The New Horns

yep, that's me with my smashing new horns

Today was a fun day. I went down to the Organic Armor studio in the River Arts District in Asheville. I forgot my camera, which I really meant to bring. Mostly because I wanted to play dress up and take pictures. So, what I did instead was I picked out this awesome set of horns. I was torn. Should I choose the ones that stick in your hair and really look like you have horns growing out of the top of your head? or the ones like this that sit across the head more like a tiara? I think it might have been designed with a different placement on the head in mind, I’ll get someone to take a picture that way some other time. Perhaps Sunday, even.

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why yes, it is real snakeskin

poor mr. snake

We went to the Laurel last week and met with a woman who had just killed this snake.  I have no idea why, it was really small and non-threatening, but you know some people just can’t let things that freak them out slither away.  So, I asked her if she was going to use it, and she gave it to me.

scissors work well for cutting open a snake

I’ve never done anything with a dead snake before, but when my pocketknife failed to produce the desired effect, I decided to use scissors.  Worked like a charm.

peeling the snake open

Once I got the skin split down the length of the snake, I gutted it.  It was pretty much just like gutting a fish, much easier than a chicken for sure.

peeling the skin off

After I cut off the head, I worked the skin off at that point and it was really easy to peel it off the rest of the snake.  If it had been a bigger snake I might’ve decided to eat the meat, but it looked like it would really be more trouble than it was worth.

see, not much meat

So, I already knew that I could preserve snakeskin with glycerin and alcohol, both of which are common household items for me…I have glycerin for soapmaking purposes, but I understand that it is quite pricey if you don’t buy it in quantity from the soap supply.  Anyway, after a quick online search I found that you can use isopropyl alcohol, it doesn’t need to be denatured, so we were good to go.  It’s a half and half solution.  I just eyeballed it, I didn’t measure.  I poured the isopropyl in first and then the glycerin.  This is my attempt at a picture showing the two before they became one.

probably just looks like clear liquid, ack

Hey!  you can see where the line was.  Well, sort of.  I think the white line is the top of the counter as refracted (is that what I mean?  someone will tell me) in the liquid, but you can clearly see there is some swirly action there in there.  I think if I had waited, the two substances would’ve made a uniform substance on their own, but I stirred them up.

it wanted to float, which is why the skewer is in there

So, at first the skin bobbed out a little, so I wrangled it down with a skewer.  After it soaked up some of the solution it was okay, so I put the lid on the jar and waited three days.

We went for a nice long hike at Mill Ridge one of those days.

butterflies mating

We saw these butterflies mating, too, and I had to snap a picture.  I’m surprised it turned out so well.

stretching day

After three days we get to stretch the skin.  I was surprised at how it really has to be stretched.  It was wiggly and puckered.

wiggly and puckered, see?

All that I had to do now was pin it down and work more pure glycerin into it.

stretching the snakeskin and pinning it
the fully pinned down skin
rubbing glycerin into the pinned skin

So now I have to wait until tomorrow, and then it’s supposed to be finished, according to everything I’ve read about it.  I am thinking of making a choker necklace from it, since it is not a really big skin, but I would like some other ideas if you have any.  I’d like to have it completed before I go to the Firefly gathering so I can show it off to my fellow primitive skills enthusiasts.  I am really excited about this! so if you see a dead snake in the road or something, I’d love to have it.  I know only a true friend who really really loves me, or someone who’s just as much of a weirdo, I guess, will pick up roadkill for me, but if it’s a big enough snake to use it’s vertebrae as beads, I’ll make you something pretty with them.  Promise!  I haven’t proceeded to other forms of road kill yet so, hold off on the possums and raccoons for now.  If you see a fox, though, I might just accelerate my learning for one of those.  Yes, I know they spell possum with an o at the beginning but that’s just wrong.

glass jar etching project

Today I decided that saving glass jars instead of using store bought glasses does have a down side.  Mainly that there are so many of them in my cabinet.  We use the ones with good lids for food storage, since I really try not to use a lot of plastic in my kitchen, they are a good alternative to plastic containers.  So, I thought I would etch some designs into some jars so as to differentiate the ‘drinking glass’ jars from the ‘food storage’ jars, and so that people can remember which glass is theirs. My fantasy is that everyone will start remembering which jar they were drinking from so I don’t have 20 to wash every day, but I’m not holding my breath for that just yet.

my candidate and it's running mates

I chose a large peanut butter jar, because it’s the size I like to drink from.

I used rubbing alcohol and a washrag to take off the remnants of glue

The jar had a bit of glue left from the label, and I knew that would resist the etching creme so before I started putting my design on, I deglueified the glass with alcohol.  Rubbing alcohol will take most glues off glass, but if you try to remove glue from plastic with alcohol it will usually make the plastic cloudy.  But that’s not important here, since we don’t etch plastic with this etching creme.  You could get an etched effect if you used the alcohol on plastic, actually.

starting to add a design to the glass with masking tape
the masking tape is in place on the jar

When you decide what you want to etch into your glass, you mask off the negative parts of the design.  I chose to make a sunburst because it is an easy thing to make with just tape, plus it looks nice.

the etching creme is applied

I didn’t have anyone handy to take a picture of the creme being applied, but I use a cheapo plastic paintbrush to apply it.  I also wear rubber gloves, as the etching creme is caustic.  I figure if it can eat off a layer of glass, I don’t want it on any of my sensitive living tissue.   I have done this project with my kids before, but I let them make designs with tape and I applied the creme myself.  The creme is supposed to sit for 5 minutes, but I left it a bit longer.  Nothing terrible happened.

always use rubber gloves for this!

As I washed the etching creme off I used the rubber gloves to get in between the bits of tape, and most of the tape peeled off in the process.  No matter.  I threw the tape away right away because I’m sure there is still some etching creme stuck in it.

without the flash
with the flash

It’s not so easy to get a good picture of this, but I think you can see that the design turned out pretty well.  If anyone has any pointers on taking pictures of reflective clear things, bring ’em on!  I think I will do a skull and crossbones next.  Maybe I can interest some moonshiners in that one.  Or the XXX design from the cartoons that is supposed to denote moonshine or other liquor in the jug.  What do you think?

thread spools and what I did with them

i collect thread spools

I have been collecting these for a couple of years.  Most of them are made of wood, but a few are styrofoam.  I have been looking for interesting ways to use them without damaging them.

I made them into a peg rack

I saw the idea for a peg rack made of thread spools somewhere, but the designer used wood screws and screwed directly into the spools!  Horrors!  I spent some time finding the right arrangement for the spools, as they come in lots of different sizes.  It worked out well that some of the shorter ones got stacked atop two peices of wood, the taller ones I situated below on the single layer of wood.

I drilled holes where the spools would go

Once I had my layout configured I prepared the wood to attach the spools to it.

making room for the nuts with a paddle bit

This paddle bit did a great job of removing wood from the screw hole so that the finished piece will lay flush against the wall.

back view

Here you can see how the back looks with the hardware installed.

The final arrangement and (mostly) finished piece

Now all that is left for me to do is attach this to the wall.  I had to use tiny washers on some of the spools but most I did not as I wanted to preserve as much of the visual continuity of the spools as possible.  I may disassemble this and patina the screw heads at some point.