Friday, April 26, 2013

Carving Fool

Working on a hand carved from wood. I started with my dear friend Rebecca's left hand.

Which she was kind enough to lend out.
 I will be using 3/4 inch pine doweling, coarse files, and my pocket knife.

I cut individual pieces of dowel for each  section of each figure, working from the cast I rough out the shape of each finger and do more detailed carving with the knife.

They will be sanded and stained, and I will attach them together with copper brackets at each joint.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Regrouping, Minimally

Following my ordeal trying to work with glass I still needed a minimalist sculpture for school. I had two steel frames already made, so I ran with them.

I had welded on tabs that were going to hold the glass sheets, but now they were unnecessary and unsightly.

But thankfully they were easy to remove.

After grinding and sanding off all the blemishes, I cut one corner off the larger frame and put it on top of the smaller one, and slightly at an angle.

Then welded on some quick feet to keep it upright.

And painted it matte black.


And bam! Display In the courtyard.

UPDATE: This piece was very well received and I was invited to install it in a courtyard on campus, along with another student. It is also available for purchase.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lessons and Lacerations

Recently I teased about a new project I was starting, it involved large sheets of glass, approximately 34"x75".

These sheets were very generously donated to me by the Downtown Action Team, a great organization that has helped push out the drug addicts, beggars and fights that accompanied downtown Albuquerque in my youth and replaced it with a business and family friendly environment that I hope will continue to thrive.

This was going to be a minimalist sculpture, consisting of four sheets of glass standing straight up with only a base and no frames.

I hope it's obvious by now why I don't draw.
 Because the sheets are only about an 1/8 of an inch thick I decided that laminating two together would add enough strength to relieve my fears of a stiff breeze bending and breaking the sculpture.
To work with the glass I added extensions onto my workable to support the whole six-foot length.

Knowing that silicone caulking sticks tremendously to glass (both are silica-based after all) I decided that would make a great adhesive for laminating two sheets. But the caulk was WAY too viscous, I couldn't spread it or even get it off my tools our hands until it was cured.

May have ruined this sheet, haven't tried to scrape it off yet but I'm not hopeful.
Not being able to afford a more suitable adhesive in large quantity I decided to risk the project with only one sheet, or possibly use hardware to hold two together.

My original plan involved drilling through one end of the glass sheets so that the angle-steel could be bolted securely on. The plan also involved inserts in the glass holes and rubber washers to keep the hardware from damaging the glass.

Unfortunately, even with a Bosch carbide glass drill bit I didn't even make one hole before the glass broke.

It didn't just break either, it practically EXPLODED, I found shards of glass up to seven feet away from the near-end of the table. Thirty seconds of drilling cost me over three hours of cleanup time, and I'm still finding pieces every day. The dog certainly won't be allowed out there for a long time. While attempting this I had the glass well supported, the drilling area was bathed in water, and I went as slow as my drill could manage.

Changing gears again, I decided that I could put four sheets together in a vertical, rectangular prism with steel frames at top and bottom. Fabrication of the frames went famously, with some of my most precise (non-milled) cuts and best weld beads ever. Unfortunately, I was a little too precise and didn't allow room for the glass sheets to slide past each other during assembly.

I found this out when another sheet exploded in my hands, showering both myself and my partner (who was kind enough to be helping me when she should have been safe and cozy in the house) with tiny shards of glass that were stuck in both our hair and clothes. Thankfully, neither of us were injured.

At this point I decided that the material was too fragile and dangerous for me to continue experimenting with. I still have many sheets left to find another use for, but the minimalist sculpture will have to be achieved in a different way.

This has been a major learning experience for me, I'm used to working with metal, and wood to a lesser extent; materials that can be roughhoused and forced into compliance. If metal or wood needs a hole I drill it, if it needs to be smaller I cut or grind it. Glass is clearly a different kind of animal, it is entirely possible to manipulate it like the others, but the techniques and care needed are much more intensive. I could pay to have professionals do these things for me, but I can't afford that and paying someone else to do it really isn't the point of all this. So, like I  mentioned this glass will be used for something eventually, I just won't have such grand arrogant expectations of making it do my bidding.

Post Script:
By the way, while working with the glass I wore safety glasses the whole time, and while drilling and cleaning up the shards I wore a respirator, some particles were almost microscopic and only visible by a telltale glittering, this is NOT something you want to inhale. Despite my caution with the glass, I spent a lot of time welding in a tank top and was rewarded with a sunburn on one shoulder.

Arc welders like the MIG, TIG and 'stick' produce massive amounts of ultraviolet radiation, the same kind of radiation that comes from the sun and causes burns and cancer,  please be more careful than I was.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Blacksmithing and Pottery: Two Great Tastes That Blah Blah Blah

I've been watching a lot of blacksmithing and forging videos on YouTube lately, I've been talking about building myself a forge for several years now, and I think the time is approaching. I already have a quantity of kaowool and soft fire-bricks for the insulation, all I need from there is a stand, a burner (propane I think), and an anvil.
During my research I've seen some beautiful and very informative videos, some just plain impressive demonstrations, and some more... eclectic fair. The main thing I've noticed, though, about forging steel, is just how similar to clay it appears to be. Hot steel seems to have a similar 'plastic' stage as clay where it can be worked and shaped, even the ay the materials move under pressure is similar. Just watch the first two-and-a-half minutes of this industry video:

And now watch this woman throw a clay bowl:

Not only does the potter have steel-worker arms but they use basically the same process to manipulate their materials. A quick web search reveals that I'm not nearly the first person to think of this similarity, but it's good to know that I can draw on some of my experience to inform how I work with the iron. Of course there will be discrepancies in the transition: I clearly won't be able to handle the iron in the same way I sculpt clay, no hands or fingers doing the detail work; the iron will need to be at the proper temperature for this to apply; and while clay has the same malleability over its entire volume the iron will only be malleable where hot, which can be a localized area.
All these things important to keep in mind when it comes time to start working, but the main reason I ring this us is that it illustrates the importance of having a broad skill-set. I hadn't ever worked with clay when I first got it in my head to start forging metal, but between then and now that I'm actually about to start I've learned something new which is going to ease my entry into a new craft. I've essentially learned a "craft-and-a-half" in playing with ceramics. So never turn down the opportunity to learn something new, you never know how useful it may be, and even it it isn't, at least you've expanded your mind.

Sunday, April 7, 2013