Copper Solder Test 3

So it’s been a while since I talked about my experiments with copper paste solder (previous bumblings here and here). A couple months ago, I put together some discs I made from assorted roll-milled or stamped scraps in the hopes that I could make a fun sampler of sorts from them:

sampler1Ooh, it’s like a crazy quilt made of copper!

So here was my test this time around:  could I sweat solder these tiny discs with the stuff? Would they stay on when I domed the large disc afterward? Could I get a half-round wire border around the edge? I should note that this would all be a test of my abilities as much as a test of the solder. And in both cases, the results were a bit meh.


Sweating on the discs was easy . . . perhaps a bit too easy. I set the first one quickly, without having placed it just right, and so threw off my ability to fit the rest properly. Well, I figured, screw it. Jam the rest on anyway and call it practice.* I ended up overlapping a few, and I had to file off a bit of overhang from two of them. After that, the doming went fine. Nothing popped off, although the center piece wasn’t thoroughly stuck on with solder and didn’t curve as much as it should have anyway (it’s a touch thicker than the others, too.)  Getting the border on presented an issue I hadn’t anticipated: paste solder fumes. Until now I’d only used a small smudge or two at a time, and now I was spreading it all around the border of something. Torching it did not smell good or even remotely healthy (and the exhaust fan in the studio isn’t really near the soldering station, unfortunately). I put the ring on in two operations, and while it’s secure enough, it’s not totally joined in a neat, professional way. I believe I could do a much better job with a wire solder than a paste one, and so I’ll probably buy some next time I order supplies. And–if what I’ve read is correct–fumes will be much less of an issue.

Still, for all its faults, I like my little sampler charm. The next time I get around to whipping up some liver of sulfur, I’ll give it a dip and polish up the highlights. If I can find another nine bits of patterned metal, I might even make another one.

*Had I been thinking properly, I’d have stopped right there and maybe melted it off to try again. This is one thing I need to learn over and over: just Stop. Think. Take my time. At least I’ve learned to stop soldering fifteen minutes before the end of class, because I always end up getting nervous, rushing, and making mistakes that way–so there’s hope for me yet.

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Filed under experiment, practice, soldering

I . . . I Did It!

After much futzing, filing, sanding, and fretting, I actually got these earrings done. And . . . and they’re among the best student work I’ve done to date.

opalearrings1Peruvian opal. Ooh. Aaah.

I’m sad that the bezels are just a touch too high. I knew I cut them too high to begin with, but I was afraid of cutting them too low and then forgot to take them down before I started setting one of the stones. It irks me, but there’s nothing I can do now but remember for the next time. I just hope my mom likes them. I think she will.

I’ve got nothing much else to show right now, although I’ve got a few copper things going on. Most of them are just experiments, as I’m learning to get better at using my copper paste solder. I’m also trying to design a pendant setting for the coprolite I bought last year, and I’ve begun a thick-walled bezel for a teardrop smoky quartz stone I want to put on the very first silver ring I ever made (hee hee, I finally evened out the width in class this week, which I should have done long ago.) I still have to finish the ring I’ve been on-and-offing for months (I used to call the stone tiger iron, but I’ve recently discovered it’s tigereye. Cherry tigereye.) The way I want to do the band presents certain problems, so I’m making one out of copper first to learn what to do. I may just solder that to the first bezel cup I made for practice (and still retain it for some kind of resin or epoxy experiment later.) So, stay tuned.

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Well, I’ve completed the Kayleen Pullover’s front and back. Last night I pinned the shoulders together and tried it on. I’m ridiculously pleased and relieved to report that it fits, is not a shapeless sack, and is in fact flattering.

marilynsweaterBut not that flattering.

All I have left to do is make the little sleeves and knit an I cord directly around the neckline. I say this like it’s no big deal, but I know the I cord will be annoying and take forever. Let’s not think about it too hard.

