What Are People Pinning From Your Website    Sunday, December 31, 2017

Pinterest and Your Website

Want to see what people are pinning from your website to Pinterest?  Put this URL into your internet address bar (but substitute the name of your website where it says “yourdomain”) and remove the space after the “h” at the start… I have those there so this won’t become a hyperlink.

h ttp://pinterest.com/source/yourdomain.com

I don’t think it works with Etsy shops, though… or at least I couldn’t get it to work with mine.  I used my regular website and got to see what others posted from there.  Neat!  

Good tool, too, to see what sparks the most interest with the viewing public.

 

Adding Off Site Links to Your Etsy Shop    Tuesday, January 6, 2015

You are allowed to list your other website(s) in your Etsy shop/listings. 
 
According to this article called Clarifying Offsite Linking Policies (click to read), here’s the current stance on non-Etsy links…
 
“As long as you’re not urging or suggesting that your buyers leave Etsy to make a purchase, you’re welcome to include any links you want in your shop - to your personal website, your blog, other online venues, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.”
 
Although you can put these URLs in your shop announcement, your item descriptions, and your profile, they will only be hyperlinks (clickable) in one special section of your ABOUT page.
 
This section is called RELATED LINKS.
 

To get links into those spots on your ABOUT page:

  • Go to YOUR SHOP: (upper right of your Etsy screen).
  • Click on STORE SETTINGS
  • Click on “INFO & APPEARANCE”
  • Click on "ABOUT" (from the menu on the left column)
  • Click on the "STORY" tab
  • Scroll all the way down to “SHOP LINKS”
  • Add your links and hit SAVE

More Patina Experiments... This Time Sealants    Friday, January 2, 2015

I decided to expand my patina testing to include sealants... as in how do certain sealants affect certain patinas.

I spent some time applying patinas via my torch scrap pieces of copper and bronze (see end of post).

Then I took six 24 gauge copper disks. 
 
 
I added texture then dapped them into dome shapes. 
 
 
I added holes.  (Normally it's easier to add the holes before dapping.)
 
Finally I cleaned them with Penny Brite followed by alcohol.  
 
Next I added patina to the pieces using ammonia and liver of sulfur (for measurements see previous blog post ). 
 
To be able to compare the coloration before and after adding sealant, I photographed these pieces along with the group of bronze and copper that were only heat patinated.

I started with Mixwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane.
 
 
I made a contraption to hold the pieces as they dryby taking some heavy gauge brass wire and forming three pieces as shown below.  I shoved the wire ends into a styrofoam square, then suspended each piece from a thinner piece of brass wire,
 
I write which number each set is, so I can match it up with my notes when I’m done. 
 

The second test was Krylon Make it Last! Clear Sealer. 
 
 
Don't forget to go outside for aerosols and most pungent varnishes and sealants.

Test #3 was Renaissance Wax. 
 
Here are photos of the fronts and backs of the patinated dome pieces before any sealants were applied.
 
 
And photos AFTER the application of the sealants.
 
 
For the heat patinated copper and bronze scraps, I used Minwax polyurethane on the right half of each piece (could see distinctive color changes immediately upon application) and Renaissance wax on the left halves of the pieces.

Here are those results:

BEFORE
 
 
And AFTER
 
 
For the piece that had that beautiful red I decided to keep a strip of it down the middle for comparison. So on the right is the varnish, on the left is the wax sealer and in the middle is au naturel. 
 
 
My conclusions afer this day of sealant testing are as follows:
  • The varnish is nice but it leaves a very glossy shine. Perhaps that can be avoided with a can of “semi-gloss” or “satin” for comparison.
  • The spray sealant seems to leave the piece feeling coated.
  • The wax leaves a nice feel to the piece, but I do think it dulls the color more than the other two coatings.
  • As can be seen in the bronze/copper scrap pieces, both the wax and the varnish significantly change the patina color. The lovely reds turned to lovely orange/yellows.
  • Most of the subtle blues and greens disappear after sealants are added.
 

How to Avoid the Duplicate Content Filter    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What is a duplicate content filter?

A duplicate content filter is a way for search engines to weed out sites that have content that's exactly the same.  After all, if you search on "torch enameling", you probably want a a variety of choices rather than the first ten to be exactly the same site.

