Lottery Winnings are too Big!

By , June 22, 2009

The next estimated Jackpot in Massachusetts is $68 Million, or about $41.4 Million if you opt for cash. That is a LOT of money..
dollars
I would be thrilled beyond words to win a million dollars. (I was actually quite pleased to win $10 on a $2 scratch ticket yesterday.) But, I don’t think winning $41 million would make me 41 times more thrilled.

Forty other families could be as thrilled as me, if the lottery people limited the winnings to a single million apiece, and paid out to more people.

Finishing and cleaning a stained glass panel

By , June 13, 2009

This article follows  on from How to make a stained glass panel

Finishing and Cleaning

Your panel looks a bit disgusting until it is cleaned and polished.

  • First you must remove ALL of the flux and it’s residue from the glass and the solder. There are neutralizing products that will stop the flux from being caustic.
  • One more thorough rinse is recommended once you think the panel is clean.
  • Patina is the effect on the surface of the metal caused by a chemical reaction. There are premixed solutions available to change the solder from it’s silver color to copper, bronze and black. You can also mix a solution of copper sulphate (available inexpensively as crystals) Experiment with the strength of the solution to achieve the color you prefer. This is wiped along the solder joints to leave the desired effect, which will vary with the amount of copper in solution, the temperature at which it is applied and with the length of time you leave it before rinsing again.
  • Before you apply a wax or polish finish to your panel, make sure it is completely dry. Pay close attention to the solder joints – rubbing the wax onto all of the surfaces as you apply it.
  • Once a cloudy film is seen, you can begin buffing. Start at one corner and work your way across the panel, rubbing each piece of glass and it’s borders individually. Use a soft rag (not paper towel). Pieces of old sweatshirt work well. Use a clean piece as soon as the cloth becomes blackened. You must get all of the excess wax off on both sides of each piece of glass or a haze will appear. White crud will form at corners and along the edge of seams if you have not cleaned the panel completely before waxing.

Hanging hardware

If you decide to use hardware to hang the panel, solder it to a seam and take into account that the panel will probably need to be able to hang level. If you are adding hardware to secure a panel in a frame, space the hardware as evenly as possible and make sure that the panel is clean on both sides before securing it in the frame. Desoldering and recleaning is an annoying job.

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© 2009 Jackie Barnaby
All Rights Reserved

How to Make Stained Glass Panels

By , June 10, 2009

The method described here is sometimes called the “Tiffany” method, after Louis Comfort Tiffany, famous glass designer and manufacturer. The basis of this technique is applying solder to copper foil-edged glass pieces. Panels can also be made using lead cames. Both techniques require practice and specialized equipment. I have made stained glass panels and objects using this method since 1992. My first panel was awful – but I kept it, and each new piece teaches me something new.

Making a Pattern

Start with a drawing or a photograph of the subject of your project. Color choices should be thought about right from the start – for example: the main subject of the panel needs to be a different color than the background. The pattern is the interpretation of the drawing or picture that makes it able to be expressed in glass. This is also the point where the structure of the panel is taken care of. If this is your first design, keep the shapes simple ! Draw as few lines as you need to show the picture. Let color differences in the glass define as much of the texture of areas as you can.It is important to consider your cutting expertise, the limitations of the equipment you will be working with, and the kind of glass you expect to use. The size of the final panel should be considered – the detail in the finished panel must still be large enough to be cut or overlaid.Simple cathedral glass cuts more uniformly and reliably than more exotic textured and mixed colored glass. Expect to have to cut pieces again (i.e. produce scrap glass !! ) more often from the latter.A very tight inside curve on the pattern has to be cut with a band saw or ground out with a small diameter router bit. Don’t design for a tight inside curve if you can’t cut it! It is best to design at the scale of the final panel. It is easier to see the curves you are drawing and to visualize the size of the soldering between. Draw the lines on your pattern with a heavy pencil line and finalize with a wide marker. The wide lines will give a better idea of the finished solder lines. You may wish to remove or adjust lines to balance the pattern. You need to locate the subject of the panel onto a background that will provide the means to cut the shapes you need for the design in a way that won’t distort what you have chosen as your feature but will prevent weakness in the whole piece. This is also a good time to consider where you might like to position hangers or attachment areas. It is best to be able to add attaching devices behind solder – i.e. where they won’t show when light is behind the panel. The final panel needs to stay together without warping and especially without cracking. The pattern lines provide the strength in the panel and can be used for reinforcing on larger pieces. Glass is a heavy, plastic medium that likes to “sag”! Vertical lines will strengthen the panel. T-junctions and X-junctions of pattern lines will stop the panel disintegrating into smaller sections. Number each piece on the final pattern. Remember to underline the bottom of the number – 6 and 9, and 2 and 5 can also be confusing. It is helpful to show with an arrow where lines should flow. For example, the direction of coat of a dog or the direction of water flow. This might not be important in every project, but it is a helpful habit to get into. Make at least 3 copies of the final pattern –

