Category Archives: practice

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Leave a comment

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

New Thing, New Mistakes, New Lesson


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Leave a comment

Filed under experiment, metals, necklace, pendant, practice, soldering, stones/gems


Here’s my collection of tinies so far.


I’ve talked about the first two pairs before, and the last ones, with the copper tops, were made the first night of class this year. Well, sort of. When I got home and polished them up, one of the posts came off. So I got it back on the second night of class, polished it up, gave both posts a bit of adjustment/straightening, and . . . the second one came off. This is basically happening because I couldn’t find the damn round bur bits in class, because everything got moved around again, so I had to use some diamond-plated bits to try and grind off a small divot on the back for post and solder to go. I could tell right off it wasn’t going to work well, but went with it anyway. This is one of my biggest faults in the studio, and here’s hoping I’ve learned my lesson–do it right to begin with, dammit.

In other earring news, I made some protypes with some (badly) riveted pieces I made for practice months ago.

leafpracticerivetingRemember me?

And here they are, in a style I think I’d like to do develop further in silver.


There are some flaws and mistakes here, but I know what they are and how I’d avoid them next time, so I’m calling this project a success.

Coming next week: What is this abomination I have created?


Leave a comment

Filed under earrings, metals, practice, riveting, soldering

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.


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:


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.

Leave a comment

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

I Made a Thing


I post so infrequently these days, it probably seems like I’m not doing much, but I am. I just do a lot of things at the same time, and since I decided not to post about them until they’ve been finished, well, I can go a couple weeks between posts.

Anyway, this is a pendant I designed a couple weeks ago when class started up again. I wanted to (1) do something unique; (2) use up some scrap; (3) set more than one stone in a piece, (and tiny stones at that!); and (4) do a lot of tricky soldering for the sheer practice of it. Well, I’m not 100% happy with what I ended up with, but I learned a lot, and that was the point.

Here’s a reference shot of what I came up with after spending some time fiddling with tiny silver bits that were rattling around in my scrap tin (and two red agate cabs from my stash.)


And here’s what I had after half a class period of soldering. Things didn’t quite stick down exactly where I wanted them to, but they did stick down. And I didn’t melt anything. So . . . yay? I had a hard time getting that last jump ring on, and just when I thought I made it, I put the whole thing in the pickle and the other jump ring fell off.  (Yes, I used easy on both, and did my best to direct the heat away from the first, but soldering hates me.)


Next class period a week later, I put a little yellow ochre on that easy join to keep it from flowing again, and got the other ring on. Cleaned up the whole mess and it was pretty sweet, if a little solder-blorpy.  I cleaned it up the best I could, but the surface just–it won’t ever be good enough. I even got some tiny polishing pins by Dedeco and while they cleaned up a lot of mess, well . . . do I fuss it to death? Do I accept imperfections? Am I giving up? Let’s try silicone wheels. Ugh, how about those 3M discs? Polishing paper? Jeez, this is bad. Am I a total amateur? Isn’t an irregular surface cooler than a perfecty-perfect one? Don’t you want it to look handmade? You’re not a machine. No, you’re a total amateur. Give up and play video games instead, loser.

This is my brain. All. The. Time.

And I’ve got bigger problems. Like these tiny stones in these tiny bezels.


Yeah, Bob took one look and said good luck. He also suggested glue. He wasn’t wrong. The stones fit, and I managed to move the metal a bit, but there’s so little room to move my setting tools around in. I also suspect I ought to have made the bezels higher, even if that means covering more of the stones. They just wouldn’t stay in, so I resorted to a touch of epoxy under each. I’m not proud of this failure, but I am accepting of it.

So, I’ve identified some things I need to get better at. And I’m hoping to start buying soldering equipment for my home studio soon, so I’ll have more time and space to improve. Just one last problem, perhaps:


This is Livia, a six-months-old-ish kitten who turned up at my patio door a couple weeks ago without a microchip to be found. Yeah, I’m a sucker. She’s at that jump-on-everything age, and I can’t really banish her from my basement work area (without moving three litter boxes upstairs; no thanks.) Perhaps I’ll wait until she’s a bit older before I set up a soldering station. Until then, I should probably go clean up any teeny-tiny things I have lying around.


Leave a comment

Filed under pendant, practice, soldering, stones/gems

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.


Here’s how that went.

Planish two 14 g wires like so.


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


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.


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.


Leave a comment

Filed under beads, experiment, pendant, practice, wire


Isn’t that a pretty word? It’s a pretty stone, too.

chrysopraseNew cell phone camera! Not state of the art, but for a Tracfone, it’s pretty great.

This is just another off-the-cuff project from a night off poking through my bead stash and committing to just pick something, already, and make a project! The beads I really wanted to use were too heavy for this simple 20-gauge design, but oh well. That’s part of my goal, now: paying attention to the heft of things, especially earrings.

My next thing will be an attempt at riveting with 22-gauge wires. I’m not sure that will work at all, but it’s worth a shot.

Leave a comment

Filed under beads, earrings, practice