Sunday, 28 April 2019

April at the Bench

Moonstone Dangles — Gifts for June Birthdays

Online shoppers needing June birthday gifts will be on the lookout now, so I thought a new pair of moonstone earrings might be a good thing to add to my #DixSterling etsy shop. I had a pair of tiny oval moonstone cabochons and the settings for them in my supplies, so I just had to come up with how to show them off.

Rectangular Wire — Made to Measure

I recently made a pair of dangles earrings from 3/8 inch wide rectangular wire and decided to go with that, making the dangles about 1 inch long and setting the moonstones at the bottom of the drops. Shepherd hooks work to make earrings like this swing from your ears.

The Joys of a Owning Drill Press

I remember having to use my flex shaft to drill holes for ear wires but having the Dremel as part of my bench setup sure makes it much easier. I use a punch to dimple the metal where I want the holes then tape the pieces to a bit of wood to steady them for drilling (you can't just hold them down — too hot for human fingers).

Polishing — Not the Most Creative Part of the Process

I have buffs and polishing compounds that I use on the Dremel for larger pieces but for small items like these earrings, I prefer the 3M Radial Bristle Discs. I have a set, mounted on mandrels for my flex shaft standing in a piece of wood (upper right side of photo) on my bench where they are easy to grab. Speaking of tool storage, I use a 2X2 inch wood strip to hold my needle files. It is just behind the polishing discs and makes it easy to find and grab the file I need.  I drew crude but useful diagrams of the file shapes beside each hole so I can ID them at a glance.

Ready to Set Stones

Once I had the bezel cups soldered on and had finished polishing the pieces, I was ready to set the cabochons.

I use the tip of the steel burnisher to push the serrated edge of the bezel cups on to the stones. I also use the smooth face of the burnisher to bring up a bright shine on the edges of the silver dangles (almost impossible to do that narrow strip with the polishing discs).

From Concept to Completion

Friday, 1 March 2019

Winter Work

A New Take on Hoops

My Rio Grande shipment arrived the other day ;-)

I finished that pair of gift earrings more than a month ago. When I did, I realized I was totally out of ear wires.

The good thing about that was, if I need to order one item from Rio Grande, it's a chance to survey the bench and see what other supplies I may need — or want.

So I placed an order for the ear wires, some rectangular wire (I have a plan for that), a piece of 20 gauge sterling sheet, and a length of bezel wire.

Love my Disc Cutter

Just imagine how long it used to take me to cut hoop earrings. First, draw/trace a circle for each dangle and another one for the smaller cutouts. Then drill a starter hole for the smaller circles, insert the saw blade and hand cut each of the circles. Finally, cut out the larger circles. Next, absolute precision being a rare event when piercing metals, use a file and sanding sticks to remove any wobbles. That is most of an afternoon's work. With my disc cutter, I had the blanks cut in about five minutes.

Dimples to Make Them Sparkle

Because these will swing from shepherd hooks, I want them to have some sparkle. This photo shows my setup for a hammered finish. I have a bigger chasing hammer but, given the size of the hoops, I selected a small ball peen hammer to give the hoops a texture. The hockey puck is a great backing for this work (got that tip from a #Riojeweler recently).

There is something quite satisfying about taking a hammer to metal ;-)

Dapping to Make Them Shine

Silver is more reflective with a curved surface than with a flat one, so I pulled out my old wood dapping bloc and punch set. After a second torching to anneal the silver, I selected an appropriate hollow and punch to dap each circle into a soft curve.

There really is something quite satisfying about taking a hammer to metal ;-)  I think forging metal is my favorite bench activity.

Add Wires and — Done

Available now at #DixSterling on #etsy

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Where Does the Time Go?

Almost February —

And I haven't posted a thing here since November.

To be honest, I haven't been at the bench much, either. That whole "put Christmas together and then take Christmas apart again" business eats time. I did, however, get to one very important project for one very important lady in our family this month. Follow along as I make a pair of birthstone earrings.

Rhodolite Garnets

I suppose everyone knows deep red garnets are January's birthstone, but many may not be familiar with the less common rhodolite version. If you want to learn more about these (or any gemstone) this is an excellent resource <>

Pretty in Pink

These lovely stones are purple tinged and pinker than regular garnets. My photo doesn't really do the color justice but you can see why I thought they would make a special gift for a special lady. (That's FunTack on a cuticle stick holding one!).

