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Tyler Miller

Ceramics Projects As A Means To An End

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Something I get a great deal of pleasure from is making tools for projects I'm working on.  There aren't a lot of tools you can make with ceramic, but I thought I'd share the crucibles I make.  I've use these for water casting copper, and when the weather's nice enough to safely cast again (one stray snowflake or water droplet could cause an explosion) I'll be casting copper, bronze, and shibuichi(75% copper, 25% silver).  I'm even going to play with using them for making crucible steel or wootz, which has a lovely dendritic structure.  The clay body is Pottery Supply house's Sheba Raku.  Miraculous stuff--I get three pours at about cone 4 from a crucible before it starts to break down.


 


The copper blob will be a tsuba when I get done with it.


 


I'd love to see what tools you make from ceramic, and how you use them.  Soufflé dishes, jars, thermal components, it's all good.  :)


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Awesome! I got my wife a bronze cast rabbit for Christmas. Very intricate process to do the casting yet very old and interesting. I've not made any tools from my ceramics except the kind you drink from :-)

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I do brass and bronze sand casting and I have been using SiC crucibles. They last for about 20 pours sometimes more. They are expensive and I might try Raku. Even with only four pours it would be cheaper than what I am paying for. Did you just bisque the clay or bring it up to cone 4 before you did the melt?

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I do brass and bronze sand casting and I have been using SiC crucibles. They last for about 20 pours sometimes more. They are expensive and I might try Raku. Even with only four pours it would be cheaper than what I am paying for. Did you just bisque the clay or bring it up to cone 4 before you did the melt?

 

I just put the crucibles in with my usual bisque.  Maybe there's better performance to be had from firing them higher?  I have no way to fire high enough to get mullite formation, so I figured a bisque fire would be good enough.

 

I fill the crucibles cold, lining them with powdered charcoal, and then cover with more of the same, and spoonful of borax, with a few large chunks of charcoal over the top to keep the oxygen out.  Something I might try on my next pour is glazing them (maybe a three way blend of Gerst. Borate, flint, and epk) to get a little more life out of them.  You're supposed to glaze commercial crucibles to prolong life, I figure the same should be true of mine.

 

Because I'm scared to death of breaking a crucible during a pour, I heat them a little more slowly than I would with a SiC or clay-graphite crucible.  This could just be paranoia on my part, but I feel it's worth mentioning.  As a disclaimer, I always work under the assumption that a crucible will fail, so I'm pretty heavily decked out in safety gear.  I've never had one fail

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bciskepottery,  you answered every question I could have had in one link post.

 

Min, it looks like at least on of those extruder dies in the photo is broken.  I guess if it works long enough to complete a project, it's worked long enough.

 

Thanks for sharing!  I've learned a lot about the possibilities clay holds.

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Tyler,

 

I'm even going to play with using them for making crucible steel or wootz, which has a lovely dendritic structure

 

Have you tried Damascus steel blades?

 

I don't know if it's possible with the technology you are using, but I've got a few paper lying around somewhere on

analysis of historic artefacts, and attempts at modern reconstructions if you are interested.

 

Regards, Peter

Tyler Miller likes this

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John, that will be my first one.  I'm a tsuba noob.  Up until now, I've never bothered with fittings beyond habaki.  It's considered a separate discipline from the actual blade making and I was always content with just habaki and shira saya.  My goal for 2014 is to do five fully fitted Japanese swords and five European.

 

Even still, I'm notoriously bad for recording my work.  A friend of mine is putting pressure on me to change that, so in the next month I'm going to be photographing everything I've got on hand and posting it to a website.

 

If I sent a little something your way, would you mind doing a few cuts and telling me what you think?  Performance testing isn't something i've done--I'm no kind of iaidoka.

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Peter, that's a huge collection!  Thank you for posting them.  I remember reading the Scientific American article when I was in high school.  I was so inspired I called the Sorel metal people and bought a 20 lb box of it.  I didn't understand enough about getting things hot back then, so it's sitting around waiting to be used.

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If I sent a little something your way, would you mind doing a few cuts and telling me what you think? Performance testing isn't something i've done--I'm no kind of iaidoka.

