Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday - Last Day of Vacation

Where did the time go?

Julie had some inspiration and rearranged parts of the studio, clearing out a bunch of the non-pottery stuff on the shelves, and moving the bags and boxes of clay to just outside the door. Its easier to find things on the shelves now, and when someone is throwing at the wheel, the other person can get to the sink without squeezing by.

In the last few days, I threw and trimmed a bowl. It has a really tall foot. I have it upside-down, wrapped in plastic, in the damp box.

Stephanie went down to the closest lake in our development, and got to net fish for minnows. She really enjoys it, so we went down three times in the last few days. Its a nice walk down and back, and I sat in the shade at a picnic table, reading my hieroglyphics book. I've reviewed the hieroglyph alphabet, and have worked at writing the names of family members. At the end of a male name, you draw a seated man, with his face towards the front of the name. A woman's name gets a seated woman.

Julie and I have been talking about the new studio, and we decided that we need a wedging table sooner rather than later. A wedging table is a sturdy table, with a two to three inch thick slab of plaster on top. It can be covered in canvas as well. We can use it to recycle all of the bags of old clay and clay scraps that are piling up outside of the studio. I did an internet search, and decided that building one would be cheaper than buying one. I did an inventory of wood in the garage, and decided that all we needed was a short piece of four by four for the last leg.

I spent about four hours today building the wedging table. The top is a frame of two by fours, divided into two eighteen inch by twenty and a half inch openings. There is a piece of three quarter inch plywood at the bottom of each half of the frame. There are four legs, one in each corner of the frame, made of four by fours. There are two braces supporting each leg, also cut from two by fours. The whole structure is held together with three inch wood screws.

There are four things left to finish the table. First, I need to poly seal the table. Then, we need to fix rubber feet to the bottom of the table legs. Thirdly, I'll caulk around the plywood to prevent leaks when the plaster is poured. Last, we'll pour the two plaster slabs in place (one slab for light color clay, one for dark). Each slab will weigh about fifty pounds, so we will need to place the table where we want to use it for a while.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Trip to Washington, D.C. - Vacation Days Four thru Six

We returned last night from Washington, DC. Julie and I had both been there for the Bicentennial, and I was able to spend a short time at the Smithsonian while I was at the Space Elevator Conference a year or so back. Stephanie had never had a chance to visit.

We drove down from Voorhees on Sunday. The trip is about a three hour drive. We were about an hour out when we realized that we had forgotten to mail our taxes; they were sitting on the desk in our library. We turned around, mailed them off, and returned to our trip. The two hour delay pushed off our visit to the National Zoo until Monday. We spent Sunday afternoon learning how to ride the Metro, and visiting memorials. In the evening, we found a great Greek restaurant, Jannis, in Cleveland Park, across from the Metro station.

We spent most of a rainy Monday at the zoo, and got to see the pandas, cheetahs, and other critters. Stephanie got a stuffed cheetah cub, and I bought a new umbrella. In the afternoon, we went to the Air and Space Museum. As the museum was closing, we were trying to find the Bell Rocket Belt, but instead found a small gallery about the history of rocketry, which included a rocket propelled torpedo from the the middle ages (something that would look great in raku, it was sort of a flat helmet with two rocket pods attached), and one of the TNT powered Orion test vehicles that Ted Taylor and General Atomics flew over Pt. Loma in San Diego. After the museum closed, we went over to the National Archives, and saw the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. We had a late dinner at an Italian restaurant that was easily forgettable.

On Tuesday, we spent most of the day at the Natural History Museum. Stephanie focused on her favorites; critters, insects, meteorites, and gemstones. When we went looking for a restroom at one point, we found a display showing an Egyptian pit firing, where the pieces were fired upside-down in a pile of wood and animal dung; the necks of the pieces were buried in sand, so they were black, while the body of the pieces were red. Very cool, and it only makes me want to do a pit firing again. On the way out of the museum, I picked up a book on reading hieroglyphics.

We plan to return again. There are a lot of museums that we didn't step foot in, but would like to. We would like to get tickets to go up into the Washington monument (half are available on-line, the rest are usually gone by eight in the morning.) We also plan to find a hotel that may be a little farther out from the Mall, but placed closer to a Metro station, so we don't have to walk three or four blocks at the end of a long day.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Mud-Slinging Pyromania - Vacation Day Three

Today, we glazed pots. Julie did three dragon vases, and I did two rockets, a glaze test piece, and the trout (trout! trout! trout!). We both worked in the studio, I was on the bar chair, and she sat behind the wheel.

