Sunday, May 29, 2011

Slab Roller Shenanigans

Remember how my kiln failed totally a few weeks ago? Well, this week it was the slab roller's turn. Super Helper noticed that it was making uneven slabs, and we could see that one of the cables underneath was suddenly looser than the other one. We tried to tighten it, and the bolt snapped. I had known the cables were near to having to be replaced and had ordered a new set last year, which was very lucky. These were probably the original cables, and this thing has got to be 40+ years old. I bought it 20 years ago from a 75-year-old potter who was retiring and it wasn't new then. He and my husband and the fellow from across the street lifted it into my then-new pickup truck. They said they used Zen to do it! Then we drove home with it and the jolley/jigger and 200 plaster molds in my half-ton. But that's another story.....

The new cables did come with instructions, but still, replacing the cables looked a daunting task.

Step 2 in the instructions said to drill out and enlarge the holes in the frame that the cable end bolts went through. Yikes. A good 3/16 inch of cold steel..... I was quite worried about that, but went and bought a drill bit for the electric drill. I told Long-suffering Spouse about it at dinner, and to my surprise he said he knew how to do it and would in fact do it for me. So after eating (it's always best to attack challenges on a full tumm), we went to the Studio and he drilled all four holes in no time at all! Many, many Husband Points!

Next day, SH and I removed the old cables and attached the new ones. Except for the fact that we got dreadfully dirty from the old belt dressing on the cables and roller it wasn't really too awful a job. I was a bit freaked by it all, but by carefully reading, re-reading and re-re-reading the instructions, we did it. And the roller works better than ever!

The only thing is, they say bad things come in threes, and now I'm afraid to turn anything else on in the Studio.....

Monday, May 16, 2011

1. Remove chipmunk.......

Top of my to-do list today: get that chipmunk out of the Studio!

It was my own fault, of course.  I had put the extra sunflowers seeds which didn't fit into the metal bird food container in the Studio last week. I did this for two reasons, first because the house just doesn't have room for large bags of seeds and, second because putting a bag of sunflower seeds in the garage would be inviting all the local squirrels, chippies, raccoons, mice and other nightlife in to dine. Then Friday was a nice warm day so I had the Studio door open. Saturday morning I was in there early getting stuff out of the kiln for the Market that day and quickly discovered that there was a chipmunk inside and not a happy one, either.

At that point it was about 7am and I had to go so I decided to deal with Ms. Chippie later. I closed the door because now it was cold out and anyway I didn't want two chippies in the Studio.

Sunday I tried for a while but I couldn't get her to leave. Would you, once you'd found a lifetime supply of food and water, and a warm floor to boot?

So my first task today was, Remove Chipmunk from Studio.

Wasn't hard to find out where she was. There were sunflower seed shells and dug-up plant pots on the windowsill and when I went over there I heard a loud chittering and several pots went skidding across the counter. OK, chipmunk on counter. I pried the screen out of the window and cranked it open.

Loud chittering. Chipmunk on floor behind pails of glaze. Dog attempting to dig chipmunk out. Pails of glaze sloshing as he shoulders them aside.

The screen I took out of the window tips over and bangs me on the head. Aha, chipmunk back on counter. Oh, nope. Chipmunk in fern stand. Bad. Ferns do not like being stepped on by chipmunks or shredded by dogs.

Put dog in house. He sits at the door and barks. Husband lets him back out.

Dog back in house. Husband miffed.

Loud chittering. Chipmunk under bisque-ware shelves. Get broom and try to swish her towards the open door. Sneeze and sneeze because I've stirred up the alumina hydrate which I use on the kiln shelves and which tends to sift under the ware stands. I'm annoyed because two windows and the door are open, it is barely above freezing outside and the electric heater is on to keep the place warm. Turn the heater off. If the Brits can make pottery in studios that are below freezing, surely I can work in one that is above freezing, even if only slightly. No sign of Chipster.

Maybe she'll go out on her own. Start cleaning up some greenware. Peace and quiet prevail.

Back to the Studio after lunch. Loud chittering. Chipmunk on counter. More pots tipped over. Several tiles which have been hanging on the wall for years are on the floor, one of them smashed to bits. Grrrrrr, now I am really getting  annoyed. I shout at her, clap my hands and stomp my feet. Chipmunk freaks out, races around the Studio at head height, dislodging another tile, a poster and several ferns, and dives back under the counter behind the glaze pails.

