Monthly Archives: August 2011

How (and Why) to Buy a Micro Torch for Making Jewelry

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Burn, Baby, Burn

In one of my many exciting past artistic lives, I was a raku artist. I created pottery and fired it in a huge raku kiln in my backyard. My fascination with fire, the elements and the drastically varying glaze “surprises” always left me wanting more, itching to do it again.  I was totally and completely hooked on the inconsistent results—some days spectacular and others . . . well, let’s just say my mom has a lot of my fatally flawed surprises adorning her shelves.

When my interests turned to smaller scale metal jewelry and PMC, I ran to the local Torches-R-Us shop and plunked down some moola on my first micro torch. Inside, I was jumping for joy, chanting “must play with fire, fire, fire, fire.” Well, I’ll just forgo the unsightly details and skip to the end of the story: Raku firing is nothing like micro torches, and I don’t look good without eyebrows. . . . Yup, I singed BOTH eyebrows and haven’t looked the same since. I learned some great safety tips the hard way!

If you, too, had EFT (Early Fire Trauma) or are just curious about using a torch for jewelry, sit in on my fire chat (slightly different from a fireside chat) with the lovely Denise Peck, editor of Step by Step Wire Jewelry and contributor to Jewelry Making Daily (my newest favorite blog, next to Beading Daily, of course!). Here’s our torch talk:

Example of a micro torch

Kristal: What features should readers look for in a micro torch?

Denise: Micro torches are widely available online and in hardware stores for $10 to more than $100.  (I haven’t found any significant benefit to the more expensive ones.) They all tend to burn at around the same temperature, 2500°F, which is hot enough for a lot of soldering tasks. Most of them have a burn time of about 30 minutes on one tank of fuel. There are a couple of key features you should look for: a flame adjuster and a sturdy base that allows hands-free use are key. Torches with all-metal nozzles tend to be better because extended use can melt any plastic parts near the flame. Also, some models come with a safety switch should you have children in the house.

Kristal: What else will they need?

Denise: You absolutely need a fireproof work surface, such as a piece of sheet metal or large ceramic tiles, to protect your table. Then, for your soldering, you need a Solderite board or charcoal block. For extra protection, I put my charcoal block in an annealing pan filled with pumice. If you’re working with fine silver wire, you don’t need solder because it fuses to itself. But if you’re soldering sterling or copper, you’ll need flux and solder. Flux is a paste that helps retain the heat where you want it and helps to make the solder flow. I dedicate pliers, tweezers, and picks for flame work, so I don’t ruin my good tools.

You’ll also need to buy fuel for the torch, which runs about $4 a can. It’s recommended that you buy butane fuel that is triple refined and sold with the torches or at jewelry-supply stores. If you use lighter fuel, it may clog your torch, and you’ll get an uneven flame. And, of course, you’ll need a quenching bowl of water to cool your pieces. If you use the torch for extended periods, it’s best to wear flame safety goggles.

Torch in action, firing metal ring

Kristal: Any tips to avoid common first-time mistakes? 

Denise: The most basic rule of soldering is that you must heat the entire piece, not just the join (the place where the two metal ends meet). Focusing on the join alone results in just burning away the metal there. Instead, slowly and methodically rotate the torch around the entire piece until it’s all very hot and then focus on the join to make the solder flow (or fuse the fine silver). Then immediately pull the flame away. When you’re using a micro torch, it’s important to keep the torch filled in order to get the highest heat from it. If it starts to take noticeably longer to heat and melt the solder, refill the torch.

Kristal: Beyond soldering, what kinds of projects can you do with a micro torch?  

Denise: If you want to just get started using your torch, try balling the ends of 20- to 22-gauge wire to make balled head pins. Or ball the ends of a nice S-clasp. That’s the simplest thing you can do with your torch, but it adds a great artistic touch!

Kristal: Any funny torch stories to share?

Denise: When I first taught fusing with a micro torch, I purchased eight inexpensive models for the fusing stations in my class. The flame adjuster dials were plastic and just at the base of the metal torch head. After 3 hours of constant use of these torches, the dials all slumped and melted. The torches still worked, but I was mortified that I’d been singing the praises of these $10 torches! Basically, they’re fine if you’re not using them for three hours straight. But what did I know!

