The Black Knight

The other day Rebecca handed me a piece of board and told me to get creative.

Yesterday I handed it back to her:

Word to the wise: the vinyl backing glue ain’t the best for sticking tiles to tiles. I did have to use a bit of craft glue to keep the pieces on. Also, don’t get your pinkies in the way of the scalpel. Goes without saying, I know, but, you know… don’t.

The slate and marble tiles lend themselves nicely to a moody, Halloween kind of look, but nothing says you can’t get a little creative and apply daubs of paint here and there to bring it up. Eh, go on! Get down to the hardware store and pick up some lino!Mini Jeztyr Logo

Easter Eggs -Triumphs and Failures

Running with the purple and gold theme, I made up a few more eggs and painted them blue, graduating to white at the bottom. Then came the white vine squiggles, with round balls on the ends of white flicks.

Finally, the balls were filled with white, gold and rose gold, just to mix things up again. Gloss up with several coats of polyurethane and we’re ready for Easter.

Easter Eggs 2016 the rest.jpg

Almost.

There are two big rules that go with making Easter Eggs.

  1. Always make more eggs than you will need and
  2. Never let little boys with curious fingers anywhere near your eggs otherwise:

BrokenEgg.jpg

This guy was only three coats of gloss away from finished! Oh, the humanity!Mini Jeztyr Logo

Easter Eggs – 2016

Easter caught me by surprise this year. Had grand plans to have everything prepped and ready, then I looked down for a second. Boom! It’s the 21st of March. How did that happen without anyone noticing?

The theme this year: Colours. Purple and gold, white and black. I also made some blue eggs, just to mix it up a little. There are a few ‘experimental’ designs, good to keep in the back of my mind for another time. I settled on the white, organic lines with gold bubble-fruit.

PurpleAndGoldEggs.jpg

And, because it’s Easter, I’ve also made a couple of Golgotha eggs. It’s a sunset scene, with the hillock and the three crosses set against the outskirts of the City. There’s a bit of gold mixed in the sky there, doesn’t come up in the photo too well.

GolgothaDetail.jpg

For more, check out my egg-blowing page.

Happy Easter everyone!Mini Jeztyr Logo

Advanced Blowing Techniques

Blowing one or two eggs is not hard, really. You can have them done in time for dinner. When you have to do a bunch for Easter, it starts to get uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. Your mouth hurts, your lips go numb, and your back starts to give out from being hunched over a bowl for so long.

Advanced Techniques

The following are things I’ve figured out from trial and error to make your egg-blowing life easier.

Batches

No point getting your equipment out and cleaning it and getting set up… to do one or two eggs. Do a lot at a time. It doesn’t take a lot of brain power to do it, so you can sit in front of the News and see how many you can do in half an hour. You’ll be surprised when you get the hang of it.

Store your blown, cleaned, dried eggs in egg cartons, ready for use when the time comes. Don’t worry, they won’t go bad.

A Good Seal

Eggs are an inconvenient design for blowing. If they were straw-like, all good. But they aren’t. They’re smooth, and slightly rounded and it takes a bit of practice to make a positive seal with your mouth on the top of the egg.

Ever have Grolsch? You know that little rubber ring on the inside of the crown? Pick that out, wet it a little and use it as a barrier between your lips and the egg. Not only will it save you the embarrassment of making little fart noises as you blow, and not only will it improve your blowing power, it’s a good excuse to buy beer.

Grolsch rubber ring over the secondary hole
Grolsch rubber ring over the secondary hole

They last for yonky donks, too. AND you can use them for some advanced designs (but that comes later). You know what? Go and get a beer right now and then come back, OK?

Grinding a hole

Puncturing the primary hole with a stylus or pin is a little risky. If the egg is fresh and the shell isn’t thin, it’s not a problem, but take either of these two things away and you need to tread carefully (Insert your own walking on eggshells pun).

Do you have a drill? That’s a bit of overkill. Do you have a high-speed rotary tool like, oh, I don’t know, a Dremel? You do? That’s fantastic! Because if you get yourself a teeny, tiny drill bit, or pointed grinding bit, you can carefully grind a neat, countersunk hole for the primary, no sweat.