Husband says, lay a trail of sunflower seeds out the door. Tell him that's a dumb idea. Now he's really miffed.

Back out to the Studio. Open both doors and all three windows. Lay a trail of sunflower seeds out the door.

Throw some mug bodies while shivering in the cold breeze from the door.

Dog wanders in.

Loud chittering. Chipmunk on counter..... she ignores the open window and races back and forth along the counter, scattering seedling tomatoes and jars of paint brushes. Dog races back and forth below, always one step behind Super-Chippie. He'd be barking except then he wouldn't be able to snap his teeth at her.

Yell at dog. Order him out. He gaves me a look that says, 'OK, do it yourself then', but he goes.

I fix the trail of sunflower seeds. This is nuts. No, not nuts, seeds. Hey, maybe peanut butter would work.

Doesn't this chippie have a family? Shouldn't she be home looking after the little chippies, maybe getting the laundry caught up?

Carry Pepper the Cat into the Studio. Heh, heh, heh.

She promptly leaves. She likes rain, the only cat in the Western World who does, and it is raining. She sits on the path and communes with Nature. Grrrr..... Some pets I have. My dog thinks chasing chipmunks is a sport, and my cat prefers sitting in the rain to catching a food species.

I pull all the pails of glaze out from the wall, move the kiln shelves so they are away from the wall, and pull the counter with the water pail and washing bowl out as well. Now there's no place to hide at floor level.

Put Dog in the house and bring Cat back in the Studio.

Point Cat at the corner where Chippie was last seen. She goes down low.... slinks along the ground.... a brownish-yellowish blur streaks for the door.......

Victory, Sweet Victory!

Chippie is out!

Now, what to do with a pile of sunflower seeds covered in peanut butter...........

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Unquitting on Monday

Alright, you didn't think I really quit, did you?

The Monday after the big windstorm I arranged for one of our larger financial institutions to buy a new kiln and let me keep it at my place and use it.......

It's a ConeArt, 7.5 cubic feet, with Bartlett controller. I was, and still am, a bit dubious about the whole computer controller thing, but so far so good. To my joy and amazement, the first cone 6 firing with actual pots inside was so accurate I could hardly believe it. I had witness cones on every shelf, and every one was the same and the cone 6 witness cones were all exactly perfect - just touching down. The ware was also perfect, the glaze just the way I'm used to.

And ya gotta LOVE that lid! Spring loaded and so easy to open and close!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Thursday Quitting - part 1

On Thursday, I quit. Just plain QUIT. Gave up potting and decided to become a vegetable instead. Too many problems, too much work, nothing ever goes right..... don't make any money anyway....  might as well just give up. Grow vegetable marrows, maybe. BE a vegetable marrow, maybe.


Well. First thing I did on Thursday was load my larger kiln for a cone 06 firing.Went to push the button in on the kiln sitter to turn the power 'on' and it wouldn't catch. The kiln would not come on. Now, the plastic had come off the button a week or so ago, but it didn't seem to matter so I hadn't worried about it. After all, just about everything else on this kiln is broken too. It's old and has had a lot of use.

I took the little panel off and tried to see what was wrong. Since the panel wouldn't move very far from the box, this meant lying on my back on the concrete floor and squinting up at a mess of little springs and clips only inches from my face, wearing, of course, bifocals. Couldn't see anything except that kiln sitters are more complicated than I thought. Tried again with reading glasses and a flashlight and learned was that there was no room to manoeuvre a flashlight in there. OK, so I spent 10 minutes moving the kiln shelves away so I'd have more room and tried it again. Now I could see the mechanism, but darned if I could see anything wrong.

This was so not good news.

Thought I'd tidy up a few more greenware mugs and think about it. Doing the third mug, I bumped #2 and over it went and of course smashed. Hard to think about how a kiln sitter might work when you're annoyed with yourself for doing something so stupid as to bump a greenware mug over.

Then I tried to loosen the incoming power cable enough to allow me to pull the kiln sitter dealie farther out so I could see it better. The bolt on the cable clamp was rusted solid. WD-40 to the rescue and more greenware cleaning while I waited.

Got the bolt to loosen. Turns out the insulation on the cable won't allow it to move anyway.

