Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jacked Up Tools: Key Mandrel

I'm sure my regular readers know that I love to jimmy with my tools. I'm forever finding a way to make something work for another technique or make a tool work better.

I fell in LOVE with Jelveh's Key Mandrels. I first tried making beads on a key ages ago and was immediately turned off by how hard it was to shape a bead when you could not spin the "mandrel" - in this case, the key itself - evenly. Then came the key mandrels. I bought two and kept them loaded with keys in case the muse hit during a torch session. I love the tool!

But I'm never one to leave well enough alone... I recently invested in a Carlo Dona Bellflower press. I say invested because it's the priciest tool in my shop. I got on a waiting list for it months and months ago when I had a little extra cash... and it arrives from Italy when I'm broke. But a commitment is a commitment and that's what credit cards are for, right?

It had been so long since I looked at the tool, I had to take it down to my pal Donna for a quick refresher course. I was in love with what it could do... but, my red head sensibilities (it's a proven fact, red heads feel more pain than people with other coloring!) simply would not allow me to hold the wire in my fingers as I applied hot glass. I had burnt my fingers once doing that... the wire got so hot, SO fast... I said NEVER again!

I came home and tried placing the wire in a hemostat...hated it! So I started looking around for something better... something round that could hold a piece of wire. A pin vise would work...but I didn't have one. (Many lampworkers use a pin vise for making bellflowers.) Then I saw those key mandrels, ready to go. Hmmm...

I took our my round nose pliers and place a U in the bottom of the wire and secured it between the metal plate and the back of the mandrel. It WORKED! But I didn't like only being able to make two at a time... So... I tried cutting the wire to 7" in length. My thinking was that I could make one, place the flower in the kiln with the key mandrel sticking out, cut the wire in half and go back to the torch for #2; Cut off #2 and have a piece of scrap left on the mandrel. Quench, open the tool, release the scrap and hook on another wire.

This worked except, 7" gets a little unwieldy with hot molten glass on the end! I now cut the wire a hair over 6". I can still make two bellflowers without having to mess with the tool. Since I have two key mandrels, I can make four, set the mandrels aside to cool and reload them with wire after making a few beads!
Here are some leaves, also made with the key mandrel and a leaf press. Next are the two bellflowers still in my key mandrels and the bottom flower with a U hook in the wire. I cut that part off.

The teal bellflower is to be part of this month's Art Bead Scene entry...Wonder what these will be??? I better get moving! See you Monday on the Bead Blog!


Lea Avroch said...

OMG! DROOL!!! I think I need one of those tools too now. How long did it take you to get it Holly? Which size did you get?

Can you send me the link to the thread so I don't have to search for it? I know....lazy! ;)

CreekHiker said...

Spiral Arts is the importer for the Dona tools

Emakaye said...

AWESOME! Gotta love the tools. So glad you shared this with us Holly.

Twinkietinydog said...

Mom wants you to know she LOVES your keys, Holly! We're leaving the tools to the experts.

Studio Marcy - Marcy Lamberson said...

Oh what a great idea Holly. What fun seeing how you creatively solved your problem. I don't have one of Jelvah's tool's but it sure makes a lot of sense. Thanks for this enjoyable post.