Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Win Some, Lose Some

I'm still getting over my cold.

More of a persistant cough now, but I have to take something every four hours to keep it from getting too annoying.

I went into the studio, bright one morning this week, to check on all of the rockets. Julie had moved some of my finished pieces out of the damp box so they could start drying out (one of my larger rockets had issues with a fin starting to separate, since the fins and rocket body had been different degrees of dampness when joined, so Julie repaired it for me). I picked up one of the two smaller rockets, flipped it over, and tried to stand it on its tail. The fins were slightly out of alignment, so the nose of the rocket didn't point true. The problem was that the fins weren't flat on the bottom, but came to points. I fiddled with the tip of one fin with a fingernail, scraping it a bit, and tried again. Nope, still not right. After four or five tries, and a couple of different fins, I accidently snapped one of them off.

I spent some time looking at the piece, and decided that the little aerospike engine that I had trimmed into the rokcet body wasn't very even, since I may not have centered the piece on its chuck properly before trimming. With no ceremony, I scuttled the piece into the recycling bag. I didn't trust myself after that to do any trimming that early in the morning.

Today, after work, I was able to return to the studio. I had planned on it last night, but had ended up making "savory Cornish pasties with bits of sheep innit". From scratch. Very tasty, but it took a bit more time than I had wanted to spend, and by the time we had finished dinner I was too tired.

Anyways, returned to the studio to work on the pieces that I had thrown sometime last week. I pulled out the long skinny rocket, and set the rocket body upright on the wheel head. Centering it, I spent some time with my trimming tools and a steel rib reducing the diameter of the base of the rocket, and then feathering the change into the rest of the rocket. I start at the very base of the rocket with a wire trimming tool, and trim down against the wheel head. This ends up sealing the piece to the wheel, and I worked a small coil of clay around the base of the piece as well to strengthen the seal.

Some of my favorite trimming tools are actually sculpturing tools with wire loops at the ends. One end is usually a round loop, and the other is squared off. I use the round loops to trim anything that is flat, and the square end to trim anything that is rounded, since applying the right end of the tool to the right shape of a piece will cause the tool to touch in only one small area. The wire is thin, so it cuts the clay. The only trouble with these tools is that they wear out pretty quickly, the wire thinning out from the wear, until it breaks. Usually, I would just buy another one, but we haven't found a local vendor for these tools. I may have to fabricate new rounded ends in the garage with my torch, pliers and a paperclip for raw materials.

Rocket trimmed nicely upright. I found that my chuck was slightly too big, so the nose of the piece would have dented against the wheel head. I used an older chuck that has already been bisqued, and then used Julie's Giffin Grip with the long support arms to hold the rocket body upside-down so I could trim the base and foot where the engines would attach. I ended up only having enough room for a single engine bell at the base of the rocket.

When trimming the engine bell, I left a plug on the base of the engine. I carved a hole into the base of the rocket, and then scored and slipped the pieces to join them. There is a lot more surface area on the plug, so the engine bell is held much more tightlythan just scoring the base. I created a fin template, cut out and beveled fins, then carved V-shaped notches into the rocket to double the surface area joining fin to rocket, with corresponding beveling of the root of the fin. Julie had a little talk with me about my handbuilding techniques after I snapped that fin off, and is encouraging me to strengthen my pieces. She has also had the opportunity to see almost every rocket that I have made over the years break in one move or another, so has seen the insides of most of my work.

Once the fins were on Julie helped me lay out a little carving on rocket. The piece is so long that I can't work on both ends of it clearly with or without my glasses. I described how I wanted the cockpit window to look, a narrow slit, like what you would see on a commercial airliner, and she drew in the first line properly centered with one of the fins. Once I carved the cockpit in place, I added a row of four portholes along each side of the rocket, as if it was a passenger liner.

The piece is drying slowly in the damp box. We'll pull it out this weekend to join the others drying in the studio.


Anonymous Carrie said...

I surfed into your blog by accident when I was searching for the location of Daley's in Vineland. Appel Farm sent me that way to get some clay and I have yet to find out the address!
I'm new to clay (as in I haven't even bought the first batch yet! lol) and I was so pulled into your blog! Thanks for sharing. Julie I LOVE your work. The pictures are lovely. And the picture of your daughter and I'm assuming your son walking away hand in hand is absolutely precious. You should submitt it to a contest. You really captured an essence there!
Well if your up to filling me in on the secret location of Daley's then my email addy is I'm down in Woodstown...

12:03 PM  

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