Tag Archives: stone setting

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!

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

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

One Fancypants Riveting Project

darkbluestonerivetedbrass You like? It’s a design of my own invention . . . 

dkbluesketch. . . which I obviously sketched out one day at work on a piece of scrap paper.

That was back in January, I guess. I’m getting older and less able to process the passing of time. I still feel like December just happened, and it’s June. Anyway. I’ve been working on this one on and off since then. Here’s a recap.

dkbluestone

I have a dark blue cabochon from a bag of mixed stones; don’t know what it is, but could be opaque, roughly polished glass for all I know. It’s plain enough that I could do something interesting and elaborate with the setting. Now, I like dark blue with brass. Makes me think of very old art, Egyptian tombs with gold stars painted on blue ceilings, things like that. Or Islamic art with repeating patterns of gold on blue. Geometric, celestial. So I made the sketch above (one of quite a few that didn’t make the cut) as my own take on something modern but a little ancient, like it could be the whole universe in this one captured stone.

Honestly, you probably looked at the picture and thought it was a flower. That’s okay. Things change as you progress. Boy, do they change.

dkblueprogress1

Here are the main pieces, which I cut out in January. The original pattern, which you can faintly see in pencil on the white paper, didn’t quite work as I’d hoped. It was too closed up and I couldn’t bend it over the stone. If I had some kind of hydraulic press or something, I maybe could have made a neat dome with it, but alas I did not. So I set that aside for a while.

And then David Bowie died. See that back plate with the star pattern roller-printed on it?

bowiesawing

I did this.

bowitribute

Which became this.

And later, months later, I went back to the original plate and cut out the center, so there is no lightning-shaped hole, but a nice circle just a bit smaller than the stone that now sits upon it.

And I re-shaped all the prongs on front so there is less metal and everything is easier to bend over the stone. I took care to make the curves nice, and cut some notches in the edges of both pieces with a triangular file just to make everything a little fancier. (This is my new thing I like to do.)

Now. The riveting. I screwed this up because I initially cut a set of tube spacers (for between the plates) too long, and when I hammered the rivets in, the stone was not held in well, and in fact jiggled around. Sigh. Put it aside. Come back later. Cut off those rivets. Make new ones, shorter. Tape everything together. Set them. Success? Success. No more jigglies.

And then comes the shiny-shiny polishing part, which was kind of tough to do without ruining the stone. I did get some brassy scuffs on it after succeeding in obtaining a high polish on the brass, but scrubbing it off with dishwashing soap only made the brass dull again. A round of polishing papers later, it’s all much better. I would do well to get better at this part, but for now, I waxed it up and called it done.

In any case, I think I’ve come a long way since my first attempt at such a project three years ago.

moonstarsriveted

One thing I’d like to get for future use: a set of cup burs to shape the rivet heads so they’re little circles, not irregular blobs. Can’t wait to try it!

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Filed under experiment, pendant, riveting, stones/gems

Weight and Balance

Enlightenment is mistake after mistake.

                                                         –Zen saying

orthocerasdone

Well, this big boy was two years in the making. I got the stone from a flower and garden show–of all things. My oldest, dearest BFFs and I get together in Chicago almost every year for it, drink a considerable amount of wine, peruse the flowers, and buy crap we probably shouldn’t from the vendors in our lubricated state. One of my friends offered to buy me some jewelry from a lady who has a booth of handmade goods every year; as I make my own, I didn’t quite see the need, but she was selling a few loose stones on the cheap. I could see why: this one wasn’t very well cut, off-center, and the back was not quite flat, but I have a soft spot for imperfect things, and wanted to make a project of it. And so I have.

Last year, I took the back of the stone to a diamond honing block submerged in water. Flat back, easy as pie. Then I put it aside with vague ideas of what sort of cuff I’d like to make for it. Also, I needed some taller bezel wire than I had on hand, because the edge was, well, high in spots, uneven, goofy. A challenge.

This year, I decided to go for it. At some point in the winter class, I made a bezel, did my best to trim it to the correct height in every area, and got the bezel onto the backing sheet. This required a bigger torch then I generally use, just to get the solder chips to flow instead of lumping up like little jerks.

orthocerasbezel

Then there was some cleaning up and setting aside, and some consultation with Bob to figure out what kind of wire I should order, and how I might bend it to get the shape I wanted.

I think what I ended up with was 6 gauge half-round. The trick to getting a nice, even double band is to cut two pieces, solder only the ends together, shape the resulting piece on a mandrel, and then carefully pull the two wires apart: separated on top, joined underneath. I practiced first with some copper, as I wasn’t sure exactly what length I needed, and didn’t want to waste the expensive half-round sterling. I ended up thinking I had planned for a full inch too much, but now I’m not so sure . . . but more on that later.

Next I had to file down some spots on top to get the bezel box to lie flat and have good contact area for soldering. In retrospect, I ought to have remembered this little problem:

ovalring1

Two years ago I gave myself fits with this ring I almost made, because a band with a big flat thing soldered on top of it doesn’t look very good from the side. How I did I forget that?

