An Artist’s Tools, Part 2

In part 1 of “An Artist’s Tools…”, I covered a very limited introduction on how artists sometimes need to make and use their own tools to create with. In some regards, I know and feel I missed a LOT. Here, in this blog post, I will delve further into how one might make tools to create art with – starting with my stone polishing bits/disks for my dremel and stone work. A very VERY simplified, newbie but not newbie look into the art of making tools for art. More or less, it’s just me blabbing away. So if you’re keen to a creative person’s blabbing, then do please read on.

Now it’s worth mentioning, I feel, that I am by no means an expert at this. I just know what works for me and I HAVE been given good, experienced guru-like advice regarding “homegrown” tools for stone carving/polishing with a rotary tool. From that advice, I improvise and discover new things. Stone carving is a relatively new thing for me, but I have in the past learned to improvise my tools for recording music, painting and the like (i.e. using an old 2″ speaker and “rewired” as a mic, taped to my banjo’s head to use as a “pickup” – it actually worked REALLY good! I miss my banjo :( (It’s a long story).

I feel it’s important to mention that I have learned a LOT of this (tools for rock polishing and the like, and then some) from my friends and neighbors, Todd & Karla. Todd has been working with stones and lapidary work (to mention only a few genres of art!) for years. He is an absolute expert, in my humble opinion. He has taught me a few starting points on making tools, but understandably (and I appreciate this), doesn’t tell me all of his secrets. After all, I can understand that learning this trait over years of trial an error, that just giving someone all of the meat and treasure, might sometimes not be in one’s best interest, but yet allowing one, (myself, in this case) to foster ones own techniques and learn from trial and error, too. Not only did he give me insight into the world of polishing stones with a dremel (rotary tool), he inspired me to take my dremel up and use it beyond my “I wonder if I could do this” dabbling mentality. Karla has shown me many new things as well, using found wire to make wire wraps and a new, fresh (if not magical) look at different stones and how each have their own beauty and story to tell. Not only that, she has the knowledge and wherewithal to show me references on stone identification and just straight up encouragement to create. Her eye for unique drift wood is keen, too, and I appreciate it very much. I never have actually “taken” to driftwood until she showed me the many potential landscapes and stories that they hold. Aside from all the artsy stuff, they put up with me. :) So I owe them many thanks, to say the least!

With that said, I’m not going to give EVERYTHING away, either. This is more of an encouragement – if anyone actually reads this and is interested in rotary tool rock polishing. I’ve also learned a “bit” here and there from surfing the internet, checking out videos, and the like. If you are an individual that is just newly delving into the land of rotary tool stone/rock polishing, you will have to experiment and learn, too. Again… I am no expert, either, so if you have any suggestions or input, I welcome your feedback.

Now, back to the details of making rotary tool (Dremel) “bits”. Here is a “short” recap and edited version of “THE GRIT” portion from my last blog post – if you’re interested. If not, skip it.

THE GRIT: … polishing my stones lately has been a challenge. For one, my Dremel is not balanced. I noticed this from the get-go (and yeah, it has a warranty since I purchased it to replace my older one that died, but I can’t afford to ship it to only learn that they might not replace or fix it…). SO instead of returning it, I have learned how to adjust my technique.

That wobble from the slightly bent shaft that exponentially transfers itself to the bit and then the sanding disk, has become more of a boon, actually. At first, the rapid, very unfriendly vibration and “choking” that happened when I put the stone to the sanding disk, was incredibly awful … Being determined to keep working, however, I learned how to adjust my movements, my technique and work with the wobble (this actually took days to learn). Low and behold, I was actually so surprised at the outcome, that I felt like sharing my new-found insight! (I’ll [maybe] extrapolate on this more, later) The stone was nearly as shiny as glass! …

I make my own sanding disks with any piece of plastic (yogurt container tops, product packaging) that I can find and cut into a circle. This is what I learned from Todd. The sandpaper is then glued to the disk (with super glue) and then to a cut dowel or any cylindrical shaped object that is or can be attached to a bit. After this, I shape the disk even more by attaching it to the Dremel and spinning it against a larger diamond bit that is unattached. This process usually ends in a “nice”, round disk (Todd would say otherwise, lol).

