Weight and Balance

Enlightenment is mistake after mistake.

                                                         –Zen saying


Well, this big boy was two years in the making. I got the stone from a flower and garden show–of all things. My oldest, dearest BFFs and I get together in Chicago almost every year for it, drink a considerable amount of wine, peruse the flowers, and buy crap we probably shouldn’t from the vendors in our lubricated state. One of my friends offered to buy me some jewelry from a lady who has a booth of handmade goods every year; as I make my own, I didn’t quite see the need, but she was selling a few loose stones on the cheap. I could see why: this one wasn’t very well cut, off-center, and the back was not quite flat, but I have a soft spot for imperfect things, and wanted to make a project of it. And so I have.

Last year, I took the back of the stone to a diamond honing block submerged in water. Flat back, easy as pie. Then I put it aside with vague ideas of what sort of cuff I’d like to make for it. Also, I needed some taller bezel wire than I had on hand, because the edge was, well, high in spots, uneven, goofy. A challenge.

This year, I decided to go for it. At some point in the winter class, I made a bezel, did my best to trim it to the correct height in every area, and got the bezel onto the backing sheet. This required a bigger torch then I generally use, just to get the solder chips to flow instead of lumping up like little jerks.


Then there was some cleaning up and setting aside, and some consultation with Bob to figure out what kind of wire I should order, and how I might bend it to get the shape I wanted.

I think what I ended up with was 6 gauge half-round. The trick to getting a nice, even double band is to cut two pieces, solder only the ends together, shape the resulting piece on a mandrel, and then carefully pull the two wires apart: separated on top, joined underneath. I practiced first with some copper, as I wasn’t sure exactly what length I needed, and didn’t want to waste the expensive half-round sterling. I ended up thinking I had planned for a full inch too much, but now I’m not so sure . . . but more on that later.

Next I had to file down some spots on top to get the bezel box to lie flat and have good contact area for soldering. In retrospect, I ought to have remembered this little problem:


Two years ago I gave myself fits with this ring I almost made, because a band with a big flat thing soldered on top of it doesn’t look very good from the side. How I did I forget that?

Well, it’s what I chose to do, and I got it soldered on with a minimum of fuss, so it is what it is.


Then I finally made use of the little brillo-y wheel that puts a nice brushed finish on your metal. At least this was a happy find. I love that look much more than a mirror finish.

Now here’s what I really, really failed to consider.


Do you see any weight there? Because there isn’t any. And the front side with that giant fossil stone is heavy.

So even though the band fits will, it slips to one side or the other.

And the stone tips forward when my hand is down.

And it tips back when my hand is up.

Insert bad words here. Lots of them.


It may be a good thing that (1) there are a couple gaps in the bezel that I can’t close because of the roughness of the stone’s cut in some spots (and one chipped area); and (2) the opening in the cuff is a bit wider than it should have been. Maybe, when I feel ready and willing, I can pry the stone out so that I can solder some supportive bars to the cuff ends. Or figure out some other kind of decorative weight to add. I don’t know, I’ll have to ask about it.

Right now, I’m down about the whole thing. And this weekend was the major art fair, the one with the real professionals and the tons and tons of fabulous handmade jewelry. I should be inspired by it, but yesterday I checked it out and came home feeling terrible about myself.

But at least this book on Art and Fear came in the mail this week. Maybe it will help me with my mental hurdles. I want to be a pro someday, but I’m too easily frightened by all the business shit that goes with it. Meanwhile, I can’t just keep puttering like this while working part-time in what is essentially a college kid’s job, can I? Or can I?

That’s enough of that. Coming soon: four rings and a seahorse. Not starring Hugh Grant.


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Filed under bracelet, metals, stones/gems, yak yak yak

Bootie bootie bootie hey


Behold my latest pair of Simple Baby Booties, this time for a sort-of-coworker-in-the-main-office who just had a baby boy.  It’s a super easy and adorable pattern, and the only real mistake I made was to pop these off in the mail before making sure I had a good picture, so sorry about that.

In other news, I am borderline sick with whatever sinus-y malady that has kept my husband in bed for the past two weeks, and not up to much of anything, although I may go knit on the couch now. I hope to have some jewelry to show soon, because I dragged my headache-y self to class a couple nights ago and nearly finished up a bracelet, and cast a clump of rings.

Jeez I wish I felt better.

Anyway, enjoy your weekend.

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Hey, I Finished Something!



I cast the band of this ring last fall, when I started fiddling with the old commercially-made wax ring molds we have sitting around the studio where I take classes (how old are they? The foam they’re packed in is crumbling. The wax is dried out and brittle. You can do it, but you have to be careful.)

castingsHere it is front and center.

castring2And here it is cleaned up.