After we finished, we went into the garage, and started moving equipment to the back yard.

First, I carried out the floor of an old kiln, that we had bought from Joe and Debbie. There were pots melted and fused onto its surface, in a thin layer. The piece is ten sided, about three feet across, is made from a single layer of kiln brick, and has a band of steel around it. I placed it onto the cinderblock pad, dead pot side down.

Julie brought out the firebox. I placed it towards the front of the kiln floor, with the burner port around back.

We brought our four wheeled lawn cart into the garage to move the kiln itself. First we had to flip it back over, since it was still upside-down from when I cut the fire ports in the floor. The kiln has handles built into both sides, so carrying and flipping is not too difficult. We placed it on the cart, then wheeled it through the garage door, past the front of the house, through the gate in the fence, and around back to where the raku pad is. We lifted the kiln into place on top of the fire box.

Julie spent some time putting a new layer of kiln wash on the kiln shelf that we were going to use in the raku kiln, while I pulled down a plastic bag of broken kiln bricks, and grabbed the burner.

We put three half bricks on the floor of the firing chamber in the kiln, to support the shelf. I then played around with the kiln bricks and burner, to figure a way to prop the burner up to the same height as the port in the back of the firebox, and to keep the burner from flopping over. I found a piece of kiln brick that matched the skinny part of the burner, and held it nicely. I added two pieces of kiln brick, one on either side, just in case the burner got frisky and tried to move. Finally, I pulled a cinderblock out of the pad, and ran the burner and hose through one of the large holes. This limited the sideways movement of the burner, and I didn't have to worry about someone (me) accidently kicking the flaming burner off to one side while firing.

We set up the three small metal reduction chambers, metal ash cans, the empty paint can that I had used the last time we rakued, and the thirty gallon metal trash can to put all of the burnt materials in and wet them down when we had finished. We also brought out our heavy gloves and tongs for moving hot pots.

I hooked up the burner to the propane cylindar, using a little teflon tape on the treads to ensure a good seal. I made sure that the burner valve was closed, and opened the valve on the propane tank. Next, I set the pressure gauge to four and a half pounds. We placed two rockets, one dragon vase, and a glaze test piece into the kiln, and closed the lid. I used a gas log lighter to light the kiln.

The burner ignited with a muffled roar, and I cranked it up to about a quarter power before leaving it alone. According to the analog pyrometer, the kiln had reached five hundred degrees within a few minutes.

While the kiln was heating, we built nests of shreaded paper and corregated cardboard in our reduction chambers.

The first firing took about forty-five minutes. We were a little timid, it being our first firing, and I slowly turned the burner valve up for the first half hour. The kiln seemed to hover at about fifteen hundred degrees, so we gave it a little more pressure off the regulator, and again hovered at seventeen hundred. At about seventeen seventy-five, we donned our gloves, and killed gas to the burner.

Julie and I got on either side of the kiln, and stepped up onto raised cinderblock steps. Together, we used our tongs to lift the lid of the kiln back, until it overbalanced, and the weight was taken by the attached chains.

Taking turns, we lifted the pieces free from the kiln, and placed them into their own reduction chambers. An orange hot piece, coated with molten glaze, tends to burst into flames when dropped into the shreaded paper and cardboard lined chambers. The piece would be lowered in, and then the tongs would be used to pick up the chamber lid, and to slap it shut.

Some pieces, the copper reds, or the Seth's, were rushed from kiln to chamber. Others, like crackle pieces, could be moved with less urgency. A Seth's piece is placed in a chamber for a minute of so, then the lid is opened, and the greasy green smoke is encouraged to burst into flame. The lid is then slapped back down. Additional sheets of wet newspaper are placed over smoldering cans, to reduce the amount of smoke.

We loaded the trout and two dragons into the kiln, for the second firing. Julie had me practice picking the trout up off of the cinderblocks with the tongs, until I could do it safely and with confidence (there are few things worse than fishing around in a hot kiln with a pair of tongs, and realizing that you don't know how to pick your piece up. Its a really great way to lose eyebrows in the heat). We lit the kiln, then stepped back to wait for our first pieces to cool.

