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Monday, May 18th, 2009

Time Event
Temperchi last weekend
This past weekend Melinda and I spent another 8 hours at Temperchi, 5 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. Saturday was far the more productive day: Melinda produced about 5 pendants and a nice compression marble, and I made three penguins, two mice, two ornaments, and two turtles. Sunday, on the other hand, was only me (Melinda was feeling a bit under the weather), I torched for only 3 hours (Anne and I didn't know there was a spare tank of O2 for our use), and I produced only two marbles. Pictures of all of these items will be coming soon.

For the penguins I made three more base colors: pink, wisteria, and grey. I tried adding a scarf to the wisteria penguin but it doesn't look believable at all. It's pretty tough to work with stringers that are only 1/8" thick or smaller. I had also forgotten a crucial step in the penguin making, until the third one: gather the black rod a bit first, in order to give it more girth. While making the third penguin, in fact, the penguin popped off the base, but rather than scrap it I fused the two pieces back together. I'm sort of proud of my repair work.

The mice were based on a picture I saw on the internet, which I can now no longer find, of course. It starts out as a teardrop of a 10mm rod, which is a gather that's let to cool a bit, heated a bit further down the rod, then allowed to drop due to gravity to form a teardrop. Heat one side and flatten a bit. The fat part is the mouse body, and to which you attach a tail (7mm rod). Heat, draw, and shape the tail to suit, but don't burn it off, it's a convenient handle. Burn off the 10mm rod to make the nose. Add two dots of pink for the ears, two dots of black for eyes, and, if you're very careful, add some fine clear stringers for whiskers. I made two mice, one that cracked when it was done but the other that survived long enough to be annealed (like a good mouse it actually leapt off my marvering pad while I carried it to the annealer and it ran beneath the machine).

The ornaments were a design from the Doug Remschneider video Melinda and I are watching now (flameworked ornaments). Start with a 25mm maria along a length of 10mm rod. Heat a small portion of the maria, until pink, remove from the flame, grab with tweezers and give a 75 - 90 degree twist. This will produce a ruffle in the maria. Do this all the way around the edge of the disc to produce a wavy, ruffled edge. Surprisingly pretty. Next, apply two lines of color opposite each other from just below the maria down for a few inches. Heat this section of glass, with more heat further away from the maria. The idea is to have a gradient in the heat base: where there's more heat, the glass will pull further. When you have the heat base as you want it, pull and twist to produce a twisted icicle. Create a hook on the opposite side of the maria, then burn off the end of the icicle. I made two of these, one cobalt and one green sparkle. One hard part is getting the lines of color to be uniform in thickness -- the starting line seems always to be thicker. But for the final product the work is pretty fast and easy.

The first of the two turtles I made was just a practice. The second was made with silver strike 3, a glass that's full of silver ions. It's a striking color, which means that the final color of the glass can be controlled by how the heat is applied to the glass. Silver strike, in particular, is interesting to work with because in order to get the colors right you need to bring the glass to the point just below annealing -- 975F or so -- which is a warm orange glow. Hold it there for about 30 seconds, in order for silver crystals to begin to form, then let cool. I don't understand the theory of it all yet, but the results are going to be worth it. Silver strike colors produce an amazing marbled effect, with whirls of colors of blue, purple, orange, and red. And the surface of the glass ends with a metallic sheen. The turtle I made with silver strike on this day didn't turn out well: the silver glass is sort of muddy, which is a result of not annealing it properly. But parts of it look great, so I need to work out what was what.

On Sunday I made two marbles. One was just the leftover bits of a icicle from Saturday, heated into a gather and rounded out into a marble. Just to get me warmed up to shaping marbles. The other was a reversal, made of rasta gold and portland grey. One idea I had here was to not draw the lines of color too long, because the end of the lines was going to be in the artwork, so any extra length is just wasted. That idea worked out well, but I need to work on it still. I also have trouble with the twist: it just doesn't twist much at the base of the colored lines. Also, I don't seem to be able to carefully twist backward in a way that's smooth and uniform. I end up with a twist that sort of goes back and forth a few times. It's sort of neat to look at but not the effect I wanted. Also, in the end the reversal was still too large, with some color going over the edge and onto the back. For this marble I also tried painting a bunch of grey onto the back, to make it opaque. The painted didn't work well, it seemed that the grey just wouldn't melt as I painted it on. Maybe I painted it on too quickly? Then, it wouldn't condense in and smooth out. It took me more than an *hour* to finish off that marble. And it was still a little out of round when I was done, but I was just tired of working the piece by then. We'll see soon whether it turned out.

It was about the end of the epic reversal marble working that I noticed the oxygen was running low. Anne and I remembered that Jon had changed the tanks just Saturday, so it was odd that we'd be out of O2, but that must have been that. So I wrapped up at 1:30. I was feeling a bit feverish that day, in part because of the lampworking and the ambient heat (nearly 100F) and in part perhaps because Melinda had been under the weather recently, too. So I was just as happy to call it a day after three hours. It took another hour to pack everything up, but Anne and I chatted about glass while we were doing so. It turns out Anne used to be a sky diver, too; wacky.
Read the rules
Dan, Doug, Melinda and I played Streetcar last Friday. The general idea is, each player is laying down track on which to run their streetcar, in and around New Orleans (the game was publish before Katrina did its thing). The city is a grid and you play tiles to lay track. Each player has to connect their starting and ending locations to a couple of waypoints in the grid. You lay tracks for a while and, when you're ready to run your trolley, you begin your inaugural run. First player to complete their inaugural run wins.

An interesting idea in the game is that you can exchange a track tile that's already on the board for one that you have in your hand. If there's a curve on the board, you can replace it with a Y piece (two curves superimposed) that you may have in your hand. Or, you may replace it with a switch piece (straight and curve superimposed). Seems sort of neat. But this was the trouble in our game: we didn't understand the rules of how to do this exchange. If you replace a curve with a Y, it's an obvious upgrade. Can you replace a Y with a switch? Our initial read of the rules led us to think, yes, so long as the endpoints of the tile still were connected to something. This means, though, that you it's not a simple upgrade: you could exchange a tile and disconnect another players' track (eg, perhaps the player expected to be able to take the straight track but now it's a Y). So, when do you start your inaugural run? Too soon, and another player will just break your track when you're on your last move to be done. Where's the fun in that?

Turns out that we had misunderstood the rules: upgrades can only every be that: a superset of the intratile connectivity, not just the intertile connectivity. So, a curve can become either a Y or a switch, but a Y cannot be exchanged for a switch. This single rule makes a big difference, in fact: as near as we could tell, there's no advantage to starting your inaugural run until the last tile is placed on the board, because someone else could always break your track. And at the point the last tile is played, then it's just math to see who's going to win. We'd like to try playing again with the proper rules, but it's going to be a long time before we try that.

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