Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fire in the Hole!
New Paragon SC2 Kiln & Copper

At the beginning of March I decided I WAS going to take the next step in my obsession with metal clay and get a larger kiln. I love my Ultra Lite but it's to small to do anything larger than 2.5" diameter AND I can't do copper in it. SO at the end of March I ordered a Paragon SC2 kiln from Paragon rep Pam East.

How excited was I when less than two weeks later my new kiln arrived? :o) VERY! BUT... fear of the next step creeped in and it took me three weeks to open the box and 2 more weeks to fire it for the first time.

Here's my set-up.
Cleared out the rest of my garage corner and set up a 6' work station for "Blue" (my appropriately named SC2) and my enamel station. It's a bit "hoopty-bo-bo" but it works! Supplies - 1 - metal file cabinet, 1 - 16" x 16" x 2" cement stepping stone, 2 - 18" x 18" x 1/2" Travertine Tiles, 1 6' x 16" heavy-duty metal closet shelf, 5 - 12" x 12" x 1/4" Pinkish Marble Tiles. These, all combined together = one heck of a cool work area. :o) (I also borrow a corner of it to hold my light cube when taking photos... but I'm working on a new area for that.)

TONIGHT I fired up "Blue" for the first time. Did a pre-fire to get all the dust out and burn off any residue from my kiln furniture. Followed the great instructions that Pam sent with the purchase of my new kiln - much easier to understand than the garbly-goop that came w/ the kiln. Successful pre-fire! And yes dad, I had an extinguisher and my cell phone handy! :o)

THEN I heated it up to 1780 because I had a pair of copper earrings waiting to be fired. Of course, they've been waiting to be fired for 2 1/2 months. I purposely created them so that I would HAVE to get over the fear of first fire of "Blue" in order to get them done. They were too big torch fire! I had also done some quickie copper earring pieces from a mold I have so that I could test 'face up, face down' of firing Art Clay Copper on a shelf. See in my head I wondered - if I put it face down will it oxidize LESS or should it be face up.

I positioned the pieces on my small kiln shelf that came with "Blue" (the big one was already in and sitting on 1/2" stilts to allow for air flow and there were 2" stilts laying on their side to make them 1" above the floor waiting for the copper filled shelf to be placed on them) and waited for it to get up to 1780.

Note: I had a copper pod go to pieces after being fired for 30 mins in carbon and then picked, tumbled and refired w/ a torch to fix an 'issue'. I emailed Pam and told her exactly what had been done and asked for help and her recommendation was - if it's fired in carbon it needs to be fired for 3 1/2 hours. If it's done on the shelf - which she recommends for Art Clay Copper it's 30 mins at 1780, direct on the shelf. SO those are the directions I followed.

The kiln hit 1780 and I was ready. I picked up the shelf in some tongs opened the door, slid the shelf in - DANG 1780 is hot! - and then quickly closed the door. I wasn't that quick because it took approx 3 1/2 mins to get back up to 1780. Then the fun started... the binder started to burn off like it does normally - little flame... BUT the cool thing was (and I didn't know this so no pic) because there is limited oxygen the smoke that results swirls and twirls and looks so totally cool in the kiln (Love my window!). Then we wait. (NOTE: Pic is actually "Blue" cooling down after firing.)

30 mins later the kiln starts to beep and it's done. NOW... instructions are - pull the pieces out and immediately put into cold water to get as little oxidation on the pieces as possible and the cold water would help pop what oxidation did form off. WELLL... I didn't realize that the pieces may 'stick' to the shelf. So as I pull the shelf out and tip it over, nothing is falling out so what do I do?
I stuff the whole shelf upside down into the water ... bye, bye shelf! LOL! I had fire paper and why I did not use it I am not sure but next time, to be sure I will!!! (Pic is the remnants of the shelf. Kind of interesting. The pieces that came out had some areas of 'thick' oxidation. But the pieces that 'stuck' left that thick layer behind on the shelf.)

It sounded like pop corn as the oxidized copper popped off the pieces in the water bowl. Here's the results after I pulled them out of the water... Here's a pic of the pieces immediately out of the water.

The right pic shows the four pieces for the 'face-down, face-up' test. Unfortunately I forgot to pay attention to which was which but... here's my guess... the pair on the left were face up - and the back (shown on the lower left) was on the shelf and that is what stuck. The others.. the back (shown lower right) were probably up in the air and the oxidation is still there because there was nothing for it to stick to.

The left photo here show the back and the front of the larger earrings that have been very patiently waiting for a firing. These were put face down on the shelf BUT the design is raised. I used a stencil of a vine and used copper slip to fill in the stencil so that it is raised off the earrings. Because of this piece would not lay flat on the shelf which is PROBABLY why the oxidation did not stick to the shelf. BUT... I like it on this pair. We'll see how much comes off in pickling.

Right now, the pieces are in the pickle. NOTE... I have been using Silver Prep from Cool Tools to clean silver and copper... I recently bought the natural "Pickle It" recently released by Metal Clay Supply and not very excited about it. I ended up adding some Silver Prep to it and it's working much faster now. Maybe going back to my Silver Prep for future orders.

Cross fingers that the cleaning goes well because I have got some GLORIOUS Lampwork Beads from Bastille Bleu Lampwork Beads that will be used on the larger pair and some really sweet little natural beads for the little pieces.

1 comment:

  1. That's quite the process!! Sounds like you're managing the learning curve just fine. Congrats on your new toy! Love those earrings, esp. the big ones. Wonderful design! I have some Silver Prep and tried it on some copper and brass and it didn't seem to have any effect at all on either. Made my own concoction with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. How long do you leave it in there? Can't wait to see what else you do with your new toy!