Monday, June 30, 2008

"Oh WOW" Etsy finds of the week.

Seems lots of people are featuring other Etsy sellers in their blogs, and even though I'm not usually one to succumb to peer pressure, I keep finding way to many things I like (I surf Etsy while I'm listening to doctors go 'um... um' when I'm typing) not to follow suit. SO! This will serve as sort of a combination feature of 'oh crap I wish I was this good' and 'oh crap I wish I could afford one of these' and 'I AM going to buy one of these one of these days if I could stop spending money on beads and little metal rings' and just plain 'freaking sweet!' items. Mostly stuff posted in the last week, preferably, but I may not be able to resist the urge to post other crazy cool stuff too. Oh, and at least one item each week will be chainmaille.

Without further adieu!

Maille and Kuchi Belt by A Case of Random

Doesn't it just make you want to shake your hips a little, just to see if they jingle? I'm working on a maille belt myself and I like the criss-crossy chains design, but what I especially like is the focal piece.

Merlinite Pendant by Verda's Muse

This is the kind of wire wrapping I'd love to be able to do. A gorgeous stone, mostly unobtrusive wire, but the little curlicue at the side accenting it perfectly like an intentionally tousled lock of hair. I had to look up merlinite, and it said it's a combination of white quartz and psilomelane (gesundheit!). Well, whatever... metaphysically it's supposed to augment the memories of wizards and scientists, so if you can't remember the recipe for the dinner you wanted to make tonight, go pick this up :)

Little Mermaids ACEO set of 2 by Ruby's Brush

It's a very good thing I've already said I'd post recently listed items here or I'd have never been able to choose one of Ruby's gorgeous paintings to feature. One of these need to be in my sea-themed bathroom :)
For those of you who feel as ignorant as I did until about a week or two ago in not knowing what ACEO is, it stands for Art Cards: Editions, Originals. So basically original artwork featured on a card. Which is, I think a fantastic way to feature original art. I am, of course, partial to fantasy artwork.
But you really should check out her other items.

Decorative Shelf with Stylized Flower Tile by L'esperance Tile Works

WOW.. I wish it wasn't such a lean month financially, I'd definitely find a place to put this. I've always been the sort of home decorator who loves the "Home Interiors" method of decorating... meaning I love to make groupings. A painting plus a sconce plus a shelf with some cute things on it.. a SHELF, and oh is this a pretty one. I think a painting next to it would be too much but a nice oak sconce with some pretty glass candle holder would look so lovely in my living room or hallway.
Really, honestly, I'm not a big ceramics person. I see things with $80 price tags on them so often at craft shows that make me go... "UGLY!" But every once in a while I find a ceramics artist who can really make mud sparkle. This is definitely one of them. Favorited. Will be buying stuff when I have moo-lah (like that ever happens). But you know, prices in this shop are really really reasonable.

There you have it, my picks for the week. Now go buy something!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fish and Chips

So, experiment results. I know the pictures are crappy but all I had available was my cell phone.

Lemon juice: safe for anodized aluminum, does take some of the oxidation off copper, but it doesn't shine it, just lightens it. Not impressed.

Vinegar + salt combination: didn't work that great for the copper (although I didn't boil it as the directions indicated), and it didn't strip the anodizing, but I think if I had rubbed the finish at all it would have damaged it. Thumbs down.

When Russ heard about this experiment he said it sounded like options for a fish & chips restaurant :)

I also tried a baking soda paste on a penny. My thought was that it wouldn't be a great option for chainmaille because of the links and nooks and crannies. It didn't work that great on a penny, either. Also not recommended for fish and chips.

I am still looking for a good option for cleaning copper without destroying the finish on anodized aluminum on the same piece. Know any?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Base Materials

[Photo of The Ring Lord's anodized aluminum colors]

I'm just going to review a couple of base metal materials that I've worked with, how they are to work with, and how they wear as far as long-term life. There are several that I have not worked with, including precious metals, and I suppose I'll get around to them later.

