corvi (corivax) wrote,

in which there is fire!

Five minutes before the housewarming, it was an unmitigated disaster. We had trouble getting the regulator on our last-minute oxygen tank, cooking half the food we wanted to, the firebrick for the furnace had cracked, the copper ore was lost in the mail, the interplanetary magnetic field chose to deny us the auroras we'd been hoping to show our guests.

Five minutes after the housewarming, there's a line, like ducklings, of homemade misshapen shotglasses on the windowsill. The furnace is full of melted copper in knobbly coral growths (even if we don't know it yet), the whole house smells like naphtha and cryptocrystalline and corn roasted in the smelting furnace, pumpkin curry and smoke.

Pictures (of which there are very many) are by either wazm, flicker site or caladri, gallery, or robogock, whose gallery is here.


Here is small-scale glassworking - a bead formed by dabbing molten glass on a bicycle spoke. There's something really satisfying about teaching people glasswork. The thing about glass is that it all looks about the same when honey-molten. So you can't tell exactly where a particular piece or color is when you go to add more. It might be here, it might be there, so you have these two possible beads, ghost beads, you're making, and then you add the next color, and maybe it's here on top of this one, or over there, or right here... and now you have six ghost beads - you won't know which you made until it's cool, and every motion, every heat, every color just adds more, some teaming crowd of possibility in scarlet and silver foil.

Instead of shepherding one shape, one set of colors, it's like you're changing the shape of which are possible and which aren't. It's about trust and intuition more than control. Everyone deals with that differently, and it's lovely thing to watch.

Here is the nifty bead made by robogock.

And here is the big torch. It takes an oxygen tank.

I've decided friends are the people who know you have pressure systems in your basement, and come visit you anyway. :)

You can see the big puddle of light on the wall where the glass focuses the flame.

caladri is starting off a four-foot length of lab glass tubing to make a shotglass. She heats it up and pulls it apart slowly, strething it into points. The tricky thing here is to keep the glass moving at all times - molten glass is a lot like honey and will flow towards the ground. There's a lot of motion in this - one dances with the glass as much as works it.

The next step it to attach a piece of glass ("punty") to the point you just pulled, so that you can handle and work with the shorter piece of glass without burning your hands.

Light and glass - you could always see the skeleton of the glass form, written in light on the wall. We joked about forging lightsabers.

*makes lightsaber noises* Pzzzt! Beeeeeyng!

(The white roll of bookbinding tape was used to try and attach safety goggles overtop regular glasses. When that didn't work, boojum of the crocheted hedgehog codpieces knitted a bridle to hold them in place. As I am a merciful sort, you won't get pictures of anyone's head with a yarn harness holding dorky purple glasses on.)

Okay, so I always wanted to be a Jedi. My parents wouldn't buy me a death star! It was awful.

SO here's gfish.

Once the shotglass has a handle, it's a lot easier to use a graphite tool to open and shape one end. This is robogock.

Here is boojum putting little glass spine on what may well be the world's first delicate cobal-blue viking shotglass. :) Mine has feet and a tail, and a melted, lumpy top. caladri's is about a foot tall. gfish's has a handle like a miniature beer stein.

The designs probably say something about our personality, but I have no idea what. Seeing in a glass darkly, indeed.

One of the saner finished models. :) robogock's. The only regret of the party is that we burned through an entire tank of oxygen, and not a glass for everyone who wanted one.


This is our smelting furnace. (Previous attempt here.)

It's made of firebrick, held together with clay and kiln mortar. Which is all well and good, but you have to understand that 2300-degree firebrick ceramic has a texture like cotton candy, styrafoam peanuts, and someone attacking a chalkboard with flaming automobile wreckage. The stuff makes bone-scraping sounds, crumbles, and stays hot for hours after burn-in.

This is the furnace in use. It burns charcoal, which is pure carbon, with the idea that all oxygen in the furnace will bind to carbon as carbon dioxide, with enough extra carbon to suck all the oxygen off the copper oxides in the ore, too, leaving pure carbon. This is called a "reducing" atmosphere - it reduces carbon oxides to pure elemental carbon. This is especially useful where there's a "bellows" (we don't hate our guests that much, so we used a vacuum) pumping air (with more oxygen we need to keep away from the copper) into the furnace to make the charcoal burn hotter.

In theory, anyway. In practice, the copper ore mysteriously got lost in the mail, so we were just melting some copper pipes we got at Boeing Surplus, as a test run.

But it's still white hot.

White hot might've be a bit too hot, in retrospect. At some point, the 2300 degree firebrick of the roof began to slag. The roof cracked and fell in. (this shot is from the balcony above the furnace. You could feel the furnace heat fifteen feet up and fifteen over, in the living room.

The lid fallen in.

The furnace eats the firebrick. Hooray for the triumph of the primitive over space-age ceramics!

And the next morning - copper in twisted bubbly shapes, like coral, and the firebrick reduced to green glass. Next up: trying with actual ore. We know it gets hot enough, but can we get the chemistry right?

The House:

The view from the deck. To the left of the space needle, down near the ground, you can see the Experience Music Project, my nemesis. It remains stubbornly non-ferrous, however. Grr.

This is the fireplace. This is what happens when you throw a glass of camping stove fuel on the fireplace. Naphtha burns as a liquid, but flares into an enormous fireball as a gas, so you have time to back away from the fireplace while it heats itself up. Then you end up with blue fire pouring over the floor and caught in the carvings on the screen, flower forms outlined in shining blue.

House: warmed.

If you wanted to make a shotglass and didn't because the oxygen tank ran out, consider this your free shotglass coupon. Email us and schedule a time to come do it. :)

Tags: city of shadows, fire, metalwork, mischeif, photos, public

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