Tuesday, 30 June 2009

And Now I am Bankrupt...

Okay, that may be a teensy bit of an exaggeration. Drama queen? Moi? Surely not...

After perusing all that the interwebs had to offer, I managed to find a cute little oxy/gas welding torch for £158 including delivery, which is rather cheaper than I had been quoted by a jewellery tool store at Earls Court last year. I have ordered it and think it may arrive tomorrow. This be the one:

The tanks are about 30cm high, from what I can remember, and it means that I can now solder 18k gold and platinum, my old blowtorch having a maximum flame temperature of 1300 degrees and this one having a maximum of 3100! I am slightly scared that it will spontaneously combust as soon as I let it out of my sight, taking my poor little house with it. Eep!

Anyway, on top of this, my old flex shaft Dremel, which I've had for about 10 years, blew up on Saturday :( This means I'm entirely screwed when it comes to drilling, sanding or polishing anything. You know, all the important stuff. Replacing it with a proper jeweller's pendant motor, which I have been coveting for many a year while the Dremel made its whirry complaining noises at me and stopped spinning at random intervals, turns out to be a minimum of £270. *faints*

But, I did eventually find one that looks like, and appears to have the same specs as the posh jeweller's one, it's just unbranded, for £102 including delivery. As there is not a chance in hell I could afford the £270 one, I ordered it with firmly crossed fingers. It arrived at work today, comfortingly weighing about as much as a small elephant. I cycled it home in 30 degree heat, followed the instructions and screwed all the bits together. And it's totally awesome! I've not put any tools in it yet, as you're supposed to run them unloaded for a little bit just to get all the parts spinning smoothly, but it's a million times more powerful than the Dremel and much more stable and smooth. Hurrah! I can now drill holes with abandon!

Here it is:

Sadly, due to the suicide pact undertaken by all of my equipment, the lovely barrel polisher which would save me untold hours of time and effort is no longer financially within my grasp :( The good thing is that I did get a bonus from work this month, which means that I've only been spending "free" money, otherwise I would have been royally screwed, but with the blowtorch, the drill and money I've set aside to pay for castings, the free money has now sadly run out. Booooo.

In conclusion, I now have shiny new tools, but am still miles behind, timewise, for Roll Britannia. Backing slowly away from the internet now and off to do something hat related.

Friday, 26 June 2009


Updating has been rather difficult of late, mainly because my work internet and email connection has been entirely broken for the past two weeks. It's like living in the 80s and I have sent many faxes.

But, stuff and things have been happening on the jewellery front. I found a place in Dulwich that does open studio on Monday nights, which is a bit easier to get to than the Amersham one. It's called the London Jewellery School and is run by Jessica, who is lovely and said I can call them any time to arrange to pop down and fire stuff in the kiln.

So, the helmets are now finished and have been sent to the caster to be molded and I get them back on Monday. I've not had anything cast for years and have no clue how much the cost per piece will be, so I've just ordered 10 each of the helmet designs and 30 chin straps. Couldn't cast it as one piece sadly, so I'll have to solder on each chin strap individually. Bum.

I have three weeks left until Roll Britannia and am feeling a bit despondent about stuff, as I don't think I have enough time to make everything :( The skate is still giving me trouble, as making all the trucks/axles/plate bit of it turned out to be a nightmare. Having never used the silver clay before, I am realising its limitations for small and detailed work, as it's quite fragile and tends to break when you're working on it. Am going to start over this evening and carve/saw/file the plate out of a chunk of thick silver sheet. Fingers crossed...

Also, the caster said I might have to cast the skate in two parts, as there's a lot of undercutting and the metal won't flow into the mold properly if it's all one piece. Which again increases the manufacturing cost per piece. Also, having to solder the base plate to each skate after casting will be a pain in the bum, mainly because my tiny and ancient blowtorch (still using the same one you bought me after college Mum :)) will not get hot enough for solder to flow on a chunky piece of silver.

Bah! This totally turned into a whingy post and I didn't mean it to. Trying not to be negative and just going to keep at it and give it every hour I have, as if I give up now then I'll never know whether I would have been ready in time. That made no sense. I'm going to eat cake now.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

OMG, Faith No More!

An old friend from college, Kerry, offered me her spare ticket for the entirely sold out Faith No More gig at Brixton last night. Not only was it lovely to see Kerry again, the gig was completely amazing!

Having not had the chance to see them live the first time round, due to growing up on a, whilst admittedly beautiful, very difficult to escape small island, I had no idea how awesome they would be. For a band that hasn't played a show together in 12 years, they were incredibly tight and Mike Patton's vocals were outstanding (and he was still beautiful. Sigh...). Sometimes when you see a band live, there's a certain amount of disappointment when they're not quite as musically talented as the cds would have you believe, but that was totally not the case here.