* Copy 1: Colour this pattern using approximately the colour of the glass you will be using. At this point, some adjustments may become obvious. This copy can be attached above your work area for reference as you work.
* Copy 2: This copy will be cut up to give the pattern pieces to stick onto the glass. Clear vinyl shelf liner can be used for this copy – the vinyl makes the pattern piece more durable during grinding and fitting. If the glass piece has to be re-cut, you can remove the pattern piece and reuse it. Apply the vinyl carefully to the intact pattern before cutting to prevent bubbles or creases which may distort the pattern. Cut through the middle of the pattern lines.
* Copy 3: This copy is used for layout – You will pin the pieces down while you work on them – flat plywood behind works well.

Keep the original pattern – you may want to make the panel again.

Choosing the Glass to Use

This part of the procedure overlaps with making the pattern – the pattern may be shaped by the variations in the glass you choose (or have available). When you look for the right glass for each piece on your design – look at the color in reflected light and hold it up to light that will be behind the finished panel – a window panel must have glass that looks the way you expect with daylight passing through – not just the lamp over your workbench. An interior panel will be seen with daylight hitting it, and passing through – and with lights in the room from both sides. The variations in color and transparency in different lighting conditions are incredible. A panel hung against the wall will be affected by the wall colour (or wallpaper pattern!). Unless you are incorporating this into the design, use opaque glass. Unless the main feature of your panel is VERY brightly coloured, let the background glass be just that – in the background. There should be a contrast or bold difference between glass used for the feature of your panel and the glass “filling in”. Heavy colour variations in background glass will interfere with the outline of the main feature and can make the whole panel very “dark”. An almost colorless background will bring the other glass used “forward’. The large variety of textured glass that is available can be used to good effect to define the background areas (make sure to align and match up any obvious patterns in the texture).

Cutting and Fitting the Pieces

Select the sheets of glass for each colour and clean them (window cleaner). Stick the pattern pieces onto the glass you intend to cut. If you have more than one pattern piece on a sheet, make sure you can make the cut for each piece. For areas on the glass sheet that you have chosen for a specific colour or texture, it is better to cut the piece too large and grind off the excess than to break the glass. (See the notes above regarding inside curves) Stick the pattern pieces to the glass – rubber cement or “school” glue works well. Attach a third copy of the pattern to a “layout” board (plywood works) The board needs to be a smooth, level surface able to withstand the heat of soldering, and to accept push pins or small brads. Cut the glass. Use a glass cutter or water cooled bandsaw. ALWAYS wear eye protection. A water cooled router is used for grinding, make sure the router bit is constantly wet and doesn’t become fouled with debris (glass sludge and chips).

Always, always protect your eyes.

If you grind with a coarse grit or with a worn out bit the edges of the piece will be chipped – which will be very obvious if any chipping shows on beyond the foil on the finished piece. Leave the pattern piece on the glass, clean any sludge from the piece and place it on the 3rd copy of the pattern as you finish grinding it. When all pieces are cut, check for missing pieces (especially on intricate patterns). As you are fitting the cut ground pieces onto the pattern board, remove the pattern pieces (don’t throw them away until the panel is completely finished and cleaned) – mark spots that are too big to allow a smooth fit, with a marker or wax crayon. (You should be able to see an even amount of the pattern line on the board above each piece you lay down) Regrind these high spots very conservatively until the pieces fit like a jigsaw. Keep cleaning the pieces you work on. There should be no tension between any pieces and no glass chips behind any piece. Work methodically across the board until the panel is covered. As each piece is fitted, use push pins to keep it in place – the push pin holes should be directly on the pattern lines. Check the fit and the look of the whole panel before you move on to foiling. Look especially for any texture or color mis-matching.

