Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Retorch

This the Fresh Glass photo I posted on my Fan Page last week. It makes me laugh so hard because, it's a study in what NOT to do while refiring a bead!

REfiring a bead??? Did you know you CAN introduce an annealed bead to the flames again? I can't tell you how often I do this. I didn't always do it successfully in the beginning but now, unless it's a bead with cremains, I think nothing of refiring to make the bead a more successful version of itself.

The bead that needed refiring was the cougar print. I had accidentally picked up a darker brown and there was zero value difference in the dark brown and the black...yet it was such a cool bead. Knowing I would toss the bead if I left it alone, I decided to refire.

Normally, this is a fast process... I stick it in the kiln for safe keeping (the kiln is off but the bead is less likely to get knocked around.) The goal is to SAVE the graphite bead release on the mandrel. You must protect it and keep it in the best condition for a successful refire.

I did not do this! As luck would have it, we had a massive heatwave right after I made this bead with days on end of temps around 105. My a/c went on the fritz and my contractor showed up to repair my fences that came down in December. I was BUSY. I carelessly laid the bead on the back porch's brick bannister to bake in the morning sun.  It was so hot, the last thing I wanted to do was torch.

Until I work up at 5 one morning.  I grabbed that bead and dashed to the kiln and reprogammed for a slow start - 600 degrees per hour. Now... knowing full well that my kiln would take an hour and a half to get to annealing temps, I found some busy work - I packed a stamp order and cleaned up in the shop a bit and decided it was time to make beads. The kiln was still at 400. I pulled several stringers and got out a mandrel.

Normally, I would make  HUGE bead... something that could take an hour with layers and such because that bead needs to go into a HOT kiln. But what did I do??? I made a piece of candy! Tiny! Done in five minutes. I looked over at my 600 degree kiln and back to the bead in my hand... Now what do I do???

I spun the bead in the far end of the flame for a good five minutes... The kiln was 650.... What to do??? I sure couldn't hold on to one tiny bead for another 30 minutes! I debated: Fiber blanket or toss it in and hope for the best? I opted for the latter.

Knowing I still had a chunk of time to kill, I set out to make a much larger bead.... One I had not prepared for. I kept searching my table as I spun that bead looking for the perfect color I had in mind... and NEVER found it. Instead, I added a bit of this and a dash of that and couldn't tell you how I made that bead if I tried! I was not happy and figured if it were to be saved, I needed to reduce and encase.

Only... the phone rang. It was 6:30 and even without answering, I knew it was my hiking buddies headed out for an early morning swim in the creek. It had been so hot, my pup had not seen her friends in a while! My heart leapt... I just wanted to dash! But, I still hadn't fixed that cougar bead!

I finished the bead in my hand... I didn't encase... the disastrous morning was eating away at me. When things start going bad, I always stop, because they rarely get better. I was off my game and I knew it!

I grabbed the cougar bead, slowly heated it in the flame to glowing, added the proper brown dots, melted them in slowly, pressed and ... The bead release broke and the bead started spinning on the mandrel... meaning I could never heat it evenly! Bad to worse! Angry, I tossed that still glowing bead in the kiln... and tossed the dog in the jeep and raced to our favorite swimming hole for a few minutes with the RottRovers.

It wasn't until I pulled the beads out later did I realize, I should have cooled that cougar more carefully! I could have pressed it again to take some heat out quickly! But...it DROOPED in the kiln. So, I can't sell it... but it makes me laugh, so I'll probably wear it!

The good news is... the bon bon made it just fine and that bead I didn't encase??? It's STUNNING!  It will be the Fan Page special today! 

For those of your wondering about refiring, here's my DO list: 

  • As soon as you take a bead out of the kiln and know you need to refire it, place it back in your kiln for protection. Do your level best to keep the bead release in tact!
  • Fire the kiln SLOWLY! 600 degrees per hour MAX! 
  • Make sure the mandrel is sticking far enough out of the kiln to NOT burn your fingers when you need to pick it up!
  • Keep yourself busy until the kiln reaches annealing temps. Leave the studio if you have to.  Clean, pull stringer or make a bead that takes an hour and a half...
  • Allow the bead to be refired to sit at least 10 minutes at full annealing temp. Have your torch on! Take it out of the kiln.
  • If you forgot to leave the mandrel out of the kiln (step 3), grab it with pliers and dunk just the mandrel in water to allow it the rod to cool enough so you can hold it! Don't dunk the bead or within a few inches of the bead! 
  • Introduce the bead to the back of the flame. Gently heat it up, moving closer to the working area of your torch in stages! Slow, gentle, constant heat will get you there. 
  • Don't freak if the bead cracks... again, slow, constant heat!
  • Once the bead gets that glow, add what you need to add. swirl or decorate til your heart is content. Press gently if needed. 
  • Get a light glow going but not so much your bead will droop. Turn off your oxy and increase the propane for the nice dragon's breath polish.
  • Garage in the kiln and anneal normally.

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