Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pressing Matters

The tile making process took another big step ahead this weekend with the building of my tile press. I'm no engineer, but I have to say I'm rather pleased with this effort. As with any other project like this, I sort of designed it as I bought the parts. It's not the most efficient way of doing things, but when it comes to any sort of machine work, I tend to do better learning the ropes while I do things.

I knew I needed an arm with a spring for return. I also knew I needed an upright for the arm to pivot in. Then there is the press foot. Those were the essential three pieces for the press. Once I had them in place, I discovered that a guide arm would be necessary to keep the press foot from swinging as it raised and lowered. I would also need to figure out where I wanted the action to start and finish.

It was actually a lot of fun to observe this simple machine in action and determine what enhancements would be needed. It was worth the four trips to the hardware store it necessitated.
Potters may notice that the arm and press foot are made of parts from an old Bailey hand extruder. I modified them by drilling a few holes and moving parts around a bit.

Drilling through tool steel with a hand drill is such fun. But if you're looking for a handy shop tip, here is a great discovery I made: olive oil makes a great cutting oil.

This press will work best for smaller tiles. There are better methods for making larger ones and I will be making molds for those in the near future. What I have to set about doing now is making originals to cast molds from. In my last post, I included a picture of the first die I made. It's rather big for a press like this unless working with pretty soft clay. Still, I gave it a try to see how the process works. Here is the result (before edge cleaning).
Not at all bad for a very first attempt.

Regarding originals from which to cast dies, I have started artwork on a series of tiles featuring lighthouses in Maine. They will be mosaic in design like the dove tile above. While there is still quite a bit to do on it, here is a preliminary layout for a tile featuring Whaleback Light. I sill want to add rocks to the foreground and clouds to the sky. The clouds will obscure the moon a bit for effect.
Mind you, the typeface will change. It's just there as a place holder, but I do plan on putting the name of each light on the tile.

But things are once again off and running!

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