The first rocket was the one that I made from one of Stephanie's designs. I covered it in copper red, with white underglaze under clear crackle engine bells. The flower in the porthole was carefully colored with pink and white underglaze, the leaves are florentine green, and the flower pot is brown. The rim of the porthole is white underglaze as well. All of the underglaze is covered in white crackle. This piece was placed in the paint can, lined with cardboard with a little shredded paper.

The second rocket has clear crackle on white underglaze for the body, lobster mason stain in louden's base on the fins and around the cockpit, and copper red on the engine bells.

Julie's first dragon was one she had glazed months ago. We think that the body of the piece is black lacquer, which is a shiny black glaze. The dragon is metallic copper, with flashes of maroon and dark blue.

The second firing took half an hour, and again, we were a bit timid in turning the flame up (fear of pieces exploding in the kiln from thermal shock). Julie's two dragon pieces turned out wonderfully, and my trout isn't bad. I could have put more glaze on the body of the fish.

We cleaned everything up, and later this evening I covered the kiln with a tarp, and used bungee cords to hold it down.

Julie has posted pictures of just about everything.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Glaze Mixing - Vacation Day Two

Yesterday afternoon, I bought and filled a new propane tank. I went to a local hardware store for the tank filling, and they had a selection of metal trash cans (the major chains in my area don't). We bought two ash cans for reduction chambers, and one large trash can for bigger projects, as well as holding all of the burnt debris.

I mixed three glazes today. I went through six ponds of Gerstley Borate today.

I first made a two gallon batch of Seth's Luster. I sorted out the five bags of chemicals that I needed, then I used a digital kitchen scale to weigh the ingredients. Gerstley Borate, Bone Ash, Cobalt Carbonate, Copper Carbonate, and Tin Oxide all went into a clean bucket, then I covered the chemicals with water. Air bubbles rose to the surface, and would emit a puff of dried powder as they popped, so the glaze bucket had a foggy haze of chemicals above it for a few minutes. I mixed with a whisk, then used a long handled spoon to dig the dried chemicals out of the corners at the bottom of the bucket. Lastly, I strained the glaze through a sixty mesh sieve to remove any large particles. The sieve always gums up, so you put a hand in the glaze, and run the tips of your fingers over the surface of the mesh to gently push stuff through.

The second glaze is called Copper Red. It is a shiny raku glaze, that is green under oxidation, but copper penny in reduction.

The last glaze was a test batch, where I mixed a hundred grams of our Louden's Base raku glaze with four grams of Spanish red iron oxide. I am looking for a transparent honey or amber raku glaze.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tree Trimmin' and Kiln Carving - First Day of Vacation

After dressing this morning, I went into the garage to get some tree trimming tools.

We have an extendable pole, with a wicked saw blade on the end, as well as a small branch cutter. The cutter has a rope trailing from it, with a handle on the end, so that when the pole is at full extension, small branches can be snipped off by pulling the rope.

I've often thought that if the neighborhood is ever overrun by orcs and goblins, that this tool would make a great weapon for the back row of fighters that are keeping the bad guys at bay through a doorway.

Anyways, I carried the thing across the living room and through the back door to prune branches off the pine tree that looms over the cinderblock raku pad. The tree is actually up an embankment from the pad, with a four foot tall railroad tie retaining wall in between. I took out the lowest overhanging branch, and half of the next branch up. This gives over fifteen feet of clearance between the top of the kiln and the remaining branches.

My next job was to go into the kitchen, with a ruler, and to go through all of our tupperware lids. I was looking for a round one that was a little over four inches, so I could trace around it to make the flue hole in the lid of the kiln. An orange one measured four and a half inches.

I placed the lid on top of the kiln, and traced around it with a carpenter's pencil. Removing the lid, I realized that it hadn't been properly centered, so I rubbed out the pencil line with my finger, and then repositioned the lid. I then used a ruler to center it. It wasn't necessary to have the hole in the very center of the lid, anywhere would do, but I am going to have to look at the hole every time that I raku. Julie is very good at eyeing things, and getting them perfectly centered, but I have to measure every time. I retraced the lid, and set it aside.

