Hallmark Home and Family


Three Chair Bench

Earth day is coming up so I was inspired to do a little upcycling with a project that has been brewing in my brain.  The end result is beautiful, the process easy, and it can prevent a bunch of ‘junk’ from landing in the landfill.  And if you are creative, you can spend almost no money!  It’s a bench made from three chairs.  It requires only basic tools and simple skills, and here’s what you’ll need to make it.

Three ugly chairs become one beautiful bench!

You’ll need:

3 chairs

Bench base material – planks or solid wood

Tools – drill, saw, sander, file

Primer

Paint

Hardware

The Three Chair Bench can be done in lots of variations, and often the chairs you have and the place you want to use your bench will dictate the design.

Gal with a jigsaw

A mention about power tools… this project can absolutely be done without them — a hand saw to cut the bench seat, a coping saw for notches, sandpaper and a screwdriver are all that are needed.  But, if you haven’t before, give power tools a try!   In making this bench, I used a chop saw, a jigsaw, a sander, and drill.  I know that power tools can intimidate some, and if you don’t have easy access to them, the prospect can make you want to stop before you begin.  My advice:  Don’t let them intimidate you!

“If you want to control someone, all you have to do is to make them feel afraid.”
Paulo Coelho

A healthy respect, yes, but fear not the tools.  They are, by definition, there to assist you.  So use them, and remind them that they work for you.

First, the chairs

It’s easy to find cast-off chairs – look in your attic, you might find some gems.   Ask neighbors if they have old college-era furniture they have squirreled in the back of the storage unit, or you can check out garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores.  Your chairs can be all the same style, all different, or a combination of the two.  I had two inexpensive, pine Ikea dining chairs and a weird metal upholstered chair.  They happened to all be rather angular, so fit together nicely.

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Now for the seat

Decide if your bench will be used outdoors or indoors.  If outdoors (as mine is intended), decking planks are a perfect choice.  Again, leftover materials were used, from the deck-building project lefovers of a friend.  Deck boards are made to be durable and resistant to weather.  I was lucky, in that my friend’s deck had been constructed from ipe – a Central- and South American- grown hardwood.  Ipe  (pronounced “ee-pay”), also called Brazilian Walnut, is the ‘rock-star’ of outdoor woods.  It’s resistant to rot, bugs and water.  It is very hard and very dense – 368% harder than teak and 40% heavier.  It is the wood used to create the famous Atlantic City and parts of the Coney Island Boardwalks!  Ipe will turn silver after several years of outdoor use, and because of its properties, doesn’t require any protective finishing.

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(If you want to know a little more about ipe, look here.)

You can also create your bench seat from a solid piece of wood – a slab of hardwood, plywood, butcher block counter-top material, etc.  If a solid piece of wood is used, create a template from cardboard to help visualize the finished size and shape.

Arrange chairs, paying particular attention to the spacing between them.  When mine were laid out, I didn’t like the jumble of legs in the center, so decided to remove the front legs from my middle chair.

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This particular chair’s construction required simply removing the back from the seat/front legs section.  Since I knew I was also going to remove the seats, this made the disassembly quite easy.  Depending on the design of your chair, you may cut off the front legs, remove the seat and legs from the back… or leave it all intact.  You choose!

Removing the chair back

Once satisfied with the chair arrangement, measure the overall length of your bench.

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Because my center chair wasn’t free-standing, I made a brace to mark its placement, to help keep the outside chairs at the proper distance.

chair brace

Next, decide the overhang measurements for the side and front of bench.  Cut bench seat to size.

Notching the back board

For a more finished look, notch the bench seat around the chair’s uprights.  Use template to transfer markings to wood, or use a square.

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Measuring notch

Measuring depth of notch

Transfering measurement to wood

Cut the notches using a jigsaw. Dry-fit the seat to make sure everything fits properly.  Make adjustments.  If necessary, file or sand the raw edges.  Sand other edges to soften any sharp sides.