So Google and other search engines compare words on pages and if a large portion of them are identical, the search engine figures it's just a copy and paste from one site or one page to another and so they "filter" out the duplicates and only offer up one of the options in their results.

That's good for the person doing the searching, but it can cause trouble for the website person in certain instances.

I know a lot of people who list on eBay, Etsy or their own website and will have one sentence that describes the item they're selling followed by about ten cut and paste paragraphs of their normal "spiel" (shipping info, return policies, etc).

To a duplicate content filter, those pages may all appear way too similar to be posted as search engine results because they basically say the same thing.

How to fix this problem?

I did it three ways.

  1. On one site, I write my speil in Photoshop and saved it as a jpg.  Then I just post that jpg in each listing and it's one URL rather than five paragraphs that will look identical from listing to listing.
  2. I started talking more about each individual item.  This is easier when it's an item that took me a week to make and used three different jewelry making techniques.  Less easy when I'm trying to destash a strand of agate beads.  That way, even if I do repeat a sentence or two throughout all my listings, those duplicate sentences do not account for the majority of the post.
  3. On my own website, I put all that "speil" info into my policies page.  I do worry that most customers do read the shop's policies when they place an order, but it really makes each listing much more streamlined without all the info on shipping and returns and how to care for your jewelry, etc.  
  4. When I list the same item in multiple sites, I don't copy and paste from one site to the other.  I change the wording in every sentence.  For example, here is the first sentence in a listing on my website:

"Hand fabricated bangle designed and created to appear as though it could have been found in an archaeological dig".  

And the opening sentence for the the same item for sale on Etsy:

"I designed and created this bangle to look like something that could have been found in an archaeological dig site." They say the same thing but the words are different.

 

If you’re interested in seeing if there might be pages out there that duplicate some of your content, here’s the URL to check. 

http://www.copyscape.com/

Be forewarned, you’re only allowed about ten  scans/searches per month.  [ETA: I have been informed that the site considers any Etsy URL as an overall Etsy check so if others have already checked their Etsy shop that month, the program will say you've reached your limit; I probably only tested my own website so didn't notice that.]

And with this site...

http://www.siteliner.com/

... you can check for diplicate content within your own site.

 

Etsy Promoted Listings Tutorial    Sunday, December 28, 2014

I recently ran across these great videos by Cyndi of JewelryFX that do an excellent job of explaining Etsy promotional listings.  

Cyndi's explanations makes sense and she doesn't have those 5-10 minutes rambling introductions like some video tutorials do.  Her instructions are right to the point and don't waste time.

Cyndi also has blog posts that go along with (or are instead of) the instructional videos.

Etsy Promoted Listings Video Part 1

Etsy Promoted Listings Video Part 2

Etsy Promoted Listings Video Part 3

Etsy Promoted Listings Video Part 4

Etsy Promoted Listings Blog Part 1

Etsy Promoted Listings Blog Part 2

Etsy Promoted Listings Blog Part 3

Happy sales!

Sealant Testing on Metal Stage 1    Saturday, December 27, 2014

I'd like to thank those who are providing additional information and suggestions for my testing.  These first two rounds of testing were not definitive in any way and there's still lots of tweaking and more options to try.  

Please note that I did not "heat cure" the ProtectaClear.  I followed the manufacturer's directions.

In order to cover as many bases as I can, I will "heat cure" the ProtectaClear during the next phase of testing as many metal clay users swear by this.

It has also been recommended to heat the metal prior to soaking in mineral oil for greater efficacy.

In the next round, I will also be testing sheet metal along side the metal clay, for comparison.

Thank you all again for your suggestions and support...

While some of my jewelry is more intricate and would be worn on special or infrequent occasions, a good portion of my designs are daily-wear pieces.  I am very (VERY!) concerned that the daily-wear pieces (in particular) can stand up to daily wear.

I make jewelry from fine and sterling silver, 14k gold-fill, traditional bronze and bronze metal clay, traditional copper and copper metal clay, and traditional steel and steel metal clay.

Steel, in particular, intrigues me, even moreso after taking a welding class at my local college.

However, the steel I use, whether it be sheet or powderized, is not stainless steel and the iron contained therein is subject to rust, leading to corrosion.  So one of my goals is to find ways to reduce the risk of rust showing up in my jewelry.

