, again a tricky job as I didn't want to heat the stars or melt the untwisted wire loops through the holes, I use this stuff to try to prevent that:
Its a thick paste which coats where you don't want the heat. Not 100% but pretty good.

Here are the earrings, not an exact match of course, not possible with this technique, you can see the raw copper wire before melting/fusing. On the right you can see how well the paste has preserved the star while I was fusing the wire link. You can also see where the drill has made a total mess of the bottom point of the left hand star, will have to see what I can do with that.

Heating the copper to melt and fuse the twists, you can just make out the grey blob of  Technoflux paste to the left of the flame, unfortunately I foolishly forgot the loop at the other end, it's burnt through so I shall have to redo this bit! My excuse is that I was getting rather tired, it was after 7pm and I'd been at it for a couple of hours or more.
 Well there you go I will have to look into getting a little drill stand sometime, if there's one that will fit my little drill. (It came from Lidl in case anyone wonders, very cheap and very reliable, my more expensive cordless one doesn't have variable speed! Amazing shop, keep an eye out they're bound to have them again sometime)

I'll post again when the set is finished.

Monday 18 August 2014

Fusing Metal Experiments

I've been making stuff by fusing metal together without solder, some of it quite simple, just a copper shape with some silver wire melted onto the surface. Yesterday I tried creating a 'cage' of wire for a piece of sea glass.

This is the result.

You might be able to see in the lower picture that a small section of the glass has become clear and shiny, as it would originally have been before it's time in the sea. I'm slightly amazed that a blowtorch could produce enough heat to apparently melt the surface of the glass. A friend tells me this is probably quite impure glass if it did that. The fusing is more obvious in this image too.

This is quite a nice technique, it works most easily with pure silver wire. You can create jump rings this way but it's tricky to do as part of an existing piece of jewellery, because of the chance of fusing other parts of the piece.

The basis of the technique is to play a blowtorch flame over a piece of silver wire that has been formed in such a way that two or more sections of the wire either touch or cross each other.

You need to use the end of the inner paler blue cone of the flame. This is the hottest part of the flame:

My technique, very technical, is to play the torch onto the piece until it gives in and melts. To begin with it should glow bright red and at the melting point it will become shiny and slightly shimmery, let it stay like that for a second or two and then remove the flame. Watch carefully, if you don't want it to run over a surface (as in the pieces below) keep a close eye on it. With luck, and practice, the wire will be fused.

Most of what I've done up to now has been these sorts of things, using pre-cut metal blanks in copper and brass:

The star has an old bone counter behind it, held in place with a copper wire loop.

This technique works with sterling silver too, it's not so easy as the melting point is slightly higher. The wire cage at the beginning of the blog is made using eco silver - recycled silver wire, it doesn't say sterling but I guess most silver scrap will be sterling.

I love this technique, it's very unpredictability is it's attraction for me. Have fun playing but be careful with blow torches they are not toys! Use a soldering or charcoal block to heat your work on, and keep flamable items clear obviously.

As a last tip, I use a mixture of cream of tartar, water and lemon juice to clean the firescale off the pieces, leave them covered in a solution the thickness of single cream overnight and voila! Of course pure silver doesn't tarnish but if you're fusing to copper it will go black.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

A sort of round-up

I'm really bad at writing this blog so this is a quick round-up of the last couple of weeks, which have been really busy one way or another.

Remember the shed?

Well, hooray, the new one arrived on Friday 20th of last month, 
big heap of wood in the front garden, tidy heap, but still a heap.

Later that night my daughter arrived for a stay, 
we spent Saturday together and went to a hilarious show 
that was part of the Theatre festival in Barnstaple:


Tessa Waters

 If you get  the chance to see this fabulously funny, and rude, show, go, definitely go. Haven't laughed so much in ages.

Sunday I took a bus to Okehampton to meet my sister and her husband who'd invited me to share their rented cottage in Mary Tavy for a week. Had a lovely relaxing week with great weather while my daughter fed the cat and got on with some work and took advantage of the peace and quiet of Devon, she lives in Hackney so a huge contrast.

Visited a gorgeous place called The Garden House , a beautiful, relatively small garden near Buckland Monachorum wonderfully clever design that makes a smallish area seem huge, with lots of different areas to look at and a new arboretum. the arboretum is still tiny saplings with protective fencing round them but will be great in a few years.
Part of the wildflower meadow, there's a view towards Buckland Abbey at the end of this.
Took loads of pictures, but don't want to bore you all to death!

My sister and her husband, pity he was looking at his camera!

We also spent a day in Bellever Forest, a very nice part of Dartmoor with a river and some useful trees for shade, very hot weather!