Considered how hard it might be to fix the wrecked kiln I bought the other day and which has been clogging up the only walking space left in my garage. It was clearly dropped at some point and has a lot of chipped bricks but the elements all look practically new and the switches and kiln sitter ditto. Obviously, removing its kiln sitter and replacing the one on the old kiln, which was my first thought, would be next to impossible. Every connection would have to be re-done and the elements on the old kiln are, naturally, old, and thus fragile. Not really an option.

Could I set up this wrecked kiln and get it to work? I could perhaps cut small pieces of firebrick to prop up the elements where they are currently unsupported and see if it would work. It might, but it might not. What are the chances of a kiln that has been moved several times actually working? Not to mention that the lid can't be attached due to the dent in the wall..... but I could just lift it on and off.

Trouble is, that commits me. Once I disconnect the old kiln, I'm committed to making this other one work. You can't twist wires apart and back together too often and this kiln is wired in. No plug, just wires twisted together with little plastic caps on. And did I mention that the electrician who installed the box on the wall put it in upside down? Not that it really matters, but I can't get the cover on, which annoys my local electrician. He won't help until I get that fixed, and if I call any other electrician my name will be mud or worse.

Can I order a new kiln? Well, yes, but it won't come for a few weeks, and I need to fire a mess of stuff by next Friday. The Market opens a week Saturday and I need to fill lots of shelves and I'm also doing a little local sale that I really want to look good at, the same day. The Studio is full of stuff waiting to be fired, and a couple of loads in the 10-cube would get most of it done..... but the 10-cube is d-a-y-d.

Remembered I'd forgotten to pack and ship a teapot the day before and must do it. Customer bought a teapot, took it home, unwrapped it, dropped it on her tile floor, crunch. Send new teapot asap, please. Oops. That was yesterday.

Supposed to set up at the Market on Saturday and need a new floor covering. I have been using a piece of indoor-outdoor carpet, but I hate it because it picks up and holds on to, every little fluff, dust, mud or what-have-you that wafts by. And with a thousand or more people going through on the average Market Day, that's a lot of fluffs, dusts, muds and what-have-yous. I've been checking at various cheap flooring emporiums the last few weeks and none of them had any linoleum-type stuff in colours I can stand. Usually I can find a nice remnant but not this year. Will have to use that blasted carpet thing one more year, I guess, but not happy about it.

Fiddled with the kiln sitter some more. All the little bits underneath seem to move freely, why won't the button catch? Alright, it doesn't seem to go in far enough either. Maybe there is something caught inside. How can that be? It's all sealed. Tried to remove the little box which has the 'works' from the panel. The screws turn and turn and turn and turn and..... don't come out and the box doesn't come off and it's sealed anyway. My neck hurts too much to continue, so go back to cleaning greenware.

Forgot to scratch the Studio name on the bottom of some of the flat pieces, and now I have to do it with them dry, which is always harder, grrrrrrr.

Sprayed the kiln sitter springs and such with WD-40. Hey, what do I have to lose?

Didn't help.

Go in the house and have a cup of tea to calm down. My accountant calls and wants to do my income tax today. Do I have all my papers sorted and totaled, ha, ha, ha. Tax is due Monday so it has to be done. We'd arranged for him to do mine last of all his clients because I needed more time to scrape up the money I'll owe. OK, he'll come a bit later this aft and I'll get the papers ready for him after lunch.

Back to the Studio. Get down on the floor again, flashlight in hand, and peer up at the darn thing some more, trying to apply logic. What moves what and why and when.... ah, that little plate moves up, which then....

Suddenly, I'm in the pitchy dark. No super-cheerful voices from the radio, no hum from the overhead lights.

The power is off.

We are having a violent windstorm. What with worrying about the kiln, I haven't really noticed but the wind has come up something fierce. The trees are whipping around, leaves and even gravel from the driveway are blowing around, my dog is trying to hide between my feet, it's dark and ominous out. Clouds are moving so fast it gives me a sick dizzy feeling. 100-foot tall pines are bending at 45 degree angles. As I stand there in the open Studio door I see my wheelbarrow skid across the garden and my canoe lift and roll down the bank, fetching up against the back of the house..

Clearly, this was no 5-minute storm. The power was not going to come on again anytime soon. I was not going to be able to get the kiln working and I was not going to get my work fired in time and it did not look good for the Market opening day and the little Sale.

So I quit. Resigned. Gave up potting. Decided to get a job at McD's. Or not.

What would you do?