Reprinted from Beading Daily

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Behind the Scenes with Martha, Kristal Wick, and Beaded Bracelets

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I don’t know about you, but I LOVE behind-the-scenes pictures and stories. They’re like a secret peek into something more…the inner sanctum, where the magic happens! I love bloopers and outtakes from movies. It’s great to see that everybody messes up or has uncontrollable giggle fits once in awhile.My latest “behind the scenes” took place on the Martha Stewart show in NYC. I was lucky enough to accompany my BFF to the show and sit in the front row! My fave was watching the rehearsal an hour before filming live. Martha’s wonderful crew were “fluffing and folding” the set constantly; touching up the walls with dabs of paint, re-hanging, and getting every detail just right. Check out Beading Daily on Facebook for more behind-the-scenes fun on our trip.

Prepping the set More makeup please Me and Martha

My personal favorite behind the scenes I’d like to share with all you beady peeps happened as we were taping my new DVD, Mixed Media:Beaded Bracelets with Fiber Beads, Crystals, Resin, and Wire. It takes a village to make these DVDs look effortless, and we had quite the crew for my shoot, including Johnny Depp. Little do you know Johnny’s picture is in the teleprompter, where only I can see him, so while it looks like I’m chatting with you, my fellow beadaholics, I’m actually showing Johnny how to make mixed-media jewelry! (FYI, he’s great at resin.) While filming in our studio, you can choose between Johnny, Robert Redford, Colin Firth, Hugh Jackman, or a yellow lab. So very hard to decide!

Before the magic Where’s Johnny? Craft Service?

Knock on wood, we didn’t have any major mishaps besides dragging my sleeve through resin (no worries, after it cured I hung it on the wall as abstract art). For each “perfect” piece you see on the DVD, there’s a big old “boneyard” of casualties back at my studio. Practice pieces, jewelry that didn’t make the cut or simply looked ugly (it happens folks). In any case, the set was filled with wire, glitter, piles of crystals in every color, resin, Angelina fibers, metal patinaed sheets, paint stiks, fabrics, and oh, so many other goodies I use to show you how to make FAB beaded bracelets!

Kissing crystals for good luck Lights, camera, action The cover shot for the DVD

In Hollywood, Craft Services is one of the best spreads on the movie sets for all the actors and camera crew. Many a Hollywood starlet has complained about extra inches added with Craft’s name all over it! Here’s our version of Craft Services aka Costco spread! Not quite the same, eh?

I’m thrilled to share my beaded bracelet techniques with all my beady peeps! Join me, Bling, and Sparkle and get going right now making fun and inspiring bauble delights with my new DVD, Mixed Media: Beaded Bracelets with Fiber Beads, Crystals, Resin, and Wire.

Tucson’s Top 5 Wire Trends for 2011

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I just unpacked the last box from Tucson last month (seriously). You know how it is when you go to a big show, buy so many treasures your credit card is still smoking weeks later and you can’t wait to jump into everything and start sorting, and playing, and creating! Well, I just knew there would be no sleep if I unpacked those boxes right away, so I used up every little ounce of self restraint I had left to wait until a few more pressing “to do’s” on the list were “done.”I found the trends to be more organic, earthy, and very bronz-y this year. Recycling and reusing found object in jewelry creations were at the top of the list and there were some fascinating elements and components I found I simply could not live without!

Wire Here, Wire There, Wire Everywhere

Wire was hot, hot, HOT! The colored wire spools were delightful to drool over. Many of the booths had folks giving demos on creating your own wire masterpieces. Like potato chips, once you start, there’s no stopping. Wireworking pajama parties until the wee hours were plentiful in Tucson! A tradition sure to continue next year.
Free form wire sculpture demos and classes were all the rage in Tucson this winter. It seemed as though this art form was more popular than in the past. Many have moved beyond kits and want to learn how to create custom sculpture pieces with their own style and color palate.

Wire Sculpture Focal Pieces

                      

Mixing Wire Colors

With all the various shades of colors wire now comes in, mixing colors has become even more popular. Using basic wire techniques, you can create jewelry that looks completely different depending on the colors you use.