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Cutting cross mark

Filing notch

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Painting

For best results, sand, prime and paint.  I used 120-grit sandpaper then a second pass with 220-grit.  Next, I sprayed on a coat of primer.  Since my bench is intended for outdoors, I applied three coats of exterior paint.  Always follow manufacturer’s directions on the paint cans for drying times and when to apply additional coats.

Primer coated chairs

Assembly

Once paint is completely dry, arrange seat planks, making sure all boards are set properly.  From underneath, use a pencil to transfer chair placement onto deck boards.

Marks for chair placement

Chairs in place

Remove seat planks, and arrange upside down on workspace.  (I highlighted my pencil marks with tape, to make them more visible)  If the back board is notched, make sure that the plank hangs over the table edge far enough for chair upright to fit and not scrape workbench.

Place chairs onto the boards, aligning chair edges with pencil marks.  If using hardwood, drill pilot holes for seat screws, using existing chair holes as guides.  Be sure not to drill through the deck boards.  To prevent over-drilling, use tape to mark drill bit depth.

Securing screws

Attach boards to chairs with screws.  For an outdoor bench, use stainless steel hardware, it won’t rust or stain if the wood gets wet.

Because my center chair was only a back, I created this brace to keep it from pivoting on the bench seat.

Brace on center chair

Underside of bench

Turn over your creation and enjoy!

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Before

Three Chair Bench

Other tips:

If your bench is made for indoor use, consider making a cushion or pillows.

Hardware stores and lumber yards often will cut wood to size, sometimes for free!  Additionally, they also rent power tools.

Occasionally lumber yards have scrap piles… dig around to see if you can find some good deals!

Wooden palates can be another source of cheap/free wood.

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Twisty Stix are a great way to put a twist on a classic candy.  You can control the sugar, and even add a bit of nutrition!

Check out my original post with recipe, here.   (Click to connect to the original blog.)

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Additional tips:

If the powder sticks in the funnel (like it did on the show), use a bamboo skewer to help it through.

Humidity is the Twisty Stix nemesis.  Don’t fill your straws unless you plan to use them within a day or two.  And open the freeze-dried fruit just before you use it.

Keep the powder in an air-tight container, and fill straws when you need them.

Enjoy the tangy goodness!

Tamara’s Twisty Stix DIY

Twisty on Set

 

Panorama Sugar Eggs Tutorial

I’ve been making these sugar eggs since I was a kid… in fact, I still have one that I made back then!  It’s a bit faded, and my kitties licked off the frosting in a couple spots, but I’ve kept it all this time, because I love it.

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The origin of the panorama – or diorama – egg is unknown.  Some folks say they’re German, some say they hail from Italy, others claim they possess Ukrainian or Russian roots.

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An interesting article from 1987 (!) on the subject can be found here: http://bit.ly/10eDYbq   Another, from the New York Times, notes that while current commercial eggs must be entirely edible, early models had paper scenes inside.  http://nyti.ms/14AcxOL

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No matter their provenance, I adore these little sugared gems.

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A few years ago I made some eggs that were more modern and updated, using bold colors, whimsical themes.  They were fun and festive, and something I could keep out year-round.

Sugar egg... ladies with hats.

Sugar egg… ladies with hats.

This year I wanted to go back to the traditional Easter sugar panorama eggs.  They’re classic, beautiful, and have a particular charm.

Materials Needed:

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Egg molds – found in craft stores, cake decorating shops – I found mine at Marshalls.

Cornstarch

Superfine sugar

Meringue powder

Water

Food coloring

Spoon

Cookie sheet

Royal icing (recipe below)

Piping bags

Scissors

Candies

Shredded coconut

Sugar eggs:
4-1/2 C super fine sugar
2 tsp. meringue powder
3 Tbl. water

Place sugar and meringue in a large mixing bowl, whisk to combine.  Add water and mix with electric mixer or spoon.  If you are coloring your eggs, add color to water.  For light pastel eggs — which work best for light diffusion — use only 1 or two drops of liquid food coloring.

