Category Archives: soldering

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

Hammertime!

fivesigned

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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fivesketch

(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

Metal Beads!

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Well, this was fun. My teacher let me borrow this book on making metal beads, so I tried my hand at a couple basic tutorials.

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Little round lefty over there has a lot of silver solder on it, and I’m not sure how that’s going to look as the patina sets in. I’m hoping for awesome, but I’m not sure. In future, I suppose I’ll have to get better at soldering a seam like this neatly. As for the square on the right, well, that was pretty awesome, but I wish I’d chosen a larger tube, because I had to flatten the bead a bit more than I’d have liked to secure it. Live and learn, though.

So last weekend I finished up a copper box I’d been putting off for nearly three years. This was partly because it required a ton of riveting, and partly because I’d lost some enthusiasm as it was not my original design, and I wanted to focus on my own things. The box was something I’d seen in 500 Pendants and Lockets and thought was supercool and I wanted to learn from it. Well, learn I did, and I had a big long post about it, but I ended up deleting it. Again, it’s not my design, and maybe posting a step-by-step of how to copy it was a dick move. I don’t know. But I did get it done–so many mistakes and all—and learned a ton about how to make my own hinged box.  So, onward.

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Filed under beads, riveting, soldering

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.

hornedtoadpendant

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.

quartzpendantfirsttry

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.

waxmodels1

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

That Thing I Was Agonizing Over

purplejade

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

purplejadeISF

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!

 

benchmess1

The sketch.

 purplejadepiecesThe plan.

 

purplejadesoldering

The soldering.

purplejadejoints

The swearing!

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The sawing.

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The caps–two sets, just in case.

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The cord.

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The whole shebang.

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

 

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Filed under necklace, pendant, soldering

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 . . .

textures

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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Filed under pendant, soldering, Uncategorized

Cloudy with a Chance of Solder

cloud

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

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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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Filed under experiment, pendant, soldering, wire