I used a utility knife with a fresh blade in the handle to cut into the kiln brick of the lid. Kiln brick is soft, not like the hard brick that you would find in your fireplace. Its like a pale yellow, dense styrofoam, which is why it insulates better than hard brick. My blade cut in about three quarters of an inch, and I tried to keep the blade perpendicular to the lid as I moved around the kiln to complete the circle. Next, from about a half inch inside of the circle, I cut at an angle towards my first cut. Brittle chunks of kiln brick broke off. This created a sloppy v-shaped grove inside the circle. I used the knife to cut out as much of the inside of the circle as possible. Lowering the inside of the circle allowed me to repeat the cut around the outside of the circle, making the cut deeper.

Eventually, I was close enough to breaking through the two and a half inch kiln brick that I was able to use an awl to bore the rest of the way through. This allowed me to get a hacksaw blade through the lid. I had wrapped some masking tape around the blade, to give me a handle to work with. I used the blade to cut chords across the circle, and then to cut around the circle. Each time I reached a cord cut, a chunk of kiln brick could fall away, and it was easier to manuever the hacksaw blade.

I finished the flue hole with a fine rasp.

Julie helped to flip the kiln over. I used masking tape and a bungee cord to hold the lid shut. Holes had to be created in the floor of the kiln so flames from the firebox could enter the kiln. We marked where four two and a half inch diameter holes could be bored, and then drilled pilot holes with a quarter inch drill. I used one of those can shaped hole cutters attached to the drill, with a quarter inch drill bit as central guide, to create the holes in the floor of the kiln. The kiln brick was thicker than the height of the can that I used, so, after going the first two inches, I set the drill aside, and used the utility knife to cut away part of the cylindrical plug that filled the hole. That allowed me to re-insert the can-saw contraption, and finish boring the hole.

The one snag that I ran into while making the holes was that after boring the first one, the quarter inch drill bit fell into the kiln. I could retrieve it by flipping the kiln back over, but I would have had to get help doing it from Julie. Instead, I pulled a magnet off of the kitchen fridge, taped it to a piece of twine, grabbed a flashlight, and went fishing through the new hole in the floor of the kiln. Once I retreived the drill bit, I put a piece of masking tape around its base before reinserting it into the canister saw. This ensured a tight enough fit so that the bit didn't fall out for the remaining holes.

The last thing I did was to whittle three peep plugs out of some of the scrap kiln brick. These will keep flames from spitting out of the side of the kiln.

I'm off shopping for a propane tank, then its off to a hardware store to get it filled, and to get a metal trashcan for a reduction chamber.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Coursework" - "R" = ?

I was reading the resume of someone at work, when something trivial jumped out at me; on the fourth page, the resume listed "Additional Cousework", with some classes listed.

I thought it odd, since the person was from a respectable institution of higher learning, that they couldn't run a spell check on their resume.

An associate then emailed me the electronic version of the resume, one that was in Word.

'Cousework' was in the electronic document, but the Word spell checker did not catch it as a misspelling. I created another document on my work computer, and it didn't flag the word either.

My copy of Word 2003 at home flags it as a misspelling.

Googling this word, it appears to be a common misspelling that appears all over the web.

It doesn't appear in the copies of Mierriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary that I've got at work or home.

The online version of the Oxford English Dictionary is a subscription service, so that wasn't any help. I went to the next best source, which was an online Scrabble dictionary. They say that there is no such word (my reasoning being that if the Scrabble players won't give points for it, then it probably isn't a word).

I wondering whether the evil Mpire is delivering "cousework" as a word in their Word dictionaries, for some nefarious reason.

Or, perhaps it is the sign of an insidious computer virus, and only the infected computers list "cousework" in their dictionaries.

Flee, while there is still time......

Back to Clay

We picked up thirty cinderblocks over the weekend; an entire pallet full. The weight nearly overloaded my little pickup, even with five of the blocks in the cab on the passenger side.

I built the raku pad in the back yard on Sunday, which was one of the few nice days that we have had in the last few weeks. We also drove down to pick up our glaze chemicals, which occupy the workbench in the garage. Its mainly bags of white powder, with some colors in the oxide (cobalt carbonate is a pastel purple, copper carbonate is a light green, rutile is a medium brown).

I was wondering what would happen if we had gotten pulled over while hauling a hudred pounds of white powder, packed in bags and boxes. I'm sure things would have worked out, but it may have taken a bit of time.