 

Uhhhhhh .....wow. Thanks! I'm not sure I am worthy of such a responsibility. I might be able to get my sensei (Godan level -5th degree black) to test it. Very high ranked for a gaijin anywhere in the USA. He'd be the most knowledgeable person I know to try it out in tameshigiri. His opinion would be important feedback.

 

I'm surprised as a maker that you have not found your way to the art. It would seem to be a 'natural combination'.

 

Are you making saya also? Just shirasaya?

 

best,

 

....................john

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I use bisque fired plate pieces as ribs.

Cool!  I've never thought to try that.

 

 

I got given a fired ceramic egote (throwing stick) by a Korean ceramist as a present.  I took one look at it and said to myself..... "DOH!  Why didn't I think of that?"

 

best,

 

....................john

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I'd really appreciate any feedback you or your sensei could give.  Refining my blade forms to improve performance is a big goal of mine.


 


I will be making saya--first time for that too.  I find the idea of that a lot less intimidating than  tsuba, fuchi, and kashira.  Tsuba are an entirely new skill set.  I can heat, pour, and pound metal, but jeweller's saws and tagane are completely new to me. :)


 


I was a fencer for a number of years and I got into swords that way.  I came to the Japanese tradition after becoming a maker because it's almost entirely untouched by the industrial revolution.  It's a more pure form of handwork than the western tradition.

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Ceramics and metal! Now were cookin!

 

I built a gas melt furnace that doubles as a raku kiln and gas foundry... all in the placement of the flame deflector.

Tyler, since you are melting copper you could do bronze and make some awesome hilts and guards for those blades you make with some simple sand casting. You could even make the mold blanks out of clay and come full circle. 

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Ceramics and metal! Now were cookin!

 

I built a gas melt furnace that doubles as a raku kiln and gas foundry... all in the placement of the flame deflector.

Tyler, since you are melting copper you could do bronze and make some awesome hilts and guards for those blades you make with some simple sand casting. You could even make the mold blanks out of clay and come full circle. 

:)  That's exactly what I was thinking!

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Yes I love this. Its nice to see this thread. Kinda de railed a bit but on a good track. Ive delved in the metal casting world but only in aluminum because of the ease at the moment. Sand casting and lost foam. I have smelted down copper once into ingots but nothing more. I a small forge made out of a propane tank and some Kaowool. Reil Burner design. I have thought about fabricating a extruder/press mold to make crucibles quickly. Basically a sturdy plaster base with a hole in the bottom. Strong side walls and a inner piece to plunge and press the shape while the excess clay and be scraped away and also pushed out the bottom. Figured it would be a good idea in conjunction with a good clay mix that might not be as workable, but still have the good attributes to withstand abuse.

 

Plan to also build another furnace to get away from aluminum for a bit and expand my horizons in different metals. We have a ton of waste auto oil from doing my whole families oil changes at our shop so I want to utilize a waste oil burner soon as well.

 

Three of my favorite egg forms.

 

egg1-1.jpg?w=370&h=

 

pot-belly.jpg?w=370&h=

 

vase4o.jpg?w=370&h=

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Those are beautiful!  I totally agree that a press for crucibles would be the best solution for making tough crucibles quickly.  What kind of mix do you think you would use as a body?  A non plastic kaolin and mullite?

 

How do you find aluminum for shrinkage when casting?  I've steered clear of it in favour of copper alloys because I've mainly stuck to water casting and because I've heard it loves to shrink.

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You know to tell you the truth I havent had any issues with shrinkage, but thats primarily because I havent had strict match ups. Although, I will say I learned what a "interference fit" or "friction fit" was after a failed idea. Haha I guess I wasnt thinking, but it did help me find a solution to a issue I was dealing with. I couldnt find a large metal collar, so I made one that clung to the pipe I cast it to.

 

I was going to go the route of graphite crucible. I stumbled across some back woods guy that made his own and pressed them by mixing, forming rings, and pressing them one by one in a tube using a car jack. Although from what Ive heard raw graphite is not the cheapest. I'm guessing I stick with a good fire clay recipe to start.

 

Found the link

 

 

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