Lovely place, pity we got invaded by a noisy school group in the afternoon, but they weren't there long.

Next stop Cotehele, a lovely Tudor Manor house, National Trust. More lovely gardens and some white doves who kindly posed for us on the dovecot.
Went down to Cotehele Quay for lunch, very picturesque and lots of nice information about the history

Very nice week altogether, my sister and I visited some stone rows and hut circles up on the moor, nicely misty and mysterious weather.

For some reason blogger can't put the photos side by side!

Meanwhile back in north Devon my lovely neighbour is putting my shed up, with a little help from my daughter, many thanks to both, I did pay him, but much less than he could have asked for.

Here's the shed...........
Weatherproof and everything! It now has a proper door fastener, the one that came with it looked like it was made for a dolls house, you can probably just see it in the photo.

My daughter and I had another day together on the Saturday, didn't do much had a mooch about on the ebach, wandered into a few shops and had fish and chips before heading home. She had a seat on the very early coach on Sunday morning, so I walked down with her and saw her off then had an early mornng walk on the beach and found these two great pieces of glass.

I have plans for a double heart necklace, possibly even made so they can be worn together or separately, we'll see.

Well that's my last week and a half, gradually getting everything back into the new shed, but if anyone wants three rather rusty mountain bikes.......... oh and a spare strimmer.

Monday 2 June 2014

Another busy weekend

This weekend I went to South Wales, Newport to be exact. An aunt of mine has recently gone to live in a care home and has decided to sell her house.

I turns out that there is a relatively new washing machine in the house and as mine was not great I decided to find a way to get it from Newport to Ilfracombe.

Bristol Channel

As you can see North Devon and South Wales are relatively close, pity about all that blue wet stuff in the way! So we have to take the long way round via Bristol and the bridge.

A lovely friend of mine has a small van and agreed to be my transport.
We set off   Doreen, her elderly dog Bonny and I, on Saturday morning. We took our time getting there as we couldn't load anything until Sunday morning.

Some entertainment at the services we stopped at, it had a barrier to get under as the car park was multi story so it's necessary to check you can get into it; 2 people drove in with bikes on their roofs! The first man, despite yells of  No! NO! NOO! from the cafe patrons, drove right under, ripping the bike off his roof and damaging his rack, the second guy had slightly better reactions, or possibly memory, as he stopped as soon as the bikes hit the barrier. There was, of course, another entrance leading to the other car park above ground, but these clever people missed that fact.

Later on we stopped to visit Tredegar House near Newport, a National Trust Property, lovely gardens and a great surprise on two of the large trees on the lawn.

 Now that's a tyre swing! These superb horses are made from one tyre, so cleverly cut and bolted together into horses, what's really clever is that the child is sitting on the inside of the tyre, the tread is underneath. With the addition of a little rope you have a wonderful, lovable horse to ride.

If anyone knows the genius who designed them I would just like to say  - brilliant!

The gardens are lovely and will probably be even more so when the roses are out.  Both Doreen and I like to follow out of the way paths so we came across this little grotto, there are bits of maintenance material in the background and there's a cone in front to stop you going in but what a pretty picture it made.

We had a pleasant evening with a glass of red, drunk from small whisky glasses as my sister had taken the wine glasses away previously. A good explore to see what else I might want to take, got the machine disconnected from power and water and we collapsed into bed ready for the major loading in the morning.

We had help from a lovely neighbour who has known my Aunt amost since she and her husband moved there, in the very early 70s I think. My uncle died a long time ago and Auntie has lived there on her own for years. Luckily we found some old blankets to wrap things in, Doreen managed to get an enormous full length mirror off the bedroom wall for me. I also took a large old Z bed, some bits and pieces of china and an elderly Kenwood chef. My brother in law requested the small tv from the living room which we managed to squeeze in, along with a step ladder and a folding hostess trolley. I found an old brass oil lamp in the utility room so we squeezed that in too.
 Before the major loading we had a little walk up to the green behind the houses and found these lovely millennium chairs.

Anyone who knows the area will now know where my aunt's house is.

I now have a house full of old blankets, towels and some old regency stripe curtains, I might even use them as they are pretty much what I had in mind for my living room; soft, sort of regency colours.

With a fully packed van we set off back to home, stopping off near Cheddar to visit a friend of mine, who provided tea and lemon drizzle cake, thanks Anthony, sorry we couldn't stay longer.

Once we got close to home I starte asking for help with unloading, unfortunately the neighbour I was hoping could help was visiting his parents. when we reached home the other possible source of help was also out. Luckily I spotted the guy across the road in his garden so Andy was kind enough to get the machine in to the house, he picked that heavy mirror up under one arm! He and I carried the zbed in but getting in to the bedroom had to wait 'till today. My neighbour Ross kindly came and helped me carry it up to the bedroom.

