Sunday, February 28, 2010

Visitor to the web

Sunkist came to visit, this was just to demonstrate the transmission of the camera image onto the blog from the sofa. Perhaps one day soon he will have a blog of his own. For now he has a temporary web presence here Knotty wood A-one Studio. We have collaborated in the past, but these days we seem to move along parallel paths.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fishy realm

Here is a blurry shot of one of the fish in its realm. More once the frames are finished up in their tea stained black.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Just about done

This is the kind of color the fish go when welding, so don't think you are going to get anywhere without them pretty in pink. Here they are heated up to give a nice coat of oxide after all the noodling about. Then below after another little going over with some fine paper and a little buffing. Heating again gently adds some colored oxides that probably won't last, but look nice.
So that was all about Monday.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Here is one of the shapes gripped in a vice having been chased a little with nails and whatnot ground to give different textures. I added the eyes later with the TIG welder. Copper is a very good conductor of heat, so welding is a different process than when welding steel. If you are familiar with aluminium welding then it will seem easier, if not then here are a few tips. The extra conductivity means that the whole item will get red hot before the little patch you want to make molten will start to form a pool of metal. I guess you could imagine you are trying to braze it. The pool once formed spreads much faster than with steel, so you have to pull out quickly or keep shifting your arc a lot more to stop the whole thing turning into a puddle. I wanted to make little blobs to then drill out to make an eye shape. I used some old electric cable with the insulation stripped off as a filler rod.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I took the wire brush to a couple of the shapes. On the nearest you can see where the hole in the sand allowed just a nubbin of copper to rise up once the foam void had been filled. I have cut off the bulk of the pouring sprue in the front two, but left a piece at the back of each, originally to allow me to grip the pieces in a vice while chasing etc, but eventually left on, drilled and threaded to act as a mounting stub. I realized too late that I had sprued up the back one facing the wrong way, so I cut that one off flush and welded on a similar stub instead on the other side.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Turned Out

Here is one of the little fish shapes pulled up out of the sand with sprue still attached. A bit more of a scrappy pour with a big pool of copper on the top. The copper is entirely black when it comes out of the sand, but under the oxide it has its true color. When doing repeat castings with the same sand watch out for hot spots, you don't want to burn your fingers or melt your foam original.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Foam Casting Poured

Here is the scene immediately after pouring. The copper still glowing in the sand and the little gas escape hole visible to the right of it in the flower pot. I think the steam and fumes are visible here, so you can see that the hole is not entirely essential, but it does help things along as the copper starts to freeze as soon as it has left the pot. I poured the excess on the little refractory tile I heated the stuff up on. That too is still glowing as is the slag at the bottom of the pot. The material insulates so effectively that a simple leather glove gives sufficient protection to pick up the block by the sides in one hand and pour directly. I just heat the copper to melt it with the largest head on my oxypropane torch. Old copper cable and scraps of sheet copper from other projects.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lost Foam Casting 2

This is actual number three or so, so the little block is already scarred by heat from a previous pour. I forgot to take a shot of it in virgin condition. The sand is quite fine and just damp enough to hold its shape when gripped while not adhering to the skin when released from the grip. The foam is buried in the sand in some fairly heat resistant container. A flower pot here. A good polystyrene adhesive is advisable, but tape will work, just make sure that all the bits of your foam original stay up together. The sand has to be compressed tightly, first by pinching and pressing it with the fingers and then tamping down with some hard object like the handle of a hammer. Leave the top of the polystyrene L and if you can, make a little hole in the sand down to the high spot on the foam shape to let the gas escape more easily. It is easy enough to hold a stick or something in place for the last bit of sand placement and then tamp round it and pull it out at the end. Try to make a little divot in the sand around the top of the L to make it easier to hit with the stream of molten copper. Don't leave stray lumps of sand about, they will be dragged in with the molten metal and make the casting even worse.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Small lost foam castings

Playing catchup. The next few days are just one day of activity, but the week has been concerned with these little fish. I decided to document the process in the presumption that it would all work out OK.
I made a little note sketch of the fish as shown. Carved some basic shapes out of a fairly dense form of polystyrene with a little craft knife. Not too much detail as they may not work out. Then made some L shaped pieces of the same poly to stick on as feeders for the copper pour.
There are pebble type things like the object here that wash up at the local dam. I think they are some kind of light man made wall material. I used a hole saw with the central drill taken out make the circular slit in the block that you can see here. Just twisting by hand as the stuff is very soft. Then I chipped out the material within the slit to make a hollow like a bowl and used a rasp to make a spout to the edge.

Friday, February 19, 2010


I saw the wood up so that the cut stuff falls down into the storage area, then we gather it up and stack it. The most part on the trolley I drew pictures of a long time ago and the final part gets stacked outside the window next to the stove. We spend quite a lot of time scrabbling about on the ground. I spent the morning gathering wood and an hour or so cutting it up. A lot of it was still wet from the rain and snow, so I stood the remainder against the wall to dry for a bit before cutting.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Another diversion from reality. Actually spent the whole day in front of the computer, but the sawing up of firewood is a big part of the schedule too. I think it was last Sunday I went to fetch stuff with Sammy, now we are back down to a few days of wood, so I must prepare more. Even this is not sustainable, but imagine if everyone spent one day a week gathering the energy to heat their homes. I suspect a lot less than a day's wages buys the home heat for most people in the Developed world. Most of the oldies in our village remember having firewood gathering as one of their main chores.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Metal work class