The other benefit is that you can use your Dremel for grinding patterns into eggs (later), or making holes to recess crystals (later), or cutting the top off for a egg-box (later).

Reverse Pressure

Blowing an egg relies on increase the air pressure on one side of the innards, such that it forces it out the other side. What if we lower the pressure on the primary hole, so that the air pressure on the other end pushes it through? Net effect: Goop comes out.

This is called sucking eggs. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don’t click that close button. You don’t have to do the sucking yourself. OK? In fact, it could be quite hazardous if the egg has anything nasty internally. I prefer to cook my eggs before I eat them.

So what to use? Wait for it: A breast pump! Whoa, whoa, whoa! Come on, give me a chance, here! It’s actually designed to do exactly what’s required: Lower the air pressure on one side, letting the pressure on the other push the innards through. And, to boot, the pumps have a collector that you can use.

Breast pumps can save you time and effort
Breast pumps can save you time and effort

No bowl! No mess! No fuss! You just look a little creepy, is all. Just be sure of three things:

  1. Clean your pump after each use
  2. Ensure that the egg is large enough to not get sucked into the aperture (these things were designed for something larger, of course)
  3. MAKE SURE THAT YOU DON’T USE ONE THAT IS CURRENTLY (OR EVER) IN USE FOR GETTING BREAST MILK FOR A CHILD.

All jokes aside, that last point is very important. I marked my pump with a permanent marker and keep it stored in my art supply cabinet. You don’t want to risk giving a bub raw egg, no matter how thoroughly you clean it.

Stands

You know those little tripod things that come on the pizza that stop the top of the box from squishing it? Let me find one…

A pizza box tripod makes a superb egg stand
A pizza box tripod makes a superb egg stand

There. One of those. Next time you order pizzas, keep these, turn them upside down and, presto! Instant egg holder! You can use these to stand your eggs upright while they drain, or to let them dry after painting, or even for showcasing (but decorate them first).Hmm, first beer, now pizza. This is a hobby worth pursuing.

Nasal Aspirator

Say what? ‘Snot Suckers’. Oh. Unpleasant name, it’s pretty much a rubbery thing one uses to clear mucous from a baby’s nose when they’re all clogged up. Normally one would use it in ‘suck’ mode but in this case you’d let the aspirator nozzle act as your lips. Squeeze the bulb (or push the plunger, depending on your model) and blow the contents out.

No more Sachmo-face!Mini Jeztyr Logo

Sorry to Leave you Hanging

In the previous post I went over the basics of choosing, cleaning and making a hole in your egg.

Now what?

You’ve made the hole in the bottom. Good. Now turn the egg over. Don’t worry, it won’t come gushing out (unless you’ve got a rotten egg. Ew.) The viscous albumin and yolk have a tendency not to come out unless prompted.

You’re about to prompt it.

What you're dealing with
What you’re dealing with

Using your stylus, insert a wee hole in the top. Wee being little. Tiny. Just enough to let air from this side of the shell onto the other side of the shell. You’ll need to go far enough to puncture the membrane layer on the inside of the shell. Don’t worry, that’s pretty thin.

I generally use the top as the ‘display’ side of my egg, so a small hole is disireable. If you intend to pass a ribbon through it, make it large (5mm), otherwise keep it tiny.

Now there’s one last thing you’ll need to do: Puncture the air-sack. Insert your stylus into the bottom of the egg, all the way in, and twirl it, shredding the thin membrane. This will now allow the contents to pass through the primary aperture.

Holding the egg firmly (but gently) in your hand, fingers and thumb either side of the primary hole. Hold the bottom end over the clean bowl and press your lips to the (wee) secondary hole.

Blow.

This is why it’s called blowing an egg. Make a good seal with your lips around the hole. It might help to wet it a bit with water. Ease the pressure on and apply it constantly. It’s hard to see what’s happening, but here’s a clue:

The thick, viscous albumin will be working its way out the hole. There will be bits of tough membrane getting in the way, but by and large you’ll notice a clear drip form on the bottom of your egg. That’s good. Keep ‘blowing’.

