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.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Start for September

New Earring Design

Every birthday and Christmas, our daughter's gifts include a new piece of Dix jewelry (whether she wants it or not!). For her birthday, I usually try  to incorporate a sapphire or two. This year, I came up with a design for a pair of dangle earrings and, to be sure I would like the finished product, I made a pair without sapphires. Follow along here:

Wire Cutting 101

My design requires two 16 gauge square sterling wires, cut to length, per earring. Before I bought this handy wire/tube cutter, the process was a touch painful. Holding the material steady on the bench pin while cutting is hard on the left hand as the wire just wants to move around. I used to get hand cramps if I had to make several cuts. This rig makes it easy to cut as many pieces as you want and all to exactly the same length. Love it. This photo shows one length of the square wire set for cutting.

 Perfect Cut Every Time

In this photo, I have just finished cutting the (much shorter) length of 3.5 mm sterling tube. I tipped the cut piece up in the jig to show the neatly cut end.

The second photo shows the cutting jig to better advantage. It has a detachable handle so, for one quick cut, you can just steady it in your bench pin as shown here. Left hand holds the handle under the pin with thumb pressing on the lever that holds the metal down in the jig. If I need to make several cuts, I unscrew the handle and clamp the squared off bottom of the jig in the vise as in the first picture.

Prepping the Tube

Here is the 3.5 mm tubing set in my bench vise. In the background you can see my magnifying visor and a respirator — needed because that 3.1 mm cutting burr between them throws a lot of silver dust. Nobody's eyes or lungs need that stuff.

The vise is another wonderful bench tool. This one came with rubber jaw covers (not in use here) that can protect your metal when you are sawing or filing and the metal might move a bit. It also has notches that are holding that piece of tubing so  I can drive the burr in to enlarge the hole until the tiny sapphire cabochons will slip into place deeply enough for setting.

Parts Coming Together

In this photo, I have assembled the pieces of one of the test earrings on a fire proof soldering block.

Keeping everything aligned under the torch was vital. The two side pieces are balanced atop a tiny jump ring at the top so I can hang the earring from a shepherd hook. The sterling silver dot — a short length of round wire — sits between the square wires. A couple of dirty old T pins — one on each side — hold everything in place. You can tell they have been used a lot. In the picture, I am using a pair of heat proof tweezers to pull out the very hot pins after soldering.

A+ on the Test Pair

Here is the test pair finished and polished.

I was completely satisfied with the result so assembled the other pair, with the sapphires in place of the silver dots, as the "birthday gift from Mom 2018".

Below: the gift version, ready for me to set the cabochons.

PS — She has them now. And she likes them ;-)

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Copper — for a Start

How to Fit a Ring — Long Distance

Someone in England has asked if I could custom make a ring. Of course I could but being sure it will fit is the issue. The first step was to find a North American size to match the British and Australian so I would be able to size it on my ring mandrel. Years ago, that might have been tricky but the internet changed everything. I found a chart that gave me a target size. Great, but I wouldn't want to just trust a chart, make the ring, then find out it didn't fit. The cost and hassle of shipping it back and forth for adjustment would be unacceptable.

Copper to the Rescue

Here is my solution — a quickly assembled, made from scrap, copper ring. Nothing fancy but I can mail this to her and she can tell me if I would need need to make the real thing a bit larger or smaller.

Here it is being hammered to make  it round (and adjust size a bit) on my steel mandrel. Like I said, not fancy.

Ring in the Rough

Well, I did sand it enough that it won't be painful to try it on!