Category Archives: wire

Cloudy with a Chance of Solder


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


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.


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?


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.

Leave a comment

Filed under experiment, pendant, soldering, wire

Finish It! or, The Winter 2015 Challenge

I’ve got a lot of crap on my bench.

challenge1tableA lot of crap.

Unfinished, barely started, abandoned, set aside . . . you name it. And there’s more in the drawers under the bench. Not to mention all the beads I’ve bought over the past three years . . . so. I’ve got just under a month before metals class starts up again, so why not take this time to do something about it? One project at a time, just get it done. Or, at least get it done enough to get it ready for soldering or some other operation I don’t have the equipment for at home (yet!)

I started the other day with some rings I made in class out of bits of copper rod I found in the scrap bin. I had rolled them out in the rolling mill, stamped, annealed, cut, soldered, cleaned up the join, all that good stuff. And then I took them home and got out the stinky old liver of sulfur.


The colors were a bit more vibrant, but then I went and sealed the rings with some spray enamel, which always dulls things a bit (goodbye, fugitive blues and violets!) Still, they’re done now.

And I’m on the next thing, also composed of scrap bin finds:


I drew that wire myself, getting it through the draw plate properly for the first time, hooray! The oval is from a scrap of patterned metal that I guess someone ran through the mill and then didn’t want. Who are these people who don’t keep things? Who can’t think of a thing to do with a neat piece of metal like that? I don’t understand. Oh well, their loss and my gain. It’s going to hook on to the wire and serve as a clasp as well as a focal.

My intent is to work every night, even if it’s just a little. And I’ll be going back to posting more frequently, whether the project is done or not yet. That should keep me motivated. Let’s see what I can do!


Leave a comment

Filed under bracelet, ring, wire


So, remember this little experiment from a couple months ago?


It wasn’t quite all I hoped it would be, so I took it apart and tried again. My main goal was to have the ability to spin the cylinder beads, because they remind me of prayer wheels, and that’s kind of cool. Tight rivets made that impossible, and the bead holes are too small for tubing that would make it work better. So, after about a week of sketching ideas at work during the receptionist’s lunch hour (when they make me watch the phone), I came up with a more horizontal idea using balled headpins. And it worked!


Everything here is just wiggly enough that the beads can be turned. Setting the middle bead presented a challenge, because I couldn’t take a torch to the top end of the wire (or could I have? I don’t think the beads would have liked the heat. Also, the wire is 18 gauge, so . . . a lot of heat to ball it up.) I made it a flat rivet, which looks all right. The bars were scraps I found in the classroom bin, cut down, cleaned up, and hammered with a screwdriver and nail punches for a little texture. I was going for something a bit irregular and ancient-looking, rather than the perfectly thin and straight side bars in my first design. So yeah, I think this one’s a keeper.

One last class tonight for the year, and I may have some things to post after the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Leave a comment

Filed under beads, necklace, wire

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

Tale of the Twister

Finally, my big project of the summer! And when I mean big, I mean, well, I spent more money on silver than I had for any project yet (hey, being employed again IS kind of nice!) Psychologically, this made me more nervous than I needed to be, and physically, I wasn’t always up to the challenge, but with (a lot of) Bob’s help, I got it done. And here it is.


This sterling cuff is a somewhat less competent version of one that Bob wears often. A couple months ago, I asked if I could make one, and what kind of stock I needed. His incorporated 2 gauge half-round wire, and 12 gauge round (but his 12 turned out a bit thick and smooshed after hammering, so I went with 14.) As far as the amount I needed to order went, it involved the pythagorean theorem, which tickles me because I always like to use the crap I bothered learning in high school. Suffice it to say that for a 6 inch cuff, 9 inches of the 2 gauge is enough (you need a bit of selvage to get all chewed up in the vise) and the 2 feet of 14 gauge I got just to deliberately have some extra in stock was more than fine.

So. First thing, put the ends of that 14 gauge round in the vise, stick a mandrel in the loop end, pull as hard as you can, and twist. A simple thing, and remarkably fun. When that’s done, snip off the excess, anneal (using lots of flux because who wants fire scale in all those grooves) and wire it to the flat side of your 2 gauge.

twistyprepThis post will have the last of my crappy old cell phone photos, I swear. New phone arrives next week.

Here’s where it gets less easy, especially if it’s been less than a week since you threw your back out (cough.) I had to get Bob to do the twisting for me, and I felt really bad about that because it hasn’t been too long since he’s had his own health problems, much worse than mine.


You can’t see it, but the end is in a pair of pliers. And you can’t feel it, but it’s pretty tough to turn.

Next up, snip to size and fuse the ends. Here’s Bob demonstrating with the big old oxygen acetylene torch.


Grind off any melty, pitted mess, buff it up, and you’re good to move on.



A couple things didn’t go quite as planned here, because it’s easy to forget exactly how you did something the first time. So I ended up being advised to do a few things out of order. And that’s cool, because that’s certainly how I learn, anyway.

First up: I put silver black in the grooves at this stage, when I should have annealed instead. I ended up with a super pretty swizzle stick, and darned if I don’t want to recreate this with thinner wire and make a bangle someday.


Alas, it was meant to be squared, so I hammered it on the anvil, a little bit at a time, from one end to the other. Despite my constant checking to see if it was squaring up properly, it went a bit trapezoidal at times. I was depressed about that, but the truth is, if I wanted it perfecty-perfect, I could have sent it through the rolling mill. That was definitely an option. The takeaway here is, I need to practice my forging.

