Melting Metal!

In addition to ceramics, I’m iterested in metal fabrication. In the last year, I’ve learned some basic welding, which has been great. So, I’m always interested in seeing how-to’s on welding. Today, thanks to Makezine, I saw an article on brazing. Here’s the link…

Definitely worth a read. I think I’ll have to give this a try in the studio. I’ve had some discussions about integrating metal strips in pottery as decoration, so this might be a good tool to have in the bag.

I also liked what I saw at Nice wirtingstyle and very diverse range of content. Check it out while you’re there.

Respirators and Cats


I finally broke down and ordered a nice, non-disposable dust mask. It’s a spiffy 3M 6000-series and has big filters that can be replaced. It’s much more comfortable than the disposable masks I’ve been using, and it seems to fit much better, too.

It arrived yesterday and was waiting in the mailbox when I arrived home. Being too excited to set it aside, once I settled in the kitchen, I popped open the bag and tried it on. I gave a good inhale and then a good exhale. It sealed well and provided a good volume of air.

While I was doing this, in what could only be a second or two, my  cats decided someone or something unknown to them had materialized in the kitchen and was about to wage carnage on them.  In the time it took to exhale, the two cats fled in roughly the same direction at very low speed. They would have been significantly faster had not their claws acted like skates on the the linoleum. This provided the scrabbling Barney-Rubble effect that’s so amusing when a cat does it in real life.

Fifteen minutes later, without the mask, I had coaxed the cats out from under a couple bits of furniture featuring low openings at the floor. I promised never to wear the mask again around them and we then got things back on track for kitty dinner.

So, the mask is now in the studio, permanently, to the cats’ relief. We’ll all be able to breathe a bit easier.

Lightbox Build started

Today, I started building my lightbox for photographing wares. So far, I’ve built the frame and I’ve been using clamp-on work lights. The pictures of the las tear or so have been made with this arrangement. All along, I’d planned to build a better lighting arrangement. Today, I got the hard part taken care of. I now have a base of 6 light fixtures, wired in parallel, to fit over the frame. I still need to finish building the box, but the electrical bits are taken care of. I’m using 6 LED bulbs that are the equivalent of 40W bulbs, for a total of 240W light equivalent brightness, theoretically.

The next step is to add sides, a back baffle, a front face piece and a switch on the front. That should be fairly easy to complete. I’ll post more build photos when it’s finished. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a big check mark on the studio to-do list. The motivation came from seeing the beautiful photo of my blue jar from the NC Pottery Center Auction site. I know they’re using a more sophisticated setup, but it made me want to improve my pictures, too. We’ll see how it goes.

The Studio

I get to spend some of my Monday evenings in my studio. Lately, though, I’ve missed a few Mondays due to work and life demands. That’s ok. It’s a hobby.

Last night I got to work from about 7 pm until about 9:30pm. It was great. I started off by pressing a slab into the fish jello mold. Then, I wedged enough clay for a pair of tea pots. Then I got to work making the tea pots.

While working, I generally plug in my iPhone and listen to spoken word podcasts. Last night I started with Harry Shearer’s Le Show. Always fun, and often informative, Shearer is a regular choice in the studio. After Le Show, I listened to a couple episodes of In Our Time, a BBC panel show covering all kinds of topics, generally history, science or philosophy. The programmer’s host, Melvin Bragg, does a remarkable job of keeping the discussion moving and on track. In 45 minutes, they always manage to provide a good discussion of the topic at hand. It is one of my favorites in the studio.

When I set up the studio, I included an old shelf stereo system. I thought it was there for music, but it turns out, it’s more for spoken recordings. Being able to listen to shows like Le Show, In Our Time, The Philosopher’s Zone, and the occasional ZenCast, to name a few, has made time spent in the studio more enjoyable and more valuable. The ideas discussed, and the thoughts they spark make my time in the studio a lot more than just practicing my hobby.

Does the intellectual stimulation improve my pottery? I dont know, but it does make the time I spend there more enjoyable, and that must translate into better work.

Playing with Lytro

The Lytro arrived today. Here’s something from unboxing…

Apparently, I can’t embed the images, but the links do seem to work. Interesting. I’m looking forward to trying this on pottery. Since it’s difficult to get really long depth of field when photographing bowls and other board pieces, the selectable depth of field of the Lytro should make it much more interesting. We’ll see. Really, it’s just another cool toy!

New Equipment and Plantings

Today, I finished the initial test build of the decoration turntable. The idea was to build a tool to help make glazing large bowls and plates that must be poured more controlled. I had problems getting consistent rotation while outing glaze, so the idea to make a motorized wheel made sense.

I made the initial sketches last fall, and started collecting parts and worked out the motor and mounting. It was a lot of fun, and the results are promising.  The motor is a surplus gear head motor with a tremendous amount of torque and very low RPM rating. The rest is left-over plywood and lumber from other projects and a pair of simple hinges.

Turntable for pouring glaze on large pieces. Motorized using the power supply from the foam cutter.

Part of the design requires that the angle of the head be adjustable to allow different shapes and sizes of bowls. I still have to build in an adjustable method of angling the top plate assembly. The current plan involves a series of detent holes and a pivoting U-bar. That’s on the way. Another point of design is to be able to use the wheel for decoration as a banding wheel, which will require that the motor be disengaged. I have a couple approaches in mind, but at this point, it would have to be removed. by taking out the wood screws.

At this point, the basic elements are in place and working. I was able to turn on the wheel and have it rotate at a variety of speeds appropriate for decoration. I’ll throw a big bowl soon to test the wheel.

Today, we also bought a couple new hanging plants to round out the decoration of the studio. The plants now fully frame the front of the studio. We’ll keep the watered and look forward to them vining and shading the studios porch.

Work Tables and Wedging Tables

Building the second table on the first table - already working!

I built my own work table and wedging table based on plans from EAA- 1000. That’s a chapter of the Experiment Aviation Association. They use lots of tables to build planes. I just use them to make pots. The tables are solid as you could ask, especially with a couple hundred pounds of clay or buckets of glaze on the lower shelf. Perfect for the studio.

Over the past couple years I’ve recommended the EAA-1000 plans, and I did again recently for a friend setting up her studio at home. I realized the plans weren’t easily found on my site, so this post should fix that. With great appreciation to Bob Waldmiller and EAA-1000, here’s everything you need to get started…

I took my time and had my friend Skip helping with the construction. We had a mitre saw, which made cutting the 2x4s effortless. We also used a circular saw to cut the plywood, and a cordless drill to put in the woods crews. Lots of carpenters glue, and a few finish nails finished it off. It took us a couple weekends to build two tables. Skip kept one and I have the other. There was nearly enough plywood left to build the wedging table which I constructed using the sample approach as the work table, but with some modifications to make it slightly lower for better wedging, and not so wide. I also beefed up the bottom shelf for clay storage. I have had 400lbs on the shelf with no problem (and no movement during wedging either.)

After two years of use, the tables are still solid and working great. I sanded and resurfaced the table top with the same acrylic I used on the whole table originally last fall. I noticed some woodgrain rising in the surface, probably due to the near constant moisture on it. A bit of sanding and a small can of polyacrylic later, it looks like new.