My problem with this ring is that it had a little flat spot, probably from me neglecting to be careful when cutting off the sprue and grinding down the scar. Plus . . . I don’t know. Meh. So I poked through my collection of cheap cabs in search of something I could pop on over that spot, and found a sodalite I thought worked well. I made a bezel cup for it in the first weeks of class (not as easy as it should have been; how is it that I keep forgetting how to solder when I haven’t done it for a few weeks?) and filed that flat spot down larger and flatter.

sodaliteringprogressLike so.

A little soldering, a little setting, a lot of cleaning up, and now I actually love it!


Here’s one other thing: Bob has been playing around with enamel. He made these two discs out of argentium silver, torch fired some blue vitreous enamel on them, and added some steel hooks. Having no further need of them, he told me I could have them. Then I immediately dropped one on the concrete floor and chipped some enamel off the edge. (“Now they’re really yours.”) I tried to think of how I could make the best of this and came up with some riveting.


Yeah, kinda worked, except I cracked a little bit off the other one during riveting. Sigh. I put it back on with a little clear nail polish, because that’s how I roll.

Coming soon:  more casting, more knitting, and maybe a long-neglected project finished?

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Filed under casting, earrings, ring, stones/gems


Here’s something I finished recently:


If you’re a bit tired of this pattern, well, maybe I am too. It’s definitely my go-to for very colorful yarns (all the slipped stitches certainly break up the pooling) but I’ve done this, what? three times now and I’m ready to move on.

Also, my finger might need a rest.


Wonder if that could become permanent? Maybe my tension is way too tight.

Next time around: a new (to me) pattern with diagonal stripes in it. Diagonal! Should be fun.


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Filed under knitting, socks

If You Like it Then You Shoulda Put a Frog on It


Last time we saw this, I was having trouble figuring out how to make it interesting.


If the pattern had been roll-printed harder, it might have been cool just like this, but it was just too faint, and oxidizing didn’t help as much as I’d hoped. (I didn’t make this pattern; it was from a scrap I found in the studio junk bin, along with the stub of copper rod that I turned into the twisty wire band.)


I toyed with the idea of riveting various copper and brass discs onto it, and then I picked up my little brass frog mascot (which you see in progress in the banner of this blog.) Cool, but just a touch too big!


I could do another . . . still had some green acrylic cat-eye “stones” lying around . . . and so I did, although I didn’t take any progress pictures. I had a lot of trouble riveting the new, smaller guy onto the copper (it really should have been done at an earlier stage) but I worked it out. It’s not perfect, but it is a lot of fun.

Speaking of fun, I dug into the ol’ bead stash (which I like to do when I’m between classes anyway) and crocheted a multi-strand hippie bracelet out of macrame twine.


The button closure was from last year, when I made a couple of them in class.


Okay, the copper star-printed sheet isn’t in here, but I think that brass in the upper left was the back plate when I rolled it through. I don’t seem to have any other progress shots, but I made three discs, domed them, and soldered a jump ring inside each to make buttons. The one in the bracelet is the most successful of the three.

I’ve been trying out a new (well, new to me) idea this week: taking one photo every day of what I’m working on. It started out as a picture of my bench every day, but I don’t work there every day. Sometimes I just knit, or do something else. I don’t know if I’ll upload them somewhere; frankly I’m sure they’re of no interest to anybody but me. For a long time I’ve been thinking about creating an art journal, but I’m not convinced it’s the best use of my craft time. Someday that may change–but right now this is my focus, and I could use a little focus, because lately my attention seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once!

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Filed under beads, bracelet, metals, riveting

New Thing, New Mistakes, New Lesson


Here’s another one I’d been working on during the winter session. The cab is a bit of dichroic glass made by fellow student Beverly, who donated a bunch she didn’t quite like or need to the studio. You might remember I used one to make a present for my mother-in-law some time ago:


I had some trouble with that one when it came to getting the prongs secure enough so that glass didn’t move or slip out. I’ve learned since that you could just take a diamond plated burr bit and grind off some grooves where you need them (underwater! Glass dust is bad for you!) to help with this. So, I grabbed another cab (the last one of its shape and size, alas) and tried it out.


Here we are, ready to go. The cab is on an old eraser; you need something to prop it up on and this works well. Of course, you’ll note I’m using a flex shaft. The water is shallow, and the flex shaft motor is safely hung away from it.


The good news: it worked. The bad news: I was so into the experiment that I forgot to realize it would have been best to make the wire cage first, and then make the grooves exactly where I needed them. Also, those grooves should have been straight up and down, not diagonal. Somehow I thought the wires would bend up at an angle; they don’t, and that caused me trouble later.  If this was an important piece, I’d have started over, but it’s not. This is a learning project, and . . . well . . . there weren’t any more glass cabs in this size and shape left anyway, so let’s keep going.