Additionally, there are times I'd like to protect my silver, copper, and bronze pieces from further oxidation.

So my goals for the sealant testing are to see:

  • What the sealant looks like on the piece (does it make the piece shiny, tacky, dull, etc?)
  • How well does the sealant resist water/air (to avoid rust and/or oxidation  
  • How durable is the sealant (will it last a long time?)
  • How easy is long-term maintenance of the sealant

Since powderized metalurgy (metal clay) produces a more porous end result, I opt for this material for my initial tests.

All of my tests used the same five identical charms.  Between testing I resanded (240 sanding band), cleaned the black and grooves with a radial disk, and repolished (220 sandpaper then 400 sandpaper), cleaned with denatured alcohol and allowed to dry completely.

Backing is Hadar’s Clay Low Shrinkage Steel XT, 6 cards thick, 24mm circle,  

Top is comprised of overlay of three Hadar high, one-phase firing clays

  • Center: White Satin (a steel alloy)
  • Right: Friendly Copper
  • Left : Dark Champagne Bronze

After firing per instruction the manuals, I sanded and polished to 400 grit.  I left the backing unpolished (but I did use a radial disk brush) because sanding and polishing metal clay burnishes the metal making it less porous and not all pieces are polished so I need to know the effect of sealants on unpolished pieces too.

For the liquid sealants, I dipped the entire charm into the solvent.  If I end up liking this sealant, I will try brushing on as sometimes dipping is less than optimal.

For the aerosol sealants, I coated according to the directions on the cans (generally three passes of the spray, 6-8 inches away constituted one coating)

 

Test #1  

I added a patina to the copper because I often patina my copper metal clay pieces and I need to know how the sealants work/react in real world applications.

One coating of each of the following:

  • Charm 1 (Protectaclear, dipped)
  • Charm 2 (Nikolas spray)
  • Charm 3 (PYM2 spray)
  • Charm 4 (Sculpt Nouveau Clear Guard, spray)
  • Charm 5 (W&N, spray)

All photos in this blog will get larger if you click on them (for those who like to see the details).

So here are the photos, before and after (right after… no stress testing yet).

I waited 24 hours for the coatings to cure. 

My first impressions of the finishes were:

  • Charm 1 (too glossy)
  • Charm 2 (fine)
  • Charm 3 (fine)
  • Charm 4 (fine)
  • Charm 5 (a bit too matt… lost some of the metal’s natural gloss)

Then I attached the charms to a sterling silver chain and wore the bracelet non-stop for two weeks.

In the above photo, the Windsor & Newton coating almost looks okay but that’s because it was the first one to wear off so at this point, I don’t think it even has any sealant left on it.

My conclusion is that one coating of these products isn’t enough protection.

I'm sure these products work great if a person:

A) doesn't wear the piece day-in and day-out

B) doesn't wear the piece in water

C) possibly stores the piece in a ziploc bag when not in use (this may be unnecessary for pieces with sealant).

But I prefer to know my jewelry can withstand normal wear and tear. I'd rather not sell high-maintenance jewelry at this point.  So more testing.

 

Test #2

This time I tripled the protection… if liquid, I dipped the charm into the liquid, let it cure/dry completely and repeated that two more times for a total of three coatings… if spray, I made three sweeps of the aerosol, let it cure/dry completely and repeated that two more times for a total of three coatings.

I switched up some of my sealants this time.  I may revisit this test with the three aerosol sealants from test #1 that I didn’t test this time (PYMII, Nikolas, Winsor & Newton)

Test 2 sealants:

  • Charm 1 (Protectaclear liquid)
  • Charm 2 (Mop n Glo liquid)
  • Charm 3 (Clear Guard spray)
  • Charm 4 (mineral oil soak, 4 hours)
  • Charm 5 (Renaissance Wax)

The coatings looked fine, I guess.  I think I’m acquiescing to the idea of coating my metal jewelry (something I’m not fond of) so I’m getting more and more used to the slightly glossy finishes of the sealants.

After allowing the sealants to cure for 24 hours, I put the bracelet into my tumbler with stainless steel shot, distilled water, and two drops of original Dawn. 