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Post Earrings, or: Here Goes Nothing

So . . . the Peruvian opals I got from the gem and fossil show. I thought they’d make nice earrings for my mother, whose birthday is at the end of the month. The idea was a bit daunting because (1) she likes post earrings, and I’m not too experienced in making those; and (2) earrings require two things that look exactly alike and I’m not great at that either. Plus, my mother tends to be really anal about details, so if I screw something up, she will notice. (I’m not complaining about that, because such an upbringing has made me less of a slob than I would have otherwise been.)

Oh, and (3) the opals are quite thin and would require a very slim bezel which I would have to be very careful not to melt.

No problem, right?

Here’s what I had at the design and cutout stage:


All right, not bad. 20 gauge sterling, with three rounded corners and one just a bit squarish, like the stones. After I took this shot, I put in the decorative lines using a screwdriver as a punch, and then made bezels out of 28 gauge fine silver. Yeah, I know thicker and sturdier bezels are better, but I’m nervous here, and the thin stuff bends so much more easily.

In class last night, I used the smallest torch head I could find, and soldered those bezels on . . . gradually. I did my best to keep the heat on the sheet, but I got a few blorps up on the bezels despite my best efforts. Also, as it turned out, the stamped lines presented a bit of a problem, as I needed extra solder in those areas to close the gap between bezel and backing (essentially, they were like trenches. Teeny, tiny, annoying little trenches.) What I ended up with isn’t perfect, but a careful sanding should take care of the blobs . . . er, I hope.

opal2Not bad, considering how much my hands actually shook. Nervous, much?

I think I might also carefully readjust the shape of the earrings overall, as one bezel set a bit lower than the other (I should have fluxed and then set bezel and sheet exactly as I wanted them, and heated the moisture off so they’d stay together nicely while soldering–hindsight is 20/20 etc. etc.)

Now here’s the part that worried me most, because the last time I tried making post earrings, back in beginners’ class, I kept overheating the wires and the solder flowed up them three times or so, making a stupid, uncomfortable little bump at the join:

badearringVery hard to photograph, but there is indeed a little ball at the end.

Yesterday I was surprised to find that soldering on the posts was the easiest and most fun part of this whole operation!


Everybody seems to have a different way of doing these, but here are the instructions I followed. Cut a 20g wire a little longer than you need (I wanted 10mm, so I cut about 12.) Sand one end, and ball up the other end in your torch flame. Quench, then place the wire in a draw plate hole up to the ball. Secure the plate in a vise, and hammer the ball until flat. Hold the wire in tweezers/tongs. dip the flat end in a bit of flux, and use that to pick up a piece of solder. Keep it at the ready while you heat the fluxed back of your earring (I like to put it on a piece of charcoal, ground in a bit, to help prevent anything on the front from melting.) After the flux has bubbled and become glassy, bring in the post and hold it against the back. Keep heating the earring, not the post, never the post. When the solder flows, remove the heat and give the operation a second or two to set before pickling. And there you go.

There are a few more steps I wish I’d known about for straightening the wire over here at the Ganoksin Project website. I’ll keep that in mind next time.

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Filed under earrings, metals, soldering, stones/gems

A Few Things

Before I forget, during my recent period of blog inactivity, I wrapped this large mahogany obsidian cab:

mahoganyobsidianKinda reminds me of a scarab beetle . . . 

I’ve still got the picture stone to finish wrapping, and the wire I was waiting for came in the mail.

picstonenewNo excuses left. Finish it!

Today was the annual gem and mineral show (at which I got the stone last year) and I was able to get another one, as well as a few other things.

gfmshowOoo. Aaaah.

I’m particularly excited about the cabochons, because they were dug up and cut and polished by some nice dude in Iowa. To me there’s something special about that, much more personal than going online and ordering something that was cut and polished at a cutting center in India or China. I’ll have to design something nice for those . . . but right now my first priority is going to have to be setting those two blue stones on the right, which are Peruvian opal. My mom’s birthday is near the end of the month, and this year I want to be able to make something for her.