                       

Aged and Patina Metals

A new product from LillyPilly Designs totally rocked my world! A treasure cove of textured, etched, and patina-ed copper and aluminum sheets. The sky’s the limit on how you could work these into your wire jewelry creations such as resin focal pieces or punched out charm dangles. I can’t wait to start!

                                                                         

Mixing chain with wire in jewelry making has been popular but this year I saw more booths carrying both products together. This made shopping and mixing metals so much easier. I also noticed so many different chain finishes this year, where in the past there was mainly silver and gold. I saw a lot of gunmetal and antique coppers, golds, and rusty patinas. You can match up chain with your wire or use constrating colors for more interest.

Chain, Chain, and More Chain

                        

All in all, Tucson’s metal and wire treasures were breathtaking (you could hear wallets crying)! So many innovative materials and ways to incorporate them into your jewelry-making was worth the trip alone. So, be sure to put a trip to Tucson on your bucket list!

Reprinted from Beading Daily

Weave, Wrap, and Coil Your Way to Wire Jewelry Making with Jodi Bombardier

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Ocean Waves

You might be familiar with Jodi’s many class offerings at BeadFest and as a contributing designer inWire Style 50 Unique Jewelry Designs. I’m excited to share our “wire rap” with my Beading Dailypeeps. I had some pretty important questions (at least in my mind) about Jodi and her new book,Weave, Wrap, Coil: Creating Artisan Wire Jewelry.

Kristal: How did you get started in wire working?

Jodi: When I first started making jewelry in 2001, I used memory wire only, all the while looking at jewelry magazines and always being amazed by wire jewelry. At the end of 2004, I went to the library and a local bookstore and looked at multiple books on wire wrapping. I ended up buying Mark Lareau’s book All Wired Up and taught myself how to wire wrap.

Kristal: What was your fave part about writing this book and how long did it take?

Jodi: My favorite part about writing the book was designing.

When I first started the book, I had 8 projects, and I needed to create 17 more designs! I had lots of ideas-for example, I knew I wanted a steampunk key and some 3-D pieces. I worked on the designs off and on for six months, all the while writing.

Kristal: What are your top 3 tips for a newbie entering the wonderful world of wire?

Jodi: 1. Buy good tools. Remember, you get what you pay for. Inexpensive tools can potentially hurt your hands and won’t last in the long run. I first bought Swanstrom tools in 2005, one at a time as I could afford to, and paid about $50 per pair. Although they are now worn out, I still have them, and I did not replace them until 2009.

2. Use good body mechanics. This is one of the first things I go over in all of my classes, and I cannot stress enough. I see students time and again overextending/over-rolling with their tools. I see students rolling their pliers, for example, to make a simple loop and trying to make the loop in one turn of the wrist. They then end up turning their shoulders into the process. This is really bad body mechanics, and after a while, your wrist and shoulder will start aching. Mark the pliers with a marker (this wears off over time or can be removed with a cleaning cloth), roll the pliers to a comfortable stopping point, reposition the pliers in the loop, then complete your roll.

3. Maintain stability with your wire. Where you hold your wire with your nondominant hand plays a big role in achieving uniformity in your designs. I am right-handed and hold my tool with my right hand. With my left hand I hold the wire next to the tool as I am making a loop or a bend. This creates stability, does not allow flexibility in the wire, and leads to uniformity. In Weave, Wrap, Coil: Creating Artisan Wire Jewelry, there are several projects with what I call “open loops.” These are created by making a simple loop, then changing the position of my left hand and holding the wire away from my tool and continuing to roll. When the wire is held away from the tool, there is not as much stability and allows flexibility in your wire.

