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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly

Today's pic is a quick group shot of some of the new pipes that will be appearing on the website shortly, probably tomorrow, once they're joined by a couple of late arrivals. I'll finally have new pipes available in all three catalogs again!

Good heavens, this has been a busy late summer! If only more of that activity had actually involved making money... I've been spending a lot of time recently experimenting and trying new techniques to improve my work. The new smooths and sandblasts in this next website update will be some of the first results of all this fiddling, and they'll all sport what I hope will be improved color and finish quality.

But one doesn't get this stuff easy! There comes a point where it starts to require more and more labor just to gain a tiny extra bit of knowledge. Learning is easy absorption in the beginning, but eventually turns to huge amounts of work for tiny improvements over the years. Still, I think this sort of "shake up" is crucial to the survival and thriving health of any craftsman's work - I wouldn't want to ever hit a plateau where there was nothing left to learn and play with.

I thought I'd at least post some of these experiments, for amusement's sake as much as anything, as an example of just how many poor results one must contend with to find those rare excellent solutions. All of the pics below are variations of ways to stain sandblasted finishes - They are combinations of stains on test surfaces. Some work, some obviously do not...

First up is this, a yellow/gold highlight over black recess staining. I've never liked having to buff down all the edges of my blasts to show ring contrast, so I've developed different methods of contrast staining that enhance the depth contrast while leaving the edges bare. This one came out pretty well. The yellow doesn't go green (a common problem) and the contrast is strong and clear.



Here's a variant of same, using an orange top stain rather than yellow (and a less-fine blasting media). Another nice result, with clear difference between colors and no annoying blending. And then there was this:



Yowza! It's a stronger orange over black, and got dubbed the "Bumblebee Finish" because the contrast of the colors is so strong and the orange is so..... ORANGE. I think it looks great fun, though I don't know if it would actually sell, not to mention the fact that this is only a test slice, and such a combo could well be quite overpowering on a whole pipe. We'll see...

This one was a disappointment. I'd hoped for a nice golden red contrast, but the yellow so totally overpowered the red contrast stain that it ended up a murky mess that looks worse in real life than in this pic. We called it "egg-drop soup" and moved on.



The above test was considerably uglier. The yellow overpowered the black and dried very opaque, yet there's still enough color combining to make it look murkily pea green when seen from the right angles and in the right light. Moving on...



This one's done the same, yet with a yellow/orange color blend to help counteract the greening effect, and a diluted mix to let the understaining show through better. It makes a strong contrast, but the color is unpleasantly suggestive of baby excretions.

Much better! I wanted a coloration that could be used on the best specimens, the pipes that didn't need dark staining. They can always be left unstained, but I wanted to play around with ways of giving them just a little color while enhancing the contrast between ring edges and depths. The yellow is still a bit strong, but another trip round the block produced this:



Very subtle depth-to-edge contrast enhancement, beautiful color, and the added benefit of nicely showing the actual flame grain of the wood under the sandblasted surface. We'll see how it looks on a pipe one of these days...

And it's as simple as that! (Not counting the other ten slices I didn't have room to show, nor considering the next question of what effects different finishes would have on the colors of the different stains....)