Weekend Update – Jan. 27, 2013

After work on Friday, I went to buy the stuff for my new etchent. I started at the pool supply place and picked up two gallons of hydrochloric acid. Yeah, I didn’t need two, but that’s the only way to get it. Grr.

After that, we trekked across the street to Rite Aid for hydrogen peroxide, nail polish remover and ice cream (mint chip, FTW). With that, I had all the things I needed to mix up my new etchent, toner transfer trials and dessert!

Saturday morning it was time to go to work. I fired up the torch and made plain spacer beads. I wasn’t feeling up to anything complicated but I did melt some glass that I’ve had for a while and hadn’t used because it was expensive. See, that’s what happens when I torch every week for a few weeks in a row. I gain crazy confidence.

Unfortunately, the glass gods didn’t get the message and the raku glass is just brown and the super fancy Double Helix Kalypso glass is just meh. Ah well. Can’t win them all. I was still going to use the Kalypso beads with the etched copper. No sense in letting it go to waste.

And speaking of the etched copper… On Friday night, I figured out the toner transfer. Every thing I saw on the web said that you had to iron the transparency for three minutes. WTF. I’m not sure what transparencies they’re using, but the ones I have shriveled up like Shrinky-Dinks after about 30 seconds leaving a black smudge on my copper. That’s where the nail polish remover comes in. I cleaned the same 4 pieces of copper probably 5 times. Wipe, wipe, wipe. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Rinse, repeat.

In the end, the thing that worked for me was heating the copper with the iron, then gently laying the transparency on it and very lightly burnishing it for about 10 seconds before lifting it off. I was worried a little because you could plainly see toner left on the transparency, but I decided that I was just going to see what happened. I was pretty tired of messing with it.

Disks all tonered up and ready for the acid bath.

Disks all tonered up and ready for the acid bath.

So after the torching session and a quick trip to In N Out for breakfast (don’t judge) I mixed up the new solution and grabbed six copper disks from the night before. It was amazeballs! The solution turned a lovely green and the etch was quick and clean. It took about 20 minutes to get a deeper etch than I was getting after an hour in the ferric chloride.

Acid and peroxide bath

The green means it’s working!

Once the copper was cleaned up, I got everything lined up for the painting. I got some new paints from Metal Me This on Etsy that I was anxious to try. You’d think that between the sample six pack of those and the entire Vintaj patina collection that I would have just about every color covered. Not so!

I really wanted a true red to use on the Year of the Snake earrings. I ended up using the burgundy color from Metal Me This. It’s nice, just not what I had envisioned for this particular project.

Snakes!

Snakes!

So, Saturday was good. Sunday, not so much. My new toner process was hit or miss with more “miss” than “hit.” I’d do one or two just fine, then the next three would be crap. I took the five good ones and headed out to the garage for the acid bath.

I knew things weren’t going as well as yesterday when, after 30 minutes, they looked barely etched. It probably had something to do with the liquid being so much colder. So, back in they went. Then I noticed it… Little black pieces floating on the surface. I peaked at the disks and sure enough, the freaking toner was coming off the peacocks. Shit!

All painted and domed and looking like they didn't give me any trouble.

All painted and domed and looking like they didn’t give me any trouble.

I got them out of the bath with the intention of sanding them down and starting over since they didn’t look etched at all, but a crazy thing happened when I hit them with the steel wool. They were fine. One peacock had some broken lines, but damn if they didn’t look OK. Actually, all the disks looked OK. I did my thing with them, then worked up some earrings; six pairs in all.

Earrings!

Here they are… Etched copper earrings with lampwork beads.

Sunday is family day, so we went to my parents house for our traditional early dinner. My sister and I headed to the bead shop because I needed to get some clip on earrings for her birthday present. She’s crazy allergic to metal so only clips for her. While we were there, she spotted a lovely pendent in the display case. Since I needed something else to give her for her birthday, I thought, “what the heck.” So… Why buy when you can make, right? I got the stuff to make it (and I bought extras since my luck was crap all day Sunday.) But when I got home… Success on my first try. My first filigree wrapped pendant.

Filigree wrapped pendant

I can put this here since my sister doesn’t read my blog. I’m not bitter.

So, that was my weekend. Hard to believe it’s over all ready. Damn. Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind.

Obsession of the Week -January 25

Copper etching has been the obsession this week. I tasted sweet success last weekend and I want more. I’m still trying to get my process down. I’m looking into an alternative to the Ferric Chloride etchant because I think I’m going to be using a lot of it and it’s not readily available locally. Also, I’m trying to look ahead to disposal of the used etchant and it’s kind of a pain the butt to get rid of responsibly.