After fifteen minutes of tumbling, I noticed no effect so I put the bracelet back in and ran it for another 45 minutes (for a total of one hour).

I was trying to see which coatings would wear out first so was really surprised to see that although all the coatings look fine and intact, I was seeing rust on some of the pieces.  The first three charms all showed signs of rust.  Protectaclear the most, the other two slightly.  The oil soak and the Ren wax charms showed no signs of rust. 

None of the pieces showed signs of wear from the tumbling.  If the sealant wasn’t flaking off, does that mean some of these products allow water/moisture to pass through into the metal?

So those first three products may be fine for sealing copper and bronze from oxidation, but aren’t good enough for sealing steel against moisture. 

But now I needed to test things differently.

 

Test #3

Since the “tumbling in water” test kind of hit two subjects at once (water resistance AND wear and tear), I decided to break my sealant testing into smaller compartments. 

First, I want to see which coatings seal against water/moisture. 

After that, I want to see which coatings resist flaking for daily-wear type jewelry.

So the water resistance testing began.

I resanded the pieces and re-applied the same coatings as the previous test:

  • Charm 1 (Protectaclear liquid)
  • Charm 2 (Mop n Glo liquid)
  • Charm 3 (Clear Guard spray)
  • Charm 4 (mineral oil soak, 4 hours)
  • Charm 5 (Renaissance Wax)

After a day of curing, I put the charm bracelet into a dish of water and let the charms soak for four hours.

Results:

Charm 1 (Protectaclear liquid): front looks fine; some areas of rust on the back

Charm 2 (Mop n Glo liquid): for the most part, the front looks fine (the very bottom of the front has some discoloration, but in fairness to the product, when I dip a charm I continue to wipe at the bottom of the charm because of drip build-up, so it’s possible I compromised the results); same thing on the back… there is a little rust directly at the bottom of the charm where I’d been wiping after the charm was dunked into the sealant.

Charm 3 (Clear Guard spray): rust on the front in the recesses between clay types (this makes sense because my sweeping spray motions probably didn’t provide sealant to those recesses); rust also on the back (no recesses there).

Charm 4 (mineral oil soak, 4 hours): absolutely beautiful, no rust on either side and the recesses look good as does the overall evenness of the metal  on the front of the charm.

Charm 5 (Renaissance Wax): no rust on either side, but the recesses look a little funky where the wax got in and wasn’t wiped away.  Also, I think the finish looks duller on this one than on the oil-soaked charm.

Test #3b  

Although ProtectaClear, Mop n Glo, and Clear Guard all failed the water resistance testing, at a later date I can re-test them for how well they seal bronze and copper from oxidation (meaning those products may work fine on pieces that don’t contain steel).

But first I replace those failed three sealants with three other sealants and perform the water-soaking test.

As before I resanded (240 sanding band), cleaned the back and grooves with a radial disk, repolished the top surface (220 sandpaper then 400 sandpaper), cleaned with denatured alcohol and allowed to dry completely.

So now the line-up reads:

  • Charm 1 (Deft Clear Wood Finish Satin Brushing Lacquer liquid)
  • Charm 2 (MinWax Fast-Drying Polyurethane Clear Gloss liquid)
  • Charm 3 (Triangle Crafts’ Sophisticated Finishes Primer and Clear Sealer liquid)
  • Charm 4 (mineral oil)
  • Charm 5 (Renaissance Wax)

The Deft and Triangle Crafts liquids dried within a day, but the MinWax was still tacky after 48 hours so I kind of gave up on that one.  Even if it worked great… I’m not taking two weeks to coat each piece of jewelry. 

Both the Deft and the Triangle Crafts piece had three coats of sealant… two coats brushed, and the final coat dipped.

When placed into the water bowl for soaking, the Triangle Crafts piece got a milky coating on it. 

After hours of soaking then taken out to air dry, neither piece showed signs of rust (or so I thought… keep reading).  Five days later, still no signs of rust.

By that time, the polyurethane piece was dry, and although it only had one coat I decided to go ahead and water test it while I was there anyway.

No rust.

Now if you look at the close up photos, you’ll see a tiny bit of rust on the Triangle Crafts piece.  That makes sense seeing as how the sealant appeared to dissolve when the charm was put into the bowl of water.