Bright Aluminum
When I'm done working with BA my fingers are black. As a result, I haven't used it for jewelry at all, because I can't imagine it wouldn't do the same to your neck if you wore it as a choker. It washes off easily enough, but a blackened band around your neck doesn't exactly make for oohs and aahs. What I have and will use it for is anything that doesn't touch a lot of skin:
  • dangly earrings
  • belts
  • headdresses
  • decorative items, bags, etc.
Since aluminum is the most plentiful metal on the earth (in fact the most plentiful element after oxygen and silicon), BA is cheap and therefore terrific to work with for learning new weaves. It is also light weight (one third the weight of steel), so it's great for costume maille shirts, coifs, etc. It's not difficult to work with in terms of opening and closing rings at all. TRL claims that there's "little to no noticeable ruboff" from it. I may have to test this. Bonus: it doesn't corrode.

Anodized Aluminum
I love the stuff. No, the colors aren't as vibrant or metallic as niobium, but it's easier to work with, much less expensive, and I actually like some of the colors better (green being an example).
Anodizing apparently triples the price of aluminum, at least at TRL. It's worth it (and still no more expensive than copper). I especially love working with their black, which has a silky finish on it.
I have no ruboff on my fingers when working with it, which I assume means it won't rub off on the wearer, either. There is only one drawback to AA as far as I can tell: how durable is the finish? It can't be cleaned with ultrasonic or harsh chemical cleaners, although I'm not sure how much cleaning it would need since it won't oxidize or corrode. I intend to test the longevity of the anodized finish, as well, by making and using a keychain out of the stuff. More info on that to come.
I have had to throw out a few rings because my pliers popped off a ring and damaged the finish, but I'm using bare pliers (no tool dip or masking tape). Planning on trying out the tool dip.
Verdict: might be my favorite base metal for the cost.

Oh, by the way, check out this nifty studio doing a variety of jewelry and seriously cool mobiles out of AA: HSU Studios

It's supposed to help arthritis, wearing copper jewelry. There's no scientific evidence for this, but hey, it can't hurt, can it?
Copper's major drawback is the fact that it oxidizes quickly. You can tell an old penny from a new penny instantly. Some maille artists use this to their advantage and mix various-aged coppers in the same piece. It looks cool, but will they all look the same eventually?
Copper can oxidize by just darkening, or greening. It will turn some people's skin green, depending on body chemistry.
Since I like to mix metals (copper and some colors of AA are so pretty together), I am conducting an experiment: I dropped BA, AA, and copper rings into a mixture of white vinegar and salt, which I have seen recommended for cleaning copper, and another with lemon juice. Stay tuned for the results. What I am after is something that will clean copper without destroying the anodized finish on the aluminum. Preliminary investigation makes me think it's gonna eat the anodized layer. A rock tumbler will also polish up your copper, but that definitely will eat the aluminum's color. I'm starting to think my mixed metal pieces are going to have to be disassembled for cleaning. Ick.
Copper is, for the record, very easy to work with as far as malleability.

I haven't worked with it yet. You've got options for galvanized steel (affectionately known as "galvy"), stainless, or mild steel. Stainless shouldn't rust, so it may be a nice option for jewelry. "Mild" steel is meant to look "medieval", and it will rust. Quickly, I think, especially exposed to moisture or in this humid Tennessee air. Galvy has a zinc surface layer that will keep it from rusting, but it has a dull finish I don't care much for. More experimentation needed here, as well.

Anodized Niobium
I'm in love with this metal. No pictures do it justice. It anodizes in gorgeous metallic, almost iridescent hues. It's hypoallergenic. It's easy to work with (except, I think maybe, for cutting your own rings, which I haven't tried). Once again the only drawback is the longevity of the anodized layer and propensity to scratches. I'll need to wear it more to talk about this stuff.

Anodized Titanium
Doubt I'll be buying much more of this, though I may try a different supplier. Titanium is stiff and hard to work with, the cuts were not flush (I assume because it is so very difficult to cut), and it's hard to make the rings close back the way you want them to because of its "memory." The plus side is that it anodizes in really pretty muted hues.

Bronze, Brass, Silver and Gold, Inconel, Enameled Copper
Haven't worked with any of these in chainmaille, so stay tuned. I have used some brass findings, and EC wire (impression: lacks strength because of the enamel coating). Since I want to play with Vintaj products a bit, I may make some brass things to match them. And I'm considering winding my own silver rings to save a few dollars. Stay tuned for part 2: Precious Materials.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Armor anyone?