Mix until well combined, knead with hands if necessary.  Keep an eye out for meringue powder- or color-lumps, which sometimes form.  Work them into mixture with fingers, if necessary.

Making the Sugar Egg Shells:

To prepare molds, dust lightly with cornstarch.  This will help the sugar release from the mold.

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Mound sugar into molds, and press firmly against the sides and bottom, creating a thin shell — about 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick, depending on the size of the mold (with a larger mold, thicker sides).

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Straighten the edges by running your finger along the rim.

Using a spoon, cut out a ‘window’ in the narrow end of the sugar eggshell.

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Gently turn eggs out onto a cardboard square, and place onto a cookie sheet.

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Remove plastic molds.

Bake at 200 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Allow shells to cool.  If the insides are not hard, return to oven with inside exposed for another 15 minutes.

After shells are set and completely cool, decorate with royal icing.

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Royal Icing:
4 C powdered sugar
3 Tbl. meringue powder
1/2 tsp. clear-colored extract — almond, lemon, etc.
1/2 to 3/4 C warm water

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat sugar and meringue powder until well combined.  Add extract and water, beginning with 1/2 C.  Beat on medium until thick and glossy, and stiff peaks form – about 5 to 7 minutes.

Consistency can be adjusted by adding more water or sugar, depending on use. Color as desired.

coconut grass

Colored Coconut Grass

Place shredded coconut in a glass bowl, add a few drops of green liquid food coloring.  Stir with a fork for several minutes until the coconut is the desired color.

Assembling the Eggs:

Pipe a layer of green icing in the bottom of the egg (the side with a flattened surface).

Stick decorative items into the frosting – chicks, bunnies, flowers, etc.  If they start to lean, use q-tips to hold in place until the icing fully cures.  Before the icing is dry, sprinkle with green coconut.

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When the inside is perfect, pipe a thick line of icing along the edge of the egg.  Place the top on the egg, and press down.  Remove any excess icing with your finger.

Embellish the exterior of the egg using cake-decorating tips, covering the seam and opening edge with a decorative piped line.  Attach flowers or pipe designs on the top.

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Allow the egg 1 hour to dry completely.

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Tips and tricks:

Royal icing is like sweet cement… once’ it’s cured, It’s not going anywhere.  And it smells much better than it tastes.

Meringue powder in the sugar-mixture makes the eggs super strong.  Some people recommend filling the mold completely, curing for some time to create a shell, and then scooping out the interior.  I tried this method several times, and never had one survive.  With the mold-and-press method I describe above, I didn’t have one fail – and I made nearly 40 shells!

The eggshells can be made weeks ahead, stored in a dry place.  Don’t throw them away if you get tired.  Store them well and you may be able to complete the eggs next year!

Interior shapes can also be made days in advance – I piped bunnies, chicks, flowers and carrots onto parchment paper, let them dry and stored them for use later.

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Candy -covered almonds look like giant eggs inside your diorama!

I collect little pretties – tiny ornaments, small silk flowers, stickers, etc. year –round.

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Enjoy, make something beautiful, and Hoppy Easter!
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To commemorate St Patrick’s day, here’s a project that incorporates an important Irish symbol – the Celtic Knot.  This bracelet is macramé, and uses one of the most popular types of “Celtic knots” (it’s called a Double Coin in Chinese knotting, and a Josephine knot in other macramé).

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There are many interpretations of the Celtic knot, which is characterized by loops and crosses.  The ‘classic’ Celtic knot has no end — symbolic of eternal love and devotion.  The most simple version of the knot is comprised of three points with connected intersecting loops, symbolic of the elements – fire, earth and water.

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The knot pre-dates Christianity, but as often occurs, the early Church leaders adopted regional motifs and incorporated them into religious symbolism.  For example, the ‘endless’ thread is symbolic of God’s eternal love, and the triple Celtic knot, like the shamrock, is often used to refer to the holy trinity.