Here’s another truth: squaring the piece will make it longer. So I had to snip off an inch or so. And I had to fuse the end again, but I somehow didn’t quite realize that yet. I cleaned it up, ground it, buffed it, but my brain didn’t register that those wires needed to be joined. So the next step, shaping the piece into a C, left me with a bit of the 14 gauge sticking out sharply. Don’t be like me.

And speaking of don’t be like me, Here’s where we realized annealing would have helped. A lot. Bob showed me how to get the ends curved under with a rawhide mallet, forming stake, and a lot of effort, but that’s as far as we could go that day because the metal just wouldn’t move any more. Next class session, I fluxed and annealed the crap out of it, trying to watch for the dull pinkish color that shows you you’re there. (I tend to be bad at annealing evenly, especially with larger pieces.)

Turns out I did ok, because I was able to set the bracelet on its side (now with ends curled under and a straight section in between) on a piece of leather on the anvil, and hit the top curve with a mallet to make the middle bow out gracefully. Flipped it, did it on the other side, adjusted it with the bracelet mandrel, etc. etc., but before getting to the finished shape, decided it was time to take care of that annoying unfused end I should have done long ago.

Because Bob was busy with other students, I ended up doing that myself with a size 6 torch head on the acetylene tank. If you don’t know what that means, look at a gel pen. The flame is going to be that fat and scary. Also, you have to really crank up the gas to get it lit, which is the opposite of everything you’ve been taught about putting the gas on low, lighting it, and then adjusting the flame. I tried that but it just kept popping and then smoke came out. So Bob took it, cranked it, lit it with a lot of HISSSSS FOOMPH KKKKKKKKHHHHHHHH and handed it to me, all, here you go! Have to admit, it was the first time I was really scared since beginners’ class, but more from the standpoint of oh god am I going to ruin it at this stage rather than a safety thing. It took some time and a lot of heat to fuse the end, and the surface there got a little jacked up, but nothing I couldn’t polish off with silicone barrels later. (Whew!)

More slight adjustments, another application of silver black, and a lot more polishing at home later, and I think I like it quite well. Wish I hadn’t hit it too much on one end, but whaddaya gonna do. As one of my fellow students said, perfect is overrated, and it’s awesome when something looks like a person actually make it by hand. So I guess it’s awesome.

Bonus picture: my scraps! Will probably melt them down for casting, although that long twisty calls for me to use my imagination . . .


Leave a comment

Filed under bracelet, metals, wire, yak yak yak


Ha! I did finally muster up the nerve to rivet amethyst beads into the earrings I was working on a couple weeks ago, but first . . . oh crap, I completely forgot my mother-in-law’s birthday is coming up! She likes my stuff; what do I make her?

Well, thanks to my classroom friend Beverly (who you might remember as the nice 85-year-old lady who made broom straw cast pendants with me last winter) I got my hands on a nice dichroic glass cabochon. Beverly makes them, and she had donated quite a few that she couldn’t use or didn’t quite like enough to the classroom. The one I picked out was Just. The. Thing. So pretty, and so fancy all on its own, it called for a simple wire setting. And so:


I regret having forgotten to take progress shots, but I did something quite similar to this old copper ‘n’ glass practice piece from last year:


prongpracticeI’ve recently ground down these prongs and made them a bit nicer, by the way.

For the dichroic pendant, I kept the middle wire long on both ends to create a bottom prong and a top loop (which curls in the opposite direction of what you see in the green glass pendant.) The problem with that was, the stone could slip out the top, so I had to (carefully!) solder a bit of wire up top and make a prong of it. Well, that was cool and all, but I neglected to realize the pendant won’t lay flat with a big old loop on the back. Duh. Something to remember for next time, because this sort of pendant is definitely something I plan to revisit again and again.

Now. Back to those earrings. Boy, was I scared. Especially since Bob told me amethyst is easily shattered and I’d need to be careful.




I actually worked it out, though! And thanks to my trusty new smoothy-smooth steel bench block, I barely messed up the backs of the domes doing it.

And so, here we are at the end. Yay!



Leave a comment

Filed under beads, earrings, metals, presents, wire

The Stone I Learned Wire Wrapping For

I’ve brought this project up a couple times over the past year; it involves wire-wrapping a “picture jasper” I bought at a gem and fossil show last year (from this seller, I believe.) I taught myself wire wrapping from jewelry magazines, YouTube videos, and just plain experimentation. Worked with copper, ordered some gold-filled wire, started this piece, didn’t like it, let it sit, started it over, got stuck on what to do with the wire ends, and then finally . . . today . . .


It got a little fancier than I anticipated, but I like it. I didn’t want all eight wire ends hanging around the stone and cluttering it up, so I gave it an updo, so to speak. I think it’s delicate enough to not appear too gaudy on a chain–and even if it does, I’ve decided not to care so much about that. I’ve been going minimal for a bit too long, I think.

One thing I’ve learned–remembered, actually–from this piece is that it’s fun and worthwhile to sit and think and come up with ideas of your own. As a student jewelry artist, I spend a lot of time on Pinterest–more time than I spend working at my bench–looking for “inspiration.” I need to let that go for a while and just play on my own.

Leave a comment

Filed under pendant, stones/gems, wire