Things to do before first raku firing:
1) drill holes in floor and lid of kiln. The one or more holes in the lid needs to have an equal or larger area than a four inch diameter circle. The ones in the floor of the kiln need to exceed the same area.

2) trim overhanging limbs off pine tree - there is a rather tall pine that overhangs where the kiln will sit. I need to cut off a few of the lower limbs. It should be a ten minute job on a stepladder, since the base of the tree is up an embankment behind a retaining wall.

3) mix glazes - I need to mix a new batch of Seth's, and I want to experiment with adding red iron oxide (in one percent, two percent, and three percent concentrations) to our raku base to try to make a transparent amber or honey colored glaze. The test batches will be a hundred grams each.

4) buy a new 20 lb propane cylinder - standard grill size

5) Buy another good reduction chamber, like a standard metal trash can.

I'll be on vacation from work starting on Thursday and all next week. My medical problem trashed most of our vacation plans, but at least I can get back in the studio and fire the raku kiln.

MRI Results

Voice State:
Can't hum.
Can't sing.
Very limited funny voices.
No special effects other than that lippy horse noise.

Saw the ENT today for my MRI results: the cyst has shrunk so much that it didn't appear. My doctor thinks that he may have drained most of it while performing the biopsy. It would be difficult to find the cyst if he operated at this time, so we are going to wait and see what happens. I'm to have another MRI in two months, to see if it is filling with fluid, at which time he can take action.

The ENT also said that I had calluses on my vocal cords, which gives me a burr in my voice, and a breathiness (he found them when he ran the camera up my nose, again). I have a sonagram scheduled for May 1st, where high speed video will be gathered on my vocal cords, so it can be played back at slow speed to isolate exactly why I am having vocal problems.

Friday, April 07, 2006


I had my first MRI today.

Ye gods.

A nurse technician pulled me out of the waiting room at the clinic, and brought me to the room where the machine is kept. I hadn't had lunch yet, and was a little scatterered due to messing up the driving instructions to get there in the first place.

I had to remove all metal from my person, outside of the rivets and buttons on my jeans. I had to sign a release stating that I didn't have any metal plates, shrapnel, stray BBs, artificial joints, wires or bolts in my body. Glasses, belt buckle, pens, credit cards, coins, and non-14K jewelry all had to go. My wedding ring is rose gold, a gold/copper alloy with a little palladium to make it malleable, but is 14K, so I got to keep it on.

The nursetech gave me a sticky button to apply to my neck, to mark the location of the cyst. She then had me insert a pair of bright yellow earplugs, to reduce the noise in the machine. She had pre-shaped the material to have points to fit into my ears. After inserting the plugs, I laid down on a narrow padded board, covered in a white material. It was on rails, with a cradle to hold my head and neck. The nurse tech slipped a pillow under my knees. She then put pads around my head to hold it in place, folded down a set of bars across my chest, and then a cage over my face. There was an odd set of folded mirrors right above my eyes that I couldn't determine the function of.

She asked if I was claustrophobic, and I gave a hesitant 'No'. She then laughed, and said I would be.

I folded my hands across my stomach, and she had me tuck in my elbows to fit into the machine. She then slid me in.

It was dimly lit in the cavity of the machine. Her voice cut in a few seconds later, over a really bad speaker, telling me to hold still, and that the first test was about to begin. Her parting advice was to pretend that I was somewhere else.

Each test began the same way. There was a set of loud clicks, like what an old car jack or a caulking gun makes, four or five in a row. There was then a set of three, loud, low frequency buzzes. Each seemed to come from a different direction, almost like they were establishing an X, Y and Z axis. Then the individual test began. The tests ran for five to seven minutes each. Sometimes, there was a steady, low frequency buzz. Other times it pulsed. A few times, there seemed to be buzzes of multiple frequencies, pulsing and not pulsing. The test could also pause for a moment, and then shift to a new frequency. Each test seemed to have a different set of frequencies.

Sometimes, the board that I was on would shift a few inches between tests.

The closest thing that I can describe the buzzing as is like the old style vibrating football games, where you set up players on both teams, and then vibrate the playing surface to get everyone to move. There was a knob where you could muck with the frequency or amplitude of the vibrations. If you cranked it all the way up, it made this really annoying throbbing noise, the little players would jump and fall about, and Mom would yell at us from another room in the house to stop it.

Between each test, the nurse would remind me to stay still.