 

CONCLUSIONS

It seems to me, sealants on metal may serve different purposes for different artists and/or for different projects.

I want a sealant that:

  • Keeps rust at bay or any metals containing iron
  • Maintains current patina on copper and bronze
  • Does not flake/wear off easily
  • Is easy to re-apply by customer if necessary
  • Ideally, would keep the super polished shine of bronze

I also want to explore what differences exist for polished metal versus unpolished, porous metal.

As I said, I still need to test these sealants for these other factors, but here’s my chart of how they stand up so far.

3 sealant coats

Rust Protection

Preserve Patina

No Flaking

Customer Maintenance

Other

Mineral oil soak (3+ hrs)

Great

   

Easy

 

Renaissance wax

Great

   

Somewhat easy

 

Deft Clear Wood Finish Satin Brushing Lacquer liquid

Great

   

Difficult

 

MinWax Fast-Drying Polyurethane Clear Gloss liquid*

Great

   

Difficult

 

Triangle Crafts’ Sophisticated Finishes Primer and Clear Sealer liquid

Iffy

   

Difficult

 

Mop n Glo liquid

Sub par

   

Somewhat easy

 

Sculpt Nouveau Clear Guard aerosol

Sub par

   

Special handling but easy

 

ProtectaClear liquid

Poor

   

Difficult

 

Winsor & Newton matt varnish aerosol

-

   

Special handling but easy

 

PYMII aerosol

-

   

Special handling but easy

 

Nikolas aerosol

-

   

Special handling but easy

 

 * Only one coat of polyurethane

 

I will let you know when I update this chart.

All this rust talk being said, however, I'd like to mention a curious thing (although probably not as curious as I first thought).

Let's back up and talk about silver.  I noticed many years ago that when I "wear" a piece of sterling silver jewelry, I have to polish it a lot less often than if I leave it sitting on an open-air shelf in my bedroom.  Meaning, wearing a piece of sterling silver seems to slow down the oxidation of the metal.

This could in part be that through hand-washing and daily showers, the piece is actually getting washed regularly, but I think it also has to do with the metal being in contact with body oils.

My own purposeful "wearing" tests on steel and bronze have yielded odd and at times surprising results.

For example, I have two steel rings that I wear.  These are similar to these.

 

I don't take them off when I wash my hands, and I even go against the advice I give my customers which is to towel dry any steel jewelry immediately rather than letting it air dry.

Neither of these rings shows any sign of rust.  

I could almost expect that on the inside of the ring where my body oils would be in contact with and therefore distribute onto the metal.  But how does the outside of the ring stay rust free?

The only feeble theory I have at the moment is that these rings are not polished, so being very porous metal (as metal clay is), the oils from my hands distribute throughout the entire metal piece, acting as protection.

I suppose one way to test this theory is to polish up a ring and see how it stands up to the same abuse.

BTW, I will be adding testing with gun blue when I next update this chart.

Regarding bronze, the other day I wore a necklace and a pair of earrings made Friendly Bronze.  I ended up walking for five miles carrying a backpack and two bags.  It was 95 degrees out and I was one sweaty SOB for about four hours.

These bronze pieces had been polished to the brightest golden shine exactly like these pieces.

I was super surprised when I arrived at my destination, took off the jewelry, and saw the state it was in.

That's why I added another item to my list of things I'd like to see if it's possible... preserving the super shiny surface of highly-polished bronze in a practical setting (meaning wearing it not just leaving it on a shelf forever).

I did have another piece that had been polished then oxidized over time and easily polished back up with a Sunshine cloth.  So I'm wondering if the difference was the salt content (my sweat) that made such a devastating dull look to the polished bronze.  Which, btw, did not polish right back up easily with a Sunshine cloth.

Stay tuned for more info always.  :-)

Learning to Fuse Fine Silver and Argentium    Friday, December 26, 2014

I’ve been experimenting with fusing fine silver.  Before I begin sharing, here's a bit of background info on the differences between fine silver, sterling silver, and Argentium silver.

Fine silver (also known as pure silver) is 99.9% silver.

In comparison, sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% mixed alloys. Usually copper is the majority of the 7.25% metal alloy added to silver to strengthen it enough for manipulation and duration. But copper oxidizes, which is why sterling silver tarnishes much more quickly than fine silver and why sterling turns black (or oxidizes) when you heat it (soldering, fusing, etc.).
 