Little by little that drip will grow larger, and form a smooth drop that will land into your bowl. Good. Keep blowing.

If you’ve mushed it with your stylus right, there’ll be a constant thick stream running out the bottom as you blow. You’ll notice the contents will go from albumin, to yolk, to albumin once more as each phase is pushed through the hole. Good. Keep blowing.

Keep blowing until the egg is light, the air from your mouth is whistling out the other end. Good job!

Egg Structure

Troubleshooting

It seldom goes as smoothly as this, unless you’ve made a whopper of a primary hole. Things that can go wrong:

  1. The hole is small, and the annoying little tubey things are wedged in there – use your stylus, tweezers or fingers to pull them through.
  2. The hole is too large, and the egg is cracking under the internal pressure – Blow more gently. Apply only enough pressure to keep the fluid moving.
  3. Nothing it coming out, no matter how hard your blow – You may not have punctured the air sack at the bottom, or your secondary hole hasn’t gone deep enough.
  4. You’ve got a bowl of albumin, no yolk and nothing’s coming out – The yolk has a thin, but surprisingly strong, membrane around it. Jab your stylus through the primary hole and keep blowing.

I find the little tube thing that gets in the way is my most common problem. It’s generally “Blow, blow, blow, stop, get a grasp on the chalaza, draw it out, crud it broke, blow, found it again, draw it out gently this time, good, blow, blow, blow, done.”

Clean up

You’ve got a bowl of egg insides, an empty shell and a smile on your face. Wash off the residual goop around the primary hole, and then wash the insides of the egg. How? Well, you know how the egg shell is effectively a straw?

Pool some water in a dish or in your hand and, rather than blow the secondary hole, suck the water up into the egg. When the egg is half full of water, slosh it around good, then blow the water back out again. Repeat a couple of times and then stand up to let the water drain and dry.

Don’t like that idea? OK. Get some running water on a needle thin stream, hold the egg upside down and let the stream trickle into the primary hole. Not as fast or as effective, but I’ve tried it and it still works.

Up next, some advanced tips and tricks.

Blowing the Egg

You can paint or colour or dye or gloss any old egg – but it helps to get the stuff out of the inside first. Yes, you can hard-boil it, but that’ll only last for so long. If it’s longevity you’re after, you need to blow the eggs.

The General Principle

Imagine a common drinking straw. Now imagine it with fragile, rigid sides. Enlarge the middle, shrink the ends and fill it with eggy goodness, and you’ve got yourself an egg that’s ready to blow.

Apply pressure at the top end, letting the goo get pushed through to the bottom end and out the hole. Collect the albumin and yolk, have a few omelettes.

Clean out the inside of the ‘straw’, let it dry and you’re done.

What you're dealing with
What you’re dealing with

You’re familiar with the white and yolk and shell. What you may not realise it that the membranes, air sack and annoying tubey things called chalaza also play a part when you are blowing.

There’s more to it than that

But, that’s not an egg. An egg doesn’t have holes at the ends! Of course not. You need to make them.

Here’s what you will need:

  • An egg – start with a chicken egg
  • A strong stylus, needle or sharp-pointy-hole-making-device
  • A clean bowl
  • A sink and towel to washup
Strong, sharp pointed stylus
Strong, sharp pointed stylus

Pick your Eggs

Check your egg for freshness. Really. Nothing worse than a rotten egg spilling its sulphurous contents all over the place. How can you test for freshness? My two main methods are the rattle test and the dunk test. Gently shake the egg from left to right. If it feels like there’s a marble rattling inside, you’ve got a dud.

The other way is to fill a glass with water and pop the egg in. If it sinks, it’s all good. If it floats like a cork, throw it out. If it sinks or rises only slowly, it’s probably still good, so don’t go wasting eggs.

Identify the top and bottom of your egg. The top is the smaller part. The bottom is more rounded. On some eggs, it’s well obvious. Others are so ovoid that it’s actually difficult to tell.