As you can see in the images below, my sanding disks are not perfectly round. That’s a technique that I am trying to learn! (Todd does NOT approve of my disk making skills – yet) :)

Let me go over in a bit (pun intended) more detail on how I made this particular sanding disk. I’ll call this one my “3 inch flat surface disk”, as it is solely intended for sanding and polishing a flat surface of a stone. I made it specifically for an amulet that I am working on for my Mom. This was the disk I was referencing previously that had a wobble that turned out to be more beneficial rather than bad. Note of caution: Dremel advises not to use disk sizes larger than two inches, so if you decide to make a disk larger than 2″, please understand that this could possibly harm your dremel (or whatever brand of hobby rotary tool). So far, I have not experienced any problems. Most of my other disks are around 1″ to 2″ diameter.

You can see that this sanding disk is layered – one older disk below the newer, larger disk on top of it. The previous smaller disk was to hard for my liking – I like to have a little bit of “play” or bending – which I like to believe, prevents me from putting too much pressure on the stone when polishing it. So I decided to experiment with a larger diameter disk, giving more play to the sanding/polishing experience.

Here, I was about to give instructions on how I made my sanding disk(s)… but after reading over it again and again… I thought it was more confusing than anything… so in the interest of finishing this blog post, I omitted it. It may… or may not appear in the near future. I’m not sure how far I will take this, exactly.  I think I need to just have more images in order to instruct on the making of sanding disks. I’m feeling lazy, I guess. :)

I’ve also experimented with a bit of scotch-brite pads, which seems to do a nice job as a “course(r)” grit, but yet also adds a bit of polishing.  The only drawback – if you set the rotary tool at to fast a speed, the green pad will discolor the stone green and you will have little bits of the pad all over the place. I’m going to experiment with the natural colored pads at some point. Maybe share my findings here. The images below show my scotch-brite disks with the piece from the wooden handle of a foam staining brush. I basically applied the same technique above and cut the pad with scissors to fit the circle. I didn’t bother with rounding it off on a grinding bit, as it cut fairly nicely.

Well, I’m going to keep this post short. I’m not sure if I will extrapolate on it later in another blog… we shall see. I might have other things to share (too may different things going on).

Advertisements

An Artist’s Tools, Part 1

An introduction to how I (sometimes) make my tools to create.

Polishing Tools
Shaping rocks, polishing stone, carving wood!

OVERVIEW: Art isn’t always about someone with talent creating something out of thin air with a magical brush. Often, at least in my experience, it entails working with what tools one has to create with (finger painting, for one, is the most basic way to paint). This, in and of itself, can be a challenge, yet also another facet of the creative venture, too.

THE WHY OF IT: It boils down to what tools the artist can afford, and in some circumstances, when one is poor (so the saying goes, “a starving artist”), one becomes creative in making or using “found” tools. Hunting for the “look-a-like”; that piece of foreign material that might act like the $30 brush one wishes they had or that technique or “magic” setting that mimics a $2000 lens on a camera. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing that can exactly replace those $30-$2000 pieces of equipment. With a dash of creative know-how and the willingness to spend some time learning and building, an artist can find and make what they need. Most often, from what I’ve experienced, one can learn to mimic these expensive tools by adjusting the technique and being creative with what one can find. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Of course, this doesn’t always work, as in some creative professions (especially in the music recording industry), the saying goes “crap in, crap out”. I, on the other hand, will attempt to use whatever I can get my grubby hands on.

THE GRIT: For instance, polishing my stones lately has been a challenge. For one, my Dremel is not balanced. I noticed this from the get-go (and yeah, it has a warranty, but I can’t afford to ship it to only learn that they might not replace or fix it – call me paranoid, but it’s a sign of the times with “less expensive” products, etc blah blah). SO instead of returning it, I have learned how to adjust my technique.

That wobble from the slightly bent shaft that exponentially transfers itself to the bit and then the sanding disk, has become more of a boon, actually. At first, the rapid, very unfriendly vibration and “choking” that happened when I put the stone to the sanding disk, was incredibly awful and set my mind in a woeful state. Being determined to keep working, however, I learned how to adjust my movements, my technique and work with the wobble (this actually took days). Low and behold, I was actually so surprised at the outcome, that I felt like sharing my new-found insight! The stone was nearly as shiny as glass! (More on my tool making will be discussed in Part 2)

SUMMARY: It’s nothing new really – Artists have been making tools with “found” things to create with for ages. Yes, I am probably stating the obvious, here. At any rate, I use this mentality for my photography and painting as well, when it is needed. However, do not get me wrong, it can at times be very frustrating, time consuming and downright soul crushing; when I have to work that much harder to get the outcome that I want. There are moments I have to remind myself to just let go, too, and realize that I might not even get that image or piece that I want, the way I want it. From there, I just adjust my style and/or start a new piece or work on an old one. I’ve got way too many “not done” pieces that need more attention, anyhow – why on earth should I obsess over something that can’t be done with what I’ve got? When it DOES work, I find it incredibly rewarding and worth the extra time.

