Monday, 13 August 2018

A Ring Story

More Bench Work

Back on April 20, I posted the story of making a ring from the client's inherited gem stones. I liked the overlap design so much that I made another and set it with one aquamarine. That sold as soon as I listed it. Still drawn to the possibilities of that style of shank, I decided to try another version. Here is how that went.

The first photos (also shown in April) outline the basics of creating the shank.

 I copied the pattern (for once, I had the sense to actually make a pattern and keep a copy). That made cutting the shank easy.

Sure glad I bought that pair of shaping pliers.

The tricky bit is getting the shank to round up on the mandrel — an easy chore when the ring is soldered shut but hard to do when the ends are loose. It took quite a bit of time.

Pretty Ballsy ;-)

When you create jump rings, there are always short bits of wire left from trimming the ends as you take the wound wire off the mandrel. I gather those up, set them on a charcoal block and melt them.

The clips quickly form into tiny silver balls which  I keep on hand to embellish pieces. Because the wire ends are not all the same length, the balls vary in size.

For this ring, I wanted to line up three balls along the edge of the overlap so I secured the ring close to my bench pin and used tweezers to select balls from my storage box and drop them into the round container in the foreground. Once I had three the same size, I was ready to place them.

Place, Solder and Polish. . . 

. . . AND Polish — a Lot 

I wonder if I have exhausted all the possibilities this design has to offer. I guess time will tell.

This ring will be coming to my DixSterling etsy shop soon. It might even be included in etsy's Labor Day sale, so keep checking ;-)

Life is Not Only About Jewelry

For the moment, I have to run. A bunch of peaches on the dining room table are ready for canning!

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Mid Summer Sale

Great Deal on Several Items at DixSterling

Sales on etsy get pretty slow in the summer so I am offering free shipping on several one-of-a-kind items in my shop <>

Take a look. Maybe something you had your eye on is included. If not, drop me a note and I might extend the free shipping option to you, too.

Friday, 15 June 2018

If Not etsy, Maybe ArtYah

Trials of Selling Online

I started selling at in March of 2009 and was thrilled when I made my first sale, shipping this brooch off to a buyer in the eastern USA. I guess she liked it. This was bought as a gift but she ordered a similar piece for herself soon after.

Demanding a Different Skill Set

While that got the ball rolling, sales came slowly for the first couple of years. As I was still "working for a living", I didn't spend a great deal of time on my etsy shop <> but I did prowl around enough to realize that I needed to brush up on photography, learn a bit about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and give a lot more thought to writing titles, tags, and descriptions. It paid off. By 2012-13, I was selling two to three items per month. Clearly that was not going to pay for a trip to the famous Tucson Gem & Jewelry Show, but it did cover my material costs so I could keep playing.

"The Times They Are A'changing"

As things turned out, 2012-13 was pretty much my peak with etsy. There were lots of changes on etsy and they seemed to render some shops invisible.  As you might expect, a lot of etsy sellers got frustrated and went seeking a new online site to sell through. In time, we found (crest below) and I opened SterlingByDix there <>

At the moment, ArtYah is small. It is more like shopping at your corner store instead of a big box store but, unlike the big boxes, this small store offers only genuine handmade or vintage items plus craft supplies.

If you like to buy from people who thread their own needles, wind their own wool, clean their own paint brushes and hammer their own silver, check it out.

#ArtYah #Home4Handmade

Thursday, 31 May 2018

End of May

My Sterling Rain Chains

A few weeks ago, I created a pair of copper rain chain dangle earrings as a prototype. I have been wearing them quite a bit recently and decided they are enough fun that I should make a pair in sterling silver. Yesterday, I deserted the vegetable garden and sat down at my bench.

Take 2: Doing It Right This Time

When I made the copper prototype, I punched out the tiny discs first, then drilled them. Difficult to say the least.

What follows is a better planned way to create these fun for summer earrings. First, I drew the ten circles I need on 28 gauge sterling sheet. I used a felt pen for that and to mark near the center of each circle. The center marks are not exact because I like the way they do not hang perfectly straight. In this photo, I am using my Dremel drill press (great tool) to quickly drill all ten center holes. Compared to holding each tiny circle with pliers to drill, this was a snap!

Next Steps: Punching . . .

Have I mentioned that I love good tools? With so many jewelry tasks, there are various ways to do the job. Long ago, I cut out discs by hand. A good way to practice sawing, but awfully slow. As for trying to hand cut ten one centimeter circles, it's a sure way to go crazy! With my disc cutter and a brass hammer, it took only a few moments and my sanity is intact.

. . .  and Dapping

Once I had all the predrilled circles on the bench, I used
a steel doming block and punch to shape each one into a half sphere.

This is another of the super useful tools my husband gave me some years ago. He drilled a piece of handrail wood to hold each of the steel dapping punches, too, so they are easy to pick out. As with the disc cutter, I use a brass hammer for striking because I don't want to damage these terrific tools.

Making Links

Obviously, if it's a chain, it has links. To link the discs up, I used two centimeter lengths of sterling wire. I went with 18 gauge this time, as it was the finest in my stash. Bending it into loops proved a bit of a chore so, for future earrings, I will order some 22 gauge round wire.

