Help for Irritated/Sensitive Ear Lobes

I have not been able to wear earrings for the past 15 years, at least.  I don’t know what happened but one day my ears just started getting really itchy and red almost immediately upon putting earrings on.  This surprised me because I have had pierced ears since about sixth grade.  It happened shortly after I got a piercing in my upper ear, the second one, with the first one being fine.  This was in the days when you’d get your ears pierced in a kiosk at the mall.

Once in a while I’d try wearing a pair.  I tried every hypoallergenic, niobium, gold and other type of post that people would recommend.  No luck.  I finally gave up.  While at a show this past August someone across the aisle heard me once again bemoan the fact that I can’t wear earrings.  We got to talking and told me that my ears were probably infected.

What?  After 15 years?  Still infected?  They’re fine without earrings in them.  Yep.  She suggested I try putting bacitracin on my ears and my earring posts.  That was four months ago and I kept forgetting.  I was used to not wearing earrings.

This past weekend, while sitting at my studio show making earrings I was really longing to wear a pair. They’re cute and funky!  I didn’t have bacitracin but I did have Neosporin.  So I gave it a try.  I coated my ear lobes and lathered up the ear hooks before putting them in too.  Don’t worry…these don’t go on resale!

I was amazed that the itching didn’t start immediately.  I patiently waited and it never came.  I thought, this is too good to be true.  I did that for the next couple days and I was able to wear the earrings the whole time.  I sit here now, as I type, without using the Neosporin with earrings in my ears and no itching.

Am I cured?  I hope so!

Tumble Cleaning Beads: Observations – Part 3

You know how sometimes you think you have a great idea and it works but as you pursue it more it might not be as great as you thought?  Well, that’s not the case with the process of tumble cleaning beads that I’ve been exploring.  However, there are some things that I’ve noticed along the way that need some refinement.  Things like:

1.  If you use larger hole beads (I’ve tried the size larger than 1/8″ but can’t think of the actual size off the top of my head) certain sizes and shapes of the shot can get lodged into the hole.  I’ve worked it out but it’s a pain.  To remedy this I will try using possibly two pipe cleaners at a time through the beads.  My theory is that will leave less room for the shot to get in there.  Another alternative is a uniform size and grain of shot that is bigger than the holes…I’ll have to look into that next time I’m perusing the Rio Grande catalog.

2.  Remember that tarnishing effect I got that I thought was from dirty shot from previously using it on silver?  Well, it seems as though it gets dirty from the metal core of the pipe cleaners too.  Luckily my solutions of cleaning with toilet bowl cleaner works and is quick and Tonya Davidsons tip about cleaning the shot and barrel by tumbling it with a part vinegar solution works like a charm too.  So, now, after a load of beads I rinse the shot, pour in some vinegar and water and tumble for a while so it’s ready to go the next time.

3.  Regarding the pipe cleaners:  I noticed that if you really hold them in the flame everything burns away and you’re left with a very think twist of wire.  This is ok but I actually just melt most of the fuzzies away. This leaves some of it behind as molten plastic.  I’m not sure if this is better or not but it does leave behind a larger mass of twisted wire that is a little textured.  I’ll report more on that as I go along and learn from it.

4.  Some beads clean faster than others.  Very strange.  I’ve noticed this when using the Dremel too.  When I would clean opaque cobalt blue beads I would notice a blue residue coming out of the bead.  Are they softer?  They are the cleanest I’ve noticed coming out of the tumbler.

5.  Transparent beads need some tweaking.  I haven’t cleaned them much with the tumbler but I noticed that, as with anything under transparent glass, the hole is magnifiied and so is any residue from bead release.  The tumbling isn’t rigorous enough to get down in there and wear away the peaks of glass that house a deeper layer of release.  They might still need to be dremeled.  Or I will try finding a smoother release or ‘hand polishing’ the mandrel with release on it before torching.  For now, I am adding a small opaque core to transparent beads so I don’t have this issue.

That’s what I have for now.  Happy tumbling!!

Cleaning off Tumbling Residue: The Good News, the Bad News, and the Good News. Part 2.

Today I experimented more with cleaning beads with the tumbler.  You already know the good news: It’s possible.

The bad news is, the steel shot could leave residue on the beads if your shot is dirty from tumbling silver previously.  I tumbled this batch for about 2.5 hours and the holes were TOTALLY clean.  The top beads in the photo below show the residue, but it’s more apparent in person.

tumble cleaned beads

The good news is, it’s easily removed, as shown in the bottom beads.  The BETTER news is that if you clean your shot between different media, this won’t happen at all.  Tonya Davidson of Whole Lotta Whimsy gave me the tip of how to clean my steel shot and tumbler barrel.  Put the shot into the barrel, at 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 water and tumble for up to an hour.  Rinse as much as necessary and you will be ready to go.

If you do manage to get beads that have a gray looking residue, just do the following:

Have you heard the tip about using Coke or toilet cleaner to remove the silver effects that can be left on some turquoise or copper green glass beads?  Well, I didn’t have any Coke but I did have my mighty toilet bowl cleaner handy in the studio.

lysol toilet bowl cleaner

So, I poured some into a little container and threw in some of the dirty looking beads.

glass beads in toilet bowl cleaner

I put the lid on and shook them around for a few seconds.  I’d say give them at least a minute.  You could also put them in, let them sit as long as you want and give a good shake before retrieving them.  I’ve forgotten beads over night before and they can start to etch slightly so try not to do that.   Your finished result?  Beads, sparkling and shiny, no residue.

The toilet bowl cleaner is nasty stuff.  Nasty!  I like to wear plastic kitchen gloves when I use it.  I’ve also found out the hard way that it will corrode any metal tools just by being open near them so be careful and guard your tools with your life.  I also make sure to dilute the rinse water very well and run the faucet when pouring it down my sink.  My studio sink is stainless steel and I know that can’t be good after seeing what it did to my tools a few years ago.

To retrieve the beads I used to use a designated set of long tweezers.  While this can work it can be frustrating when you’re in a hurry to try and fish them out.  What I do now is use a little strainer and pour the whole thing through it into an identical container and just repeat that back and forth whenever I need to do it.

I then drop the beads into a large container of water to get the bulk of the toilet bowl cleaner off, and run the faucet to dilute it.  I do a final rinse, with my rubber gloves on with the beads in my hands.  I think that about does it.

Now, if you don’t want to do this, I plan on experimenting with other methods just because I’m curious.  Different tumbling media and if I ever get some Coke in the house I’ll try that too.  Just an FYI:  neither old coffee nor Hansen’s Lemon Lime Soda work.

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