Here is a closer view of the rightmost window. Actually the three ladies came today and we tried working with some stainless steel square bar. They drew the ends down and then made a series of twists and counter twists by heating sections of bar in turn and finally bent their little creations into shapes. Two pendants and a bracelet. It went OK, but they didn't have time to get the things finished, they need sanding and polishing to bring out the pattern a little. I think they were glad of the shop heating facility.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

3 and 4

I got on with the other two windows flower arrangements and wired them in place. These two smaller windows are the same height, but narrower, so slightly easier to fill in. It did take most of the day working with the torch and little wooden mallet to get the leaves bent in to what I thought was OK.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hung up

Still fiddling with flowers and leaves. Hung up at the end of the day to leave the subconscious something to work on. I'll get on with the other two windows tomorrow.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


My map of red dots marking visitors (Bottom right on the blog page) has been archived. You may have to click and zoom on the image to spot any dots at all. I suspect the dot in Japan is me. I don't know who the two dots are on the eastern seaboard of the northern Americas. However, I thank them in especial, even if you only looked in by mistake, many thanks, it would have been a lonely hemisphere without you there.
Somewhat appropriate to have a fresh start after my recent apathy over posting. I am afraid my motives in attempting to resume regular posting are almost entirely selfish. It is simply interesting to look back on work done and very easy to go from day to day without doing any drawing. I forget about things very quickly once they are out of the way and I am very prone to forget to record work with photographs. Posting provides me with a motive to do this and it is sometimes a pleasant surprise to look back and see what has been achieved and also see something of how it came into being.
Thanks in advance to all future dots, parts of larger dots and best wishes to all non dots.

I found out the other day that both my kids had independently found ways of sending money to Haiti online. The things kids get up to on the Internet, it's disgraceful.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Back when my friend was doing his aluminium casting at the end of January I used some of the pot at the end of the day to do a quick cast of my own. This owl head design was made some years ago out of plasticine and cast into a plaster positive. Taping that into sand several times to give a fairly faithful indentation then pouring in some metal gives a pretty good rendition of the original. Some chasing is necessary to bring out details.
The hollow under the beak is drilled out to hold a door knocker tapper as if grasped between the mandibles. About 20cm from ear tip to ear tip, and 18cm chin to ear tip

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Time for a bigger leaf

More rain.. I discovered that I didn't have sufficient small leaves for the decorations, so braved the precipitation to make some more with the press. The same multi stage process as for the larger ones.
Discussing drawing with my brother in our Skype session he mentioned having a class with school kids coming up and that he would be trying to convey the virtue of a method that rather reverses the color by numbers approach to the world. This is actually a little like the stream of consciousness writing concept.
Apply blocks of color with some concept in mind, then refine these with marks that make them easier to read and continue doing so for as long as you like. It is an encouraging process and I will endeavor to include more drawing, perhaps it is time I used a bigger pad again.
The big help is that the first step of adding blocks of tone or color need not be done with a concept in mind. Something will appear out of the blobs and that can then become the subject for enhancement.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Road ahead

All four windows awaiting treatment. I think I will just treat them as two pairs with similar compositional groupings inside each. Very mild weather today jiggled out the spring cleaning gene, so I tidied up the corner that gives access to the almost entirely unused toilet I put in ages ago. It was like an Egyptian crypt in there, thick with dust. The throne is not quite gleaming, but it has a rather more appropriate aseptic look to it now.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Evening Assembly

Experimenting with layouts of leaves and stems. Plenty of scope for fiddling about, but I want to keep the bulk down to allow light in while also preventing access for burgling little hands.

Monday, February 08, 2010

TIG twigs

Gradually accumulating parts for assembly into the windows. Lots of little fiddly blobs with the TIG welder.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Flattening ends

Another view of the same work station.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Small station

Working at the handles the other day. Torch at the top on the gas saver Anvil in the middle and the firebricks with water bowl nearest. The Anvil sits on a stump with hammers arranged around the outside.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


A couple of little sketch notes for my iron work plans. Bandsawing little flower shapes, heating to anneal whacking them into a hole cut in a slab of wood, then using the TIG torch to add little stamens and sepals on the backs. Fish next week I think. If you buy magnetic dishes like the one in the picture, keeping the bubble pack might be a good idea. I cut the pack and kept it, now if I want to lift all the metal bits out of the dish I just pick up the plastic and don't have to scrape them off the magnetic bowl. It is frustrating to lose little parts and these bowls are a big help, but a curse when using stainless steel as one gets used to their grabbing on and stainless takes no notice of magnets. Luckily these little blossoms are made from an old bit of scrap steel not stainless.

Monday, February 01, 2010


The last week of January went for the most part toward helping a friend with an aluminium casting project. This month has started with welding up the handles and what I think are escutcheons. This is the indoor side of my creation. This time I have kept all the twists incomplete, so that one edge runs in a wiggle all the way down the sine of the handle, instead of disappearing around the corner.
My welding torch finally died also and having acquired a replacement I set to work on making a small water cooling device for the new one to try and get better use out of it. This means the water is just cycled through it rather than flowing from the tap out to the drain. That also means that I can perhaps move the whole lot elsewhere in the shop as it is not spouting water. My boiler project inspired me to persevere and it all worked perfectly, the coil of finned pipe hardly even warms up with an extended session, but I still need to feel for the earth cable that is not water cooled. I was not sure what water to use, but I opted for distilled with a good dose of car radiator coolant (antifreeze)to stop it freezing if the shop drops below zero. Apparently the worst choice is deionized water as that would want to eat the metal in the wires that run through the hose.