Sand Casting in the Sand*

I’ve been a touch burned out lately, or bored, or just avoidypants because I need to get out of my office job and find a new one and thinking about going for it and selling jewelry like a Real Artist instead seems alternately like a great idea and an awfully stupid one.

But enough about me, I spent some time in class learning a new thing: sand casting.


The sand feels like brown sugar and smells like Play-Doh. You smush it into half of the two-part circular mold, place the object you want to cast (in my case, a “coin” from a game), fit the second circle on top (there’s a groove on both so you can line them up perfectly, which is important later), and tamp more sand in there, being careful not to shift or rock the piece. Oh, I forgot–that white dust? Mica. It’s a release, so you can get the two halves apart again. Just brush it on your object and the bottom sand with a paintbrush and you’ll be fine.


So when you have your two parts separated again, you can turn your attention to the top piece. Here I’ve used a hollow brass rod to make the pour spout for the  metal. And I’ve used a soldering pick to make vent holes around half the coin. I didn’t do the world’s greatest job on this, and consequently the edges of my repro coin didn’t come out as smoothly as they should have. It’s hard to think in reverse, but remember you can always grind away excess metal, so scrape away the sandy bits and make sure you’ll get enough metal around the holes.


On the reverse side of this top piece, carve out a funnel shape on the pour hole (I used an X-acto knife for this.) Make it good and wide. Put the two halves back together, lining up the grooves I mentioned before so top and bottom match up like they should. Now–if your two halves aren’t a tight fit (anymore), you may want to put a band of tape around them. I didn’t on my first try, and pouring the pewter made them come apart and my coin ended up looking like when you overpour a waffle.


Here’s the big reveal! A nice pewter knockoff. Although I’ve cut off the excess metal bits and ground down the edges (so easy with pewter) I haven’t quite finished it yet, and maybe I never will. I understand I can use black acrylic paint to make it antique looking, and I suppose eventually I will.

But first I should really get back to looking at job ads. Ugh, art and craft breaks just don’t last long enough.

*Robin Sparkles

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Finished Business

As 2016 winds down, I’ve been making strides in finishing up some projects and ideas that I had set aside for . . . oh . . . two years or so? Three? I’ll start with the one I’m most excited about:


This little everyday-wearable copper beauty is made of washers. Hardware store washers! I hammered and stamped and domed and drilled them back in summer class my first year of real jewelry making:


And now that I finally have a chain I like, and the patience to make some jump rings, well, it’s all done now. Three years later.

Here’s another thing from that era, me playing around with links made with some lovely glass beads from my local bead shop:


They are finally necklace material now.


And while this, technically, isn’t something I started and stopped years ago, I have been meaning to do it for some time.


The (aluminum!) chain is Sam’s Chain from Spotlight on Wire, something I’ve done before and wanted to revisit in larger link form. The beads . . . well, I’d hoped to wire-wrap them back in the day, but meh.

And now back to new things, as summer 2016 draws to a close and I need to clean up some silver pieces I made in class.

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When QBert was Q*Bert and Asterisks in Search Terms Weren’t a Thing

I started–and soon abandoned–a stashbust crazy quilt style knit blanket three years ago. This week, I decided to pick up the needles (and acrylic yarn!) again and get to work on something I always wanted to do.


Intarsia is not my favorite thing, and the instructions I’d been trying were troublesome as far as adding new threads goes. With the help of some better YouTube videos, I got off to a new start last weekend and had my Q*Bert square made in a jiffy. Or, almost a jiffy. I screwed up a few times and had to re-do some rows (reading charts is also not my favorite thing), and managing all those yarns–ugh.

scrapghan2Mother of God.

Yeah, weaving in all those ends took an entire two-hour knit night with the group, and I didn’t even notice until then that I had somehow carried one of the orange yarns from Q*Bert’s butt to the top of his head instead of adding in a new yarn. Or did I? I tried to follow the yarn to see if it was just an end I mistakenly wove in the wrong place, but I don’t think so. More to the point, I’m past caring. I don’t think I’ll continue with intarsia unless it’s for some brief detail with two or three bobbins at most.

And now that I’m done with socks for a while, as I’ve said before, maybe I’ll get back on this afghan and make more squares. I’m nervous about the reverse side, though. Maybe I’ll use the bajillion skeins of black and white that I have to make a backing afghan and just stitch them together back to back or something, because most of the squares I’m doing definitely have a wrong side nobody needs to see.


And just how I’m going to get all these different squares stitched together nicely is .. . a project for another day.


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The End of an Era

I am, at last, heartily sick of socks. Why, I’m almost not excited about finishing these bad boys.



This is the Mystic Spiral sock (which I’ve done before) in some special yarn indeed. It’s hand-dyed from String Theory Colorworks and the colorway is Luciferin, which I fell in love with the second I saw it a good year or so ago and knew I had to do something crazy with it. And this pattern definitely fit that bill. I was pleased to find that after posting these on Ravelry, Caitlin from STC herself came across them and posted them on her patterns and ideas page.

