Monday, May 31, 2010

Playing With Fire! Making Glass Beads.

I have been teaching a class every Spring and Fall about how to make glass beads.  The class is offered for 2 hours on Tuesday nights for 5 weeks.  I was nervous about 6-10 adults lighting up propane torches inside the high school classroom but that fear quickly passed.

I start out by teaching the safety aspects and the history of Lampworking. Then I start going over what each person needs to get to start melting glass rods into beads.

The first thing to get is a propane torch.  Many people already have one to fix plumbing leaks.  We start with propane and you can go to MAPP gas later, which is hotter.

The propane tank is clamped to the work station by a C-clamp and an L bracket through the hose clamp around the tank.  This keeps the torch stable and secure.  I have a protective sheet under the work area to catch hot pieces of glass.  Playing with fire requires you to be very careful.  The fire is a good teacher - it is always hot!

Since you will be playing with very hot items, you need something to rest them on.  The top rest is a commerical rod rest, the middle rest is made from a long threaded rod with two large nuts on each end.  I have even used the white piece of tile moulding.  The glass rods are over 1000 degrees when they are melted so you do not lay them on the table.  The sudden cooling can cause thermal shock and shards.

These items are used to move the glass around.  The long rods are called mandrels and are usually stainless steel welding rods.  I have the people in the class cut wire coat hangers to make the mandrels for starting out.  The leather belt with holes is used to remove the glass bead from the mandrel which is held by pliers.  The knife and pick can trace patterns and plunge flowers or the center of eyes.  Not your eyes , the eyes of flowers or evil eyes.

This must be bought, it is a ceramic blanket to cool and anneal the hot beads.

The jar is bead release so the molten glass bead will come off the mandrel when cooled.

Of course you need lots of colored glass rods to melt.  Some are opaque and some are transparent. The rods are heated until they are like taffy and you wind them on the bead release on the mandrels.           

Lots of rods are a true sign of addiction!   Playing with fire is very addicting.

You can get oxygen and propane torches for $400, a kiln for $600 and really get a lot of $$ tied up in your hobby.  I teach Grassroots Glass Bead Making and show how to get started for about $40, if you can collect some of the equipment and tools from home.                                                                            

This book will speed you on your way, if you don't take a class.  I spent about 350 hours of torch time to learn what I teach my students in my 10 hour class.  You can watch You-Tube videos and practice but a class is what will speed your learning curve.                                                                                                                                                                                                     

The science and art of glass bead making is a very interesting hobby.  I have students who make jewelry and now can make their own beads for their projects.  Once you learn the science, you start practicing the art of trial and error with the flame and the glass rods.   If you aren't making  mistakes, you aren't learning.                                                                             

After you make the basic bead, then you learn how to add color, dots, circles, and stripes.

What do you do with all these beads?  Whatever you want!


                                                               Playing with fire is fun!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spring has Arrived

It was a nice day to get down to the river for a little fishing.  I headed down those dreaded steps on Cardiac Hill.  The river was in nice shape but the sun was up.  I didn't care, it was just nice to wet a line.

The water really wasn't rushing as fast as the picture seems.  I managed to catch a few small trout and then I saw the DNR officer.

I found out that he was counting lamprey in the trap.  None on the south side but he did have one perch,  two bluegills and about 6 brown crayfish.

I managed to get another trout and then decided to start back up the steps.  To take my time so I didn't get winded, I started looking for scenery.                                                                                                         

I don't know what type of flowers these are but they were along the steps.

This is my 4 weight rod but notice how green the area has become.

I think these are trillium.  Please let me know the names of those flowers I have mislabeled.

Most of the spring flowers are white.  I wonder why?  Are these wild strawberries?

Now this flower seems to grow well in my yard!  I am going to have a bumper crop this year.

After arriving home, I found this iris? growing in the front corner of my lot.  Since the fishing is slow right now, I have to start appreciating the beautiful nature.

In the back corner of my lot, I have a 'happy place' that I always enjoy in the spring.  This spot brings out happy memories of our home on Grand Rapids Street.  I remember when my mother had these plants around the front of the house.  I was in elementary or middle school then.  So when I went to the special corner and the flowers had peaked out, I had happy memories of my mother, Lois Stauffer.

Lilies of the Valley at my garden wall!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

South Fox Island Lighthouse Association Work Crew

 I recently joined the Fox Island Lighthouse Association  (FILA) in Traverse City.  They are trying to restore the South Fox Island Lighthouse and the surrounding area.

My brother, Gary, and I attended several meetings to learn about the work being planned to restore the grounds and the lighthouse.  We found out that the boat used to take the work crews out to the island was stored in Northport and a work crew was needed to prepare the boat for the upcoming season.  
I drove over and met John McKinney and Phil von Voigtlander.  Gary was coming next week.

John McKinney

 Former Seagrant Agent with the Michigan State University, co-founder of the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Initiative (now Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay) and the Maritime Heritage Alliance; expert in just about anything concerning Great Lakes ecology. FILA co-founder and President.

                                           Phil von Voigtlander

Northport, Leelanau County, MI.