This is important, because of the way eggs are designed – there’s a little air-sac at the bottom of an egg that will obstruct your blowing. Also, the size of the holes you are going to make will be different top and bottom.

Clean your eggs

Blowing eggs requires you to blow with your mouth against the shell. Think about where the egg was made, where it has been. Now get a brush and clean off the shell. Give it a good scrub under water. I’ve never been sick from this, then again, I’ve never not washed my eggs before I began.

This isn’t just for hygiene, you will want to get rid of any poop, feathers, mud, crud or other foreign matter off the shell, so that when you paint, there’s nothing to interfere with your end result.

Ready to get cracking?

Start with the bottom. Turn your egg upside down, hold your egg gently with your non-dominant hand and apply firm pressure with your stylus to the bottom-most portion of the egg. If you have a sharp point on your stylus, this should make a very small hole. We’ll call this the ‘primary’ hole, because you make it first, it’s the most important to get right and it’s the biggest.

Pull the stylus back out and inspect it. If there are cracks leading away from the hole, you’ve worked it too hard and the structural integrity of the shell has been compromised. That doesn’t mean ‘throw it away’, it means ‘proceed with extreme caution’ – you’ll need to be extra gentle and go slowly to salvage the egg.

No cracks? Good. Now keep the stylus in your hand and slowly, gently, grind down the sides of the hole, enlarging it from a teeny-tiny hole to something about the size of a about 3mm or 1/8″. Go slowly, rub and grind little nibbles rather than push and crack big chunks.

Primary Hole
Work the ‘primary’ hole on the bottom to about 3mm

The size of the hole is going to affect three things: The ease with which you can empty the egg, the structural integrity of the egg and the aesthetics afterwards.

Too large and your egg can crack easier as you handle it or apply pressure when blowing. Also, a gaping hole looks ugly if you don’t ‘fill it’ with something.

Too small and you’ll be blowing like Sachmo trying to push the stuff out of the innards.

In my experience, 5mm is the maximum size you’ll want to go, aiming for about 3mm. Next post, I’ll get onto the secondary hole. Sorry to leave you hanging, I won’t be long.

Painting Eggs for Easter

Some time back, don’t ask when because I can’t give you a date, and it’s not important anyway since you could read this without knowing the exact… you know what? I’ll start again.

Start Again

Some time back I began to paint eggs for Easter to hand around to the family. It’s more personal that buying a bag of chocolate, a lot healthier, too.

I remember, as a child, my mother talking about how to ‘blow eggs’, and that manifested into a desire to give it a shot.Egg collection2

So I did. My first few attempts were pretty lame. The colour was messy, the lines weren’t straight, the images were uninspired. There are some cultures that paint Icons on their eggs, and pass a ribbon through, and make a real effort. I looked at those, and I looked at my efforts, and I looked toward getting a new hobby.

“No! Start again, see what you did wrong and fix it,” I said, “It’ll be better the next time around, you’ll see!”

So I did. And it was better. That’s all well and good, but what can I share with you folk who want to blow and paint your own eggs?Egg collection1

Rather than eat the elephant all at once, I’ll fill you in on the bits and pieces that I’ve learnt in successive posts. There’ll be a bunch of photos and diagrams, which I apologise for in advance, but it’s a necessary evil.

Once you’ve got the hard bits sorted, you can get onto making all sorts of designs, like ‘Princess Egg Layer’, ‘Eggs Benedict’, ‘Deviled Eggs’, ‘Harlequin Egg’, ‘Ladybirds’, ‘Night Sky’, ‘Cowboy’, ‘Cthulu’, etc. It doesn’t even need to be painted, either. Onion skin eggs look super. You can use crayons and pencils to colour, or dyes or even leave it ‘natural’ if you’ve got a nice enough shell.

If you’ve got any specific requests, such as ‘Hey, Jez, how did you make the eyeball?’ just let me know. Until then, I’ll get cracking on making up some diagrams to help out with the basics.Mini Jeztyr Logo