They didn't play Ashes to Ashes, but most of my other favourites were in there and I can definitely say it's up there with my favourite gigs of all time :)

P.S. My ears hurt. Am I getting old, or is Brixton's sound system getting louder...?

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Rollerskates, Cupcakes and a Streaker

Well, a rather fab time was had on Saturday, with London Rollergirls' A and B teams lining up to play the Birmingham Blitzdames and the Leeds Rollerdolls respectively.

They really were fantastic games to watch, with London Brawling and Brawl Saints both emerging victorious, hurrah!

And.... we had our first streaker. We have now officially arrived :)

Check out the awesome highlights video from The Baron:

The night before continued my pre-bout tradition of icing cupcakes at midnight, but they still turned out okay. Picture to follow...

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

And Now I Want a Kiln...

I spent yesterday at The PMC Studio in Amersham. They are lovely and hold open studio days at the beginning of every month, where you can use all their stuff for the bargain price of £15 for the day. Amersham was slightly further away than I had realised. It's on the tube map, so I just assumed it was in London, but it's actually Buckinghamshire. I am a retard.

Anyway, finally got there and I was the only person to have turned up to the open studio, so I got a huge table full of tools and a kiln all to myself, yay!

At the weekend I'd made some small head shapes out of wood clay (which burns away in the kiln) to sculpt my little crash helmets on, but it turned out that the semi-dried clay helmets were pretty easy to remove from the heads, so ended up just using one and sculpting all of the helmets on it and removing them:

So... I made a pivot helmet, a jammer one, and a vaguely LRG related one with a little Union Jack logo on the back. They are a wee bit wonky, but I was aiming for slightly cartoon-like, rather than super-realism, so I have decided the wonkiness adds to their charm. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway....

Sanded them all down, took a deep breath and plonked them in the kiln. Having never used a kiln before I was expecting explosions, melting and all sorts of carnage, but they happily emerged after 10 minutes of firing mainly intact, save for a couple of cracks. Yay! I really, really want a kiln now...

Anyway, here they are.

This is the little jammer helmet. My 2 years work of cake decorating tools are coming in super-useful for the silver clay work :) Can I still use them on icing now I wonder...?

This is actually pure silver! Doesn't look like it right? Things emerge from the kiln a kind of matt grey/white colour, then you scrub them with a stainless steel brush and the silver shine starts to come through.

This is the little LRG inspired one:

And the pivot one:

This is what they look like once they've been scrubbed with the stainless steel brush. You can then make them proper shiny by rubbing them with a burnisher.

I really want to now add a chin strap to the helmets, but I fear this will scupper any chance of making a mould and casting multiple copies. Arse. Do they look a bit funny without the chin strap though...?

But, anyway, the little helmets did turn out much better than I was expecting, given that I've been using silver clay for less than a week and given my utter fail at sculpting practice with the Fimo. Silver clay may now be my new favourite thing :)

Did I mention that I want a kiln...?

And Back to Shiny Things...

Finally, after much procrastination, I have actually purchased some silver clay.

Having been greatly disheartened by my earlier forays into miniature sculpture, I had been putting it off, but I figured it's now just over a month until Roll Britannia, so if I want a stall there I'd better get off my arse and sort it out.

So, I bought a blob of clay and a pot of kinda liquidy clay. It is bizarre stuff, basically microscopic particles of pure silver suspended in a mix of organic binder and water. You can squish it like Fimo, but it dries hard (yet brittle) in air then you fire it in a kiln and it comes out pure silver, but about 10% smaller then when it went in. Amazing!

I started with the skate. I wanted to make as close a replica as I can to a Reidell 265 boot with clay, then make the plate, axles and wheels out of sheet silver and tube, the old school jewellery way...

I still suck at sculpting, but the silver clay is much easier to work with than the Fimo, it turns out. After some squashing of clay and poking with sticks, I got to this stage:

It still looks much more like a random blob than a skate boot, so after a few more hours of work, I got it looking like so:

Which is a bit better, but I'm still not entirely happy with it. Having never used silver clay before, perhaps I should have started with something slightly less complicated.

Anyway, at some point I'm going to have to accept that this is as much like a skate as it's ever going to look. Maybe it will be better once it has the wheels on...?

I rented some studio space up in Amersham today to use their kilns and stuff to experiment, but am too knackered to write about it now. Also, my left wrist hurts and is swollen. Can you get RSI from sculpting tiny things...?