Monday, February 10, 2014

Hardware and Drills and Fire...Oh My!

As mentioned in the previous entries, I have been working my way through the coloring techniques in Gail Moore's video.  I've tried the nail polish, alcohol inks and Prismacolor pencils/gesso so far and had excellent results.
However, a frustrating experience with putting holes in some of the pieces in the earlier session led me to really thinking about the tools I'm using.  After the hand-held punch partially mangled one of the pieces and the screw punch worked great on 4 holes and then broke, I needed a new plan of action.
I thought about my poor Dremel sitting alone and forgotten in my spare room...still in its pristine packaging from when I bought it two years ago.  I have to confess that, in addition to the time thing, I've been a little afraid of using any kind of power tool.  I'm just klutzy enough that it's not a stretch to imagine me accidentally drilling a hole in my finger (or worse!), but I finally decided I need to stop being a wussie patussie (as my son would say) and just get over it. 
So, out came the Dremel (well, after I unearthed it from under two years of clutter).  I opened it up, read the instructions and even congratulated myself on having the foresight to have bought the extra set of teeny-tiny drill bits necessary for jewelry work (most of the standard bits that came with the Dremel were too large for what I wanted to do).
That went great right up until I realized that while I bought the bits, I had overlooked the need for something called a "collet."  This is piece that functions as an adapter between the size of the Dremel itself and the size of the drill bit.  The Dremel came with several collets, but all of them were too big to fit the drill bits I wanted to use.  So, off the kid and I went to Lowe's where I feel like a total fish out of water and, of course, no one was available to help me, but thank goodness for Ryan who spotted what I needed (it helps that it was hanging right at HIS eye level).  So, collets obtained, I checked the paint aisle and they had re-stocked the steel wool area since I had checked the previous week so I was able to get that taken care of AND buy a dust/particulate mask, too.
I spent a ridiculous 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get the new collets and drill bits all connected up before I realized that the new set came with a new collet NUT (another piece) and that even though it looked IDENTICAL to the nut I was already using, it apparently was not so once I swapped those out...everything worked.  I marked the nut with some green sparkly nail polish so next time I know which one is which LOL!
Then I learned something about dust masks.  They work great right up until you put your glasses which point you realize that all your breath is being force up and out at the top of the mask where it TOTALLY fogs up your glasses.
So, which do you do without?  The thing you need in order to protect your lungs?  Or the thing you need in order to SEE what you are drilling and hence avoid the dreaded accidental finger drilling accident?
Yeah, that was my choice, too.  Ryan spent the next hour wearing the mask around the house, making Darth Vader noises and telling his stuffed animals that he was their father.
I will probably die of lung cancer in the future, but I did avoid putting holes in my body so, y'know, that was a win. 
I still need to figure out a better way to hold/clamp the thing I'm drilling while keeping it under water (because drilling metal makes it heat up).  But, for now, it worked well enough for a first experiment stage.
Then, since I was on a roll with the whole overcoming fears thing, I thought I should unearth the micro torch I bought years ago after taking a silver clay class.  I was going to do all this work with silver clay and...well, life happened and I never did get it done.  I've taken lampworking classes in the past and even have a hot head torch, but I never really got over my fear of that much fire.  The micro torch seemed more do-able.  After all, it's a kitchen tool so how scary can it be?
I unearthed the torch and the fuel (see above comment about clutter) and after a bit of hilarity trying to figure out how to fill it with fuel and then having to clean up spilled fuel because I didn't want to ignite myself, I was ready to go.  I cautiously pushed the ignite button and...nothing happened.
Now I had this feeling that I was holding unexploded ordnance.
I had to try 2-3 more times, but I finally got it to light and I was off!
The results of the first things I heated were so fantastic that I quickly grabbed pretty much every brass thing I had laying around and torched them all mwahahahahahaaa!
I started with these pretty brass butterflies.  I'd already used one pair with nail polish so I thought I'd see how they turn out with heat patina applied.
Look at the awesome results!  Darker golds, pink, copper and even some hints of lavender and purple in the darker one.  I tried really hard to get them the same so they could be earrings, but the second one came out just a little darker.  Controlling the color is a bit will seem like nothing is happening and then WOOSH! it can go from copper to blue to blah really fast.
Then I grabbed a whole pile of these leaves.  I wasn't sure what would happen since they do have a silver plating over the brass, but they worked just fine.  Because the are so small, it was nearly impossible to sand them very well so I did a have a few issues with some oil spots/finger prints but nothing really obvious.

I was more successful making matching pairs with this shape...probably because of the small size.  Look at the color variations I was able to get just by varying the amount of heat!

Of course, the blues/purples are more dramatic, but I also like the paler pairs and the ones where I got pale color at the top and then just put the heat on the tips to get darker right in one spot.  It didn't always work, but when it did, I really loved the effect.

Here's a few close-ups of individual pairs.

Love the dark blue on this pair. 
Then I moved on to larger pieces - you'll remember this shape from the colored pencils blog post. 

I drilled the holes with the Dremel this time on the edges.

And look what the torch did to the first one.  YUUUUMMM...EEEEEE!
And here it is after just a bit of sanding and polishing.

I didn't want to take the color down too much, but did want to shine up the raised areas.

And just to show how variable the results can be...I did this piece next!

And here it is after sanding and polishing.  I lost more color on this one than I had initally intended, but I'm still pleased with the results.  Now the pinks come out a little more and it's a little less "toasted" looking.
Next step for all of the larger pieces is to preserve the patina with some Renaissance wax and I may even add in some mica powders for some extra glimmer if I can test it out and get good results without ruining the existing patinas.
I have now gone on a truly INSANE hunt for more brass pieces so I can put in more practice with all of these techniques.  The only reason there aren't more pictures in this post is that I ran out of things to torch LOL!  Come on, Mr. Postman, deliver my orders!!!  Can't believe I got all these results and managed to not burn either myself or the house to cinders.
Now, I just have to figure out some jewelry designs to feature these finished pieces!


TesoriTrovati said...

Yea for torches and fire! We are like two peas... I have the same fear of flame and chemical (but I never thought of a mask..) I have my new Max Flame, bought the only canisters in the county of quintuple refined fuel (that is all they had - and since it is way more than triple refined I think that I am good to go) I even bought a 24x24" piece of steel to put under the ceramic tile, cookie sheet and pumice rotating pan. I think that makes for an extra flame retardant surface. I have a TON of brass pieces (too bad we don't live closer!) and I was going to use them with Swellegant (but I have since decided that I don't like Swellegant as it is too hard to get consistent results and to stop the reaction). I am thinking of buying Lisa Liddy's colors as they are so silky and yum. You are inspiring me! Keep going! Enjoy the day! Erin

Cynthia said...

I am loving all your colorful posts! So glad you are having fun. I have a heat patina technique that I jotted down from somewhere, but have yet to try. Since you've got all the equipment out and working, you could do it. Stamp a piece of brass (a brass blank) with stz-on ink, and then heat patina it. The stamped image shows after the burning is done - or so I'm told. If I try it myself, I'll let you know!

Shaiha said...

First of all, I want to thank you for your posts. I am in the process of trying to learn how to patina and they have been so inspiring. I have even picked up some nail polish to try.

This is one that I can try right away. I think that I am going to go play with some fire and brass tomorrow.

Kat BM said...

oh yeah! I adore torch patinas, but it's sooo hard to save them/seal them up. Ive had some success with freezing them for a couple of days after torching, then ren-wax. enjoy your play!!