The Sun - Friend or Foe?

Jennifer Shea Hedberg | 22 February, 2021

Sun thru Ice Glass produces Ice Glass Lace Wintercraft Ice Wrangler
Much like fire, the sun has the potential to both help and hurt. As winter turns to spring, the sun (which only seems to rotate around us) follows a higher arc in the sky, and the effect becomes more intense and will impact if and how you make ice luminaries. If you live in a community like mine where the parks board puts up outdoor skating rinks in the winter, they usually tear them down on the first day of March. Why? Because the sun is so intense that the ice masters have a hard time keep the ice in good shape for safe skating. 
 skaters photo by Maxim Shklyaev
Sadly, the same is true for ice luminary creators. For the most part, I consider the Sun to be a foe when making ice luminaries in the spring. In early to mid-winter, anything put out at below 10°F/-12°C tends to freeze easily and fast. But later in the season, it pays to place your ice lanterns in better freezing positions - even if your temps are low. It's always important to place your water-filled containers away from heated structures and on snow, but now its more important than ever to put them where it will get shaded in the afternoon - if not full shade! It's even more important when using balloons as the rubber does not like a repeated freeze-thaw-freeze cycle and is more likely to pop before the ice has finished forming. 
A large tree can offer great shade potential!
Wintercraft globe ice lantern balloon in front of tree
No tree? Pull out and strategically place an old yard sign! 
Wintercraft Balloon with a lawn sign
Now let's talk about how the sun can be a friend!
Sun etched Globe Ice Lantern by Ice Wrangler photo by Bruce Challgren
To make ice lanterns last longer, I normally advise people to keep them away from the sun. But, when you have the ability to produce ice luminaries on a whim, one can cavalierly place an ice lantern in the sun where with time and patience, and a little below freezing temps, it should turn the ice to look like cut glass or ice lace. The above globe ice lantern was placed where it would absorb sunlight and look at what happened! Amazingly beautiful when viewed during the day or you can see, when a candle is placed inside at night.
It's time to have a little fun . . .
When a bucket is filled with water and placed in the sun, one side of the bucket will heat up. If a dark image is drawn or taped to the outside of a light-colored  bucket and turned toward the sun, that image will be etched into the ice forming inside.
dark images on water-filled buckets Ice Wrangler Wintercraft
It's always best to make the image as simple as possible as it will be easier to see the finished image in the ice. Try a few different patterns and see what works best for you.
Currently in Minnesota we are having a mini heat wave, but I will put them outside anyway. It will probably take a while for these water-filled buckets to form a reasonable crust of ice. I will edit this post to add the finished ice. If you try this and have better temps than me, send me a pic of your ice and I will add them, too!

 Enjoy the Glow!
-- Jennifer Shea Hedberg, The Ice Wrangler, @icewrangler


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