Category Archives: experiment

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.

sandcast1

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.

sandcast3

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.

sandcast2

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.

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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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Kumihimo Summer

I was trying to think of something new, different, and crafty I could do in a self-directed “summer art camp” sort of way, just for fun. My jewelry teacher was playing around with one those kumihimo disks that started showing up in the craft stores a couple years ago (even going so far as to make a pretty cool 26g fine silver neck piece with it) so I thought I’d give it a shot. Basically you make braided cords with it, and there are lots of patterns on the internet for different color schemes and designs. Here’s my first project.

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The end cones are cheapie plated pewter, and all the wire is plated copper, so it’ll look like crap within a month–but meanwhile, it’s a cute ankle bracelet (because I overestimated how long the braid needed to be, and it turned out way too big to be a bracelet.)

Here’s a little something in progress made with nylon thread I once crocheted with, back when I had patience for such things:

kumihimo2

Someday there will be some chunky beads on that.

And finally, the one thing I really needed, and it’s working out:

kumihimo1

So you can’t really see it. But it’s all-black, synthetic silk cord. A big ol’ pendant is going to hang from it, and it will have handmade end caps and a clasp, soon.

 

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Cloudy with a Chance of Solder

cloud

Well, this was one unfinished object from a long time ago!

ufo3

Here’s the cloud shape from back in 2014. I made it for fun and, as I recall, to experiment with copper solder, but then I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it.

filler

I had an idea about raindrop danglies, but couldn’t quite get it to my liking, so I put it aside and, of course, forgot about it . . . until very recently. I decided to fill the shape with wire curlicues in a filigree sort of way. This took several soldering operations, so I used silver solder in medium and easy. It blorped around, of course, and initially I planned to grind off the excess and/or copper plate the whole thing when I was done, but . . . but . . . the silver kind of looked cool in this case. Why hide it if you can flaunt it?

So, I made some danglies and deliberately melted a speck of solder on each to make a raindrop. I drilled holes in the frame, attached the drops with jump rings, and soldered the rings shut with super easy solder (so much fun! Just touch a little bit to the heated metal with a pick and it practically does the work itself!)

I hadn’t meant for the whole thing to have a hammered texture, but everything was off just enough that it would look better hammered. More deliberate. That was a tip from Bob, by the way. He also would have domed it slightly before adding the danglies, and I see his point. Regardless, I’m happy with how this one turned out. It was worth the wait.

Oh! And you know how I used to always go on about learning to take better pictures?

lightboxcloud

I’ve finally started experimenting with a light box. (A very, very homemade light box.) This was really good for getting the copper color and the silver; without it, the shiny metals were just getting washed out. I’ve also learned not to wear bright colors when photographing jewelry, because the reflection will pick up. It’s been a long time since I’ve thought twice about photography, but I’m making the attempt again.

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One Fancypants Riveting Project

darkbluestonerivetedbrass You like? It’s a design of my own invention . . . 

dkbluesketch. . . which I obviously sketched out one day at work on a piece of scrap paper.

That was back in January, I guess. I’m getting older and less able to process the passing of time. I still feel like December just happened, and it’s June. Anyway. I’ve been working on this one on and off since then. Here’s a recap.

dkbluestone

I have a dark blue cabochon from a bag of mixed stones; don’t know what it is, but could be opaque, roughly polished glass for all I know. It’s plain enough that I could do something interesting and elaborate with the setting. Now, I like dark blue with brass. Makes me think of very old art, Egyptian tombs with gold stars painted on blue ceilings, things like that. Or Islamic art with repeating patterns of gold on blue. Geometric, celestial. So I made the sketch above (one of quite a few that didn’t make the cut) as my own take on something modern but a little ancient, like it could be the whole universe in this one captured stone.

Honestly, you probably looked at the picture and thought it was a flower. That’s okay. Things change as you progress. Boy, do they change.

dkblueprogress1

Here are the main pieces, which I cut out in January. The original pattern, which you can faintly see in pencil on the white paper, didn’t quite work as I’d hoped. It was too closed up and I couldn’t bend it over the stone. If I had some kind of hydraulic press or something, I maybe could have made a neat dome with it, but alas I did not. So I set that aside for a while.

And then David Bowie died. See that back plate with the star pattern roller-printed on it?

bowiesawing

I did this.

bowitribute

Which became this.

And later, months later, I went back to the original plate and cut out the center, so there is no lightning-shaped hole, but a nice circle just a bit smaller than the stone that now sits upon it.