And now I’ve had more than enough to do with socks, and will be returning to some other knitting projects. Maybe. I might go easy on the knitting for a while; I’ve been getting some pain in my left thumb that I can’t quite explain, except that knitting, metalsmithing, and moving 10-pound files around at work all day probably had a lot to do with it.

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That Thing I Was Agonizing Over


This thing. It’s done. Currently, it’s sitting in a case at the Illinois State Fair. Which went well, by the way.


I got beat out by a couple of (admittedly fantastic) woodworkers, because the division is simply “crafts,” not “jewelry” or “wood” or “textiles” or “ceramics” or anything. As awesome and ego-boosting as my third place win was, I’m left wanting a more meaningful competition. Perhaps it’s time to look into jewelry magazines (if any of them are left), juried shows, I don’t know. Maybe just start preparing to go into business. That’s competition enough.

Anyway. Here are some progress shots. I did everything metal–the setting, the end caps, the chain. And I even braided the cord. The hardest part was figuring out how to get the side and bottom bars on. Overlap them? Cut them? Inlay one into the other? In the end, I cut off the ends of the bottom bar and soldered them on to the sides using the world’s tiniest mortise and tenon joint. Whee!



The sketch.

 purplejadepiecesThe plan.



The soldering.


The swearing!


The sawing.


The caps–two sets, just in case.


The cord.


The whole shebang.

Coming soon: socks. Because yes, I still knit sometimes.


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Filed under necklace, pendant, soldering


A couple months ago, my husband, a former art major, was feeling a bit sad that he hasn’t cast anything since college.

You know, like . . .



. . . big guys cast in a forge. Not stuff you can do at home any time. But still, it made me wonder . . . dude . . . where do you think I GO every Thursday night?


And what does my teacher do there with a torch and a furnace and a casting machine and a vacuum casting table?

So I got him to sign up for a round. His goal was to carve a wax dinosaur and cast it–but there are size limitations in a jewelry studio with only a small furnace. Bob advised him to try a few small practice pieces first. And by small, I mean, still the biggest things ever cast in that studio, but . . .


And here’s how they turned out, one in brass .  .  .


And one in white bronze . . .

brassfroggieA frog? Totally my idea, of course.

The dinosaur is still a lump of wax in progress. We’ll see how that goes.

And meanwhile, I have finished my pendant for the State Fair, dropped it off yesterday, and now I suppose I should write about it but I’m not ready. Soon.

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Another One Off the Bench

copper domes leaf

I’ve been playing around with this one for a while. How long is a while? Well . . .


I made those domes over a year ago, but couldn’t figure out what to do with them. I still have a few more, in various sizes, made from copper that was passed through the rolling mill with a sheet of cardstock that had leaf shapes punched out of it.

Playing around with them a couple months ago, I discovered I liked the look of one dome inside a larger dome, a little off-center . . . but how to join them? I almost went for riveting, but I didn’t want a rivet head sticking up out of the top, messing up the pattern. Then I thought of prongs. So I drilled some holes in one of the large domes I had, and soldered in some wires . . . crookedly.

copper domes oops

Yeah, that’s not going to work for what I had in mind. If I ever have a cabochon that’s just the right size, however, I may revisit this.

So that leaves soldering. And because soldering two things together with an air pocket between in the presence of wet flux can cause the world’s tiniest scary explosion (it’s true), I learned a fancy way of incorporating little steam release holes.

copper domes practice

I used a triangular file to carve out some nicks on the edge of this practice dome, then applied the same idea to the real one.

And then the soldering, which I have no picture of. For the most part, I soldered evenly with only a few blorps (the trick is to keep that bottom dome hot so the solder doesn’t creep upward too much), and then I was able to solder the bail on with a minimum of fuss, although it’s not 100% the design I had in mind–another day, another project, perhaps. It’s adequate, and I like it. Now to copper-plate the telltale silver traces by throwing the piece in the pickle with a bit of iron binding wire. Ha ha, the miracles of science!

That left me with a really dull orangey surface. I cleaned it up a bit with some radial bristle discs, and dumped the pieced in some liver of sulfur in the hopes of getting a vibrant patina.

I dipped once. I dipped twice. I left it in there a while. And . . . well . . . meh. The next day, I took a power stripper to it. Seriously. Bob tipped me off to this one. You get a heat gun like the kind you get at the hardware store to take the tiles off your basement floor (gee, sounds like something I have experience in . . . ) and blow it at your piece until you get a cool patina. And cool I got–I didn’t expect a sort of iridescent purple, but that’s what I ended up with.

And now I have less than a week to finish up my State Fair project before turning it in. Plus I have to write a bio. Ugh. Maybe I’ll go procrastinate some more . . .

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