Tag Archives: enamel

Boxes with Steel by Sam Castner

In the summer of 2012, I started making portfolios and since then I’ve added three more sizes of notepad covers.  Back when I started making them, I had a conversation with myself trying to decide whether to make those or boxes.  This winter I’ve come back to the boxes.  I started with some clamshell ones with a piece of my enameling inserted in the top. You can see one here, if you scroll to the bottom.

In December, before the deep freeze set in, I enlisted the help of Sam Caster, an accomplished metal artist, for ideas, encouragement and scraps. To my delight, Sam was very supportive and even willing to add his artistic touch in finishing my pieces.  For the past few months, I’ve been making more boxes to work with Sam’s designs.  We are finally ready to put some on the market! First are the ones with my enameling:

Then Sam’s work on stainless steel:

I’m planning on making these boxes to order to exactly fit people’s heirloom treasures, jewelry or wedding memories.  I think it will be a fun diversion from my books and a great use for all my paper!

I will be putting a few up on Etsy in the coming week and they will be available at the Arts Center.

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Filed under Boxes and Towers, Craft design

There Are Days Like This

Two weeks ago it warmed up enough for me to contemplate descending into my basement, standing on a cement floor and putting my hands into water.  In other words, to do some marbling. I made my carrageenan the night before, set up all the trays, paints and paraphernalia, alummed my paper and dove in. I was planning on doing some large monochromatic sheets, like I had done last year with smaller pieces. Yellow and red were the colors I chose and planned to mix orange. Orange is the only secondary color that I have had consistently good results mixing for marbling.  Those were the plans, anyway!

The first sheet I pulled had some line problems, the second caught a big air bubble, the third developed alum striping — and on and on it went.  I know it had been a long time since I had marbled, but this was ridiculous. Of the eight or ten sheets I pulled that first day, only one or two were good.  On top of that, I wasn’t really happy with the color combinations.  The second day was a bit better, but still way too many sheets that had major flaws so on the third day I threw in the towel on my plans, moved to a smaller tray with smaller paper and grabbed the metallic paints and colored paper.  A background color can disguise a lot of problems!  Things started going more smoothly and I began connecting to the marbling, but I was still frustrated.  What I need right now are large perfect sheets, not more small ones. At the end of the session, I started playing.  Maybe that’s where I should have started.  Here are some pictures of the good, the bad and the ugly!

It’s turned really cold (0* to 10* above) again, so I’ll have to wait for another attempt.  Here’s hoping I’ll be right in the grove and pulling perfect sheets every time!

In the meantime, I’ve been playing with some boxes.  They are based on the clamshell box used for rare books and for archival storage. This is the first one I’ve finished.  I’ve inlaid one of the pieces I enameled last year on the cover. The inside is a four-sided box (book boxes only have three sides) lined with black velvet.

I’m planning a lot more of these as I have quite a few enameled pieces and other treasures for the covers.  I just hope people like them!

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Filed under Boxes and Towers, Craft design, Marbled Paper

Corners, Double Boards, and Gothic Bindings

Finally, back to my books from the Folk School.  My first two books are shown here.  I have always said that I don’t work in leather. It’s too fussy, too expensive and too time consuming.  This week I ended up four leather bound books!  The most complicated is a variation on a traditional Gothic structure.  I cheated and used a textblock sewn over tapes rather than lacing in the boards, so it is more like a cased rather than a bound book.

Many important Gothic and Victorian psuedo-Gothic books were made with double boards, allowing many different types of ornamentation. While thinking about what I could do with double boards, the idea of windows kept running through my mind.  I had a piece of very thin copper that I had tried to torch fire. It didn’t come out very well.  It was bumpy and uneven and generally a bit of a mess.  I had no idea if it would just crack when placed between the boards.  I was able to trim the copper to a suitable size, so the first problem was overcome.  Here are some photos of the process.

Fortunately, the enamel hasn’t cracked and the bumpiness gives an interesting texture to the piece.

The other book I made with an enameled piece was an easy one.  I used the same technique I had used before with coins.  I cut a recess in the top board, tucking the bookcloth into the recess and glued the piece in place. I used this same technique with a black cloth book after I returned.

The last technique we used was working with metal – brass, copper, bronze and pewter – as corners, bosses and latches. This was the first time I had ever worked with metal and was a bit of a challenge.  Metal has to be exact.  You can’t nudge it, pinch it or approximate. I’d love to have more time to work with metal and hope I can in the coming year.  For this time I just made some brass corners. Not much for a metal worker, but exciting for me.  There’s a lip that fits around the edges of the boards and then the corner is fastened to the boards with a rivet. I also gave a brass a bit of texture. As a final touch, this book has a line of blind tooling parallel to the spine.

So that finishes all five books I made during my week.  Since I’ve been home, I’ve been finishing up odds and ends, trying to put together stock for the shopping season.

