Final Documentation

Unfortunately my final product is not reflective of the original concept or the work I put into making it. I went through many ideas and iterations before landing on something that worked. My original idea was a collection of candle lamps that would shine patterns on themselves and their surroundings but because of my inability to employ the laser printer for my tasks I could not finish all of the components, I was only able to finish one of the 3 candle lamps.

The first step was creating a CAD file of the design I wanted cut out of my clay. I had to learn the basics of CAD to do this so I spent most of the first week learning how to use CAD from a friend who studies Architectural Engineering.

This was my original design for the laser cutter, I chose Standard 182 white stoneware for my cutting. I rolled the clay out into 1/4 inch slabs and then treated the clay to strengthen it before bringing it to campus to laser cut.

Laser cutting clay had some interesting results, at the highest power the laser cutter barely etched through. Since ceramic is heat resistant the laser was unable to make much of a mark at all and where it did make a mark it turned the silica present in clay into glass. This was a problematic development in my plan. Over the next week I created a simpler CAD drawing and attempted to create thinner sheets of clay out of porcelain. I chose porcelain because it has better qualities in light and it is stronger when thin, this idea however backfired as I was unable to even move the sheets without them crumbling.

After this round of failed attempts I decided to cut out wooden templates to use to hand cut the clay as it seemed like my only option. This worked out fine since wood is commonly laser cut.

With my new design I was able to go to the studio and stat tracing and putting my lamp together.

This image is from the rough cut stage, at this stage I experienced a number of problems I had not faced with clay before. The first problem was the shrinkage rate of the porcelain, Porcelain has a much higher shrinkage rate than stoneware and so I was not used to my pieces turning out different sizes based on the dryness of the clay. In addition to difficulties cutting even pieces I had trouble with portions of the cube drying out while I was working and cracking. In addition to the clay drying out a lot of the clay was also too wet which caused problems with warpage when trying to put the structure together. T theory in ceramics is called memory and it describes the phenomenon where clay that was once bent warps back into that position when fired, this happened to my piece. The wet clay made it difficult to avoid this memory warping in the kiln. After I finished cutting I needed to finish the piece and smooth all sections, which admittedly took a really long time because there are so many surfaces with all of the cutouts. In addition to these problems I also had trouble with the Xacto knife putting too much pressure on the porcelain and causing rips in the wet clay which was hard to correct.

This is an image I took on the shelf to fire the piece, in this picture it is fully finished and just needs firing.

This is the project finished in a typical environment as it would be displayed in a house. When fired it experienced some cracking but I hope that the cracking will be fixed in the glaze stage. This next image is the final presentation of my project.


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