Kristal: Share a secret about yourself that would surprise readers.
Jodi: My parents gave me a motorcycle when I was eleven and when I was twelve, my Dad asked me if I wanted to learn how to scuba dive so I could be his dive buddy. We used to go to San Carlos, Mexico, and camp and go diving. Back then, it was okay to ride my motorcycle on the streets, and my Mom used to send me to the local store for tortillas and jicama. And when I could, I would jump on my motorcycle and just go for a ride. There I was, by myself, a young teen, riding the streets of Mexico on my motorcycle! I remember camping on the “Catch 22” beach. It was the beach where the movie was filmed. There was an airstrip and old buildings built to look like ruins from the war. Of course, those are long gone and there is now a resort on that beach, but I used to ride my motorcycle on the airstrip. And diving was a great experience. My Dad and I had so much fun. Thankfully, we never encountered a shark! I was recertified in 1994 and dove again for a couple more years. Great memories! Thanks for asking this.
Kristal: You’re stuck on a desert island with enough wire to make only one project from your book, which one would it be?
Jodi: No question about it, the Autumn Leaf Bracelet. I think it is truly a work of art.
Reprinted from BeadingDaily

Wire Jewelry Button Earrings in 6 Easy Steps

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I don’t know about you, but deep down inside, I’m basically an immediate gratification type of gal. I want my chocolate, weight loss, and jewelry making FAST! Sure, we all love working on masterpieces, but sometimes you need to slip in some quick projects here and there. I have loads of quilter friends and love the beauties they create. I’m in constant awe of their drive and perseverance in sticking with a project that takes so long. Of course, it’s worth it, but many of those students that have taken my classes have confessed, it’s delightfully gratifying to create something quickly. 

Button, Button, Who’s got the Button?

One of my favorite regular projects in Step By Step Wire Jewelry is on the last page called “5 Minute JewelrySuper Fast Button Earrings”  from the October/November 2010 issue kept haunting me.So here are my cute-little-under-5-minute butterfly button earrings inspired by Denise’s easy instructions. Make your own with any double-holed buttons.

1. What you’ll need:

  • I used 18-gauge black wire (you can use 20-gauge as well).
  • Chain nose pliers
  • Round nose pliers
  • Flush cutters
  • Two buttons

2. Cut a 7.5 piece of wire in half.

  • Bend both ends of the wire over the jaw of the chain nose pliers to create a “U” shape.
  • Make sure the space between the wires is the same width as the space between the button holes.

3. Slip both ends of the wire through the buttonholes.

  • Bend bend each end flat against the button back.

4. With chain-nose pliers, bend the short end of the wire to a 90-degree angle behind the button.

  • Make a small hook on the wire end with your round-nose pliers.

5. Bend the tip into a hook.

  • Wrap the long wire around a Sharpie pen to form the ear wire and slip it into the hook.
  • Trim edge of wire.
  • File the end to make it smooth and easy to slip into your earring hole on your ear.

6. Viola! The finished earrings.

These earrings are simple, fun, addictive and a great way to use up those orphan buttons in your button jar. Make them over your morning java and wear them to work!

Reprinted from BeadingDaily.

Behind the Scenes of Beads Baubles & Jewels

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One of my fave pleasures of being a designer is sharing my creations with jewelry makers like YOU! I really enjoy having so many venues for show-and-tell: books, classes,  and particularly TV shows. It’s always fun and exciting (and a little hair-raising) for me to get ready for a Beads, Baubles, and Jewels shoot.

As I reflected on this topic, visions of clocks kept popping up in my head. The very artifacts for telling time have changed drastically over the ages. From sun dials to old European cuckoo clocks to wind-up clocks; then, electric, battery-run, and quartz clocks. Most of today’s clocks run without a sign of movement (other than the clock hands). Gone are those tiny interlocking gears and wheelsthat used to power time-telling.

Ah, technology! Over the years, I’ve done a bunch of segments and there are always some funny bloopers that never make it to the screen but keep me feeling humble. In one of my past segments, I was supposed to show how to apply hot-fix crystals onto a fabric purse using a heat-setting tool. Sounds easy, right? Normally it would have been, except Murphy’s Law was in full force that day. Every time the camera guy yelled, “Take #, roll,” I’d apply a crystal to the fabric and it would fall off—while we were filming! You could hear the crew in the studio howling with laughter. Take 2, take 3, take 6. Still no sticking. Finally I realized the gosh-darn tool wasn’t plugged in all the way! No heat = no stick. There are many behind-the-scene stories that still make me chuckle. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall to witness all the embarrassing outtakes?