Yes, Size Matters

The old saying, "Measure twice, cut once" only tells part of the tale. Equally important is "Be accurate". When I first started making jewelry, I bought a small brass caliper and found it a fine tool for checking the gauge of a piece of sterling or marking lengths for cutting sheet or wire. Once the lure of stones began calling to me, however, I found it a slightly awkward tool for measuring tiny stones. I love my digital caliper and use it constantly. In this photo, I am checking the exact diameter of a setting bur to use for tube setting the stones. The jar of yellow stuff, top right, is a lubricant to protect the bur. Of course, you do not need to use it — provided you like buying lots of burs!

More Measuring

While most women probably do not hold a pair of dangle earrings together to be sure they are the same length, I think it matters, so a ruler and pair of dividers are also useful measuring tools.

Marking & Cutting 

The design  I came up with involved setting the tube mounted stones into the edges of some rectangular sterling wire. I rubbed a bit of pencil lead on the end of that tube to lightly mark the position for the hollows. I held the bars touching to ensure that each earring would be the same. I followed up with a fine marker so I could do the cutouts. Fussy bit of cutting. When I first started, I doubt I would have tried it!

Test & Adjust Fit

 These two photo show the earring in my bench vise being filed to shape and the two parts being checked for fit.
I love that vise with its removable rubber jaw covers. I can pivot it to almost any position to get at the piece I am working on. It holds things for cutting, filing and sanding — and frequently keeps me from totally removing skin from the fingers of my left hand!

Filing is an essential part of making any piece of metal jewelry. The process is used to refine shapes, as above, and to remove deep surfaces scratches (because you can't always avoid a few of those — silver is soft). Like any jewelry maker, I own several files in different shapes and sizes and could not function if you took any of them off my bench.

Once the tubes were a snug fit into the hollows, I soldered them in place. Next, I soldered a pair of sterling rings onto the top back of the dangles to hold the ear wires. After that, lots of polishing.

Lastly, Add the Sparkle

If you follow this blog, you know that I like to wrap a piece in painter's tape before I start setting stones. After all the sanding and polishing, I sure do not want to have a steel burnisher slip from the edge of the mount and score the face of the earring.

I hope the recipient will enjoy these for many years. I like the design so I may make a few with  different stones for my DixSterling shop.<>

See you in February ;-)

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

November at the Bench

Another Pair of Chopstick Earrings

Back in September, I posted about making a pair of sapphire "chopstick" dangles for our daughter's birthday gift.

I really like the design, so I made this pair — sans stones. Now in my etsy shop, they are pretty cute, too.

Measuring for Next Pair

With the holiday party season ahead, I thought I should make another pair, and add some glitter. Here is a look at the process.

The dangles are made from 16 gauge square sterling silver wire. My calipers let me measure four lengths of wire to make two earrings.  Each pair has one wire slightly longer than the other. I like the asymmetrical look.

My previous post shows the wire and tube cutter I use to prep the pieces, so I'll skip that here.

Adding Some Holiday Sparkle

This photo shows my rotary tool with a 3mm stone setting burr along side my sparkle — 3 mm cubic zirconia stones. They are not diamonds, but they offer a pretty good sparkle! The tiny box also holds the tubes I use to set the stones into the earrings.

This design is a bit demanding. As you can see, the parts are all quite delicate. Setting big stones is, for sure, much easier on the nerves.

In this photo, the ring the piece will hang from has been soldered to the top. I placed the tube between the legs and used a felt tip marker to guide me  when I position it on the soldering block. Yes, the stone is there, but not set (I just wanted to admire the effect!). Stone setting happens after all soldering is done.

Almost Ready to Party the Night Away

I still have to finish the second one and polish the pair but you get the idea. The sun came out this morning, so I took some photos and will be able to post these at DixSterling soon.

Friday, 9 November 2018

How to Spin

Creating a Spinner Ring

Spinner rings have become very popular in recent years. I am not sure why it took me so long to get around to making one but when I did, I really enjoyed the process.

Ring One - The Base

To make a spinner ring I created two sterling rings — one wider than the other. One also a touch bigger than the other. The first, the base, measures 3/8 inch wide. I sized it to 7 1/2 (US ring size). Because the spinner covers part of it, I did a pretty thorough polishing job before I assembled them.

Ring Two - the Spinner

The second ring was cut from another, thinner, piece of sterling sheet. I made it just over 1/8 inch wide and cut the length a touch longer than I would need for size 7 1/2. I textured this one  with my riveting hammer to give it a sparkle.