Foiling

Leave the push pins in position around the panel and take out each glass piece individually for foiling. Make sure there is no oil on your work area, or your hands. Thin copper foil (which comes on rolls and in sheets) is applied to the clean edges of every piece of glass. The roll foil is adhesive backed. It is important to cover the glass evenly – with the same amount of foil on each side.

* Don’t start to foil at a corner – where several glass pieces meet is usually where fitting problems can occur (especially with long narrow pieces). An overlap of about 1/3″ is sufficient.
* Special attention is needed where the foil comes back to itself – make sure the edges line up – any mismatch will be very obvious. The foil is what the solder fuses to and what makes the joint strong. The width of foil on the front and back is what determines the thickness of the final soldered seam.
* Narrow foil makes for a smaller seam. Wider foil can be used to highlight a seam – for example, to define the stems of flowers or reeds.
* When you have chosen glass of different thickness, you need to use pieces of card to make the front surface level before soldering.
* Depending on the finish you use on the solder (patina) you will need to use silver or black backed foil to edge transparent glass, the standard foil is grey on the back (adhesive side) and will look very bad viewed through transparent glass with a black or silver finish.

Although soldering can be forgiving, the pieces of foiled glass need to fit together as closely as possible, but not under tension which will stress and crack the surrounding glass pieces. A close even joint will be strong and attractive. It is hard to raise a smooth bead of solder on a crumpled foil edge.

It is important to have the foil smooth onto the glass and flattened carefully at corners and the seam. This is sometimes called burnishing. It can be achieved with the fingernails but a small plastic tool called a Kwik Crimp is best. Before you use it – make sure your corners are folded neatly and lying flat to each side of the glass or they will be ripped when you burnish over them. Again, work methodically across the panel – you may need to adjust pieces as the foil increases the size of each piece.
Soldering the Pieces together

Flux will corrode metal and “eat” skin. The fumes from the flux are also very bad for you. Your work area needs to be well ventilated and you must work carefully to avoid skin contact. Flux works by removing any oxidation from the copper foil surface, leaving a clean area for the solder to fuse to. All copper must be fluxed before soldering to allow you to make a smooth soldered joint. Apply the flux just before you intend to apply the solder or dust and dirt will settle onto it and spoil the joint.

Look at the seams across the panel – if any junctions have a large gap it is best to attempt to plug it with some “crunched-up” copper foil. Although solder is quite forgiving – it will only bridge just so far. It is very frustrating moving pools of solder from front to back trying to fill a gap – and almost impossible to make a neat finished joint. Don’t use solder from the hardware store unless it is solid core 60/40 (lead/tin) The correct mix allows you to heat the solder but control the flow of it onto the areas you want. If the iron is to hot (or you have used too much flux, the solder will run through the joint and pool on the underside, or the flux and solder will spit at you !! If the iron is not hot enough the solder will not “flow” but will clump into unattractive globs along the seam. If you are right-handed, start at the top left of your panel and cover all the joints with a smooth layer of solder. You will be reworking the joints once you have soldered the reverse side, start by covering all of the foil with a smooth coating (tinning). Now it is time to solder the back of your panel. Turning a large panel can be a risky operation. it is best to cover a large panel with a cloth and then a sheet of plywood. The panel has little strength until both sides are finished. Take your time when you are “flipping” the piece. Repeat the tinning process for the reverse, then go back and add more solder; drawing it into a smooth rounded bead along the length of each seam. (this takes practice and a clean soldering bit) Flip the panel back to the front side and draw a bead along the seams as you did on the back. A good craftsman will finish both sides to the same quality.

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© 2009 Jackie Barnaby
All Rights Reserved

A short article on the finishing process is continued Here

The Power of Numbers

By , June 9, 2009

If only every project and every client were as memorable as when you start your business with a new manila folder, proudly bearing the first client’s name!

Over the years you rely as much on your memory as your filing system for the details: client names serve well until Mr. Smith has a second project and another manila file with his name on. Heaven forbid a new Mr. Smith comes to you! As the papers and old projects pile up, your project management system becomes clumsy.