PhD, retired pharmaceutical research director, avid sailor of the Great Lakes. Former chair, now vice chair of the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay. Designer and skipper of the Baykeeper tug boat.
FILA Island Project Manager

The boat has two 200 HP Merc engines and was once a charter fishing boat.  The motor and boat were overhauled and made ready for service a couple of years ago.
The boat is called the Lightkeeper and everything that goes to the island is carried by the boat.
The first day we worked on scrubbing the deck and cleaning the hull.
The deck plates were scrubbed with a cleaner and then a Soft Scrub with bleach added was used to brighten the deck plates.  After the plates dried, a coat of sealer was added to protect the cover and make it easier to keep clean.  There were four removable deck plates that had to be cleaned. 
That took most of my time the first day. The boat had the initial cleaning and then we made plans to return in a week.
The following week, Gary and I headed up to Northport to work on the boat again.  On the drive up M-22 towards the end of the Leelanau Peninsula we could see the cherry trees in blossom.

 We rode out to the boat and the rest of the crew were getting started on checking the engines.

I, of course, had to stick my head in and see the work being done. Things were coming along and the boat would be ready in a week or two.                                                                                                             


Gary started cleaning the boat from the top deck down.  This was the second cleaning        
 and then we put on the poly sealer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

I cleaned the top and front deck and prepared them for the final sealer.  We had to be careful not to           
 put the slippery poly sealer on the walkways of the deck.                                                                                                                                                                    


The Lightkeeper was looking good.  Hopefully, we will go out on a work crew to the island and spend        
 three or four days camping while we work on the project.                                                                         


After we finished up for the day, Gary and I drove back to Northport and started back towards                  Traverse City.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

We saw many sites that we would like to stop and explore.

It is easy to see where the water drops off to the deeper depths.

This shot was a raft with two deck chairs and an umbrella on it.

We didn't get to the Winerys that are all over this area.  I definitely want to come back and ride these roads

The last shot of the bay before we left the area was a good one!

When you come to visit me, we will go up there.  It is only 1 1/2 hours from my house.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Red Bridge Fishing

I talked to my buddy, Jack, and his son was visiting and wanted to fish.  I always like to fish with someone.  We made arrangements to fish down river from the Red Bridge launch on the Manistee River.  I used my 14' fishing boat for this trip.  I do not like to fish this area without someone else in the boat to spot stumps and low water areas.

This is one of the first areas that is good to fish but we decided to concentrate on the narrows.  We were out for Walleyes and wanted faster moving water.  In fact, we were going to fish right where we fished last year.  Guy had night crawlers and crawler harnesses and I was going to use plastics and jigs.                                  

This is my new 15 hp fishing motor.  I traded my brother, Gary, my old 9.9 motor for his leaf blower and we both are happy with that trade. The new motor works great and I don't have to mix oil with my gas any       more.  The new motor is quieter and runs well when I remember to open the air intake or turn on the gas      shut-off!                                                                                                                                                     

This is the end of the narrows and we move up and float down or sometimes we anchor and pound the water.                                                                                                                                                

We caught the first walleye right here and then we noticed the turtles on the logs.  They were out sunning on the logs.                                                                                                                                                    

Just legal but right tasty!

More turtles.

Guy was hot today!  He caught a second walleye and I was getting nothing on my twisters/minnow and jig.

I get to net the fish and add it to the stringer.  Gee, isn't this fun?

We saw a mink along the bank of the island.  If he likes this spot it should be good for us.

The mink is right on the corner and it was neat to watch his antics.  That is a great part of fishing, watching the scenery and sights around you.  Guy has another bite.  I get the net ready and he gets a nice river        smallmouth bass.  It isn't bass season so back into the water he goes.                                                      


We watch two jets pass overhead, we must be on the flight path of several airports, maybe Greenbay to Toronto or Milwaukee to Mackinaw City??                                                                                     

I switch baits and keep trying but it is Guy -3 and Donald - 1 hit, no cigar!  This is where I start  talking about the beautiful scenery and all the animals we see.  "My, how pretty the green trees are.  I wonder when I'll get a bite?"                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Guy suggests we move back up to the end of the island by the bend.  Who am I to argue with the 3 to 1 guy named Guy!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

This looks great but has two sunken trees.   I get a bite!  No wait, it is the tree.  Let's move!    


When you are motoring around, this is what we call "deadheads"!  These large cut off tree trunks are just below the water line and right in line with your fishing motor prop!  You need someone to spot!!            

We stop and Guy proceeds to kick my butt one more time.  He is into a bigger fish.  I try not to club him with the net!  At last there is a bigger fish in the net.  I am sorry I didn't get a picture.  It was a beautiful Red Horse Sucker.                                                                                                                                            


Gee, another picture of turles.  I seem to really be into nature photography today!!!

This is a picture of my home-made lure retriever.  Guys got stuck and I retrieved his lure!


This is a picture of the fish finder.  It had lots of fish on the screen.  But I couldn't buy a bite!

I really don't care, I've decide to devote my life to nature photography........unless I starting get more bites!