Here there be Dragons

Or, at least, a dragon.


This little dude is a pendant that I just finished up for my sister-in-law. She had shown me a picture of something similar a few months ago, asking if I could make it, and I agreed to try my hand. I changed it up a bit, though, because I didn’t want to steal the design and because I thought, frankly, I should do the mountain a bit smaller (it was more prominent in the original, needlessly so.) For the most part, I’m very happy with how it turned out.

Here’s my original sketch:


And here are the pieces after I cut them out and did a bit of filing. Note the angle of the bail lying there next to the dragon’s head; this is an idea I picked up from Bob. Solder that onto the back and you have a bail that is small and unobtrusive, but you can fit the damn clasp through there. Neat trick.


I did most of the work on this at home, though I had to texture the mountain in the studio (nice forming hammers are still a bit beyond my budget) and get the pieces sweat soldered together. I was nervous about that, but it actually went really well. Even if you end up with solder blorps, if you’re careful, you can melt them and sort of drag the solder where you want it to go with your flame, because it will want to flow where the heat is. I got the main parts done in two shots, and then the bail in one–I thought; a very small bit of it didn’t anchor down. I could’ve left it, but chose to add a smidge of easy solder and do it again. Now it’s fine.

I struggled with the surface a lot, though. The tumbler left it with a very shiny surface, kind of flashy in a way I can’t imagine my SIL liking. Plus, I had trouble getting a nice, uniform darkness on the mountain with silver black (I also tried liver-of-sulfur, which didn’t quite get me a uniform blue.) In the end I gave the whole thing a satiny finish with my radial bristle wheels and called it a day. I think the residual silver black around the tail sets it off from the mountain quite nicely . . . although I do see one spot I should fix up a bit. I never can stop fussing.

Anyway, since I mentioned Bob, he came by the studio last week, not exactly out the woods, but feeling better, which is good. I spent most of the evening at the soldering table, doing the tedious work of getting my very first chain together. It’s not quite done, so I’ll go on about that later.



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Good Enough

Let’s just pretend I have the ends all weaved in and done.

goodenoughJust like we’re going to pretend I cleaned the cat hair blobs off the doormat before taking the photo.

I’d also like to pretend I had enough blue to finished the patterned area, but I didn’t. That’s okay; these are just around-the-house socks for the winter, and a stashbust to boot. Mostly, I’m just happy I had enough green yarn, because I cut it very close, with only about two feet left in the end.

Now I’m going to leave off the sock-making for a while and get a crocheted mobile done for a friend. The good news is, I only have to crochet the pieces, and she’ll do all the sewing together and finishing.

But right now it’s like summer weather, and yarncraft is just the last thing I feel like doing, so: later!

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The Past Two Weeks

I don’t have a coherent theme for this post, especially as I am nowhere near finished with the socks I’m making, and have been neglecting jewelry for a while. That’s not such a bad thing, as taking a break can be very good for the spirit sometimes. So this is just going to be a roundup of what’s going on these days.

First, the socks.

diamondseed2Rainy day driving in Illinois.

This is a stashbust with some KnitPicks my friend Sarah gave me. The cuff is green (as will be the toes and heel–IF I have enough) and the body is a heathery blue. It’s kind of a mishmash of the Rye pattern but with an afterthought heel, and the “diamond seed” texture from a 1970s Reader’s Digest book of stitchery. In other words, it’s pretty much my first attempt at designing my own sock using what I’ve learned so far. At this point, though, I’ve realized I won’t have enough yarn to do quite what I wanted, so we’ll see what happens in terms of color.

As for metals . . . I missed open studio last week because I was out of town (on the road trip pictured above.) Last night I started work on a link bracelet that I’ll talk about in more detail later. Basically, I just wanted to practice pick soldering, because I haven’t really made a chain yet. Also, my friend/fellow lab rat John is an excellent pick solderer, so I figured since he’s there with me, it’s the perfect time to really give it a go. Last night I got the larger links done. I was surprised how hard this was on my fingertips, though I shouldn’t have been, really. I had to coil the wire around a mandrel, saw through the links, tidy up the cuts, and line up the joins just so. Soldering was actually the easy part, although I ought to have been a bit more careful in a few cases not to let the silver get so close to melting. It’s been a while, and I kind of forgot where that moment is where you pull back. Good thing I made a few extra links, because I screwed up a couple.


Here’s what I have now: some practice links made in copper, unsoldered but arranged in different ways so I could decide what I liked; a bunch of soldered 16g sterling links, hammered out on an  oval mandrel to make them a bit irregular; and three rejects (one got a bit melty, one didn’t join, and one had a wonky cut.)

And finally, I’m almost done with the dragon pendant for my sister-in-law, only it came out of the tumbler with a very shiny, slightly battered surface I don’t quite like. I’ll see if I can take care of that with some rotary brushes and the flex shaft tonight, and talk about it soon.