The use of a year number and – “one up” project numbering system (e.g. 09-123 ) can make project management run more smoothly. The year gives you a range to tie into, especially useful for a large number of projects ( saving you from the grand search of every piece of paper you ever wrote on ! ), and the number gives each project a precise, unique and logical place in your filing system.

The all important “Project Reference list” should always be handy.

It can show as much or as little additional information as you may need, but your project list should at least show who you worked for, and probably what the project was. This list allows you to add new projects and can highlight projects “in progress”. Once a project is completed and filed away, the number system make it  snap to find again. This list, if you keep it properly, can be used for quick reference of : current workload, jobs on hold, jobs of a similar type, jobs from the same client, payments outstanding, billing details, even market trends. In fact you can tag the reference list with columns for any criteria you find significant. Make the reference list a spreadsheet – this lets you sort he information however you want. Your computer will love you for using numbers instead of characters! Create reports of projects in a size range, client range or billing range. Once the data is input, the need to retype it for every report is eliminated.

Every filing system has its drawbacks. The anonymity of the project number, while giving added security if you need it, is also impersonal. Always remember to use the client’s name and or company name on all correspondence. It is also a good cross-reference check of your system..

In a numbering system, the numbers are FREE.

Use them as often as you want – it is better to assign a free, unused number than to lose information because you didn’t file it properly. A change in project number can be used to signify the end of a project phase. This information can be used in billing, especially if many people work on a single project.

Mr. Smith expects you to know him immediately!  If you make revisions to an existing project but intend to keep the previous version, use a new number. A client can pinpoint the version he is looking at when you are on the phone by referencing your project number. “Project 93-456, on the front” is a lot easier to look up than “On the front of that job you did for me a couple of years back.”

The use of a number system requires some commitment

It is important to write the appropriate number at the top of EVERY item of paper in your files, check that the correct number is referenced on your papers and especially on contracts; use it in naming associated computer files for graphics, videos, research notes – everything that goes with the product. One thing to watch for carefully – Use of an incorrect number or no number used will quickly cause chaos; overwriting computer files or copies of documents not where they were expected.

Don’t be tempted to spend more time managing your system than working!

If you start a new numbering system and intend to incorporate existing data and plans, make sure you leave enough numbers before the one you start with – but don’t be tempted to stop work to catalogue. Assign numbers to the old files only if you use their information. This system is designed to increase efficiency, not create extra work for you.

In our digital age, everything is becoming numerically based. Alphabetical filing systems are limiting. The numerical system grows as fast and as far as you do.

Make the Power of Numbers work for you!

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© 2009 Jackie Barnaby All Rights Reserved

The Check is in the Mail

By , June 3, 2009

Dealing with collections is probably the least popular part of running a business and also the part you have had the least training for.

Often, everything goes very well with a client until the time comes to be paid…How do you ask for the money?

If, after 30 days, or whenever you agreed to be paid, they still owe you money, your client is not such a good bet. But now is not the time for YOU to be embarrassed. Unless you are less than certain that your services were worth what was agreed, you should be able to ask for money confidently.

Never be embarrassed to ask for money that is owed to you!

The key to effective collections is confidence. If you are confident that you provided value for what you billed, you can ask for payment with a clear conscience.

Many people have an aversion to discussing money: almost as though they are running their business for the love of it. That is the definition of a hobby. To be a business, you must at least try to profit from your efforts (Just ask the IRS!). Collecting money that you have earned is a part of business. Nonpayment is not a personal sleight, and neither is collecting it.

Avoid collections from the start

Collections are time-consuming, rarely generate new business and can in fact become very costly. Avoiding the problem altogether is the key – Revise your sales strategy!

At your initial meeting you will try to determine that your client needs. Make sure your requirements are understood just as clearly – and that all of the bargaining is completed.

Don’t begin work on any project that has been poorly defined, and for which all the payment details have not been discussed.

Payment on delivery is an excellent way to avoid receivables and collections.

Some businesses are better suited to this method than others – there needs to be tangible evidence of the work you have done and a definite time when the service is complete or the product is handed over. (Consider billing separately for services and for products)

If you expect “payment on delivery” terms, make sure your client understands from the beginning, or you may be working for nothing.