I'm honestly sort of amazed that chainmaille has more or less gone mainstream. Once decking only knights and footmen (as recently as World War I, as in the mask above) on their way to battle, and until only recently seen more or less on nerds and geeks on their way to the Renaissance Faire, and here we are with tutorials on how to do it in major craft stores, and perfectly respectable jewelers including it in the repertoire, and you can get an aluminum maille shirt on Think Geek that you're apparently supposed to wear to work. In case your boss brings his bastard sword.

I'm curious as to how it made this journey, so I'm planning on doing a few blog posts on the history of Maille. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Long Distance Chainmaille

I thought I'd introduce my partner in crime tonight. My son Brandon is 15. Two years ago for Christmas I bought him a chainmaille dice bag kit, and it's been sitting in his room unassembled since. When I decided to do chainmaille jewelry several months ago, I had Dylon White's chainmaille book sitting on the kitchen table and while Bran was eating his cereal he suddenly went "Oh!" You could almost see the light bulb go on over his head.

So he started weaving (and taking over my rings...). He is currently staying with his dad for the summer, where he is also creating a variety of maille items, many of which I will likely list in the shop when he comes home in a few weeks. He has a terrific eye for patterns and I'm sorry to say he tends to pick up most weaves more quickly than I do (and can still do a few that I can't).

The picture at right is from White County Middle School's Renaissance Festival, the first year we moved to Tennessee. We thought that this was the coolest thing ever, and still do. Bran has been in the Human Chess Match three years running, and just this past year I started teaching the kids Renaissance dances that I learned for my Renaissance wedding in '06. We're proud to be a part of the Ren club, and learning to weave chainmaille is just another part of our love affair with the Renaissance.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The rings have a mind of their own

I finally managed to steal a couple of hours to weave last night. I had some very pretty rings I'd just ordered -- bronze-colored niobium and a color mix of titanium, which anodizes very pretty pastel hues.

I knew exactly what I wanted the niobium to become -- a choker, with delicate brass hued-chains draping every direction. I wanted to weave it in a traditional European chainmaille pattern, but on the bias, so that it came to a point in the middle. That in itself, with 7/64 inch rings (yeah, about like this: O ... 2.8 mm... ), when I had never joined maille on the bias like that.. well, honestly that worked out okay when I sorted the rings out, but when I was finished the design I had in mind just didn't hang right. So.. it's a ring now.

The titanium, on the other hand... I had no idea what I wanted it to be, but if you weave and you haven't worked with titanium at all before, be forewarned: they don't make spaceship parts out of it for nothing. It's stiff. The links decide when they want their ends to meet, not you. And they may be lined up perfectly and still not meet. I decided the best I could manage was some mobius flower earrings, and I'm still not entirely happy with the way they decided to lie, though they are rather pretty and Victorian looking... I love it... space age materials used to make a Victorian necklace. Can I list that as Steampunk?

By the time I was done the set of napkin rings I intended to make turned into a simple pair of earrings, as well.

Nothing goes the way you plan, but most of it turned out all right.

Pictures to come when I get a chance to take them.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My helper

So this is my "helper," Otto. My workbench is behind the couch and the little critter tends to climb over it and check out what I'm doing then bat the links around while I weave. Fortunately, I'm working in aluminum and copper and not silver :) He also thinks its great fun to bat the chain I'm working on as it dangles from my hands as I delicately weave a link through a tight spot... darnit kitty!!

When there is a helpful kitten in one's life, one does not leave ANYTHING in one's work space that is potential kitten toy material, which is, of course, pretty much everything you can bat, climb on, chew... well pretty much everything. Hey, he's helping me keep it clean. Is your workspace tidy? Maybe you need to visit your local animal shelter ;)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First Sale!

It's been a big day.. started a blog (wait, was that yesterday?), applied to start Etsy Chainmaillers' Guild, opened a Flickr account...

... and made my first sale! A lady bought a pair of niobium chainmaille earrings from me because she has metal sensitivities. Definitely planning on catering to that crowd since I'm in love with the niobium anyway.. the colors when it's anodized are gorgeous. I got in some bronze colored niobium links today as well as some titanium... titanium gives these lovely muted pastel colors, not nearly as vibrant. The brain gears are grinding.... I've been sitting here all day doing my typing with my sketch book open in front of me. Needless to say I'm not burning up the keyboard. Besides, the forums on Etsy keep calling me.

Next project: a necklace in bronze niobium with lacy chains... keep an eye out for it.