Saturday, 5 April 2014

Lessons in Humility

I've always thought of myself as a pretty good animal trainer.  I broke and trained racehorses and did it firmly and kindly, so that the colts and fillies knew what was expected of them and were always glad to see me.  I groomed and trained some real problem horses and had great success in changing their attitudes.
 Dogs have been a part of my life since childhood and my last three were Jack Russells, not easy dogs to train with their attention deficit, obsessive compulsive disorder and sheer stubbornness.  Their training wasn't anything fancy, just the basics like sit and come and walk politely on a leash.  They were all adults when I got
them and had little quirks that had to be either dealt with or ignored.  Dewey, my latest, is the original dog in the manger and has to have whatever the other dogs have.  If I give them each a bone, he goes through a gamut of actions, including running and barking at the door, to get the others to leave their bones so he can get theirs.  If his yapping at them gives me a headache, sometimes I'll just switch the bones all around, which works until he decides that Corky has a better one and starts all over again.  He's also a chronic runaway and if he gets out of the fenced yard somehow, he's on a mission.  I don't think he has any idea of where he is going but going he is.  When he is on his way somewhere, he becomes completely deaf and doesn't hear me calling, ever.  The only way I can catch him is to run back in the house and grab a wiener, jump in the car and get ahead of him and yell, "Dewey, hot dog!"  His greed is the only thing that seems to be more important than his mission and his little 14-year-old legs make a bee-line to me.  He also has a phobia about cameras, so most pictures of the other dogs will show Dewey leaving in the background.  The picture on the right must have been taken with a cellphone and he didn't realize what was going on, but he's catching on to cellphones and tablets now, too, and gives me a dirty look and leaves.  I've always suspected that he is reincarnated from a famous person and hates the paparazzi.
The point of all this is that my dogs and I get along just fine.  They usually do what they're told and other than Dewey and his rare escapes, they don't do anything horrible or that makes me think I should do an attitude adjustment.
Until now.
I have met my match.
Corky was a year old when I got him and the moment he walked in the door he was my devoted dog.  He lives to please me.  He is relaxed inside the house and ready to play and have fun when he's outside, as long as I'm within sight.  He walks by my side without a leash and comes when he's called.  His only fault is that he is very shy and reserved and when we do agility, he will stop if we have to go towards people.  I have become hooked on agility and Corky's natural grace and quickness to learn made me think that a poodle who wasn't shy could be a lot of fun doing agility work.  Corky's sister just happened to have a litter ready to go and the breeder chose what she called "a very self-confident pup" for me.  And self-confident he is.  He loves people, loves other dogs and loves playing.  Constantly.

My living room is a shambles.  I straighten the area rug and put the cushions back on the couches and within 30 seconds, the rug is sideways and the cushions are on the floor.  I thought I had "baby proofed" the house but didn't count on having a pup the size of a pony who could reach just about anything that I could.

Anybody who says dogs don't have a sense of humour hasn't dealt with a standard poodle pup.  He can't be left alone in another room for five seconds or he comes galloping in to show me what he found, practically says "Woo Hoo!!!" and runs around the house waving his prize.  The game is on!  I used to keep unpaid bills on the kitchen table until I was ready to sit down and deal with them.  Not any more.  House plants, papers, books, shoes, ceramic figurines...if he can reach it, it's gone.  And if everything is put away out of reach, he runs upstairs and raids my closet.  "Weeeee!!!!" Mom's socks!  Mom's bras!  Toilet paper!  Wash cloths!  Woo Hoo!!!!
I was eating my supper tonight when someone came to the door with my CSA order.  Usually he's right there with bells on because he loves people coming to the door but he got half my supper before I realized he wasn't underfoot.
Look at the size of the little stinker!  Not even six months old and he's bigger than Corky.  (Dewey leaving in the background.)  He will not come when he's called outside, although he is getting better coming in the house.  Unless, of course, he has something he shouldn't.  He loves treats but will ignore chicken, turkey and wieners if it means he has to do something he doesn't want to.  His motto is, "Don't wanna, don't hafta, not gonna."
The latest trend in dog training is to reward a dog for doing the right thing and ignore them if they don't.  And if they're into something they shouldn't be, distract them with something they can have.  Good luck with that one with Drummond!
This puppy is definitely a challenge and he has shown me that I have a lot to learn when it comes to dog training.  And if you know a sixty-something who decides to get a puppy, whack them upside the head until they come to their senses!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Why I Won't Buy Any More Sterling

Sterling silver is so much easier to buy in Canada but I'd rather pay about 50 cents a foot extra and pay extra shipping to get Argentium from the U.S. for several reasons.  The only alternative in my mind is fine silver (.999) and I do buy some, but it doesn't work harden enough for some purposes.
Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% alloy, usually copper.
Argentium silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% germanium alloy.  Germanium is used mainly in fibre-optics.
Sterling:  Tarnishes easily
Argentium:  Very tarnish resistant.  It will tarnish but very slowly and more a golden color than the black of sterling.  To me, it's a real selling point, because people worry about silver tarnishing.
Sterling:  Can turn color on some people and others cannot wear it because of the copper alloy.
Argentium:  So far, I haven't heard of anyone with a germanium sensitivity.  It should open up the wearing of silver to people who previously couldn't because they reacted to the copper alloy.
Sterling:  Must be soldered.
Argentium:  Can be fused to itself.
Sterling:  Must be completely heated in order to solder.
Argentium:  Only needs the small area around the join heated in order to solder or fuse.
Sterling:  Is prone to firescale because the copper alloy rises to the surface when heated.  Too much fire for too long will cause a firescale that can't be removed because it reaches below the surface.
Argentium:  Is not prone to firescale.  Heating a smaller area uses less fire for less time for starters.  And the germanium does not cause firescale like copper does.  Argentium can be pickled but any discoloration from torch work usually just wipes off.