Well, it’s what I chose to do, and I got it soldered on with a minimum of fuss, so it is what it is.

orthocerasfinish

Then I finally made use of the little brillo-y wheel that puts a nice brushed finish on your metal. At least this was a happy find. I love that look much more than a mirror finish.

Now here’s what I really, really failed to consider.

orthocerasback

Do you see any weight there? Because there isn’t any. And the front side with that giant fossil stone is heavy.

So even though the band fits will, it slips to one side or the other.

And the stone tips forward when my hand is down.

And it tips back when my hand is up.

Insert bad words here. Lots of them.

However.

It may be a good thing that (1) there are a couple gaps in the bezel that I can’t close because of the roughness of the stone’s cut in some spots (and one chipped area); and (2) the opening in the cuff is a bit wider than it should have been. Maybe, when I feel ready and willing, I can pry the stone out so that I can solder some supportive bars to the cuff ends. Or figure out some other kind of decorative weight to add. I don’t know, I’ll have to ask about it.

Right now, I’m down about the whole thing. And this weekend was the major art fair, the one with the real professionals and the tons and tons of fabulous handmade jewelry. I should be inspired by it, but yesterday I checked it out and came home feeling terrible about myself.

But at least this book on Art and Fear came in the mail this week. Maybe it will help me with my mental hurdles. I want to be a pro someday, but I’m too easily frightened by all the business shit that goes with it. Meanwhile, I can’t just keep puttering like this while working part-time in what is essentially a college kid’s job, can I? Or can I?

That’s enough of that. Coming soon: four rings and a seahorse. Not starring Hugh Grant.

4ringssea

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Hey, I Finished Something!

sodalitering

 

I cast the band of this ring last fall, when I started fiddling with the old commercially-made wax ring molds we have sitting around the studio where I take classes (how old are they? The foam they’re packed in is crumbling. The wax is dried out and brittle. You can do it, but you have to be careful.)

castingsHere it is front and center.

castring2And here it is cleaned up.

My problem with this ring is that it had a little flat spot, probably from me neglecting to be careful when cutting off the sprue and grinding down the scar. Plus . . . I don’t know. Meh. So I poked through my collection of cheap cabs in search of something I could pop on over that spot, and found a sodalite I thought worked well. I made a bezel cup for it in the first weeks of class (not as easy as it should have been; how is it that I keep forgetting how to solder when I haven’t done it for a few weeks?) and filed that flat spot down larger and flatter.

sodaliteringprogressLike so.

A little soldering, a little setting, a lot of cleaning up, and now I actually love it!

sodalite2

Here’s one other thing: Bob has been playing around with enamel. He made these two discs out of argentium silver, torch fired some blue vitreous enamel on them, and added some steel hooks. Having no further need of them, he told me I could have them. Then I immediately dropped one on the concrete floor and chipped some enamel off the edge. (“Now they’re really yours.”) I tried to think of how I could make the best of this and came up with some riveting.

blueenamelearrings

Yeah, kinda worked, except I cracked a little bit off the other one during riveting. Sigh. I put it back on with a little clear nail polish, because that’s how I roll.

Coming soon:  more casting, more knitting, and maybe a long-neglected project finished?

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If You Like it Then You Shoulda Put a Frog on It

brassfrogredux

Last time we saw this, I was having trouble figuring out how to make it interesting.

scrapbraceletwithpatina

If the pattern had been roll-printed harder, it might have been cool just like this, but it was just too faint, and oxidizing didn’t help as much as I’d hoped. (I didn’t make this pattern; it was from a scrap I found in the studio junk bin, along with the stub of copper rod that I turned into the twisty wire band.)

challenge2bracelet

I toyed with the idea of riveting various copper and brass discs onto it, and then I picked up my little brass frog mascot (which you see in progress in the banner of this blog.) Cool, but just a touch too big!

brassfrog

I could do another . . . still had some green acrylic cat-eye “stones” lying around . . . and so I did, although I didn’t take any progress pictures. I had a lot of trouble riveting the new, smaller guy onto the copper (it really should have been done at an earlier stage) but I worked it out. It’s not perfect, but it is a lot of fun.

Speaking of fun, I dug into the ol’ bead stash (which I like to do when I’m between classes anyway) and crocheted a multi-strand hippie bracelet out of macrame twine.

hippiebracelet

The button closure was from last year, when I made a couple of them in class.

textures

Okay, the copper star-printed sheet isn’t in here, but I think that brass in the upper left was the back plate when I rolled it through. I don’t seem to have any other progress shots, but I made three discs, domed them, and soldered a jump ring inside each to make buttons. The one in the bracelet is the most successful of the three.

I’ve been trying out a new (well, new to me) idea this week: taking one photo every day of what I’m working on. It started out as a picture of my bench every day, but I don’t work there every day. Sometimes I just knit, or do something else. I don’t know if I’ll upload them somewhere; frankly I’m sure they’re of no interest to anybody but me. For a long time I’ve been thinking about creating an art journal, but I’m not convinced it’s the best use of my craft time. Someday that may change–but right now this is my focus, and I could use a little focus, because lately my attention seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once!

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Filed under beads, bracelet, metals, riveting

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.

 

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Filed under experiment, metals, necklace, pendant, practice, soldering, stones/gems