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April Valentine

As the Year of the Sock chugs on, and I’ve actually kept up with my goal of making one pair of socks per month, I bring you April’s entry, a self-striping little number:


If they look a little . . . February to you, well, my friend Mrs. Shoo bought the yarn a while back with the idea of making these for Valentine’s Day, until she remembered she doesn’t really like pink anyway and wouldn’t wear them. She offered it to me, and as I was a bit nervous about making toe-up socks with an afterthought heel for the first time, I figured it would be perfect to learn with.

And learn I did. Here’s what I found from the get-go, trying to make a figure-eight cast on.

bad time1

Seriously, there’s a reason all the YouTube videos I could find on this feature the two-circular-needles method (and everybody’s a continental knitter, which appears to be really useful for knitting through back loops.) It’s pretty tough going with dpns, although holding them in a way that’s more perpendicular than parallel helps somewhat. Also, didn’t bother knitting tbl on the first needle, and so my stitches are crossed.


The next thing I learned was that this yarn is pretty darn thin (as in fine) for a sock yarn, and I had to do it over with size 2 needles, not size 1. Even so, I still got 9 stitches to the inch, not 8, and the length of the toes isn’t even close to what it should have been. I got paranoid about the foot not being long enough and ended up making it half an inch too long. Still don’t care. They fit well enough.

The heel itself was nice. All you do is knit a piece of scrap yarn where you want the heel to go, and keep making a tube until you’re done with the leg. Then you go back and stick a needle in the stitches above and below the scrap, take that out, and work in the round in the gap. Like this.

afterthought1Okay, it’s a little fussy. But not much.

This is a very, very nice method for self-striping yarns, or even complicated yarns like the one I used for this sock:


I could have avoided breaking up the pattern around the heel if I’d known to do this (not that it’s that bad, but still.) Here’s my lovely Valentine heel . . .

afterthoughtheelheel. . . and my undignified leg.

Next up, I think, is going to be another worsted weight ankle sock. I’ve got a bit of blue and a bit of green KnitPicks yarn, and I’ll probably just whip up a cuff-down basic sock with a bit of an easy diamond pattern from a stitch dictionary. Next week I’m on a road trip, and I think this’ll be a good travel project.

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What’s Going On

button3It’s my first shank button!

But before we get to that, well, this round of classes has been canceled because Bob is having some serious health issues I won’t get into here, and he’s going into surgery soon. (Hope he’ll be OK!)

Apparently, though, there’s going to be an open studio situation, so I’ll have to figure out what I want to do. Actually, there is one thing I have to do: my sister-in-law requested a dragon pendant, something like this sketch I made that’s a bit like something she showed me (but not too much):


This is going to require a lot of sawing, with a few interior cuts I’m not sure I’m good enough to handle. So last night I worked on some scrap silver, just trying to make different squiggles and shapes:

button1This disc was going to be something else entirely, but I never got around to it (you can see I made seven cuts along the edge; it wasn’t as interesting as I thought it might be.)

So, after cutting that up, drilling some holes, cleaning and polishing, I had a weird bit of silver I didn’t know what to do with. As I also have a ton of base metal discs I also don’t know what to do with . . . hey, why not put them together?


I kind of liked it with a brass disc I once textured with a very coarse grinding wheel, and a big copper piece with some random hammering around the edges. I realized two of the holes in the silver disc were close enough to make a sort of slightly-off centered button. I drilled everything carefully to accommodate a piece of 14-gauge scrap copper wire (U-shaped, to look like rivets on the front and a shank on the back) and sandwiched it all together. Wedged a bunch of rods in the shank for support, and clamped it in a vise to do the riveting. That went a bit easier than I thought it would. The only thing I wish I had thought to do was to maybe hammer the shank a little flat, so there would be absolutely no give, no layers slipping down (the copper one moves just enough to annoy me.) Also, I’m tempted to put a brass tubing rivet in the remaining hole, because on the big screen it just looks empty and dumb.

Eventually I’m going to make a cowl or something with some green/blue yarn handspun by my friend Kristi, but until then, the button has no home.

And speaking of sawing:

lotus1The lotus is a holdover from my sandpaper-copper-rolling mill days, a faint impression in the protective brass sheet that I wanted to do something with. Unfortunately, the lotus impression was just a bit too faint to make sense, so I cut out the shapes and did my best to sand and polish without losing the sandpaper texture. It’s going to be a pendant soon.

And of course, the other thing up there is daruma. I cut him from the backing and now I need to make the oval a bit better, as well as a lot more grinding and polishing to make everything smooth and shiny. It’s like that never ends, and I never get it right in the end anyway. Suppose I’ll learn.

