Here’s a little something that turned out better than I could have hoped! I came up with the design shortly after finding that beautiful central agate at a rock, gem, & mineral show in October.
(As you can see, I opted for the second idea.)
There were some design challenges here. And some funny moments, like when I soldered the big bezel on using a brand-new solderite board. The silver kept sliding around as I worked, like a sweating glass on a wet tabletop. Never had that happen before!
Getting the three discs on the bottom soldered onto square wires was a particularly tough challenge, especially since the central one was thicker than the sides. I had to work from the back (heating from the front would only make the solder on the bezels flow again, plus I wouldn’t be able to see when the solder flowed in back.), and getting the pieces lined up straight and pressing against each other was a bit of a challenge; I’m used to working with pieces that have a flat side so it’s easy, and this was not so. I ended up blorping on more extra-easy solder than I might have liked, and while I was able to grind a lot of it away, there’s still a color mis-match on the back of those discs, and with extra-easy it only takes a day or two for a tarnished look to pop up again.
But live and learn. And speaking of learning, I had to figure out how to set the stones. For some of them, putting wooden blocks behind them on either side of the central wire worked really well (like the uppermost, round agate.) For the lowest, smallest ones, not so much. It was very tough using hand tools to set those stones without bending or warping anything; I tried setting the whole piece on a sandbag, but that was of limited use. Also, I nearly f’ed up setting the big stone.
Here I used a common trick to test the fit: lay down a bit of dental floss, insert the stone, and use the floss to lift it out again. Well, that worked fine, so I popped the stone back in without the floss. Only THEN did I realize I forgot to take down the corners of the bezel first.
And that stone wasn’t coming back out.
So, I carefully drilled a hole in the back. I was afraid of hitting the stone, but you can definitely feel when the bit is done with the silver, so that was fine. I pushed the stone out easily enough with the other end of the drill bit, filed down my corners, and . . . wait, what about this hole now? I had to think about it. I drilled three more, and sawed out little squiggly shapes around each one so it would look like a deliberate design. Well, it worked well enough, and gave me an idea for another project later, so that part made me happy. But–
I just could not set any of those stones to my satisfaction with bezel pushers and rockers and burnishers. For one thing, I’m starting to develop pain in my hands, especially around my thumbs, and this didn’t help. Also, like I said, the wires in back were different gauges and I had a hard time getting just the right support underneath the pieces to be able to apply so much pressure without ruining anything. So when I got done setting them all at home in my basement workshop, I just felt depressed about the whole stupid thing because it didn’t look right at all, and I was a big failure, and all that.
But I took it to class anyway, and Bob knew exactly what I needed.
Here’s a bezel pushing tool I had dismissed as a silly gadget for lazy people, because I am a closed-minded, short-sighted, and stupid person. Sometimes. This hammering attachment for the flex shaft is exactly what I needed to get into all the awkward angles and push down those silver bezels exactly where I needed to. AND there was no need to worry about putting pressure DOWN–the force just goes horizontally from metal to stone (and if you’re worried about damaging the stone, as I was, you probably don’t need to be. These agates and carnelians took it well. Maybe an opal wouldn’t, I don’t know. And don’t forgot to protect their surfaces with masking tape, just in case.)
So that was my adventure, and the big project of this class cycle.
Just for posterity, here’s the pretty, pretty back of the agate. Because I guess I’ll never see it again, except through four tiny squiggle-shaped holes.