Mini-assembly line: I measured and pencil marked two centimeters from the edge of my bench pin to speed cutting.

And Assembling the Dangles

Suddenly, my bench was cluttered with tools: mini anvil, wire cutters and several pliers. It takes quite an array to thread these beauties together!

Ready to Polish, Photograph and List in My Shop

I think these flashy shoulder dusters will look fabulous swinging above pretty summer dresses. Only decision I have left is whether to list these with DixSterling on etsy or with SterlingByDix on ArtYah.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Garden Walk

My Bench is Lonely Because...

Well, because it's May and the garden rules. We are getting seriously summery weather after a very, very soggy April and the sun has been luring me outdoors. You know how that goes, right? You decide to take your coffee outside and bask in the sunshine. You barely sit down when you start seeing all the "must dos". Lawn needs cutting. Hedge needs trimming. Planter needs planting. Okay, I get it. Time to get to work.

Two Successes to Report

We have made progress over the past couple of weeks. Lawn has been cut (three times already). Hedge has had first light trimming. Planter and window box have been planted. Hanging baskets purchased and installed. Fountain removed from shop and set in its place. Oh, oh, it seems the pump housing has cracked. Off to hardware store for new pump. Install same. It's too powerful, water splashing everywhere. Fountain empties swiftly. Remove that pump. Off to different hardware store for different pump. 

Success 1: Pump Problem Solved

We bought this delightful pottery fountain as an anniversary gift to ourselves a few years ago. About the time we moved off the river, various aspects of getting older also convinced us that it was time to retire our motor home and give up camping. We sure miss setting up camp beside B.C.'s many chuckling, gurgling creeks. At least this pretty fountain provides that cheerful, restful sound of splashing water. The fact that it lives in a sheltered nook near our bedroom window makes very welcome on hot summer nights. 

Success 2: Labor Saving Device Installed

Every spring, I buy a pair of lovely hanging baskets from a local nursery. I really enjoy the color they bring to the edge of our carport.  They also create a fair bit of privacy to the seating area on our raised porch. Win-win.

Lose-lose is the struggle to drag a heavy hose about 25 feet across patio and carport to water the baskets each morning. This year, we finally bit the bullet and bought all the materials needed to run a drip watering system to feed the baskets. Wouldn't you know it: the first hardware store had everything we needed except the 1/2 inch tubing and the faucet connector. Once again, we had a two-store project! Then installing it became a two-day project. Never mind, now that it's done, the only labor required will be dragging out a ladder to get up there and fertilize them every few weeks. A small price to pay.

Also One Failure

Our current home has a raised bed vegetable garden. For the first few years, I kind of enjoyed it. Late last summer, I got lazy and it began to run wild. As winter moved in, I quit thinking about it. Weeds took root. Then we got hit with a super soggy March and April. There was no hope of any digging out there. By the time the weather warmed up, the weeds were flourishing. I have launched into the clean up but fear it may be fall before I am ready to plant anything. Just look at that mess!


Friday, 27 April 2018

Cooking Copper

My Not So Secret Recipe

If you want to have a go at this process, you will need:

• a piece of copper jewelry
• a plastic scrubbie
• scouring powder (I use Bar Keeper's Friend)
• a small lidded cooking pot (I got mine at a thrift store)
• some dry organic material: pine needles, bits of cedar, anything with high resin content
• a torch (jeweler's great but propane plumbers' torch will work for this)
• heat safe soldering tweezers
• archival wax or spray sealant

I photographed the tweezers (upper left in a third hand holder, which is handy but not essential) and my cooking pot at my soldering station but you really want to set up for this outdoors — it gets campfire smokey pretty quick. Obviously, it's not a task for a windy day.

Create Your Copper Item

Of course you need to create a piece first! In this case, I am working on a pierced pendant. I used 24 gauge copper but your design will determine your gauge.

This photo shows the paper pattern glued to the copper sheet for sawing (see part of my saw on right of frame). I drew in the bail for style and placement but, of course, it is not cut out as part of the circle.

Pierced & Punched

I used my saw to pierce out the large circle but was able to use my punch for the cutout (photo left).

I also created a pattern for the folded loop bail and cut it out with the saw.

Check the Fit, Remove the Pattern

Here, I am checking the fit for the bail (using its folded paper pattern) on the copper piece.

You can see that I have sanded the pendant to remove any scratches.

Once satisfied with the style and fit, I glued the bail pattern to another piece of copper and cut it out. You can remove the paper with soap and water or just use the torch to burn it off.


I put the bail on an old hockey puck (we jewelers can find a use for just about anything!) and forged it to the correct shape using shaping pliers and my rawhide mallet.

The next step was to finish all edges with files and sandpaper before closing the bail around the pendant and soldering it shut. At that stage, I took the piece to the sink and scrubbed all sides super clean with scouring powder and a scrubbie. When the water was sheeting off all the metal, I dried it very carefully with paper towel (touch edges only) and put it into the tweezers, positioning them to cover a minimal part of the back of the bail. Next step: torch it and cook it.

Painted and Protected

Once the piece cooled, I coated it with a spray sealer and hung it over the edge of our patio table to dry. All ready to list at SterlingByDix on ArtYah.

Go ahead; try this at home ;-)