Not only can fine silver be fused (bonded to itself) without the use of solder, it doesn't need to be pickled afterward ("pickling" is a process of soaking heated metal in an acidic solution to remove oxidation).

Fine silver, however, is very soft or malleable since it doesn't have any copper to strengthen it or stiffen it up. That makes it both easy and difficult to work with, depding on the project or design.

A lot of the silverwork coming out of Thailand is on fine silver because it's easier to manipulate, stamp, and texture.  But you don't usually make structural pieces from it (bracelets, rings, etc) because it bends too easily.

Argentium silver is like sterling silver (and may be referred to as sterling silver) except that the added 7.5% alloy includes a substance called germanium. Since the different additive alloy isn’t all copper, Argentium doesn’t get firescale (in other words it doesn’t turn black when heated) and it tarnishes much more slowly than traditional sterling silver. It does work harden in a similar fashoin to traditional sterling silver (meaning it is not as soft as fine silver).

My set-up this week included:

  • Fine Silver Wire
  • Argentium Wire
  • Blazer Micro Torch
  • Charcoal Block
  • Heat Proof Ceramic Base
  • Third Arm
  • Tumbler 
  • Crockpot of pickle (vinegar and salt)
  • Larger, unfocused torch 

The things I learned are:

1) You can fuse 14 gauge fine silver with a micro-torch 

2) To fuse one join, you have to heat the whole piece up (not just the join).

3) The join has to be almost imperceptible (cut flush and filed smooth)

4) If your piece is very big, it can be extremely difficult if not impossible to keep the whole piece hot enough (using a micro torch) for the join to fuse 

5) Torching on a charcoal brick seems to make the process faster (the brick heats up and helps keep your piece hot)

6) Sometimes torching on a charcoal brick leaves your join mottled on the side that was against the charcoal

7) Torching with a third-arm is a good alternative, but it’s harder to keep your piece as hot as it was on the charcoal brick and it takes a lot longer to heat it up

8) It is possible to fuse with a large, non-focused torch (like a plumber's torch) but you will get different results because instead of working just a small section, the whole piece starts to go molten.

9) It’s possible to fuse pieces onto other pieces, including fine silver onto sterling silver.  I attached little fine silver cut-outs to a sterling silver ring band with heat only, no solder.

10) I haven’t found a way to fuse granulation (round balls of silver) onto wire without the ball fusing to the wire in an amorphous blob.  This is something I'll practice at a later date.

11) Argentium fuses in a more laid-back manner than the often frenetic quality of fine silver, making it a bit easier to get a clean, non-lumpy join

12) Argentium doesn't do well if you quench it immediately.  I let it cool down before I quench or pickle it (yes, I pickle Argentium that I solder)

These photos are prior to any added patinas (I’m thinking the bead caps will particularly benefit from some LOS).

First up is my “learning bracelet”. I took 14 gauge fine silver, wrapped it several times around a 13mm dapping peg, cut the spiral into jumprings, filed both cut ends, then fused and fused and fused. 

Next I wanted to see how big a circle I could fuse, so I made this 24mm one. 

I continued to practice rings (some fused on charcoal brick, some with the third arm). I wanted to try light gauge too.  These are 20 gauge fine silver (left and right) and 20 gauge Argentium (top). The bottom rings are more 14 gauge fine silver. 

I tried adding granulation to a ring and this is the only one that didn’t blob out on me. The shadows at the bottom make it look worse than it is.

More 14 gauge fine silver.

Here's the one I was talking about earlier where I fused fine silver onto sterling (photo taken prior to cleaning).

Here are bead caps I made using sterling silver disks and fusing fine silver on top of the disks. These will look better after I add a patina. 

A fused fine silver heart (25x22mm). 

DIY Photo Cube Tutorial Free Instructions for Making Your Own Photography Set Up    Thursday, December 25, 2014

There are many DIY photo cube tutorials on the internet and I'm adding one more now.

For this photo cube, you can use any size box that fits your needs. The one in my example below was made out of a necessity to fit into a particular space (12 inches wide).