Making  Jewelry Inspired by Time

Here’s a sneak peek at my Beads, Baubles, and Jewels segment project. My creative inner gears and wheels are cranking. I’m thinking of calling it “Timeless” and plan on using my collection of old mini clock parts, bits, and pieces (knew they’d come in handy someday) that I’ll embed with resin into a pendant.

In  Series 1300 for Beads, Baubles, and Jewels, I filmed a segment with Katie Hacker called “Designs Inspired by Technology”. I’d been pondering this topic for a couple of weeks now. What does “technology” really mean and how can it be represented in a personal piece of jewelry that you all would like to watch and make? One aspect of technology I’ve had a long love/hate relationship with is time. Does time seem to be speeding up or what? Some days I have time on my hands and love it! Lately, my days have been heading the other direction and I glare at the clock hands as they tick-tock each minute away.

Wearing this piece will always remind me of how precious time is and how quickly it flies!

               

Reprinted from BeadingDaily

How (and Why) to Buy a Micro Torch for Making Jewelry

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Burn, Baby, Burn

In one of my many exciting past artistic lives, I was a raku artist. I created pottery and fired it in a huge raku kiln in my backyard. My fascination with fire, the elements and the drastically varying glaze “surprises” always left me wanting more, itching to do it again.  I was totally and completely hooked on the inconsistent results—some days spectacular and others . . . well, let’s just say my mom has a lot of my fatally flawed surprises adorning her shelves.

When my interests turned to smaller scale metal jewelry and PMC, I ran to the local Torches-R-Us shop and plunked down some moola on my first micro torch. Inside, I was jumping for joy, chanting “must play with fire, fire, fire, fire.” Well, I’ll just forgo the unsightly details and skip to the end of the story: Raku firing is nothing like micro torches, and I don’t look good without eyebrows. . . . Yup, I singed BOTH eyebrows and haven’t looked the same since. I learned some great safety tips the hard way!

If you, too, had EFT (Early Fire Trauma) or are just curious about using a torch for jewelry, sit in on my fire chat (slightly different from a fireside chat) with the lovely Denise Peck, editor of Step by Step Wire Jewelry and contributor to Jewelry Making Daily (my newest favorite blog, next to Beading Daily, of course!). Here’s our torch talk:

Example of a micro torch

Kristal: What features should readers look for in a micro torch?

Denise: Micro torches are widely available online and in hardware stores for $10 to more than $100.  (I haven’t found any significant benefit to the more expensive ones.) They all tend to burn at around the same temperature, 2500°F, which is hot enough for a lot of soldering tasks. Most of them have a burn time of about 30 minutes on one tank of fuel. There are a couple of key features you should look for: a flame adjuster and a sturdy base that allows hands-free use are key. Torches with all-metal nozzles tend to be better because extended use can melt any plastic parts near the flame. Also, some models come with a safety switch should you have children in the house.

Kristal: What else will they need?

Denise: You absolutely need a fireproof work surface, such as a piece of sheet metal or large ceramic tiles, to protect your table. Then, for your soldering, you need a Solderite board or charcoal block. For extra protection, I put my charcoal block in an annealing pan filled with pumice. If you’re working with fine silver wire, you don’t need solder because it fuses to itself. But if you’re soldering sterling or copper, you’ll need flux and solder. Flux is a paste that helps retain the heat where you want it and helps to make the solder flow. I dedicate pliers, tweezers, and picks for flame work, so I don’t ruin my good tools.

You’ll also need to buy fuel for the torch, which runs about $4 a can. It’s recommended that you buy butane fuel that is triple refined and sold with the torches or at jewelry-supply stores. If you use lighter fuel, it may clog your torch, and you’ll get an uneven flame. And, of course, you’ll need a quenching bowl of water to cool your pieces. If you use the torch for extended periods, it’s best to wear flame safety goggles.

Torch in action, firing metal ring

Kristal: Any tips to avoid common first-time mistakes? 

Denise: The most basic rule of soldering is that you must heat the entire piece, not just the join (the place where the two metal ends meet). Focusing on the join alone results in just burning away the metal there. Instead, slowly and methodically rotate the torch around the entire piece until it’s all very hot and then focus on the join to make the solder flow (or fuse the fine silver). Then immediately pull the flame away. When you’re using a micro torch, it’s important to keep the torch filled in order to get the highest heat from it. If it starts to take noticeably longer to heat and melt the solder, refill the torch.

