Tag Archives: DUDE THAT’S SO METAL

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

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

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.


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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

Sand Casting in the Sand*

I’ve been a touch burned out lately, or bored, or just avoidypants because I need to get out of my office job and find a new one and thinking about going for it and selling jewelry like a Real Artist instead seems alternately like a great idea and an awfully stupid one.

But enough about me, I spent some time in class learning a new thing: sand casting.

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The sand feels like brown sugar and smells like Play-Doh. You smush it into half of the two-part circular mold, place the object you want to cast (in my case, a “coin” from a game), fit the second circle on top (there’s a groove on both so you can line them up perfectly, which is important later), and tamp more sand in there, being careful not to shift or rock the piece. Oh, I forgot–that white dust? Mica. It’s a release, so you can get the two halves apart again. Just brush it on your object and the bottom sand with a paintbrush and you’ll be fine.

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So when you have your two parts separated again, you can turn your attention to the top piece. Here I’ve used a hollow brass rod to make the pour spout for the  metal. And I’ve used a soldering pick to make vent holes around half the coin. I didn’t do the world’s greatest job on this, and consequently the edges of my repro coin didn’t come out as smoothly as they should have. It’s hard to think in reverse, but remember you can always grind away excess metal, so scrape away the sandy bits and make sure you’ll get enough metal around the holes.

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On the reverse side of this top piece, carve out a funnel shape on the pour hole (I used an X-acto knife for this.) Make it good and wide. Put the two halves back together, lining up the grooves I mentioned before so top and bottom match up like they should. Now–if your two halves aren’t a tight fit (anymore), you may want to put a band of tape around them. I didn’t on my first try, and pouring the pewter made them come apart and my coin ended up looking like when you overpour a waffle.

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Here’s the big reveal! A nice pewter knockoff. Although I’ve cut off the excess metal bits and ground down the edges (so easy with pewter) I haven’t quite finished it yet, and maybe I never will. I understand I can use black acrylic paint to make it antique looking, and I suppose eventually I will.

But first I should really get back to looking at job ads. Ugh, art and craft breaks just don’t last long enough.

*Robin Sparkles

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Filed under casting, experiment

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.

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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!

 

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The sketch.

 purplejadepiecesThe plan.

 

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The soldering.

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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