I now have two nice 70s storage canisters to sell  along with a large Colmans Mustard recipe storage tin.

These are really nice, both quite large but the one at the back is bigger. Just couldn't leave them behind.

If you like them make me an offer.

The washing machine has done three loads already! I've been without one for a week!

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Shed Destruction

This weekend instead of having a lazy time and enjoying the sun on Monday I spent the time taking down an old shed.

As you can see this was not an easy job. This is the shed after I emptied all the stuff out. The back wall was completely rotted along with most of one half of the roof, the ivy was holding it up I think. In fact once I got inside I found a large ivy stem literally holding up one piece.

This shed was standing up when we bought the house but had a piece of felt missing from it's roof. There was a roll of felt inside it but somehow it never got fixed with the result you can see.

Inside of the shed, there's what's left of a trestle table leaning against the remains of the back wall.

Now in that state you'd think taking it down would be easy, yes?

Oh no!

Having dug out all the rusty old tools left by my ex in this wreck, a bowl of tiles, buried under a ton of muck and rotten vegetation. 4 bikes, a bike rack, lawnmower, two strimmers, a dehumidifier etc etc. Took me most of Sunday to empty it out, fighting the ivy tendrils for posession of the stuff. There was also a drafting table which, amazingly, is still ok! Will need some major woodworm treatment pretty soon to protect the house.

A previous owner must have been a plumber or something I think, as there is a lot of old copper piping, what appears to be welding rods and some kind of tool which looks like it might pass a current across the prongs at it's end.

This is the good side of the shed, but you can see at the corner where it's started to fall down, or so I thought............

Those three windows you see there,  I thought I could save the glass, good idea. Having chipped away cement hard putty from the outside, I went inside to prize them loose from the frames. Well, they are now a pile of fragments!

With a crowbar, a heavy hammer a saw and a rubber mallet I attacked the shed. It took all day to get the ivy off the roof, and remove the roof itself.

With a lot of effort I had prized the corner loose by about 1/4 inch and was standing looking hopeless when a neighbour came by and asked how I was getting on.

I told him it was hopeless and I had no idea what to do next.

Stand back says our hero and proceeded to kick it with his big gardening boots. No effect except a little gentle rocking.

Well after some judicious work with a large sledge hammer here's what's left of it:

Plus a wheelie bin full of felt, nackered tools, really rotten wood and a bag of dried cement etc.

These sorts of jobs make being alone so much harder. This could be actually fun if done with a partner and good humour, done alone it's depressing, miserable and utterly exhausting, plus I hate spiders!
There are a lot of homeless invertebrates in my garden now.
There were hundreds of empty snail shells, lots of them jammed in the gap between the two roof beams, if I could have got to the camera when I took the roof down the sunlight through these shells was lovely but I was stuck there and they fell out before I could get it.

I now have three bikes to get rid off, rusty and looking rough, with probably seized chains from being shoved in this damp relic for so long. Plus the carrier for a car and some roof bars.

One amazing thing; the box of ceramic floor tiles the ex foolishly trusted to a shelf on the wall of such a rotten building, had all survived their fall unbroken, this may have a lot to do with the levels of leaf litter and ivy that cushioned their fall!

Well all I have to do now is dispose of the remains, easier said than done without a car, still one thing at a time eh.

The antidote to all this filthy hard work, I've been working on this piece of jewellery. I haven't done much with netting stitches lately. Should be pretty hopefully.

Sunday 4 May 2014

Day in pictures

Went to the New Inn at Goodleigh for lunch with my local U3A, very nice lunch in a very pretty village.
Took this photo of a fuschia while waiting for my lift.

Lots of pictures for inspiration.

Tiny pink Fuschias and somefkind of wild flower, possibly related to garlic. 

After lunch wandered around St Gregory's Church, not sure how old it is but we found a gravestone dated in the 1780s

The Lytch Gate

Acorns and oak leaves on a column

gorgeous vaulted ceiling over the Chancel with a lovely window behind the altar.

The roof over the nave, with one of the angel carvings on each of the main beams.

A lovely old door, leading into the tower I think.

We stopped off at Marwood Gardens for tea on the way home, and to visit their plant sales place.

Took this picture while I waited for my friend to bring the car, bought too many plants!
Lovely copper leaves against that blue sky.

Then there was this beautiful Camellia.

Thanks to Helen for taking me and showing me Marwood Hill Gardens, somewhere I will definitely visit again once I'm mobile. Thanks to Fran for organising the lunch.

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