So that means I’m going to have to put this little project on the back burner:


I started this one in class last week: it’s a strip of 18g sterling, bent to accept a stone bead which is going to be riveted on. I did some rough filing at home later, and plan to do more tweaking, smoothing, and buffing in class with the flex shaft. It’s a pretty plain band, but it is my first one (and I have a few more beads I could use to make more!)

And finally, remember this little disappointment?

bezelhuhI showed it to my teacher while she was there last week, and she suggested that I could try to fill that back in with more solder. And if I didn’t want to try putting a stone in there after all, well, I could just epoxy some interesting things in it, or whatever–the point is, there’s no need to scrap it. So I did experiment with some bits of wire solder, and–hooray–the little hole closed up, and on sanding, I was able to make the line disappear completely. I think I will put a bail on it, polish it, and indeed find something to do with it. Meanwhile, I’ve started another one, and it’s going just fine, so here’s hoping I get that ring project on track again.

Now it’s time to get to work on those earrings, before I lose motivation or start playing video games or something.

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Filed under beads, metals, ring, riveting, soldering, stones/gems, wire, yak yak yak

Bail Fail

Last week I got this interesting bead at my local bead shop. I don’t even know if I like it; I passed it up maybe three times before I decided to get it.


If I had to guess, I’d say it was probably white howlite with some pink dye on it. I don’t know, it’s got a cool 1980s feel to it, and I wanted to make a unique bail for it. So I made a paper template and pulled out an old piece of roll-printed copper with a faint star pattern on it and got to work.

bailfail1Well, it wasn’t great, and I tweaked it a bit before I decided it competed too much with the bead. So I dug out a crappy old glass bead from my collection and set it for the riveting practice.

bailfail2And then I put it on a headpin and skewered a leaf, because why not.

This was a depressing outcome for the work (though all practice is good practice, and I learned a good lesson about NOT riveting a bead with a too-large hole, because your rivet is likely to distort inside it.) The bead is just irregular enough that it will look crooked no matter what. I thought about it last night, when I had my first class of the season (more on that tomorrow or so.) It’s an open studio session this time, but my teacher did pop by for a little while, and I overheard her talking to someone about a failed project. She said it always feels like when you make something that sucks, you feel like you suck, but it isn’t true. Just keep going.

And of course I will.

Coming soon:  a soldering win.


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Filed under beads, riveting

Christmas in September

Every year, a hospital in my town has a Christmas event in which decorated wreaths, trees, and even “rooms” of Christmasy things are viewed and auctioned off for charity. My knitting group has been toying with the idea of making a wreath for a couple of years now, but we always seem to just miss the deadline. This time I pushed a bit to get us to do it. We’ve even gotten the o.k. to use hand knitted/crocheted ornaments, so we’re going to have some of those as well as traditional things like big ribbons and shiny ball ornaments. I’ll talk about it more as the season progresses, but for now we’re just trying to get a few things started to make sure everything each of us is working on will coordinate in terms of colors and size (it so, so, helps that one of us is a graphic designer!)

I’ve been assigned to do a string of crochet Christmas lights. Found a few patterns on Ravelry, but none small enough, so I improvised. The plan is to make a bunch of them separately and then chain them up together later when I have a better idea of how many I’ll need and how they should be spaced.



If our plan works out, the wreath should be really cute. It’s going to feature a knitted monster, on a ladder, hanging the lights–so stay tuned.

In other news, I haven’t given up on Kayleen yet, but she is slow. This is why I can’t do knit-a-longs.


Now I need to get in gear, because I start having studio time again Monday. I spent some money at the local bead shop last week, and now I have lots of nice beads for riveted rings (if only my silver tubing would finally arrive in the mail!) I also picked out some pretty glass beads in even numbers so I can make some earrings to sell locally . . . maybe . . . hopefully . . . yeah, I really need more confidence on the business end of things.

I might do a post-a-day challenge again soon. That was a ridiculously productive time for me, and formed good habits which I immediately lost when it was over. Ha!


Filed under charity, crochet, knitting, sweater