Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Rocket is Born

This morning, I checked on the pieces of the rocket. The engines bells were getting a little dry, and I wet them down and covered them with plastic, but the body seemed okay. Since I had thrown the chuck last (to make sure that it would fit the rocket body), it was the least dry, so I pulled it out of the damp box, and left it on a shelf for most of the day.

This evening, after we got Stephanie to bed, I went into the studio to do some carving. The rocket body is first trimmed in the chuck, and it required very little trimming before I was satisfied. Removing the piece from the chuck, I then lay out the pattern that I will carve. I start with the windshield, which is typically left unglazed in the raku firing, so it will be a matte black. I trace out the shape, then cut with a blade into the clay. I go over the cuts at an angle, then use a pick to pull out the loose clay. After that is complete, I had to determine the number and placement of the tail fins. I have one dorsal fin, and two others equidistant from the first. I trace out long rectangles where they will be joined to the body. I then worked at carving the belly. My first rocket (and about every third rocket that I seem to make) was called "Odd Bodkins". Its belly had carved, longitudinal lines, like those found on a blue whale. I took a break, and went up to the master bedroom, to inspect how I had carved it. The longitudinal lines did not go the length of the rocket, but ended up merging into long triangles and polygons. Returning to the studio, I carved a similar pattern into the new rocket.

I had planned to stop for the night by the time I had finished the carving, but I checked the slab that I had rolled for the fins, and decided that it was perfect for shapping and joining. If I waited another day, it would probably be too dry.

I put the body back in the chuck, off of the wheel head, and then played with engine placement. I ended up choosing three slightly mismatched bells, and trimmed them on wheel. I then used a blade to bevel the base of the engines, so that when they were joined to the rocket, they would all point slightly outward. Getting some vinegar from the kitchen pantry, I made up some slip, scored the engine bells and base of the rocket, and joined them together. The vinegar in the slip causes a chemical reaction in the clay, so that the pieces join tighter.

I next got paper, pencil, and scissors, and played with different fin shapes. Every rocket that I made after the first "Odd Bodkins" could stand on its fins or an engine bell. Its just a matter of planning ahead, and making sure that the fins are even, and that they are long enough to support the rocket once fired. I found a curve that I liked, and cut out a template, then tried the template against the rocket. I then used the template to cut fins from my leather hard slab. I beveled the edges of the fins once I had them cut out, then joined them to the body.

The rocket is standing, inverted, in the chuck. It is wrapped in a light plastic bag (from my laundered shirts) to dry evenly.

I haven't settled on a name yet. I am leaning towards the name "Flying Horse"



Post a Comment

<< Home