So those are my reasons for sticking to argentium.  So far, I've found that Rio Grande and Monsterslayer are very close price-wise and are the most economical suppliers, not to mention the fact that they have a wonderful selection now.  I still have a spool of sterling in my drawer but it will probably be going in as scrap to help pay for my next shipment of argentium.  That's how much I appreciate the difference in the two silvers.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Evolution of a Truly Original Bracelet and Tutorial

I'm cheating here, because only one link is completely finished but the way I've been moving lately, it's a
good thing to get the tutorial up before we're all too old to hold pliers.
This bracelet will always be a one-of-a-kind because it'll be different every time you make it and each link will be original, just because you're basically doing freehand beading and wiring.  And your selection of beads, stones, crystals or metals will be entirely your own.

So the instructions are very loose and aren't going to give basics.  Or specifics - as I said, freehand.

The framing wire is 16 gauge and I used argentium for this bracelet, because I wanted to fuse the frame.  The metalworking involved in this is really simple (or I wouldn't be able to do it!) but if you want to avoid fire, you can see below how the copper bracelet is put together.

Finding something square to use as a mandrel was probably the hardest thing and cardboard isn't the greatest but this is all I could find.  The size is about 1 1/4" square (3.75 cm) but the size doesn't have to be the same as mine.  The important thing is to make sure all your frames are equal.  They don't have to be square - rectangular is fine, long as they match.

Figure out how many frames you will need to make a bracelet the size you want.  For instance, if you're making a 7" bracelet and your frames are 1/1/4"wide, you'll need 5 frames; your clasp and 4 sets of jump rings should measure 3/4".

Wrap whatever you're using for a mandrel with the 16 gauge wire.  18 gauge will work but won't be as
strong and you should make your frames smaller and more delicate.  After I cut the last loop and removed it from my mandrel, I wrapped it in painters tape to keep it together for sawing.

                                                                                                                                                                   Saw the individual squares if you are going to fuse, or use your flush cutters if you are going to end each square with a loop. (see the copper bracelet below).

Even using a #2 blade, I still needed to use a file to clean up the cuts and remove some tiny burrs.  Then, I
wiggled the squares back and forth like a jump ring in order to get them to spring together as tight as possible and ready for fusing.

If you are fusing, you likely know more than I do.  Argentium is a wonderful metal to fuse because you just have to heat on either side of the join and wait for
the metal to flow and quickly remove the heat.  The wire doesn't usually get fire scale so I just quenched it and cleaned it with some fine steel wool.  My fusing skills are pretty rusty and were never great to begin with, so the squares developed a few lumps and bumps.

It wasn't too difficult to remove the wobbly areas by using a nylon hammer and the same hammer was used
to harden the metal after correcting the shape.  I've got a tiny little anvil that was given to my late husband, a blacksmith, as a joke and it was the perfect size to square up the frames.  The peeling paint didn't hurt a thing.

You won't know how many beads you're going to use unless you're a lot more organized than me but you
should have some idea of your color scheme.  I decided this bracelet was going to be crystal bling, so I set out some of each crystal, metal and Herkimer diamonds, ready to use where desired.  I didn't use the green crystals in my first frame and don't know if they'll fit in my design.  But they might!

I used 21 gauge argentium to do the inner frame
design - you can use a finer gauge but your loops and spirals won't be as strong.  Start your wrap anywhere.

You can use anything small in diameter for doing the loops and coils, even a pair of round nose pliers,
but something like a fine knitting needle is easier to work with. (my fingernails aren't really green - it's the dirt off the charcoal block, steel wool and wire.)

Be playful with your design, putting beads here and there and starting and stopping them with loops and coils.  If you find beads sticking up it's easy to push and shove with your fingers to rearrange your design but be careful not to stretch your loops.  You're just making a design that is pleasing to the eye and you can
use the wire on the frame to create a rustic look or a more formal look.  Again, look at the copper bracelet - the color and the tendrils around the frame make it very casual and rustic.  This is my first frame finished.  Hard to tell from the picture but it is actually square with soft corners.
When you have finished decorating your frames, use your fingers to gently curve them so that they curve around a wrist instead of laying flat. When you do your gentle arc, push the beads and wire back down if they tend to pop up a bit.

This copper bracelet is the first I made of this style and I made it for myself.  Look at the frames and see how I made two connecting loops for each frame.  The

frames are monstrous - 2" x 2" - and I made them freehand so they aren't very square.
But I have huge wrists and a dainty bracelet would look like a pea on a pumpkin, so it suits me.

This is a better view of the connecting loops on the frame and gives you a good idea of the crazy bead mix I used.
Oh yeah, one last tip.  I always make an extra frame to use as a pendant.  They're cool.

Use good strong jump rings to connect the frames and a handmade clasp will look better than a bought one.  Making this should be fairly simple for most people so my instructions are mainly for the design but if I've left out something you need, let me know and I'll try to help.  One of these days I'll get really brave and solder and cut tubing to connect the frames but we'll think about that tomorrow.