Friday, October 29, 2010

Make Your Own Halloween Costumes

Start with a box
Today is the day of most elementary school Halloween parties, pagents and pumpkins parades. Petula Dvorak of The Washington Post ran an interesting article about homemade and store-bought costumes for kids. In our house, Halloween is just another excuse to craft. We start brain-storming costume ideas a few weeks before Halloween, collect materials and work together to make whatever the kids want. The only Halloween rule in our house is you cannot change your mind about a costume the morning of Halloween. Up until then, all changes are possible, if negotiable.

So what tips can I give about making your own costumes for Halloween? It comes down to one simple rule: start with a box, construction paper, markers and glue. With these items, you can make almost anything. Your kids wants to be a car? A box is perfect. Take off the top and bottom of the box. Add four holes and string to wear the box. Use construction paper or paint to create the body. Cut four big wheels, headlights, etc. Draw on the door. Let your kid zoom around.
Your kid want to be a TV? Use a box again. Cover the box with tin foil. Print out a color picture. Use bottle caps for knobs. Locate some old, abandoned antenna and your kid is set.
Last year the neighborhood girl scout troop decided they wanted to trick or treat as candy bars. The girls had a ball making M&Ms, Hershey Bars, Hershey Kisses and other chocolate treats. All the costumes began guessed it, cardboard boxes the girls collected from local merchants who kindly set the boxes aside for the girls after unpacking merchandise.

Crafty iPod
This year one my kids bucked the trend. We used poster board rather than a box to make an iPod. The recycled science project and broken headphones took on a new and certainly sweeter life.

There are some very real bonuses of a costume made from a box -- apart from the low cost and crafty fun. Since you wear regular (but coordinating) clothes under the costume, the costume can easily be ditched if you or your child is the only one to show up in costume; disaster averted, reputation spared (an especially important factor for teens through twenty-somethings where events are often costume-optional). Also, since weather can vary at Halloween, it is good to know the box costume can be worn with or without a coat (an important factor for the elementary school set).

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Braze Aluminum Tubing

Recently, we received queries on how to braze aluminum tubing.

Brazing, like soldering, is a way of permanently joining metals (including aluminum tubing) using a torch. There are many reasons why you may want to braze aluminum tubing. You can use aluminum tubing for jewelry, sculpture, making furniture, building or repairing bicycles and all sorts of projects for crafts and construction around your home.

Step 1
Clean the metal. Dirt, grease or grime on aluminum tubing will prevent the brazing wire from melting into the seam or joint you want to braze. When folks have difficulty brazing, it is usually because the aluminum tubing is dirty. If the brazing wire does not flow, stop and clean your aluminum tubing and begin again. Clean any dirt with soap and water. Clean any grease with acetone. Clean any oxidation with sandpaper.

Step 2
Flux the metal. Flux prevents oxidation from forming at the joint of the aluminum tubing when heated. Paint the seam of aluminum tubing with flux and the metal will not oxidize and interfere with the brazing wire moving into the seam. You can braze aluminum tubing without using flux, but it is easier to braze aluminum tubing using flux.

Step 3
Arrange the metal. Brazing wire binds the seam of the aluminum tubing by capillary action when subjected to heat from the torch. If the aluminum tubing is flush, then the brazing wire will better melt into place. Use binding wire, a clamp, a third-hand or other other tool to hold the aluminum tubing still if gravity alone will not do so.

Step 4
Use even heat. Heat the aluminum tubing evenly with your torch before adding the brazing wire. You will know when to place the brazing wire in the seam when the flux begins to bubble and the aluminum starts to turn a chocolate brown.

Step 5
Melt the brazing wire into place. Place the brazing wire in the joint of the tubing. The brazing wire will begin to melt into the joint. Heat the brazing wire with your torch. Draw your flame along the joint. The brazing wire will melt into the joint until it is secure.

Step 6
Allow the aluminum tubing to cool to room temperature.

* Use fire safety precautions when handling a torch.
* Work in a well-ventilated space when brazing

For related information on soldering see these tutorials:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Slump a Mezuzah

 The holiday season is fast approaching. We recently had inquiries on tips for slumping a (fused) glass mezuzah. It seems the writer was slumping the glass over a metal mold and the glass kept on cracking.

There are three different ways to slump a mezuzah.

