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Northstar Colored Tubing
Glass Alchemy Tailor Made Tubing
Chinese Colored Tubing
Color Certification Class
Dicro Kings Tubing
Northstar Colored Tubing Glass Vase
Northstar Colored Tubing Glass Vase
Northstar Colored Tubing Glass Vase
Northstar Colored Tubing Glass Vase

Reviews — Northstar Colored Tubing
March 2009

Northstar Colored Tubing offers solutions to artists of all skill sets providing artists with limitless decorating options. Northstar is currently offering BlueMoon and amber/purple tubing, with plans to expand the palette in the future.

Some important variables to take into account with silver-based full-colored tubing are your gas ratios, primarily the propane setting. This review was conducted using a GTT Delta Elite with propane set to 5psi and my oxygen set to 40psi. Remember, torch manufacturers and models have different requirements for optimal performance. Taking this into account your results may vary slightly.

Individual colors will most likely require unique gas/fuel ratios the best color. In the future, TorchLife hopes to work with Northstar to chart out a spectrum of possibilities for finding the optimal gas/fuel ratio for their colored tubing.

Note 1
: If your results are less than desirable lower your propane a pound of pressure at a time. Then, test by melting a section of the tube to a soft orange glow — to the point of it being gooey. Let it cool. Repeat this step as necessary until you get the results your looking for. Each test must be done on a fresh piece of tube.

Northstar sells this tubing by weight. There are no standard tubing sizes though the stated target size is 19-26 mm diameter with a 2.5-5.0mm wall thickness. Most of the tubes have approximately the same length, outside diameter, and wall thickness. The common approximate sizes are 25mm diameter by 6mm wall thickness, by 20 inches.

Note 2: In order to minimize loss Northstar recommends preheating this tubing to 1050º F fir 20-30 minutes prior to use.

To explore the sleeving technique with this tubing, in combination with kiln striking, two inches of the amber/purple tubing with a 31.7 x 4 (clear tube) yielding a very consistent piece of tubing 14” long x 6mm wall thickness and a 12mm outside diameter. I attempted to kiln strike these sample tubes at 1200º F for 15 minutes with no results. The color didn’t change one bit. Abe from Northstar happened to stopped by the shop so I asked him how to strike the tubes. He said, “About 1075-1100º F for 45 minutes to an hour.” The tubes still came out of the kiln un-struck. I asked Abe why they didn’t change color.

It turns out I wasn’t clear about the fact that I sleeved these sample tubes. Abe said it’s going to be very hard to strike them now, but not impossible. This lead to an important discussion and breakthrough — at least concerning the amber/purple tubing. The process of striking is greatly accelerated when exposed to the oxygen in the environment. I then attempted to flame strike the tube, calling the metal to the surface first then sleeving it. This time around I achieved results that were much more appealing with lots of color variations.

One thing I noticed is that the metals that came to the surface looked pristine and shimmery when I flame struck, then sleeved. When I pulled this two inch section in to about eight inches the metals muddied up looking a little less desirable to me, but still provided a nice outcome in the finished work.

The small purple vase I made with eight inches of un-encased amber/purple tubing with a clear spin trail up and down the tube then melted in, offering some variation of color. Compare the pictures at left before and after kiln striking. I kiln struck this vase at 1100º F for 45 minutes. I was very happy with this simple vase, and look forward to further exploration of this tubing.

The next I tried the honeycomb technique with un-encased amber/purple tubing. I made a small marble with great color variation from light greens to bluish purples. I must say I’m pleased with the stability and workability of this tubing especially because it is un-encased. I started with the presumption that the amber/purple tubing would look better encased. I find the opposite to be true. It’s worth the price considering the options this product will give artists.

The next tests did were on the Bluemoon tubing. I approached this tubing more cautiously. Based on past experience, this color had a lot of silver in it so I decided to make something that looks more organic or aged looking. I chose to make a small sand blasted Egyptian style water jug. This was a fun easy piece to make. I simply shaped the piece added my handles and annealed. During the process a lot of silver came to the surface (sorry, no pics). The tubing shifted colors from dark blue to turquoise to whitish blue, then to a very drab mocha color. Usually the piece would have come out blah, but I knew that under the metal was a nice blue so I wasn’t worried. Once cooled, I placed my vinyl stickers on the water jug and sandblasted it.

Blasting away a lot in some areas and very little in others, gave this piece an earthenware look. I used very basic vinyl stickers for this project in order to get the point across. Using photo resist you can create very detailed patterns on this tubing, which has become a fairly popular technique in the last couple of years.

My next test was to sleeve a 2” piece of the Bluemoon with a piece of 31.7 x4 mm clear tube. It stretched out to about 12” long x 7mm thick with a 13mm outside diameter. I used a 3/4” piece to make a honeycomb marble. Sleeving the tube to protect it from oxidizing in the flame made the silver very subtle. With greater control, the Bluemoon offered a nice haze of color variation between the dots of the honeycomb. The base color came out as a metallic green with whitish blue variations due to the silver.

There are great possibilities with these materials. Using them will open a whole new world of options to the artist. I hope to make available vital information which will assist the artist in the process. I wasn’t able to test all the combinations that this tubing makes possible so expect more details and experiments with Northstar Colored Tubing to come soon.


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