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Here’s what you’ll need to make your Celtic Knot Bracelet:

72” of leather cording – 1.5 to 2mm thick

4 to 6 Beads — with the hole large enough for 2 widths of cord to pass through

Button for clasp — with the hole big enough for one width of cord to pass through

Clipboard

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Find the center of cord.  Thread on the button, tie an overhand knot to hold button in place.

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Secure the button-end of the cord in the clip of your clipboard.

Tie first Celtic knot.

Using the cord on the left, form a loop.P1030592

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Bring the right cord over the top of the loop and pull it under the left-hand cord.

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There is a ‘triangle’ space at the top of the two cords, just under the knot that holds the button.  Place the ‘right hand’ cord through that triangle, then thread it under, over, and under the next cords.  Pull through.

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Adjust the knot so the two sides are even and it sits near the overhand knot.  Click here to see video of tying the Celtic knot.

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Slide on the first bead, and place it up near the knot.

Tie another Celtic knot, as above.  Add another bead, and continue until the bracelet is one inch smaller than you want the finished bracelet to be.

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After your final Celtic knot, tie another overhand knot and pull tight.

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Measure the diameter of the button clasp, and tie another overhand knot with that distance in mind, thus creating a loop for the button to pass through.

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Trim off ends, and you have a finished bracelet!

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A few tips:

If you have trouble with the bracelet laying flat, pin the unruly loops to a surface and let the bracelet sit overnight.  Think of it like blocking your wool sweater after washing! (My work and I both enjoy acupuncture!)

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Buttons with a shank give you a bit more ‘play.’  If you use a traditional button (with holes drilled through the button), make sure you leave some space between the holes and the first knot.

Raw cording is a bit easier to work with – the ‘finished’ or ‘polished’ cording is a bit stiffer and takes some getting used to.  You can also make this bracelet out of silk cord, cotton twine, hemp or yarn, but I don’t recommend using ‘fuzzy’ cords… the result is messy-looking.

For a more masculine look, eliminate the beads and tie knots close together. I found that in making this bracelet with the knots against each other, it’s best to reverse the knot-tying direction, so as to eliminate twisting of the bracelet.  For pictures on how to tie the knot in reverse, click here. 

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The bracelet can also be made with two or three strands of fiber, be sure that the holes in the button clasp can take the two or three thicknesses of thread.  This process takes a lot more time and patience, as the individual threads must be separated when knotting for a smooth, uniform look.  But the result is gorgeous!

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On set with the bracelets.

On set with the bracelets.

It was a delight and pleasure to commemorate the 100th episode of Home + Family on the Hallmark Channel.  I feel so fortunate to be a part of the ‘family.’

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Dean McDermott, Cristina Ferrare, Mark Steines, Andrea Schroder, moi.

To add to the celebration, I brought Brown Sugar Shortbread cookies for the entire cast, crew and guests.  I wanted something sweet, not too heavy, and something I could personalize.  I added gold ‘luster dust’ to the sugar on the edges, in honor of the 100th show.

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These cookies are light, buttery, and have a very slight toffee/caramel flavor, because of the brown sugar.  They are a perfect cookie to make in large batches.  The dough can be prepared one day and baked another.  I often will make a double batch, that way I can keep a log in my freezer, and whip up a sheet of cookies in minutes.

Brown Sugar Shortbread

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

coarse crystal sugar

Luster Dust (Optional)

Preheat oven to 325°.

Cream butter and brown sugar, add 2 cups of flour and mix well.

Divide dough in half, and form each portion into logs, approximately 1-1/2” to 2” in diameter. Roll logs in coarse sugar until coated.

Place logs in freezer for 10 to 30 minutes.   Remove from freezer and cut in ¼” slices.

Bake on un-greased cookie sheet for 15 to 22 minutes (depending on thickness), until just barely brown.  Cool completely on a rack.

If using luster dust, add dust to crystal sugar, until the sugar is the desired color.  Or, custom color your sugars using a post found here.