I came across an Instructable for using hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide. It seems less expensive and reusable, so better for the environment. Also, (girlie moment) during the process, it turns a lovely shade of green, rather than the black mucky color of the Ferric Chloride. This stuff is a little more hazardous, but I’m OK with that seeing as how I play with fire on a regular basis. I’m hoping to pick the stuff up to try this out tonight.

The other part of my process that needs tweaking is a little more worrisome. Right now, I’m searching the interwebs for a way to get my toner/transparency process to work more reliably. I’ve had only moderate success. Clearly, I’m doing something wrong. Either I don’t get it hot enough and the toner doesn’t stick, or I get it too hot and it’s sliding around, thus leaving an icky, smudgy mess. There’s a fine line there. I just need to find it. So frustrating.

I decided to try some different (non-bird or butterfly) designs and different application techniques so I downloaded a couple different images from the internet. One was a tree of life with swirly, scrolly branches and another was a cool looking Chinese Zodiac deal… 2013 is the Year of the Snake. (Saved you a trip to Google, didn’t I? You’re welcome.)

My intent was to make earrings but only two of the toner transfers worked to my satisfaction (and by “satisfaction” I mean that they weren’t miserable failures and could be sort of saved with painstaking Sharpie application.) Wouldn’t you know it; one was the tree and the other one snake. Pfft. These might be destined to be pendants.

I wish I could pitch the whole toner/transparency thing all together and use rubber stamps and StazOn ink. It is WAY easier and quicker. Unfortunately, it’s also very limiting. You can’t resize it and it’s difficult to find stamps that are small enough to fit on the 1” rounds I’m using. I have a couple stamps, but really, how many pairs of freakin’ butterfly earrings do I need? Not nearly as many as I have at this moment, I can tell you.

New Thing – Obsession of the Week

I’ve been told by my family that I have the attention span of a gnat. Because the common Gnat lives until the ripe old age of 10 days, I don’t think they meant it as a compliment. What ever.

I’ve made lemonade from those lemons and have collected a lot of different interests. When something strikes my interest I allow it to completely consume my thoughts. I read EVERYTHING. I watch YouTube videos for hours.

So, rather than try to come up with brand new topics all the time, I’m going to try a new thing and share what my current obsession is. Most of the time, it will be craft related, but a video game may slip in there every now and then.

My hope is that, even if nobody reads it, which, let’s face it, is a very real possibility, I can look back at my progress during this Year of Crafts. It might even help to keep me on track, especially if I start posting too much about video games. (There are some new ones coming out that I’m super excited about, but I digress.)

I’m going to aim for posting these on Fridays. We’ll see how it goes.

Dollars and Sense

I designated 2013 as the Year of the Crafts and so far, I have kept the resolution. (I know we’re only 4 weeks into 2013, but it’s about 3 weeks longer than I’ve ever kept a dieting resolution, so there!)

I’ve even tried some new stuff with copper etching, written a tutorial on making coasters and just spent time doing a lot of lampworking. I even kept the part of the resolution about posting stuff on Etsy and I already made a sale. Hands down, that beats 2012.

But this year is still fresh and I’ve spent a lot of my discretionary capital on crafting. Like, a lot. Like, don’t-tell-my-husband a lot.

I think the main problem that I have is that when I sell an item, I tend to spend the proceeds immediately by “re-investing” it back into materials. Unfortunately, I tend to re-invest the money at a rate of about 3 to 1. Make $40 on a necklace? Place an order for $120 worth the glass. Ugh. I don’t even want to think of how much money I’ve spent on lampworking tools and supplies. Seriously. I get queasy just thinking about it.

Another problem I have is that I tend to throw money at problems and hope they go away. Can’t master a technique? Buy a new tool, or a tutorial. Still having trouble? Buy new materials.

Crafting is not the only area of my life that I do this. I love video games; have ever since I was little and my dad brought home an Atari 2600 and PacMan. A couple years ago, I got hooked on Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMO’s for short). I played World of Warcraft for days at a time. When I wasn’t playing, I was reading forums and strategy guides. I was doing everything I was supposed to, but I still wasn’t “1337”.** So, I bought a new keyboard, a new mouse, new headset, new computer and now I’m…

Now I’m a mediocre gamer with a lot of nice stuff.