ANYhow – back to work! Stay tuned for part 2, as I will go more in-depth about my tool making process for my stone and wood work.

Oh the Technical Difficulties

I’ve been working nearly non-stop on my Etsy page, facebook page, researching, photo editing, business cards (DONE!), AND well… for maybe a half hour on my wordpress page here. While I realllly need to figure out a more ergonomic place to work other than this chair (albeit, comfy, hours of sitting in it hurt my knees for some reason), I would like to figure out why WordPress.com’s media file structure is so glitchy. At the same time, I do realize there will always be learning curves and user errors, there are some things that just need to be fixed, like descriptive copy and data from one image porting over to another (and in some cases REPLACING the copy I already had put there, without even saving or publishing). I’m pretty sure I’m not doing anything wrong, at least in that regard. At any rate, I don’t mean to sound “complainy”, as I really do like wordpress for many reasons (free, for one, aside from the ads – someday I will get rid of those, but I need an efficient site first!). So right now, I’m still waiting for a response from the help forum since 11am, and it’s now 8:29pm (CST). If you know me, I guess I tend to be verbose sometimes – So hopefully that didn’t detract from responses. All I really need to know now, is if there is a way to revert to an older version of the site to get BACK the info that was deleted, which will take a bit of hours to put back up manually (and maybe there is also a bug fix?).

For now, I need to start taking a break from this computer (Will I reallly peel my face away?)… and the image(s) that were deleted will be back up tomorrow, with some newer ones, ta boot. I just now realized, though, that there will be no way to revert to an older version without potentially deleting this post. In the end, I will be putting the hour or so to get them back up tomorrow. Who knows, if a second wind comes around, maybe I will do it tonight, but after only 4 hours of sleep last night and an early start, hit the ground running morning, afternoon, evening, I might just crash. :)

So for anyone reading this, my apologies for lack of (image) content on my site, while I slowly move forward on developing a stronger presence.

Have a nice evening! (or morning/day, wherever/whenever you are).

Dan

Another day (or two)

For the past two days, I have literally worked for 24 hours, to sum up each approximate actual hour worked. There have been points where I literally would hold my pee in before I would even get up out of this chair – I was intensely trying to get an image edit/web edit done! Must. Wait. To. Pee. While I DID leave my place yesterday for a bit, (I went out and did businessy things {bought “shop” stuff, like, well… um… protective eyewear for both wind protection while I am outdoors and for carving wood and shaping stone, then went to take pictures of the “angry” Lake Superior waves on a cold windy day}, I did NOT leave my place today. I didn’t even leave my chair much, save for the obvious needed reasons (as stated before). Yes, I did eat lunch and take a “lunch break” and watch a show while eating… but I was still fastened to this chair, and eventually working on images, researching, calling vendors, etc after just an hour break.

I even took two hours last night as a “break” to work on a cabochon, stone work. That… is still… work… right?

The strange thing, though, is that I feel like I did nothing. Really. Can someone tell me what’s up with that? Maybe it’s just a psychological thing.

I am currently working on this site (wanderpathart.wordpress.com), my Etsy shop (humble as it currently is): http://etsy.me/2p2uchV, and my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wanderpath1/ . It’s not all straightforward as it would seem or I would wish – maybe that’s why I am not feeling like I have accomplished much ……. as I have to edit photos, and I have to EDIT them to make sure they are right, then think about it, then post it, then say “no, not good”, re-edit, post again, write a new Esty bio, etc etc blah blah blah. Two steps forward, one step back? Two steps back, one step forward? I DUNNO ANYMORE! :)

Anyhow, how come I end up feeling like I did nothing? I’m not completely new to this – I’ve tried many times to get a website going, e-commerce… sell my stuff… etc… but now.. I just want it out there and done, and I want it done right, but… but… but…

There. Was that a rant? I’m not even sure. Let’s see what happens.

I’m Behind a bit…

I’m currently behind by almost three weeks on my photography postings! So here is a little gif of my Park Point adventure in Duluth, MN, during the last cold days of March.
Yes, yes I was indeed “hit” by a wave . I placed myself here in this spot thinking that I might be safe, but then, as I set up the camera and tripod, I looked around… hey… the rocks are wet… hmmm… So I stayed anyhow and tripped the shutter on repeat. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the fastest setting enabled for a more detailed animation… but you get the idea. Such fun!


Waves-Snow-Camera-Wet