Lampwork setup of my very own

On Sunday, I finally got everything set up! I had to do a last-minute dash to the local hardware shop (thank dog for Sunday openings) to pick up the right size of jubilee clip for my torch, along with a nice hefty adjustable spanner. Newbie bead pics soon, but first here’s the step-by-step of construction.

1. After sawing the MDF to size and sanding down all the edges with my Black & Decker sander, I needed to make the circular cutout in the top pieces for the fan to fit in. The top consists of a layer of cement board for fire resistance with a layer of MDF on top for strength (cement board’s pretty brittle). So I had to do these steps twice.

I used my dremel to drill and then enlarge pilot holes around the circumference of the circle I want to cut out, plus one in the centre.

Drilling pilot holes in the box top

2. Then I threaded the blade of my fretsaw through the hole nearest the edge and fastened it back up. This let me saw a line to the centre drill hole and then cut out a small rough diamond-shape (the fretsaw wasn’t long enough to remove any more material than that). I could now fit my trusty junior hacksaw into this gap and gradually cut out more and more pieces. It took a while – the cement board version actually went faster because I could cut wedge shapes and then snap them off round the circumference. I am left with a jaggedy-edged hole.

Hole sawn in box top

3. I then used one of the sanding drums on my dremel to grind down the jaggedy bits so I ended up with a nice smooth circle. I felt rather like a dentist while doing this! Something about the pencil grip and having to use a gentle dabbing motion… Aaaaanyway.

4. Time to attach the wooden frame struts to the side pieces of MDF. To start with, I used No More Nails to glue them on and clamped the pieces down while they were drying. (You can see the finished top pieces propped up at the bottom of the pic). I do this for the sides and back. Takes a few sessions because they have to be left to dry.

Gluing frame together

5. Now the sides needed fitting together. This was fairly tricky, and more No More Nails was required. To do the first join (back plus one side), I arranged it so that one was standing vertically on the floor and the other was making an inverted L-shape with it, the free end resting on the table. I left these overnight to set.

The next day I put screws into the part I’d glued, then attached the other side to the back by putting the whole thing on the floor right-way-round, putting glue in the join and then putting the screws in straight away. That part involved a few acrobatics, but all went well. Then I just had to complete the frame by fitting in the strut that runs across the top front. I screwed angle brackets into the corners to further reinforce it, and the sides were done.

Box frame with sides

6. Now the top had to go on, cement board first. Something had come out slightly non-right-angled when I set the top on. Either the top wasn’t entirely square, or the frame had ended up slightly oblique, or both. So I used some offcuts of wood and MDF to help draw lines on the cement board where the underlying frame was so that I would know where to put the screws in. I tried putting the first screw in straight away, but it was rather tricky so I got out the dremel again and drilled holes through the cement board and into the wooden frame beneath. Much easier. I marked around the side in line with the screws I’d just put in, and put the MDF top on. Again I drew out where the frame would be, and drilled holes so that the MDF screws would go inbetween the cement board ones. All done! Then I just had to heft the whole thing back onto the table. It’s a lot heavier with the top on!

The finished box!

7. The box is done, but the ventilation needs fitting. I’d got an 8″ fan, a reducer to 6″, some 6″ ducting, a reducer to 4″ and there was a 4″ tumble drier vent in the wall. First I had to wire the fan – I took the end off the power cable for my long-dead iMac, connected the wires up (very easy, though I do always need to check which colour is which. Earth is brown, right…? No) and replaced the 10A fuse with a 3A one. Annoyingly, after all that the cable was about 10cm too short to reach the wall socket, so there’s a 4 socket extension lead sitting on top of the box that the fan is plugged into. Guess it could come in handy if there’s ever anything else I need to plug in near there.

Next, put fan in hole. Discover have to sand hole slightly for fan to fit, but that isn’t a problem. Very snug fit. With the help of a couple of large hose clips and some aluminium tape, I connected together all the sections of ducting. I even made a foil cover for the wall vent that I could plug in while the ducting wasn’t attached. Time for the test! I switched on the fan… and the flexible ducting quickly expands to full stretch, meaning it has shot all the way down to the floor and back up onto the tumble drier, giving itself a very sharp 180 degree bend. Whoops, I hadn’t expected it to do that. I took one end back off the ducting and cut it shorter so that it doesn’t have any excess and put it back together again. Much better.

8. The last thing to do – set up my torch area! I put down a spare piece of the cement board, then covered it with ceramic tiles. I realised that I wanted my bench bracket higher than it would be if I just clamped it to the table, so I screwed in offcuts from the wooden struts into the back corners to make legs, and another couple at the front so they would stick out and give me something to clamp down. I think it worked really well, and has the handy side-effect that I can hold my bead under the bracket to see whether the glow has gone rather than having to hold it under the table near my lap! This was when I realised I had the wrong size of jubilee clip to fasten my torch to the bracket (my kit had come with the big ones for holding a Mapp canister) so had to rush out to get one that would do 30mm. That done, I attached my hose to my torch, attached my torch to my bench bracket, and then the scary bit was connecting the regulator to my propane bottle. This was where the hefty adjustable wrench came in. I checked all the joins for leaks, and was ready to light the torch!

My lampwork setup!

Ta daa!

Next up, if all goes well – ‘A Newbie’s Week of Lampwork’. I’m going to try and have a session every evening this week, writeups to follow.

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