1. Try fiber paper. Cut the paper to size and then stack layers of fiber paper to the height you want. You can use a drop of white elmers glue or fusers glue to hold the fiber paper together but be sure to let the glue dry completely or the evaporation from the glue will cause problems with your slump.

2. Use a ceramic mezuzah that is not glazed and slump the glass into the backside of the ceramic piece. You can make your own ceramic slump mold (if you have a friend with a ceramic kiln to fire it for you) or you can purchase an unglazed ceramic mezuzah in a studio that sells "made by you" or "paint your own" ceramics (or a ceramic supply wholesaler). Something like this.

3. Purchase a mold designed for slumping, like this.

For other thoughts on making mezuzot see our earlier blog posting or our tutorial on How to Make a Fused Glass Mezuzah. For information on how to affix gold Hebrew lettering on your mezuzah see our tutorial.

Happy fusing and slumping!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Soldering Tips

Small Butane Torch
Recently we have been getting a lot of questions about soldering. Regardless of what type of torch you use or what type of fuel it is powered by, there are a handful of simple rules that must be followed to solder successfully. Most of the time, when folks have difficulty soldering those problems soldering can be eliminated by answering a handful of simple questions; if you answered “no” to any of the questions below, go back and start soldering over.

Is Your Metal Clean?
Clean the metal you plan to solder. Solder will not flow if the metal is not absolutely clean. Remove all oxidation with sandpaper. Remove all grease and grim with acetone. Remove all dirt, grim and residue from sanding or acetone with dish soap and water. If the metal becomes oxidized as you heat it with your torch, the solder will not flow; stop and clean the metal again.

Is Your Seam Flush?
Check that the seam you plan to solder abuts. Solder does not fill gaps. The metal must be flush to solder successfully with your torch. Adjust the metal so that there are no gaps so the solder will flow and bind the metals. If gravity alone will not hold the metal flush, you can use a clamp, binding wire, a third hand or another tool to hold the metal while you heat the piece with your torch.

Did You Flux?
Flux the seam you plan to solder. Often solder will not flow because the metal oxidizes as you heat it with your torch. Flux prevents oxidation. Flux also helps you know when the torch has heated the metal up to the soldering temperature. The flux will begin to boil as the metal heated with your torch reaches the soldering temperature.

Did You Economize Use of Solder?
Use as little solder as you can when soldering with your torch. Excess solder will spread over the metal and will not add strength to the soldered seam. Excess solder will cause additional work when fabricating.

Did You Use Even Heat to Heat the Entire Piece?
Heat the entire metal evenly with your torch. Do not heat the solder directly with the torch. Heating the solder directly will melt the solder but it will not seal the seam. If you heat the metal evenly, most metals will turn cherry red when the metal heated with a torch reaches the soldering temperature. Once the metal is cherry red, draw the flame of your torch along the seam to direct the solder in the space you want. Begin by pointing the flame at the end of the seam where you placed the solder. Use the bushy part of the flame about an inch or so above the blue cone of the flame. The solder will follow the flame of the torch.

Did You Let the Piece Cool?
Allow the item to cool to room temperature after you have finished soldering with your torch. Do not put a hot item into an acid pickle bath as the seam may burst or the item may explode.

Bee Pin, Soldered Multiple Times
Tip: Use Dirty Metal for Subsequent Soldering
Solder will not flow over dirty metal. You can use this principal to your advantage when you need to solder multiple seams with your torch. Leave the soldered seam dirty and clean only the subsequent seam you want to solder. The solder will stay in place and not melt or come apart where the seam is dirty from oxidation. You can also make a seam dirty to prevent the solder from flowing by painting the soldered seam with yellow ochre powder mixed with water or alcohol or Liquid Paper. Work in a well-ventilated space when using these products when soldering.

Further Reading
Step-by-Step Jewelry Workshop: Simple Techniques for Soldering, Wirework, and Metal Jewelry (Step By Step)
Hot Connections Jewelry: The Complete Sourcebook of Soldering Techniques
Art Jewelry Magazine: Precision Soldering Simplified; Give a Classic Ring a Twist with an Easy Forging Technique; Make a Basic Chain with Spring Links (Vol.3 No.1 November 2006)
The Complete Guide to Jewelry Soldering: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why!
Complete Metalsmith: Professional Edition

Solder-It Pro-Torch 220 Butane Torch, Model# PT-220
Smith Little Torch Soldering Welding & 5 Tips, Hoses