Tag 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!

 

Leave a comment

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.

stones1

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!

five1

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.

five2

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.

fiveback

Leave a comment

Filed under helpers and devices, metals, necklace, pendant, soldering, stones/gems

Metal Beads!

img_8779

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.

beads1

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under beads, riveting, 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 . . .

Leave a comment

Filed under pendant, soldering, Uncategorized

Cloudy with a Chance of Solder

cloud

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

ufo3

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under experiment, pendant, soldering, wire

New Thing, New Mistakes, New Lesson

dichroic1

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:

dichroic

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.

dichroicprogress1

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.

dichroicprogress2

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.

dichroicback

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.

dichroic1

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

A Tale of Two Leafies

castleavesboth

Remember these? It’s okay if you don’t. Last time I posted, they looked quite different.

leafcastsmoldAll waxed up . . . 

leafcasts1

. . . and ready to go!

At the beginning of this round of classes, I got around to cleaning up the oak leaf and soldering a small, flattish bail on the back of the stem: unobtrusive yet large enough to pass a chain end. I think. Then I cleaned it up and dipped it in some liver of sulfur (yuck) a couple times until I got a nice tarnish patina.

leaf1

It’s a bit wrinkly near the bottom, but there’s not much I can do about it. It’s a totally natural leaf, after all, and it did what it did.

Now this guy. This guy.

leaf2

This one gave me some grief, because I decided it was time I learned how to solder a pin stem mechanism thingy on there. A commercial one. I mean, I could have soldered the ends of a long wire back there, snipped it, curled one end under for a catch and put a coil on the other end and work hardened the remainder for a pin, but how secure is that? This thing is a bit heavy. So I ordered something commercial–actually, three somethings. The hinge end, the catch end, and pin stems, all sold separately. And because I’m stubborn and value security over looks, I ordered a (shudder) nickel pin stem rather than sterling. I understand that in a show or contest I’d get dinged for this. But this is no juried show, this is me learning–thank goodness, because it didn’t go very well.

leaf soldering

This is what fear looks like, to me. Yet, I pulled it off, and got both ends on in the correct places, correct orientation, no melting, no solder blorps. I thought I might be home free at this point, even though the catch was stuck in place when I took the piece out of the pickle. Oops.

Now, the pack of catches (they sell ’em in groups of 10!) came with instructions that advised washing the catch in a boiling solution of ammonia and dishwashing soap, which I found brilliant. I may do this all the time in future, to neutralize any remaining pickle residue, if nothing else.* This did not solve my problem, though. Having none of the recommended floor wax or silicone lubricant on hand, I shot some WD40 in the mechanism and it worked. So there.

New problem: pin stem won’t fit in the catch. Like, it’s too thick all of a sudden. What the hell? I tried filing it down a bit thinner (tip: order the longest pin stems available and always cut them exactly to size) but it became obvious that wasn’t the problem. What happened was, somehow the C-shaped bit that spins around became distorted, or it annealed and drooped, or something. In the fully open position, it was overhanging a bit. I tried futzing at it with nails and pins and things, and ultimately in desperation ground that bit down ever so slightly with a polishing pin (thanks, Dedeco!) It worked enough.

Okay. Working catch: check. Right size pin stem: check. Now fold the hinge up over the pin stem rivet.

Shit.

One side folds up accurately. The other? I don’t know. I just can’t get the hole to line up. (Here’s a handy guide to what I’m talking about, which I wish I’d researched before I ever began.) Now I’ve folded and fussed it so much I don’t think I can open it back up enough to take out the pin stem. It works, actually, and it’s pretty secure (for now?) but it’s not smooth, it’s not professional looking, and it irks me. But I’ve been plenty irked already with this project, and just can’t deal with it right now. Perhaps I’ll practice making more pins and come back to this one when I’m ready. It’s my first, and I learned a lot.

pin wonkThe bad side: the rivet isn’t quite in that hole, but somehow it isn’t falling out or anything.

Update: fixed it! I fussed with the hinge so much (using teeny tiny screwdrivers for fixing eyeglasses with) that the rivet came loose–very bad news, as this type of rivet isn’t really designed to be hammered/flared at the ends, only to sit inside the holes. So I took it out, dug up a bit of 18 gauge wire, and threaded it through a hole, the pin stem, and the other hole. Cut and hammered it, and voila! It’s not perfect, it’s not great, but it’s secure and it works.

And next time I’ll do better all around, I’m sure. I think. I hope.

_______________

*Got a slightly greenish tarnish on your sterling jewelry? Pickling acid residue! I’ve encountered it recently, myself. And so I shall become a better washer of things.

Leave a comment

Filed under casting, metals, pendant, pin, riveting, soldering