On the second or third test, I started have problems breathing. I wasn't allowed to move during the tests, but I was short of breath. I took a careful inventory of myself, and decided that I was holding my hands over my stomach too tightly, because I was tensing up over all of the noise. I loosened my hands, and was able to breath normally.

A little later, and I the thought suddenly occurred to me that I shouldn't laugh. If I laughed, I was going to mess up the test. I would probably have to do the test over again, which would mean more time in the machine.

I then had to fight the impulse to giggle, since I wasn't allowed to laugh, and that was all I could think about. I finally diverted myself my thinking of other things.

Laying on my back, my throat started to get dry. I started to try to coordinate my swallows with the time between tests, and then the time between buzzing in the tests.

Soon, swallowing wasn't enough. My throat was getting dry, and it felt like something was running down the back of my throat. I did a few carefully timed closed mouth coughs, but eventually slipped up and coughed during the test (didn't want to cough all over the inside of the MRI machine if I could help it). I hoped that the algorithms processing the data would survive the coughs.

A different nurse pulled me out of the machine to give me some gadolinium for contrast. She asked how I was doing, as she put a tourniquet on my arm. I hoarsly told her my problem, and she gave me permission to try to cough. I couldn't get my hand close enough to my face due to all of the fixtures holding me down, but I finally got to do some open mouth coughs to clear my throat. When I was through, she pushed in the contrast, and then bandaged my arm.

It was then time to go back into the machine. I was in for three or four more tests, and one was a do-over because I had moved too much during a test.

After I was free from the machine, and had re-equipped myself with all of my posessions, I went back to the waiting room to await the delivery of the resulting films from the test. I'll bring them to my ENT for my appointment Tuesday morning.

The tests took about an hour to complete.

While driving home, my mind was a little scattered, and I don't know whether it was due to the MRI, the gadolinium contrast, or low blood sugar from missing lunch due to getting lost while finding the clinic. I was taking a different route back to my ENTs office, turning off of the Black Horse Pike on Evesham, and cutting over, rather than taking the 42 to the 295 north and back to work. I know that there was a slick way to cut over once I got to the White Horse Pike, or Haddonfield-Berlin Road, but I couldn't work it out clearly in my head. I finally took a longer route that only required two turns.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Changing Order

Well, it turns out I made a few mistakes in the glaze materials order.

I misread my price list when I was looking at the silver nitrate. I thought that it was $2.02 per pound, but that was for a different material. Silver nitrate is several hundred dollars per pound. We had wanted it for a gold raku glaze, but will hold off on ordering any. When the time comes, I'll probably order a hundred grams or so.

Our supplier says that Barnard clay is no longer available. There are substitutes that various companies carry, each for vary specific uses. Julie and I wanted it for a black raku glaze, but I will look for a new recipe that use contemporary materials.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Glaze Materials Order

The raku equipment showed up in the mail today. I'm off work at the end of next week, and all of the following week for spring break, so Julie and I know we can fire the raku kiln while I'm off.

We had a quick chat in the studio this evening, and decided to mix our own glazes for the raku firing, as well as glaze firing at cone six. I pulled out my glaze notebook, and identified the known glazes (mostly from Spruill Center) that we want.

For raku, there is Seth's Luster, a crackle glaze, copper red, gold, and a black glaze. For cone six, we have Floating Blue and Teadust. Teadust has a brownish tan color, unless it is sprayed thin over a white glaze, and then it turns a lively, brilliant blue, which breaks in interesting ways. It has a lot of cobalt oxide in it.

We placed our order for one hundred and ten pounds of glaze materials this evening, and will pick everything up (including the cinderblocks for the raku kiln pad) this weekend.

Twenty pounds Gerstley Borate
Ten pounds Custer Feldspar
Ten pounds Nephaline Syenite
Ten pounds Silica
Five pounds Barnard Clay Substitute
Five pounds Bentonite
Five pounds Bone Ash
Five pounds Calcium Carbonate
Five pounds Copper Carbonate
Five pounds Kaolin EPK
Five pounds Manganese Dioxide
Five pounds Red Iron Oxide
Five pounds Rutile
Five pounds Talc
Five pounds Zircopax
One pound Cobalt Carbonate
One pound Cobalt Oxide
One pound Cornwall Stone
One pound Silver Nitrate
One pound Tin Oxide

Monday, April 03, 2006

Placed Order with Ward Burner

I called Ward Burners at lunch today, and ordered the raku burners and assundry equipment.