Nobody (and especially not me) ever wants to use the sense that God gave them and concede there’s only one thing that will significantly improve your skills, be them lampworking or gaming, and you cannot buy it in a store. It’s the dreaded “practice, practice, practice.” I know this in my heart, but it doesn’t stop me from using dollars before sense.

But this is something that I really need to do, and quickly. My husband is eventually going to look at my bank statements. Then it will be “Game Over.”

**1337 is “leet speak” for, well, “leet” as in “Elite.” Yeah, don’t ask me. I’m sure it was dreamed up by a 12 year old boy.

More Roses

Aaaaalmost there.

Aaaaalmost there.

Getting better with the roses.  The middle one is one that I’ve posted before.  The one on the right is getting there, but the shape is still a little wonky.  The one on the left is probably the best one I’ve ever made.  The shape is nice, there are no gaps and nothing is cracked.  I think I’m going to try some pink ones soon.  I’d love to get this down before Valentine’s Day.

Weekend Update

I’d classify this as a very productive weekend. On Saturday, I started with some lampworking. I had oversold a bracelet during the week to my coworkers so I had to get crackin’ on some beads. (Isn’t it weird that you can have stock in your inventory for over a year and nobody is interested then all of a sudden BAM, and you need to hustle to fill demand?). So, I hit the torch early and hard and cranked out everything I needed plus a couple extras for insurance. I also prepped a couple plain spacer beads that I would put to good use later.

20130121-201046.jpg

I actually think these are better than the original.

Then the fun started. I broke out my brand-spankin’ new copper etching materials and got jiggy wid it. There were some rough moments with ironing my toner printed image onto the copper disk but I soldiered on. Soon enough, I had my copper disks soaking in a Ferric Chloride bath. Then I waited, then waited some more. I am soooo not a patient person. I checked them every ten minutes despite the fact that I knew they would take at least 45 minutes. Finally, I threw caution to the wind and fished them out of brown muck.

20130121-201320.jpg

I put a bird on it! And some etched lampwork spacers.

It wasn’t a deep etch, but it was enough. I slapped some patina on them, buffed them up then dapped them then punched them, then strung them… Wow. Tortured copper. Heh.

They turned out way better than I had hoped and I love them so much that I’m going to keep them, which is way out of the ordinary for me. I’ll eventually get around to putting some in my Etsy store when I get my process nailed down better and get some time to make something other than beads for oversold bracelets.

How to make tile coasters that look expensive but aren’t

This past Christmas, my husband Eric and I carried on our holiday tradition of gifting handmade goods to our friends and family. Being that we had exhausted our bag of tricks the Christmas before, we had to go out and find something new to create.  I decided to make coasters mainly so that Eric and I could both participate, me by doing the image transfer and him by using his woodworking skills to make the holders. Family and friends loved them! Of course, they could just be being polite. So, I’m going to share my secrets with the world. Disclosure: I did not pioneer this process so they are not technically my secrets but we’re going to overlook that part.

What you’ll need:

  • 4″ tumbled marble tiles. (I got mine at Home Depot and they sell 9 of them for $4. Keep in mind that not every tile in the bunch will be suitable for this project.)

    IMG_0007_2

    With the tiles bundled up like this, it’s really hard to see if you have good ones or bad ones. It’s a crap shoot. Pro tip: buy 3-4 packages and take the good ones out. Then return the bad ones to Home Depot. 🙂

  • Liquitex Matte Acrylic Gel Medium. (I got mine from Hobby Lobby – using a 40% off coupon but Michael’s also carries it – typically found in the paint section.  You don’t need to use Liquitex brand. Any acrylic gel medium will do.)

    IMG_0618

    I’ve created about 50 individual coasters with this bottle and I still have about 2/3 of it left.

  • Laser printed image.  This is important.  The image needs to be printed with toner, rather than ink, so use a laser printer, or a copy machine, not an inkjet printer. ** A quick word about images: I use a 3.8″ image, rather than a 4″.  The tiles are just slightly under 4″.  Also, if your image has words, it is very important that you “flip” the image horizontally, otherwise, your words will transfer to the tile backwards. No bueno.**

    Notice how the words on the bottles are backwards.  This is important

    Notice how the words on the bottles are backwards. This is important.

