Tag Archives: drilling

How to Learn What You Should Have Known

So, remember this guy from last week?  The one I was taking my time on, being careful with the torch, making the bezel just right, all that?


I worked on it at home the other night, wanting to saw out the middle so I could maybe fit the stone more easily when the time came.  I used my husband’s drill with one of the smallish cobalt bits we’d found at a hardware store, but it wasn’t doing much.  Tried another bit I’d used before, and it was just as bad.  Starting getting pissed, bore down on the wretched thing . . . and broke it.  And smacked the stump of the bit right into the pendant, leaving a very, very obvious wound.



Well.  I brought it in for the last class of summer session, hoping my teacher knew of some magic pixie dust that could fix it and make it all better.  Nope.  Her advice:  get a very small dapping punch and make more marks, so it’s a design.  Okay.  Sensible.  I tried that, and it was okay.  But then I figured, before setting the stone, I should anneal everything one last time so when I go to ruffle out the edges, it’ll work better.  Guess what?

After annealing sterling silver, you pickle it to get the copper oxide off.  No surprise there.

If a bit of steel happens to get into the pickle pot, it will (essentially) turn it into a copper plating solution and make your silver pink.  No surprise there.

Drill bits are made of/with steel.  Duh.

A big gouge made with a steel bit leaves behind traces of steel.  Steel that turns pink after pickling.  So now you have a bunch of dents that look normal and one that is flaming pink.


Now what?  I joked that I could just set a silver ball over each little dent.  My teacher was enthusiastic about the idea.  Did sound good, but it was some extra, tedious work making teeny balls and getting them to stay in place with a bit of solder on each one.  But . . . but . . . I pretty much pulled it off.

arrrrghI’m not terribly pleased with the topmost one, which rolled and set too high–I was dumb and decided to wing it instead of making a dent up there because the bail is directly underneath.  It might look okay–organic, is probably the nice word–once I’ve got the ruffling done, so I won’t swear anymore about it. My teacher likes the greater three-dimensionality of it with the balls on, which does seem to make it worthwhile.

And that’s the last progress shot I have until the fall class starts at the end of September.  The stone isn’t yet in there because–oh please, do pile on–there’s too much solder inside the bezel and it doesn’t fit anymore.  I’ve been advised to wet some sandpaper and take down the edge of my stone.  Gee, that sounds familiar.  I suppose this is exactly what happened with the aventurine pendant from the end of spring session.  (Well, at least now I know to use wet sandpaper, NOT a dry file.  Gem dust–not good.)

The point to all this bitching–and I do have one–is that this is exactly how you learn to do anything, especially when you’re new to making jewelry.  You screw up, and figure out how to fix it, if you can.  If you can’t, you either recycle it or put it in a drawer of learning projects and look at it fondly from time to time.

That’s the story on unhappy accidents; happy ones are good too.  Even experienced people get those.  My teacher just learned, by spilling a few drops of lubricant on a pile of sanding discs, that oil actually makes a sanding disc work better and last longer!  I tried it myself when refining the shape of this piece; not bad.

And finally, there’s the craft book.  You’ll find a million of them online or at the bookstore.  My favorites have become the ones that actually spell out the things that other books assume you already know.  Like drilling metal, for instance.  All of this might not have happened if I’d taken a copy of Brandon Holschuh’s The Jeweler’s Studio Handbook out of the library a couple weeks ago instead of yesterday. He has a good two-page spread on drilling, and so I’ve learned that if you’ve ever overheated a drill bit, you’ve rendered it useless.  I suspect that’s what I’ve done with my bits, which I often forgot to lube up with beeswax as I was taught to do. I’m going to spend the next couple weeks going through the rest of it; I may also review The Complete Photo Guide to Making Metal Jewelry by John Sartin, a book which I own and which details all kinds of basics like sanding, filing, cutting, you name it.

Before I go, three more things:  (1) I’d made a ring for a friend who later complained of a hard inner edge that hurt when she closes her hand; yesterday I was shown how to take that down with a silicone cylinder on a flex shaft.  Nice!  (2) I spent a lot of class time yesterday with the good disc cutter, making circles from all the good patterned scraps I could find (hee hee, including my silver cloud disaster).  Other students were actually giving me some of their copper scraps!  I suspect they think I’m crazy, making a ton of crap all the time.  One of them spent weeks on a Georg Jensen-esque silver bracelet, and it came out lovely.  It inspired me to (3) ask some advice about buying materials for a specific art deco necklace I’ve been in love with for a long time.  I’m planning on really focusing on it–and just it–in the fall.

“I’m going to be monogamous,” I told my teacher.

“I don’t believe it,” she replied.

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Filed under metals, pendant, soldering, stones/gems

Drill, Baby, Drill

Well, I was going to say, meet my new buddy, and post a picture of the classroom drill press, but my new camera/phone is giving me some grief with the uploadin’ today.  So, alas, you’ll just have to imagine a flex shaft held in place on a stand with an adjustable-height work surface and a lever on the side.  Tragically disappointing, I know.  But the device was a big help in making holes in all these washers:



I was aiming for a bunch of earrings I could sell again, but I think I’m looking at a necklace here.  I did buy two types of copper chain from that bead place a couple weeks ago, but neither of them seems quite right.  Ain’t that always the way.  Anyhow, the drilling was easy but left little burs on the reverse.  No problem!  I was shown how to use a bur bit to just barely countersink on the reverse and take off the offending rough spot.  That was so much fun, I did it some more.  Also, I stamped and stamped and dapped and dapped.  That’s my idea of fun these days.

IMG_2930Got a few squiffy bits to file down, but I think I can make some earrings here.  Might want to “ripen” another egg in the fridge for oxidizing, too.  The leafy stamps will look particularly nice if I can get them to stand out.

The other thing I did was to refine (and in one case, re-do) all the pieces for my pinecone earrings.  This is an idea based on the “Urban Pinecone Pendant” from Kim St. Jean’s Mixed Metal Mania.  Here they are temporarily strung on a brass wire (so I could see how well they looked before finalizing):

pinecone1I made them deliberately a bit off, for a more natural pinecone-y look, but I think I’d like to try this again someday using very clear and varied textures on the metal and making perfect dome shapes.  Of course, if I did that, I’d probably design something else entirely.

Nothing wrong with that.



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Filed under earrings, necklace