The customer service guy was very helpful, and after I gave the dimensions of my kiln, and told him what I wanted, he asked me some details about how we want to use the kiln, and then sold me a burner system (an MR750 instead of the MR100) that puts out less BTUs, but will meet our raku needs. The MR100 would let us fire the kiln in fifteen minutes (images of dragons and rockets exploding due to thermal shock), but the MR750 will allow us to do the first firing in thirty minutes to half an hour, and then the subsequent firings will be in twenty to thirty minutes. The best thing, though, is that we should be able to use a standard, twenty pound, propane tank to get three or four firings in a day, (I was starting to think that I needed either two one hundred pound tanks (coupled), or a two hundred and fifty pound tank, which would require a fireproof safety wall between the tank and my house, and a minimum distance of ten feet from both house and kiln.)

I also ordered a set of fireproof leather gloves, wool lined with a metal foil layer for Julie to use, and two pairs of tongs for reaching into the kiln

This Last Weekend

I didn't make it into the studio this weekend.

Sunday was a beautiful day, warm in the seventies, with no clouds. We worked at cleaning the garage.

I did work a little on the raku kiln. The lid of the kiln had a prop bar, to hold it open for loading and unloading, but you have to play with it to get it to work right. I removed the prop bar, and replaced it with a pair of chains that are attached to the metal sheathing around the kiln and lid. The lid can now be opened, and both chains go taught when it is overbalanced past the vertical.

I first used a punch to mark where I wanted the metal screws to go in the sheathing, and tried to drill them out. I found it easier to punch a small hole with a nail, and then use self-threading screws to hold the chain in place. I had bought two feet of swag chain from Home Despot, and I flattened the links on one end before screwing them to the body of the kiln. I placed a weighted bucket on a folding chair to support the kiln lid where I wanted it, then cut the chains to length that exactly reached the holes in the lid with a pair of tin snips.

Once the chains were screwed into place, I removed the old hardware that supported the prop arm. The arm was attached to the kiln with two inch screws, going through both the metal sheath and into the kiln brick. I punched holes adjascent to where the chain screws were, then used a small masonry bit to drill into the kiln brick. I then re-used the two inch screws to add additional strength to the lid and kiln body where the chains were attached.

The other thing I did, at Julie's request, was to clean up my workbench. It was a sty, with bags of fittings, and loose tools all over it. It took most of the afternoon, but now everything has a place, its organized in a sane fashion that I agree with, and it is now a usable surface. We'll probably stack pots on it :-).

Results of the Biopsy

I saw my ENT on Friday, to get the results from the biopsy.

He examined my vocal cords again, and this time he pushed so hard with the camera that my gag reflex kept trying to kick in. Julie got a stack of paper towels ready, just in case.

The lab report kept using terms like "necrotic lymph node", which I found worrisome, but the doctor is convinced that I have a bronchial cleft cyst, and wants an MRI to map it out in preparation for surgery. If the cyst drains completely, it is hard to find, and the MRI will tell him whether there are little tubules off of it, connecting it to my sinuses and throat (or 'wrapping around nerves", which I didn't find pleasing either).

I was told to stop whispering, and to try to use my voice. It turns out that whispering puts more stress on the vocal cords than trying to talk.

One of the other senior engineers at work decided that I sounded like Froggy from the old 'Our Gang' shorts. I always liked Froggy as a kid.

I was also given a five page list of dos and don'ts for oral hygine. It included things like not singing in a way that would strain my voice, so no more "Lion Sleeps Tonight", "The Star Spangled Banner", or anything sung by Getty Lee of Rush.

I am, however, uniquely situated to sing anything by Rod Stewart. That would be okay.

I'm not allowed to do any public speaking without a microphone, or speak until the end of a breath. Whispering is not allowed, nor is trying to force extra air into the lungs by expanding the muscles around the ribs to try to speak longer or louder.

The most hurtful thing is that I'm not allowed to do sound effects with my voice. Sound effects are the spice of life; they are punctuation, and just being able to make them makes living better.

My MRI of the soft tissues of the neck is scheduled for Friday, with and without Gad (whatever that is.) It is supposed to require an hour for the scan.