  • Cork or felt for backing the coasters.  Personally, I like the cork.  I bought mine at Michael’s and one roll does a lot of coasters.IMG_0009_2
  • Foam brush. I suppose you could use a regular paint brush, but I like the evenness of the coat that I get with the foam. It’s important that the acrylic be applied evenly.
  • Spray polyurethane matte finish, clear. The matte finish makes the tiles look more natural, in my opinion.krylon
  • Optional – an old tooth brush and an old cookie sheet.

Step 1:  Choose your tiles.  Like I said, not every tile in the package is going to be suitable for this project. Some of them may have holes in them that go all the way through the tile.  This would defeat the purpose.  Rule of thumb, the smoother the better.

This is an example of a bad tile. There is a hole that goes all the way through.

This is an example of a bad tile. There is a hole that goes all the way through.

Step 2:  Use a damp paper towel to wipe the tiles down and remove the dust.  You don’t want that transferring to your acrylic gel.

Just wipe

Just wipe.

Step 3:  Use a foam brush to lightly coast the  tops of the tiles with the gel medium.  LIGHTLY.  Don’t glob it on.  In this case, more is not better. Let this dry completely.

A nice light, complete coating.  The gel is slightly shiny when wet but will dry transparent and matte.

A nice light, complete coating. The gel is slightly shiny when wet but will dry transparent and matte.

Step 4: Lightly coat your laser printed image with the acrylic gel.  Same rule as before – do it lightly, but completely.

Make sure to get the entire image gelled up.

Make sure to get the entire image gelled up.

Step 5:  Center the tile face down on the gelled up image.  Give it a little press to ensure good contact, then go ahead and flip it over.  Smooth out all of the air bubbles using a credit card, or the back of a spoon, or anything else you have handy that won’t damage the image.  Remember, it’s moist at this point so it’s a little fragile.  Be gentle.

Center it as best you can.  It's easier when it's upside down like this.

Center it as best you can. It’s easier when it’s upside down like this.

Smoooooth.  Be gentle.  Don't rip the paper or you'll have to start all over.

Smoooooth. Be gentle. Don’t rip the paper or you’ll have to start all over.

Step 6: Dry those suckers.  You can go au naturel if you want and let them sit over night, being extremely patient and not peaking.  Or, if you’re like me and not really the patient sort, then you can pop those babies into the oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes.

Step 7:  This is where things get messy.  One you have your tiles dried or cooled, it’s time to check out what we got.  To do this, wet the paper and peel it off.  It won’t come off cleanly.  It’s going to tear and split in half and leave behind a bunch of paper fiber.  Now onto the hard part.

Sometimes it comes off nicely, other times it doesn't.  Don't worry if it doesn't peel up like this for you.  The next part is the same regardless.

Sometimes it comes off nicely, other times it doesn’t. Don’t worry if it doesn’t peel up like this for you. The next part is the same regardless.

Step 8: Remove the paper fibers.  Yeah, that sounds easy but it’s not really.  I use an old toothbrush to gently remove as much of the fiber as I can, then you just got to rub.  And rub.  And rub. Keep your fingers moist, but not so wet that you can’t get good traction on those stubborn fibers.

If you use a toothbrush, remember to be gentle.  Scratching too hard will damage the acrylic and leave a scrape in your image.

If you use a toothbrush, remember to be gentle. Scratching too hard will damage the acrylic and leave a scrape in your image.

Sometimes the best tool for the job is one God gave you.  Just keep rubbing until all the paper is gone.

Sometimes the best tool for the job is one God gave you. Just keep rubbing until all the paper is gone.

Step 9: Take your coasters out into a ventilated area and give them a good coat of that polyurethane.  Let it dry, then repeat it two more times.  You want your beautiful image protected against dastardly cups and glasses.

Step 10:  Back the tiles with cork or felt of something that will protect the table they are supposed to be protecting.  We use the self adhesive cork and we make doubly sure that it sticks by giving it a little E-6000 glue insurance.  Note: E-6000 is awesome, but it is kind of slow to dry.  Don’t spread it on, then stack up your coasters.  It will come through the cork and bond with the tile beneath it.  Ask me how I know.

So, that’s it.  You’ve got some brand new, handcrafted coasters! Similar sets sell on Etsy for anywhere from $25 to $40.  I even saw some plain tiles (no images) going for $18.  Sheesh!

One of the best things about this process is how customizable it is.  I made some coasters for my in-laws using images of Disneyland ride posters.  I made some for my sister using vintage bicycle advertisement posters.  I also purchased some pre-made graphics from Etsy by searching for “coaster printables.”  You can use family photos, old postcards or scrapbooking paper.  Sky’s the limit.