Category Archives: metals

I Still Exist!

And I’m still making things!

I won’t linger over the details anymore, but I’ve been busy in the metals lab since I stopped keeping up with this blog. Here are a few things I’ve completed.


This is a labradorite bead riveted into a silver frame. I like the look of these riveted projects but I’ve become tired of trying to find long beads that are drilled through cleanly and without chips around the ends (which can cause the rivet to bend and distort.) I had to really ream this one out–but it was so worth it.

 

 

Ah, I finally found something to do with the copper “crazy quilt” disc I made a couple years ago when I was experimenting with copper solder. I really like how this turned out (and I also recently made a bead with nine little texture samples on each side like this, but don’t have a picture.)

 

Here’s a bit of fun made with some scraps. I got the color with a power stripper.

 

Malachite is always good for some drama, I think.

 

Inevitably, when you get a reputation for making jewelry, friends and coworkers come up to you with broken jewelry, hoping you can fix it. This piece is pretty much a copy of a cheap, plated bypass ring that someone I work with wore for years until the band snapped at the point where it adjusts to size. She’d hoped I could fix it–nope. But I thought about it, and made a band that night with a piece of sterling wire and a hammer and a mandrel. From there, I got the OK to recreate the ring (tip: get the shell bits out by heating the back with an alcohol lamp until the epoxy weakens and they fall right out.) She was really pleased with it, and I am too. It was a good learning experience (and I made the band thicker so it won’t break this time!)

 

After I finished the above piece, I still had bypass rings on my mind, so I hammered out one for myself and tried out different stones until I fell in love with the look of this red agate. Soldering was tricky, but I’m getting better all the time.

 

I bought this stone a few years ago and made a few failed attempts to design a pendant and set it (remember?):

 

Well, here she is now! That brass framework was a real . . . challenge. I bought my own solderite board to bring to the studio–perfectly flat, and with grooves carved into it to hold those pieces exactly where I needed them. The end result comes close to what I had in mind all this time. Still waiting for the chain to tarnish a bit, though. I randomly melted some silver solder around for an old, industrial look (note the solder around the joined areas) but it doesn’t quite show up on the links yet.

 

Here’s a fun scrap piece I made with some wire bits I melted together some time ago but never knew what to do with. At one point last spring I was making a simple ring with this stone (and, for the first time, adding a jump ring inside the bezel to make the stone stand taller) when I held it up next to the scrappy bit and thought, “Wow! Perfect!” And that’s how this happened.

 

Remember these old dudes I hammered out back in the day? The two on top became earrings, and I hung onto the big piece for a long time, trying to think up a good necklace idea. A little extra piece and a little crochet later:

I rather wish I hadn’t punched holes in the corners, but I did, and that made what I ultimately came up with a bit more difficult than if, say, I had soldered loops on the back. Still, I’m loving the simplicity of this one. I’m glad I waited on it.

 

I sketched this out last October, hoping to make use of this neat sardonyx cabochon I’d been holding on to. This piece turned out a bit difficult due to its size (and trying to solder on square copper wire bits without silver solder blorps everywhere!) The back has a pin mechanism that was a bit tough–the pieces are so tiny and need to be placed exactly, and you have to be sure not to clog up or fuse the catch during the process . . . but I pulled it off. I even made a pin/pendant converter with a piece of tubing and wire.

 

My teacher, Bob, was recently given a huge box full of jewelry supplies, casting stuff, sterling silver, you name it, from a donor who had retired from jewelry making and didn’t want the stuff anymore. Among the treasures was a spool of 30 gauge argentium which he had no idea what to do with–but knew that I would, as a knitter/crocheter. I ended up buying it off him (with proceeds going back to the studio) and made this crochet cuff with some beads and a sterling frame I made myself. It’s got a bit of beginner’s wonk to it, and I ought to have practiced more before making the real thing because one side of the strip is looser and sloppier than the other, when I started really getting the hang of it. But this was interesting–and I’m in the middle of using the remainder to make a kind of mesh amulet bag from instructions I found in an old Lapidary Journal from the 90s.

And last but so, so not least. Remember when I started futzing around with wax to carve rings?

I finally got these both finished after months of inactivity, messing up one and doing it over, and just generally worrying about doing something wrong and ruining all that work. Last week, they were cast in silver.

They’re still not done (clearly), but man, is it a relief to have gotten this far! They are heavy as hell–I wish I’d carved away more wax on the interior but the wax was getting delicate and I was nervous about breakage. I shouldn’t have been, though. The thing on the left, if you’re wondering, was a slice of ring wax that I’d carved into with a new set of wax working tools as a kind of technical exercise. I figured if I made the design well enough, I’d cast it. And so I did–with a different design on each side. It’ll be a reversible pendant when I’m done.

And that’s about where I am on the jewelry front. As for knitting, I haven’t bothered all that much. I’ve got two pairs of socks made with crazy rainbow yarn I tried to dilute with solid colors, and a clone of my cat.

Pattern: SlipStripe Spiral

 

Pattern: Ugly Duckling Socks

 

Pattern: The Parlor Cat

And that is . . . probably . . . all for now! I’m sure I’ll catch up again in a few months. Until then, keep crafting!

 

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Filed under amigurumi, beads, bracelet, casting, crochet, knitting, metals, necklace, pendant, pin, ring, riveting, socks, soldering, stones/gems, wax carving, yak yak yak

Season’s Greetings!