Need a Perfect Fit

Fit is what makes these work. I rounded and sized that spinner on my steel ring mandrel until it would slip over the base ring. If it were too tight, it wouldn't spin; if too loose, it would be very difficult to flare the edges of the base ring enough to hold it it place.

I didn't take photos of the process of hammering the ring atop a steel ball — hands were busy ;-) The process very much like using rivets. You flare one edge first and, when the spinner can no longer slip over that, place the spinner and flare the opposite edge. It's a great project for when you feel like pounding on something. Lots of hammer work to round up the rings, texture the spinner, and flare both sides!

Ready Set, Spin

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

At the Bench

A Few Essential Tools

I have been outdoors a lot, enjoying our extended summer. It is a rare treat in this part of the world to have 15 dry, sunny days in October. The colors are almost as good as folks in the east enjoy every year. It's not that none of our trees turn gold and red, it's that we can't usually see them for the rain or fog. :-(

Of course, the extended summer also meant extended gardening but I will not complain. I was, however, happy to get to my bench today. Newest project not ready to share yet, but I will share a view of some of my favorite tools.

Darlin' Dremel

I have a super sturdy work bench to the left of my main bench. I use it for heavy tasks like punching out circles, doming, or stamping words into pieces. It is also home to a Dremel on its stand. Most of the time, I have the Dremel set up for drilling pieces but it also works brilliantly as a polishing station. Here it is, equipped with a cotton buffing wheel charged with rouge. Note the plastic over the stand base. Polishing is a very  messy activity and I don't much fancy having to get bits of cotton and rouge out from under the stand.

I also have a Grobet rotary tool (only seriously successful jewelers have a Fordom!) that I use for many processes including polishing but, when a number of pieces need polishing at once, this setup is more efficient.

I'm Packing Heat

No, not that kind of heat. This kind of heat.

I am forever promising myself a Smith Little Torch, but this setup has served me well. Maybe when we win that lottery... 

My husband mounted a piece of plumbing pipe on a plywood square and notched the square to fit onto the leg of my jeweler's bench so the disposable propane tanks are totally stable. I screwed a simple, large household hook into the vertical frame of my storage cabinet/soldering station to safely store the torch when it is hot. Might not be fancy, but it works.

Pinch Me

Not really, although I have pinched myself with my pliers a few times. 

This is only part of my collection — a girl can never have too many pliers. Many Christmases ago, my husband built that rack to hold the most often used ones right atop my bench so they are easy to grab as needed. What a thoughtful gift.

In the bench drawers, I keep some of the more specialized ones. Like I said, a girl can never have too many pliers!

Other Essentials

Here are a few more tools a jeweler must have.

One of the first tools I bought was that saw. I use it every time I start a project.

Next to it, my Grobet rotary tool, used for everything from drilling holes to cutting seats for gemstones.

Next up, one of several hammers that live either on the bench at my right hand, or in the top drawer, also at my right  hand.

Next, a steel burnisher — used, oddly enough, for burnishing metal.

Finally, the small flashlight. Utterly essential when something leaves the bench and hits the floor!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Just 4 Fun

Fun to Make & Fun to Wear

Several months ago, I acquired a fistful of charming square beads. They have been languishing (any crafter knows how that goes) while I dealt with other projects. One of those projects called for some silk cord. I already knew of a great supplier on etsy <> so got a hank of beautiful hand dyed cords in shades of blue-grey to make this necklace:

Yesterday's Project

I still had quite a few of the cords and decided a couple could be combined with the square beads for a different — and fun — project. The way the beads and cords fit together was the real source of the idea.

This shows the pieces — and tools — I needed. I worked at my desk for this as there was neither soldering nor sawing involved.

The wire is 18 gauge sterling (although those charming beads are not sterling). I used a couple of pairs of pliers and some wire cutters.

In the photo, I have already threaded a bunch of beads on each cord. No scientific formulas — I just threaded them on until I liked the look.

Attaching the Clasp

Here (shown on my black pant leg) is the beginning of wrapping  the ends of the cords with wire.

Once the wrap was secure, I threaded that bead cap onto the wire.

Above photo shows the loop completed on one end of the necklace. Below: the finished hook and loop clasp.

And, the finished necklace.

The fun feature is that you can slide the beads into any arrangement that suits your fancy. The fit between cord and bead is just tight enough that the beads stay put. If, over time, they want to cluster at the bottom, you can just arrange them again.