When you let your client know that your job (or a part of it) has been completed, be sure to have an invoice drawn up and let them know the exact amount you expect them to pay.

Before you meet to hand over your work, e-mail or fax an invoice. You can discuss it if you need to but no-one will be surprised when you meet. This slightly bolder approach avoids the “ . . . . I wasn’t sure how much to have the check made up for.” excuses! (As a side note – clients who only write checks on a certain day of the week should not expect to receive your products on other days unless you agree to it)

If you deal regularly with clients who love to negotiate everything – negotiate before the work begins.

Never try to negotiate payments after work is started. (Be prepared – your final price must be acceptable to you to ensure thorough, professional efforts on your part.)

  • If you reduce the price, cut out some of the service: or you are admitting to your client that your first price was inflated.
  • If you discount your service for regular or volume clients, make sure they are aware of this, and be sure to remove the discount for irregular payers.

If payment on delivery is unacceptable, any other terms should be agreed to in writing.

Keep very good records. A signed contract is best, but written details of actions you have taken are always more reliable than your memory, in the event of problems down the road.

Don’t let other people tell you how to run your business, especially how much to charge. If you do, be prepared for the consequences – if they decide what you’re worth, they may as well decide when you should be paid.

Make sure that both sides are clear about what is in the contract. Small print is wonderful for saving paper in printing, but a clear understanding of all the facts will avoid problems on both sides. If a deposit is taken, be especially clear about whether it is refundable, and how and when it will be applied.

Don’t accept postdated checks: if the money is not available when the check is written, you cannot be sure it will be available in the future.

When You HAVE to Collect:

First, be absolutely sure that you are owed the amount that you are expecting to be paid. Be sure of both the exact amount and of the agreed payment date. Check all of your records. Then, consider the costs of collection. A small amount is probably worth chalking up to experience. Every business must decide what they consider to be a “small amount”. Close the loophole the next time and concentrate your efforts on debts worth collecting.

It is up to you what is worth collecting, but your efforts are intended to bring in money, not to make a point at all cost. Never be petty – collecting the last $5,  just to make a point, will be remembered a lot longer than your outstanding service.

It will be very hard to collect a debt you have ignored for three months because you felt uncomfortable about asking. Be methodical. Don’t ask for money early from a currently paid up client when you have six overdue accounts that you have been too shy to approach for months.

Always take the actions toward collection that were in your contract

If you said you would go to an attorney, do it. If you are not prepared to follow through, don’t put it in your contract in the first place.

All collection methods have their advantages and disadvantages

Not all collection methods will be appropriate to every situation. But, any attempt will have a better chance of success than just hoping someone will pay you.

There are four basic methods:

  • A person is very difficult for most people to ignore, especially in their place of business. Collecting in person can be very effective but it can also be time-consuming. Catching your debtors with “cash-in-hand” is also often difficult.
  • Phone calls are very good for the gentle reminder. There are specific restrictions regarding how often you can call which vary from state to state. The diversity of excuses is incredible! Document them all – in later life you can write a book! If you are lucky enough to receive a payment commitment over the phone, write a letter to confirm this and send it immediately to your client.
  • Mail/e-mail collections are the easiest for the timid collector and are also useful for documenting your activity in trying to collect the money. Unfortunately, mail is also easily ignored in the flurry of junk literature we have all become accustomed to. If you need documentation (e.g. for possible legal proceedings) send all letters by “certified mail, return receipt requested”. It is your only proof of having sent the letter and that it was received.

  • Third Party collections – by collection agencies or attorneys are often effective and the most objective method, but this route is costly.

Going to court is not a guarantee of being paid, (even if you win) but you will definitely have bills of your own to pay as a result.

No matter how much you love your work, what you do has real value – When your client first came to you they expected to have to pay. A firm and systematic approach to collecting money means that you can spend more time on new projects, and less time in tying up the loose ends of old ones.

Receivables are your funds that someone else has. Go get ‘em!

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© 2009 Jackie Barnaby All Rights Reserved

Don’t let England’s Ancient ways disappear!!

By , May 8, 2009

Keep England’s countryside open for all. If this law is not repealed, some of England’s ancient pathways will cease to be available for public use because they haven’t been registered. This is an important resource for all.

If you are British – sign this petition online at #10 Downing Street

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