You can always find my books and paper on Etsy via my page or by going to www.Etsy.com/shop/LosingHerMarbles

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Filed under bookbinding, Craft design

Learning to Torch Fire Enamels

As promised, here’s a blog about the quick weekend course on using hand-held torches to fire enamels on copper. Last summer my granddaughter and I had taken a week-long workshop that covered both kiln and torch firing. I had enjoyed that and have already used a few of my pieces in my books, so I was looking forward to being able to learn some new techniques and make more pieces.  I was not disappointed.

For the basic procedures we used, see the page on Enameling.

The trickest problem with torch firing is that the copper can’t have a counter-enamel on the back.  Without a counter, the enamel is more fragile and if it is put on too heavily, will crack or warp easily. I cheated on some pieces and countered them in a kiln.

Texture was the first thing we worked on. The copper we were using as a base was rather thin and was easy to texture with crimpers, rollers and corrugaters as well as hammers. I found that putting a heavy texture into the copper made it sturdier and less likely to warp.  Because I need flat pieces for my books, I was very aware of warping.  Some examples:

If you want the texture to show, the enamel has to be transparent, not opaque.  On the pinky-rose piece, even with transparent enamels, the underlying texture was lost because of the amount on enamel I put on the right side.  You can see the texture on the reverse. I really enjoyed playing with the various textures and could have spent a lot more time on it.  Unfortunately on the weekend courses you really have only one day of work.  The entire class spent Saturday from 9:00am to 9:00pm torching in spite of cold, wind and dark.  We used the torches outside, so light was a problem.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the torch table, but there were 6 or 8 torches set up around a table outside.  After putting the enamel on a piece, it had to be carried outside to be fired. One advantage was that it was cold enough to cool the metal quickly afer firing.

The instructor, Steve Artz, made boxes for all of the students as a way for us to display the pieces of enamelling we completed.  Here are some pictures of the boxes as well as some close-ups of my pieces.

Lastly, here are two completed books. The black one has a piece I made in the summer.  The red book was made with a torch-fired piece in the Book Embellishment workshop, which will be my next blog.

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My First Enameled Book

Some weeks ago I took a class on enameling and was very excited to get working on some projects.  As usual, life intervened, but I have finished my first book.  Here it is!

Now I can’t decide whether to keep it or sell it.  One one hand, it may be the only enameled book cover I ever make as the rest of the pieces are smaller inserts.  On the other hand I really don’t need another blank book.  What to do?

I also decided just to hang my biggest enameled piece. I found out then how fragile the enamel is. Just trying to thread a cord through the holes in the piece, I cracked some of the enamel.  Not catastrophic, but you can see fracture lines in the enamel. You can just see them in the upper left corner when the photo in enlarged.  If I had a kiln, I could just re-fire it.

DSCN4479At the same time I was making the enameled book. I made another of the diskette books.  They are such fun! DSCN4518

I don’t really care for Coptic bindings.  They are not nearly as stable as a cased or bound book and they don’t protect the textblock as well, but they are a lot faster to make and are cute. I’ll probably keep them in my repertoire for fun, quick projects.

I’ve also been doing some marbling. Not terribly happy with the results as I been having a hard time with my carrageenan.  I don’t know if it’s the heat, the humidity or the carrageenan itself, but it’s been breaking down very quickly.  I was getting five or six days from a batch, but the last batches haven’t lasted more than two or three days.  Frustrating! I haven’t changed anything about the water, paints of the way I work, so I just don’t know.

I did have fun with these!



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Kilns and Torches and Enameling Fun

My granddaughter and I just finished our second year attending the Inter-generational Week at the John C. Campbell Folk School.  Last year we did woodcarving and this year we did enameling.  At its simplest, enameling is the process of heating glass and copper together so that they form a bond and the glass fuses to the copper base.

In this class, we used sheet copper most of the time which could be shaped by repeated heating and cooling.  For most of my work, I stayed with flat forms because I’m hoping to be able to use these pieces in my bookbinding.  Someone said to me that I seem to like rectangles and squares!  Only because my books tend to be that shape.  Here are photos of some of the finished pieces.

We used both torches and kilns to fire the pieces.  The kiln was more predictable, but the torches were more fun!

I’ve added a lot more detail about how we worked, the materials we used and lots more pictures here.  I’m excited to start trying to use these on some books.  I have no idea if it’ll work, but it will be interesting!

On a totally different topic, I had lots of time to think as I was driving home, it took 2 1/2 days! One of the things that struck me, was the way the road has changed.  I’ve driven Route 15 through Pennsylvania on a rather regular basis since the early 1970’s. In the early days most of it was two or three-lane, but now it’s almost completely a divided, four-lane limited access highway.  Some of it still goes over the path of the old road, which may have been over game, trails, Indian paths, logging roads – I haven’t researched it.  That evolution has been very fast.  My image, though, was of archaeologists several thousand years from now, long after the automobile has gone the way of the chariot, painstakingly unearthing, studying and recreating all those multiple layers of roadway.  Even now in towns and cities, when streets are replaced 19th century bricks, logs, rails etc. are found.  Just a thought while driving!

Oh, and by the way, I have lots and lots of HUGE cucumbers.  They’ve turned slightly bitter, so I think they’ll be compost or rabbit food, but the tomatoes are just beginning, so I haven’t missed those.

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