Well, my husband is sick and family Christmas time is postponed, so here I am blogging about some little gifts I made for my niece and nephew, respectively.

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I think this will fit a six-year-old. Well, I hope so. I made this with a super cheap and crappy set of alphabet stamps I got from a big box craft store with a 50% off coupon, so they were like 8 bucks. Mind you, a good set could run at least 75 dollars or more. I’m not terribly happy with them, but I knew what I was getting into, and they’ll be good for marking things and experimenting, anyway.

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My nephew is into sea creatures these days, so I dug around in my Ravelry favorites until I spotted this sweet Little Blue Lobster pattern. I’d have liked to use blue yarn, but I actually don’t have any since I’ve been working on a scrapghan. Fortunately, I did have just the right amount of scrap bulky red with a charming fleck in it–and ah, sadness, I think I got it from my knit night friend who has just moved away as her husband has a new job in Chicago. So he turned out super cute and the pattern was easy, fast, and enjoyable.

And just because I’m too lazy to write a separate post:

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Here’s a bracelet I (finally) just finished up. I don’t think I ever talked about it or took progress shots, but I’ve been working on that box clasp since last fall. Actually, I finished that a while ago. I found it easier and more enjoyable than stringing up beads and putting crimps on (I don’t even know how I got the tongue end of the clasp on backwards, but I did on my first attempt.) I might get those little c-shaped crimp covers you put over them and squeeze down with pliers, but we’ll see. Anyway, I’ve had those red creek jasper beads for nearly two years now and I’m glad I finally did this–and I have four beads to spare, so there might be some fun with them in the coming year.

And so it’s not been the best year, but it’s been a creative one, and I can’t complain. See you in January!

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Filed under amigurumi, beads, bracelet, crochet, metals, presents

Hammertime!

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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.

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(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!

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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.

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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.

Oops.

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.

handpieceAre you there, Santa Claus? It’s me, Jennifer.

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.

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Filed under helpers and devices, metals, necklace, pendant, soldering, stones/gems

More Teeny Tinies

My mother’s birthday has come and gone again, and I’m still trying to make small, lightweight earrings for her.

I thought I had a winner with these:

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I’ve made similar ones before, but these are a touch more elaborate . . . and I guess kind of heavy. I don’t see my mother very often, and I never realized she’s–well, she’s 75 now, and her earlobes hang in a way they didn’t used to. So after I gave her these, and saw how they droop on her, I came home and started working on another, tinier pair with hopes of getting them done by Thanksgiving when I’d see her again. I think this time I have a winner.


smalls2

These are very small, and thin, and lightweight. It’s hard to see here, but there’s a subtle stamp pattern on them, underneath the crossing lines I put in afterward. I think these might work very well. Can’t decide if I want to blacken the lines, though, or keep everything shiny.

A few more things are in the works, as always, including a project that’s been on the back burner for three years. I’d hoped to show it by now but I got to the very end and screwed up big time. Or I thought it was big time. Now I’m not so sure. I can’t work on it until I feel better and know what to do next.

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Filed under earrings, metals

Lazy Chain (and other news)

I had several ideas for making my own chain for this piece I’d been carrying around for a while, but in the end I bought a couple lengths of prefab at the local bead store, twisted them together, popped on a clasp, and called it done.

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The copper bit was a piece I fished out of the studio base metal recycle bin ages ago and hammered up. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with it, until Bob gave a me a couple of white bronze horned toads he cast years ago from some ready made wax models. I tried one out and the pieces went together perfectly.

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from 2013!

So my big thing lately has been an attempt at a Sydney Lynch-esque box bezel for a beautiful, faceted rutilated quartz stone I bought at the gem and mineral show last year. It was quite the challenge, as I needed to make a step bezel inside to keep the stone in place. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the stone were, say, round or perfectly rectangular, but all four sides have a bit of a curve to them, and making a perfect fit was a challenge I kind of failed.

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I made both inner and outer boxes from two bent pieces–think L7–soldered together. Only, the inner bezel slipped, so you can see the corner doesn’t meet up properly. And, somehow in all the soldering, the corners of the outer bezels popped open just a bit (and no, trying to fill them with solder didn’t work, and by that time I had got the bail on with a ton of sloppy, extra easy solder, and trying to fix one would just make the other melt and fall off again . . . you get the picture.) The upshot is, I totally could set this stone right now if I wanted to and have an adequate piece of jewelry that no one would really notice the flaws of. But I think the stone deserves better. And I think I learned a few things on this one. So, when I have the energy and drive again, I’ll just do it over. And better.

One last thing on my bench–actually two things. Wax rings I’m carving all by myself.

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So far, so good. I found a good tutorial in an old issue of Art Jewelry magazine and I’m following it step by step. I’m more invested in the ring on the left with the lapis stone; the one on the right I’m using for practice, just in case I do something stupid (and I did, once, accidentally start carving the outer edge before it was time and that messed up my ability to measure other areas a bit.) If things continue to go well . . . ah, but I won’t jinx it. I’m just having a really good time working on jewelry lately, which hasn’t been true for a while.

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Filed under metals, necklace, practice, ring, soldering, stones/gems, wax carving

Weight and Balance

Enlightenment is mistake after mistake.

                                                         –Zen saying

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

However.

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

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

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

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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.)

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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!

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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.

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

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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