Edit: Now I’m sure I’ll learn! I found this video from that’s a pretty thorough explanation of different polishing bits and how to use them properly. Let’s put it this way: any time the narrator says “I see my students do this all the time,” well, that’s me.




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Micro Mosaic Bead Ring, Take 2

Oh, this poor, stupid, obnoxious ring. I think I am done. At least, I did manage to make a decent mosaic with teeny tiny size 15 beads.


Especially when you compare it to my first attempt, with size 11 Delicas.


This project fought me at every step (scroll on back if you want to rehash; I do not) and in the end I’ve learned quite a bit from both the metalsmithing side and the mosaic side, so that’s good. I’ve also learned that being too lazy to go to the craft store to get some ICE resin is no excuse for globbing clear nailpolish onto something instead. I swear, I’ve done that like three times now and I can’t get a decent dome on top of the mosaic because nail polish shrinks when it dries. A lot. Maybe I can still put resin on top . . . ? We’ll see. It has a certain cheesy quality right now that I really don’t like.

You may be wondering how I managed to dig out the first mosaic, in which I had used two-part epoxy to get the beads glued in. Well, I had watched Bob do something for a fellow student who had a stone that needed to come out of its setting (in which it was glued), so I knew exactly what to do, and it worked like a charm.

For this project, you would need an alcohol lamp (fueled by denatured alcohol)  and some cross-locking tweezers. I have none of these things at home, and if you don’t either, you can make do with a small candle, barbecue tongs and/or an oven mitt. Oh yes, and a metal pick of some sort.

mosaicremovalprogressYay! Do-over!

First, you might want to scrub out as much grout as possible. I used an old mascara wand (all-around excellent tool) for this. Now hold the piece over your candle (metal side down, naturally) and heat it up good, because epoxy doesn’t like heat. Now you can easily start picking at the mosaic with a sharp metal tool, and bits should start coming out. This may take a while if you’re using stupid barbecue tongs like I did, and your hand will get tired. Other than that, should be smooth sailing.

mosaicbitsAnd here’s the remains of two mosaics I didn’t like, in my handy “no food use” Pyrex bowl.

You may need to clean up the setting a bit with grinding/polishing tools or sandpaper or whatever, and you’ll definitely have some black carbon to wash off the metal, but essentially you’ll be back to a clean slate.

Which is, by the way, where I am with this former mosaic you may remember:


I bought some nice beads for the new version, but they have a kind of sandblasted finish and I’m not sure tile grout would just wipe off them as easily as smoothly-polished ones. Also–and let’s be honest–I no longer have the heart for this, so I’m just going to let it be until I’m ready someday.

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I Like to Rivet Rivet

I . . . never did post about this one, did I? The riveted bead ring based entirely on a great YouTube tutorial video by Soham Harrison?



I started this in February, I think, because while I had made and liked this riveted ring (below) last fall, the greater complexity of Harrison’s ring really caught my attention.



I won’t get too much into technical detail, because if you want to see that you should just watch the two videos. I will, however, share some things I learned from this one.

  1. (And this is the big one!) It can be a major challenge finding an appropriate stone bead for riveting like this. You need to choose one that is drilled cleanly, with a small hole (on both ends!) and is drilled straight, not on a diagonal. (The mother-of-pearl inlay bead I used seemed perfect, but it is drilled on a very slight angle, and the checkerboard design only makes it more obvious.) It’s probably best to buy your bead at your local bead shop, not online, and take a bit of wire with you to test the hole.
  2. Harrison’s tip on how to make a dent to mark your tiny drill hole is genius. The usual wisdom is to mark the spot with a center punch, but if that’s actually too big for the hole you want to drill, take your tiniest burr bit, hold it against the spot, and grind away a tiny bit (see video for exactly how to do it.) This is something that’s been a problem for me for a while now, so I’ve very happy to have found this solution.
  3. I agreed with Harrison’s advice to solder the inner ring from the inside, and let the solder flow up into the join so you don’t have any blorps that would show on the outside, which would already be textured and ready to go. However. Be sure you’ve used enough and that the solder does indeed go all the way to the edges, because when you round it out on a mandrel, and then slightly dap both sides of the ring to make it just a bit anticlastic, you may find the join gapes open just a bit–enough to be annoying. I ignored the problem and had to add more solder from the outside later. Don’t be like me.
  4. Soldering the smaller, outer ring onto the inner ring impresses people. I don’t know why. It’s actually one of the easier operations of the whole thing. ;)
  5. Rubber or silicone polishing tools are your best friends for making rivets all but disappear! Here’s a before shot of my rivet and the little hammer marks I’d made:


All that polished out pretty well. Oh, and as always, tape is your friend when it comes to things you don’t want to get scuffed or dinged by power tools.

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