Monday, August 21, 2017

Chain Mugs

measuring the chain length before cleaning and trimming

At the start of the summer, I had this idea to make mugs with chains. They're totally impractical, but I wanted to try it anyway. I started these in June, then realized that something like a cookie jar would be better with a chain because it wouldn't need to be cleaned as often or heated. Too late. I threw and glazed mugs, not cookie jars.

thrown mugs from June

These particular mugs progressed slowly, though. I threw and trimmed them in a couple of days, then took ages to get them glazed. I threw them as straight walled forms, then pressed the chains into the wet clay as I wrapped it around the mug, gradually moving from top to bottom.

chain mug with sprigs and cut groove

On two of the mugs I carved out a slight indent for the chain and added sprigs for texture. For the others, I wrapped the chain around the mug and gently pressed the soft wall of the mug out to bulge between the loops of chain.

chain mug with bulging wall

I fired all four mugs to cone 6 so they'd be food safe, using some new to me glazes. Since I don't fire cone 6 as often as I fire to lower temperatures, it took a while to fill that kiln.

bike chain before and after cleaning

Once the mugs were glazed and fired, I cleaned and prepared the chains. I started by cleaning them in Simple Green with a stiff dishwashing brush, then I used a spinning wire brush to clean off rust and the remaining oil. Strangely, one of chains didn't get completely clean using this method and I can't quite quite figure out why. It looks as clean as the others, but leaves grease on my fingertips.

using a wire wheel to clean chain

After the bike chains were cleaned, I used a chain tool to trim the chain to the correct length. This chain tool can be used to remove a link from a chain, cutting it down to size. It can also be used, with some frustration, to add a link to a chain. 

chain tool for removing or adding links

Once I had cleaned, measured, and trimmed the chains to size, I used two-part epoxy to attach the chains. 

mug, cleaned chain, and chain tool

I started with PC-11, but didn't feel like I was getting a strong bond and didn't like the white residue left by the epoxy, so I went to the hardware store in search of some clear epoxy. I hadn't used PC Clear before, but I've been happy with PC-7 and PC-11 in the past.

chain taped in place for epoxy curing

Both of the epoxies I tried are slow curing, so I taped the chains on the mugs for 24 hours. The chains fit fairly well in their grooves, but I wish I had made the grooves a bit deeper. The chain adds some weight, obviously, so adding thickness to the walls might not make sense, but with a shallow groove for the chain, there is some wiggle room where the chain is placed.

the PC-11 didn't hold this chain in place

I used PC-11 on half of all the chains and then switched to PC Clear to finish each mug. The PC Clear is much less visible, allowing me to use more of it. It's texture is similar to the glazed surface of the mugs, helping to make it less visible agains the glazed surfaces. On one mug, the PC-11 didn't hold the chain in place at all, so I redid it with PC Clear.

finished mugs before clear coat

Another potential problem with these mugs is that the chains might rust, especially if they get wet from cleaning or humidity. To try to prevent rusting, I sprayed a clear coat on the chains. Obviously I don't want to drink from a clear coat, so I protected the interior, handle and other exposed clay with masking tape before I sprayed on the clear coat.

taped mugs ready for clear coat

The end result is what I wanted, even if what I wanted is kind of silly. Obviously I don't plan to sell these not-entirely-functional mugs, but I wanted to try combining a functional form with an industrial look. I am considering, if I do this in future, making the chain from clay as well. If the chain were clay, it could be used functionally and cleaned with less fuss, but I am afraid it would lose its industrial look.

finished blue bulge mug

The trouble with making the chain from clay is that the major material feature of the chain is that it is thin and flexible in one direction while rigid and strong in the other. A clay chain that looks convincing would probably need to be made from separate cast or cut links put together on the wet pot. The small, thin pieces of clay would me more likely to chip, bend, have rough edges, or crack. Scoring and slipping might remain visible on the mug behind the chain. The final result might be more fragile, and, of course, the process would be quite tedious.

finished blue sprig mug

I was trying to envision using a 3D printer for the chain, but I'm not sure 3D clay printers can do such fine detail. If a resin printer is more detailed, it would still result in the same sorts of epoxy issues as the metal chain, but without the risk of rusting. A resin printed chain would look like resin, whereas with clay I could us gold or silver decal to make it look like metal.

finished colorful sprig mug

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell me what you think about my work or this post