Here’s all the stuff on the back so you can see how the wires were soldered together. If it looks like a lot of solder, it is; I had some trouble. I should also note that this is my second attempt; I melted the joins at some point on the first. Whoops. It’s all in the past now.


And here we are again with the finished product, prongs all ground down smooth and (mostly) bendable and well-fitting. You can’t see it here, but on the left side, the prongs didn’t quite go where I wanted, and the matte ground-away areas were visible, so I filled them with some epoxy. This made them glassy looking and less obvious; a casual observer would never notice. In time I’m sure I’ll find another glass cab I like and try it all over again properly. Meanwhile, this was fun, and I noticed that I don’t get too angry or frustrated anymore when things don’t go my way in the metals lab. The next time is almost always better.


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Filed under experiment, metals, necklace, pendant, practice, soldering, stones/gems

Labradorite Pendant, and a Couple Castings

Jeez, this may be the most . . . beautiful thing I’ve ever made.


Labradorite is one of my all-time favorite stones, so when I found this little teardrop at the local bead store, I snapped it up.

Getting to work on it, however, was a bit of a challenge. I keep wanting to do something Artsy and Different and Postmodern, but then I choose gorgeous stones that really don’t need all that. Clearly the design I ended up with is a typical pretty princess necklace, but . . ? I like it.

Here’s the lowdown on my process and some nice new mistakes (oh boy!) I hope never to repeat again.


Here, right off the bat, is my backing, with a swirl cut out of it. This (1) makes things more interesting; (2) makes test setting the stone easier, as I can poke it back out with a tool; and (3) was a dumb, dumb thing to do before soldering on the bezel and everything. I nearly melted the center of the swirl getting the bezel on; fortunately, I soon realized that placing a few bits of pumice over it during subsequent solderings was a good way to protect it from too much heat. So there’s that.


Next, I agonized over how to decorate the thing. I had planned to have silver danglies all hippie-like from the bottom, but somehow neglected to leave enough room to do it properly. I poked around my tin of scraps to see what might look good where, and came upon a twisted piece of silver wire. The gauge (14) was too thick, but no matter: I made another in 16 gauge. Soldering this on was a bit of a bear; I got solder blorps galore (note to self: practice stick soldering on scrap, not a real piece, especially when you’ve been told the tank on the torch you’re using has a somewhat messed-up regulator.) I also seem to have made the twisty piece just a touch too large–not terribly obvious, but I know one side could have been better. Ugh, I always know–too late.

The bail is on just, just slightly off center because that’s where it wanted to snap on tight over the twist. Screw it, said I. It’s secure there and unlikely to shift around during soldering–and it didn’t.

Now the stone. This is the weird part, because my bezel was initially too small, and I had to stretch it out on the ring mandrel a bit. Got it right but still snug. Soldered it on, tested the stone a couple times along the way, and . . . found it just a bit loose upon final setting. It actually rattles a little. I think this may be due to either the metal expanding a bit from all that soldering (does that happen?) or else it’s just a matter of the cut of the stone being a bit irregular around the edges, which it is. It’s secure, it won’t fall out, but it annoyed me–and so I pried up the center of the swirl, popped a little epoxy under there, and clamped it down again. No more rattle.

Speaking of that swirl, though, check this out.


Neat, huh?

So the other big thing I’ve been up to is a casting project. Actually, three casting projects in one. I’ve alluded to them before, and there are two rings in one of the pictures above that used to look like this:


This (on the left) is a pair of commercially made wax rings from the studio. Someone donated a ton of these years ago, and anyone who wants to cast one or two or whatever can. These two fit and I liked them, so what the hell, because I also wanted to cast some magnolia seeds (on the right) from my back yard, just to see if it would work. It did.

castingsHere’s my “tree” of all the pieces ready for the casting flask . . . 


4castings. . . and here they are afterward, needing a cleaning.

castring1This one’s my favorite . . . kind of a nest . . . maybe I’ll cast some tiny brass wasps and solder them on?

castring2Bob joked that I should set 1 point diamonds in all the holes, because that’s what they’re for. Ha ha. If I could find a mix of color cubic zirconias in that size, I might actually try it someday, because that might be cute. For now, though, I need to try “thrumming”–loading up a string with red rouge and polishing out all those tiny holes with it.

castmag1And my magnolia seeds . . . what to do with them? Maybe I’ll decide after I clean them up some more.

Now I have one class period left to go next week, and I’m not sure what to work on, so I’d better go figure it out.

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Filed under casting, ring, Uncategorized