Enjoy, and happy 100th Episode, Home + Family!

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The holidays are over, and it’s time for spring cleaning, and one of the keys to getting organized is labeling.  I decided to make labels for chore lists that are whimsical and vintage-looking, using metal stamps.  Instead of your local politician’s magnet or the one from the neighborhood dry-cleaner, you’ll have these pretty, coordinated list holders, which may motivate you to get the tasks done!

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These steel letter punches are often used for stamping leather or metal, but using them on cardboard reminds me of letterpress printing.  And you can get out some aggression while crafting – that’s always a good thing!

Plain letter stamps are available at hardware stores (Dudes, you may have a set in your garage.  They’re often used to mark tools.) and cost about $10. You can find some here.

Fancy fonts can be found from Impress Art, cost about $50.00 to $70.00 for a set.

How To — Making To-Do List Clothespins:

Items needed:

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  • Wooden clothespins
  • Magnetic tape
  • Cardboard ovals
  • Gesso
  • Dye-based ink pads
  • Decorative Papers
  • Glue Stick/Glue Dots
  • Hammer
  • Surface to Hammer on (heavy wood or steel block)
  • Letter Stamps/Punches

Prepare your ovals by painting with gesso. Set aside to dry.

Attach magnetic tape to clothespins.

Cover other side of clothespin with decorative paper.

Once ovals are dry, choose letter stamps, and find the center of your oval. Beginning at the center, carefully space out the letters Use a very light pencil to mark, if desired.

Working on top of the wooden or steel block, pound the stamp with one or two firm blows.  Lift to check your work.  Continue with remaining letters outward, alternating sides, to make sure your placement is even. Erase any pencil marks.

When letters are done, apply color by brushing surface of oval with inkpad.  Use your finger to fill in as necessary.

Color edge of oval with contrasting color.

Attach oval to clothespin using glue dots.

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Use on fridge or memo board to assign chores.

I also made labels for all the nuts in my house…

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And made these Happy Sticks.  I thought of using these as get-out-of-your-funk sticks (Think of them as anti- (tongue) depressors.).  You can also make encouragement or affirmation sticks, activity sticks for kids, or even chore sticks if kids fight over who does what.

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To make the sticks, I brushed the stamps very lightly on dye-based inkpads, then hammer-stamped them onto the craft sticks to give them color as well as dimension.

A note about letter stamps.  I’ve used both the basic and fancy versions for years.  The Impress Art font stamps are worth the money, especially if you have other projects in mind, and their fonts are cool!  They are clean (the others are greasy), and much easier to work with.  They’re more precise than the hardware-store versions, and easy to read.  I never stamp upside-down with the Impress Art stamps.

But if you’re just trying things out, or don’t know if the letters are something you want to invest in, start with the hardware store version.  They are sturdy, and work well for simple projects.

Now go out and get hammered!

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I’m really excited about this: Art Glass Clay.  Imagine.  Glass you can actually mold with your own two hands, and fire at home! That’s kind of like alchemy to me.  I needed to know more.

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by Paula Radke

I did an overview segment on Home and Family today, with clay and instruction we got from artist Paula Radke.  It was fun, and a good place to start, but frankly, one could spend a LOT of time learning about this clay.

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It’s a powder, that you mix with water, add some heat, and it becomes glass.  You can mold it, stamp it, sculpt it… it’s really pretty amazing stuff.

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by Paula Radke

Here’s the lowdown:

The powder is 99% smoothly ground glass, mixed with a small amount of organic binder, that’s what makes it behave like clay.

It comes in 24 colors, in 2-ounce jars, and they cost between $12 and $18 each.

You can make 4-5 large pieces or 6-8 smaller pieces from one jar.

The clay shrinks about 20% during firing.

You can make beads, pendants, ornaments, earrings, buttons, even drawer pulls!

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Here’s what you’ll need:

Art Glass Clay

Molds/stamps/sculpting tools

Water

Mixing Bowls

Knife or palette

Files, sand paper

Olive Oil

Parchment paper

Kiln.  We’ll talk more about that later.