Kristal: Beyond soldering, what kinds of projects can you do with a micro torch?  

Denise: If you want to just get started using your torch, try balling the ends of 20- to 22-gauge wire to make balled head pins. Or ball the ends of a nice S-clasp. That’s the simplest thing you can do with your torch, but it adds a great artistic touch!

Kristal: Any funny torch stories to share?

Denise: When I first taught fusing with a micro torch, I purchased eight inexpensive models for the fusing stations in my class. The flame adjuster dials were plastic and just at the base of the metal torch head. After 3 hours of constant use of these torches, the dials all slumped and melted. The torches still worked, but I was mortified that I’d been singing the praises of these $10 torches! Basically, they’re fine if you’re not using them for three hours straight. But what did I know!

Find Your First Easy Steps to Seed Beading

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Seed Bead Mania

One of my ongoing burning questions has NEVER been “to bead or not to bead” but rather “WHAT to bead or not to bead.” That is a serious question, is it not?

A bead explosion in my closet

Seed beading, wireworking, gemstone beading, lampworking, fabric beading (a personal favorite), stringing, silver fabrication: they’re all appealing. But I simply haven’t found a way to stay awake 24/7 in order to do all the types of jewelry making that I crave.

I have an entire closet full of crafting impulse buys—kits, books, etc. These are constant reminders (or closet reminders) of temporary, insane, expensive moments when I actually thought making my first appliqué quilt in a weekend was possible (that’s what the kit said). I’m sure many of you Beading Daily readers share my inflated crafting optimism.

Beading confessions

My first Beading Daily confession follows. My deep, dark secret is that I’ve bystepped any and all seed beading. Not because I don’t enjoy the bazillions of tiny explosions of colors, shapes, and finishes seed beads offer or the luscious creations, from jewelry to purses, you’ve all shown me over the years. My hesitation comes from the fact that once you get the hang of that almighty peyote or herringbone, you can never go back: spending every waking moment hunched over a tiny 6×6 area piled high with teeny beads, missing out on various parts of your lives (OK maybe not that far)-all for the thrill of the “almighty seed.”

I’ve heard the stories of skipping and racing down the aisles of bead shows, grabbing for the newest and latest seed-bead vials as if they were gourmet chocolates. I’ve watched bead show attendees hide masses of those precious vials in unmarked brown paper bags in the trunk of their car so husbands/boyfriends/kids don’t see them. I’ve even seen my friends skip a meal to shop another 15 minutes (there’s always a vending machine nearby). I’ve asked myself, “Do I really want another crafting obsession?” I’m running out of room in my closet.

Seed beads are my new treat

Content to hold out for many years, happy with my chosen forms of beads and beadworking, I felt safe and secure, knowing none of my 401K would ever go to those addictively pretty little vials. Until I stepped into Beading Daily. I didn’t even last a month seed-bead-free in this candy store. My recent assignment: review Leslie Rogalski’s new Doodlebeads Volume 2 DVD. I calmly sat down with a cup of java, knowing I’d need it to stay awake.

I haven’t been this wrong since Beanie Babies trumped real estate as the ultimate investment (totally different story)! Thanks to Leslie’s ultimate temptation—video beadweaving lessons that break things down into easy 1-2-3 visual lessons—my resistance is disappearing. Now, I’m fighting every urge to run out to the nearest supplier to buy my own precious bead vials for my first seed-bead project. Darn you, Leslie, and your Doodlebeads. You got me. Wish me luck!

Tell me how you got started with the almighty seed!

Reprinted from BeadingDaily

Chris O’s Fab Rhubarb Crisp Recipe

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Kisses for Chris

Guaranteed to instill inspiration every time!
4 to 5 cups cut up fresh rhubarb
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 or 2 teaspoons cinnamon according to your preference
1/3 cup butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place rhubarb in baking dish and sprinkle with a little salt. Measure sugar, flour and cinnamon into bowl. Add butter and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle over rhubarb.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Serve with love (and ice cream).

Check out my peep Chris Orlikowski’s FaceBook page and Website