Sunday, January 20, 2013

Metal Leaf Case

Recently, a friend was frustrated by not being able to find a small business card holder that didn't take up as much room as her wallet.  Knowing she is an antique lover, I saw a lot of potential in an old cigarette case.  The metal was dinged and scratched, so I thought some of the same techniques that add color to a jewelry surface, might add some interest to the case.  I began by sponging on alcohol inks in blue and purple on the interior of the case.  It dried quickly and I then coated it with metal leaf adhesive.  This adhesive tends to go on milky white and is ready for the leaf when it is clear (which can be any where from 15 minutes to and hour depending on the brand).  I was using a packet of variegated leaf, laying it on gently with tweezers, I then brushed it in a circular pattern which moved the excess flakes around and created a speckled effect on the edges.  I repeated this on the front of the case around the edges and along the center.  When I was happy with the leafing I was left with a bit of a sticky mess on the hinges and the edges of the piece where I left the metal leaf speckled, instead of fully covered.  The metal leaf adhesive never fully dries and leaves a sticky residue.  Using a q-tip dipped in lighter fluid, I was able to clean off the adhesive, be careful since this can also remove the alcohol ink.  Once dry, I went back over the surface with a soft brush until all the leaf was smoothly blended.  I left the piece to dry overnight before finally sealing it with Minwax Polycrylic  water-based sealer.  This case is going to be handled a lot and I've had a lot of luck with this drying clear and leaving a nice protective shell, there are specific metal leaf sealers or something like modge podge will work, as well.  The final results can be seen at the top of this post.  It turned out to be a  great little repurposing project.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

White Bronze Continued

 For those of you keeping track, this is my fourth test fire with White Bronze.  Those first three trials can be seen in last week's post.  After contacting the manufacturer, I took their specific notes on my previous firing trials and began by elevating the firing vessel even higher.  I increased it's height by adding another set of stilts so that its rim sat just below the top of the kiln.  This was recommended since even in my small counter top kiln the difference in temperature from floor to lid can be 300 degrees.  My next step was to do both phases of the firing with the pieces buried in the coconut carbon, it was stressed that White Bronze MUST be buried even for the binder burn off phase with the lid off the vessel.  Since both phases are being done buried in the carbon in the kiln, there was no need to cool in between, so I took the recommendation of the following schedule:

RA1: Full 
RA2: Full 
PF2: 1250F 
RA3: 000

The above image on the left shows the char on top of the carbon after the completed firing had cooled.  This time I definitely smelled more of a "campfire" smell from the kiln than the previous firings, so I do believe it got significantly hotter.   On the right you can see the test pieces out of the kiln, they already appeared stronger.  There were no cracks and they handled well, so I had hope that the firing had been successful.  I took some 220grit sandpaper to the test pieces and removed enough fire scale to reveal a metallic interior.  As I had found out last week, the water drop test does not apply to White Bronze and the way to check is to sand with 220 grit to reveal the bronze, without small particles coming off.  I was really excited and gave the pieces a wiggle with my fingers, at which point they each snapped in the middle.  


So back to the drawing board.  What I do know is that the carbon burned hotter this time and the binder appeared to successfully burn out.  What I don't know is whether the White Bronze was at its full firing strength.  The other thing I learned last week was that even when fired properly, it is very fragile and should really never be used alone.  It was recommended that it be used in combination with other materials for strength.  If it is used alone and fired successfully, customers need to be warned that it is a very fragile material and does not have the traditional strength expected from metals meaning the introduction of other tools such as hammers or pliers would result in it breaking, as well as if it is dropped on a hard surface.  My question still remains as to whether or not I should be able to break it with my fingers.  I plan to email these results to the manufacturer to see if this really is the brittle level of this material or if I should slowly bump the second phase firing by 10 degrees.   I will keep you posted...