And I re-shaped all the prongs on front so there is less metal and everything is easier to bend over the stone. I took care to make the curves nice, and cut some notches in the edges of both pieces with a triangular file just to make everything a little fancier. (This is my new thing I like to do.)

Now. The riveting. I screwed this up because I initially cut a set of tube spacers (for between the plates) too long, and when I hammered the rivets in, the stone was not held in well, and in fact jiggled around. Sigh. Put it aside. Come back later. Cut off those rivets. Make new ones, shorter. Tape everything together. Set them. Success? Success. No more jigglies.

And then comes the shiny-shiny polishing part, which was kind of tough to do without ruining the stone. I did get some brassy scuffs on it after succeeding in obtaining a high polish on the brass, but scrubbing it off with dishwashing soap only made the brass dull again. A round of polishing papers later, it’s all much better. I would do well to get better at this part, but for now, I waxed it up and called it done.

In any case, I think I’ve come a long way since my first attempt at such a project three years ago.

moonstarsriveted

One thing I’d like to get for future use: a set of cup burs to shape the rivet heads so they’re little circles, not irregular blobs. Can’t wait to try it!

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New Thing, New Mistakes, New Lesson

dichroic1

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:

dichroic

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.

dichroicprogress1

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.

dichroicprogress2

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.

dichroicback

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.

dichroic1

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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The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men . . .

So, yeah, about that vow to get to work and finish up some old projects.

First there were the holidays, and all the attendant travel and fuss.

Then the ubiquitous post-holiday cold that comes from playing with nieces and nephews.

And then the work situation that has me putting in extra hours.

But I did manage this.

scrapbraceletwithpatina

This patina seems to be about the best I can do with liver of sulfur, for some reason. It’s pale, and hard to photograph. Maybe the piece needs a bit of really good cleaning and I can try again. It doesn’t help that the pattern isn’t very deep, but I’m sure there’s a way to make it pop that I just haven’t figured out yet.

The other project I finished is this pair of earrings:

solderinlayearrings

I’ve been wondering for some time about how to do a decent solder inlay, and my recent experiments with scrap copper and nail punches have given me an idea. What you really need is a simple impression, deep and easy to fill. So in class a couple weeks ago, I cut some discs, stamped them with nail punches of various sizes, and used tiny bits of wire solder (and a selective application of flux where I wanted it to flow) to make these earrings happen. I also played around with a few other scraps and found that you can run inlay pieces through the mill when you’re done to flatten them out again–but be prepared for a bit of distortion (i.e. your circles will become ovals.) So anyway, I cleaned these domes up, drilled ’em, sprayed ’em, and added some prefab hooks because why not.

And now I have class again in a few days and am not even prepared to think about what I want to make next–but it’s the weekend, hooray, and maybe I can get some things ready before (ugh) work again on Monday.

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Filed under bracelet, earrings, experiment, metals, practice, soldering

A New Thing

In my efforts to destash beads and think of new ideas, I came up with something that would utilize more than one bead, which is kind of a rarity for me.

cylinders1

Here’s how that went.

Planish two 14 g wires like so.

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Ream the beads a bit with a diamond-plated drill bit so a bit of tubing can actually fit in there (grumble, grumble.)

cylinders2

Mark drill holes on planished wires as carefully as you can. Start the holes by grinding them just a bit with a tiny bur bit.

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Cut tubing for each bead. I made mine just a touch longer than the beads . . . and learned the beads aren’t all exactly the same size (or perfect shape, either.) Perhaps they weren’t the best choice for something I wanted to look uniform.

Curl the non-drilled ends of the planished wires over to make bails. (Note they should be planished in the opposite direction of the other ends.)

Put the tubing in the beads, run a close-fitting wire through the planished wire, tubing with bead, and other planished wire. Cut and rivet. (My tubing fit a 22 gauge wire.) Do the other two. Yes, this will be fiddly and annoying and won’t come out as nicely as you’d hoped (if you’re me.)

My aim was for the beads to spin freely on the tubing, like prayer wheels or something. They do turn, but not smoothly. I think if I had had a second, slightly larger tubing to go over the first, I could have accomplished this. Obviously, if I try again, I’ll need beads with bigger holes. And there were some at the local bead shop . . . hmmm . . .

So, not bad for a first draft. And I am impressed by the teeny tiny rivets, if I do say so myself. If I do such a thing again with slightly organic, imperfect beads, I’ll maybe make it look a bit rough on purpose: hammer texture the wires, stuff like that.

Next up: macrame, revisited.

 

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Filed under beads, experiment, pendant, practice, wire