First:

Mix powder with water.  The ratio is roughly 2 parts powder to 1 part water.  Start with a little less than 1 part and add as you go.  You can always add more water.

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Mix in a glass bowl with a knife or offset spatula.

When it begins to hold together, pick it up and knead/roll with your hands.

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At this stage, the clay will keep indefinitely in an airtight container.

Molding your clay.  You can use polymer clay molds, molds made specifically for glass clay, I’ve even used candy molds.  Silicone molds work best.

Next, prepare molds.

Brush with a little bit (not much!) of vegetable oil as a release agent.

Press clay into mold, make sure it’s well pressed, and no air pockets are hiding.

Turn mold over, and pop the clay out onto a piece of parchment paper.  This will make it easier to transport the finished clay pieces while they are drying.  If you want to add holes, do so while clay is still wet.

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Set aside to dry.  Medium sized pieces take about an hour to dry at room temperature.   You can also dry in a 200-degree oven.  Turn over to make sure it’s dry through.

**Make sure your piece is completely dry before firing – any water in the clay could cause it to super heat, and crack or explode.  And that’s a pain in the glass.

Once dry, sand or file away any bits, rough edges, sharp points, etc.  Use emery boards/jewelry files, sand paper, etc.  Be careful, this is when your piece is at its most fragile.  While sanding, work over a piece of paper.  The filings can go right back into the jar and be rehydrated later!

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Firing:  If you have a kiln, lucky you.  Perhaps a friend does, or there’s a studio nearby that will let you fire in their kiln.

In my experience, the clay fires best in a standard kiln.  But if you don’t have access to one, you can get a microwave kiln.  This is a fiber-ceramic 2-part vessel that has a special liner that allows it to get super hot.  Remember, the glass has to get over 1000 degrees!

Microwave kilns can be found online or in specialty glass stores. The one that is recommended is made by Paragon, and can be found here.   It’s not cheap, but considering all you can do with it (you can also fire precious metal clay in it too!), it’s worth the investment.

If you have a tiny one like mine, you really can only fire small pieces – a quarter or smaller.  My kiln only cost $70, but if you have a larger one, you can fire larger pieces.  Kilns can range up to $300.

Microwave kilns vary by manufacturer, be sure to read and follow the instructions for your specific kiln.  While there are differences on how to use and/or set-up microwave kilns (some require kiln paper, others a kiln wash, etc.), the actual firing method stays the same.

Perfecting firing techniques takes time and practice, but anyone can do it.  Be patient, and you will be rewarded.

Microwave firing:  Begin by setting the kiln in the microwave oven and heat for 1 minute.  Using a heat-safe mitt, lift the lid of the kiln to view it… only do this for a few seconds.  Put the lid back in place, then microwave for another minute.  This allows your glass piece to “breathe” and absorb the heat more evenly plus you can monitor its progress.

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Next, microwave for 30 seconds.  First the piece will turn black – that’s the binder burning off.  In the next intervals of firing, the piece will return to the dried color, then eventually begin to get glossy, and may even glow red-hot.

Continue in 30, 20 or 10 second intervals, until your piece looks sufficiently shiny.

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These are my first attempts. Not perfect, but pretty darned cool! (I used a candy mold to make the ‘gems.’)

(For more detailed instructions on firing clay go here.)

Depending on the size of the glass piece, it will take approx. 5 minutes to fully fire in the microwave.

When you are finished, let the glass cool down for a minimum of 30 minutes.  And, at the risk of stating the obvious, DON’T TOUCH IT WHEN IT’S HOT.   

Once fired, the piece is 100% glass.

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Until you get the hang of firing, I recommend using pieces you haven’t spent a lot of time making. Also, using molds creates beautiful detail with minimal effort but start with only one color at first.  That way if you have a failure, it won’t be devastating.

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I’m a big fan of this clay.  Be safe, be creative, I hope you enjoy it!

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