I hate having to set-up and tear-down my photography arrangement based on what I'm doing each day.  Wouldn't it be nice to just have a little corner space set up at all times for when I want to shoot a picture?

I found a 12-inch wide space in my workroom but the trick was setting something up that worked to my rather severe specifications and still fit into the tiny space provided.

Lampshades (my previous DIY photo cube tutorial) were not an option this time unless I wanted to hit up a dozen stores looking for the exact shape and size needed. So instead, I took a used USPS priority mailing box and an Exacto knife and began.

I took a used USPS Priority shipping box.  That is the Large Flat Rate box (12x12x5½ inches). 

Using my Exacto knife box cutter, I removed one of the sides. 

Then I close up one end with tape (I use my strong, wide packing tape because I don’t want this to pop open while I’m using it). 

This is what it should look like now. 

Then I took the leftover piece of cardboard from the side panel I had previously removed, cut it off where the crease is, and put a sheet of aluminum foil (Reynold’s Wrap) on it.   

This sits nicely in the back of the box and creates a reflective surface to more brightly illuminate your piece without causing harsh reflections.  

Next lay your cube/box down so that one of the sides is facing up and cut out the center, leaving a margin of about an inch or so. Don’t worry about jagged edges. This is not an aesthetic creation. 

Cut out squares on the other two sides.

Now your six sided cube should have:

  • a completely open bottom
  • a completely open front
  • two framed sides with cut-out openings
  • a framed top with a cut-out opening
  • a solid back that has foil facing inward.

The final step is to tape (Scotch tape is fine for this step) vellum or tracing paper over the three framed openings.   (In a pinch, you can try wax or kitchen pastry paper.) 

Here’s where I have my photo cube . The box is resting on and taped to the two metal handles at the top of this rolling shelf unit. This cart, btw, is available through Target and Cosco and other places. The drawers come out completely (something I require in my workroom) and it’s on wheels so easy to move. 

Here, you can see how it’s taped to the metal frame of the cart. 

The lighting is three Bayco 5½ inch aluminum heat lamp frames from Home Depot (I removed the metal pieces in front). These have clamps and swivel joints so it’s pretty easy to position them where I wanted. The cords aren’t real long, so I had to bring a power strip close by. 

The bulbs (also from Home Depot) are EcoSmart 14-Watt (60W) Daylight CFL Light Bulbs. 


I bring my tripod over if I want an angled shot, but usually I just use my table-top tripod positioned straight down.

Here are some photos taken with the new set up (and a point and shoot camera).

BTW, I offer the gradient paper seen in these photos on my website. You print them out yourself (use a good quality setting when printing). Click here to see the options.

Google Trends (Or How to Waste Time on a Rainy Day)    Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Need another internet way of wasting time? Check out Google Trends.

You put in a keyword (or keywords) and see what’s trending on Google (what others are searching for on Google and what country they’re from).

The website "About.com" says: “This isn't a measure of searches, but it is a measure of what people are talking about on the Internet.”

I thought it was interesting that the U.S. comes up first when searching on the word “handcrafted” while Vietmam comes up first when searching on the word “handmade”. Put in “handmade jewelry” and it's the U.S. again.

When you scroll down, you can see the top related searches. 

Try comparing search terms. For example, for the past ten years, “handmade jewelry” seems to be searched on a lot more than “handcrafted jewelry”.

Looking up “handmade” versus “artisan”, we see much closer results.

Adding the word "jewelry", however, really emphasizes the split.

Can this help you with SEO?  Let me know if you think it does.

DIY Sanding Box (Or How to Have a Dust Free Workroom)    Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I had made a new “contraption” for my workshop. Sanding metal makes a huge mess. And just because I wear goggles and a respirator while sanding, it doesn’t mean I’m okay with the metal dust particles left all over the workshop.

So I often sand outside, but that entails carrying all my stuff out there and of course I never remember to bring everything I need on my first trip out.

Here’s my current solution.

  • I took a regular cardboard file box and cut off the top.
  • Then I cut two “arm” holes in the front.
  • I taped Saran plastic wrap to seal the top.
  • Then I took some latex kitchen gloves, cut off the fingers, splayed open the wrist portion, and taped them to the two “arm” holes. 

Now I can sand inside the box and all the dust stays put. 

Every few weeks I replace the saran wrap on top.

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