Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Challenge Swaps, Foredom and Serendipity

Whew! Lots of cobwebs in here - it's certainly been a while since I've last posted an entry. There are a bunch of posts in draft, but I've not had the time or the inspiration to finish. I've been busy making things - not finishing much, but making - yes, definitely.

The occassion for this post is serendipity - something I adore writing about, particularly when I am the sole locus of the event. As always, there's quite a bit of background that I need to express, so bear with me.

In mid-July, the ever-talented Jeni Smathers decided to host another color based Challenge Swap. Beading Daily (BD) members would send her some beads in the designated colors (blue, yellow and green), and $2 to defray the cost of postage, and she would divvy out the beads to all the participants, who had a month or so to create things with those beads. Participants would then send Jeni pictures and descriptions and ultimately all of the BD forum members would get to see everyone's work.

I sent Jeni a big box of beads, and got my package about 2 weeks ago. I have to say, I was a bit dismayed - lots of seed beads, some plastic beads, and worse yet - lots and lots of the very beads I sent to Jeni, but in very small quantities (mostly vintage glass that I've been holding onto for years). I sorted everything out then put everything away. There just didn't seem enough of anything that I could use to make the type of jewelry I like to make. Every night or so, I'd take out the package, fiddle around a bit and then put them away. Nothing seemed to kindle any spark of creativity,* and my participation in this challenge seemed quite doomed.  Last Friday; however, I called MDF Lois to ask if she wanted anything from BeadFest, and we got around to discussing the challenge.  She was kind enough to send me an email with pictures that gave her some inspiration, and although the jewelry in those pictures were not the kind I would normally create - I did find something to get the creative juices flowing.

I'm not going to describe the piece in detail (that may come in another post), but it was basically built around copper and copper colored findings.  One of the elements is a chain of copper rings, which gave me the impetus to finally try out my new PepeTools jumpring maker.  In addition to the mandrals and mounted chuck and handle for coiling the wire, there is a cutting rig that uses a blade and collar mounted on a Foredom size 30 handpiece, and a jig that holds the wire coil.

Now, I've got to backtrack quite a bit...this is where serendipity lands.

Back in the dawn of the eBay era - late 1996 or early 1997, thereabouts, I bought a real Foredom Flexible Shaft Machine.  It arrived and I couldn't get it to work - the motor just wouldn't turn on.  The seller basically disowned all responsibility, and I felt I pretty much wasted $90.  The box went into the back of the basement, and although I never quite forgot it was there, I really didn't want to even think about it. 

Fast forward to 2006 - I was definitely getting back into the jewelry arts, or at least beading.  I was surfing eBay for fine silver wire, when I came across the listing pages for Finding King, a jeweler supply company based in Arizona.  They were offering an off-brand (read, Chinese-made) flex-shaft, with the hanger, and several dozen bits and burs, for $75, and I bought it, along with a spool of 28 gauge fine silver wire.  The transaction with Finding King was the worst in a decade of buying on eBay - they didn't actually have the flex shaft in stock; over the course of a month, random parts of the order would arrive - a bunch of burs, the hanger, and finally the flex shaft itself.**

I used the flex shaft on and off since it arrived, and much more once I started working with PMC.  When the peddle  got a bit dicey, I remembered the Foredom and dug it out from underneath a mound of computer boxes.  The Foredom peddle worked fine with the off-brand.  When the handpiece got too hot, I tried out the one from the Foredom, and that worked like a dream - this is the difference between American made quality products and Chinese off-brands.  When I bought the PepeTools jumpring maker, I wanted to dedicate the off-brand handpiece to the cutting rig, but it wasn't a true #30, so I set it up with the Foredom handpiece.

Swapping the handpieces on the off-brand was okay - it always took a few tries to ensure that the flange on shaft connection was engaged.  But something happened on Monday night when I put on the handpiece with the jumpring cutting rig - no matter what I tried, the motor would run, but the shaft wasn't spinning properly.*** 

At this point, I was actually feeling quite sick§.  I really did not want to purchase another flex shaft - and I was intensely disappointed that I couldn't get the jumpring cutter to work.  I thought that I could try to swap out the shaft from the Foredom, but I couldn't seem to make any headway with getting the shaft disengaged from the motor on the off-brand.  In a fit of desperation, I hung up the Foredom, plugged it into the peddle, flipped the switch and with no expectation of anything happening, depressed the peddle.  And guess what!


I was able to finish my Challenge Swap necklace, and I've got a very fine working Foredom Flexible Shaft Machine.  It's so much more powerful than the off-brand - it's the difference between a Geo Metro and an Audi A3.

*I think my head's been too wrapped around PMC to be an effective beader
**The spool of wire wasn't shipped until after I left Finding King negative feedback and threatened to file a complaint against them with the Arizona BBB.  Oh, and sent them an email calling them a bunch of morons.
***It may be that just the bushings need to be replaced
§ It wasn't just the circumstances.  It was also the heat and the stink from the previous night's dye job.
§§ I suspect that it was fully operational all along, but I didn't have the On/Off switch set to On.

No comments: