Tuesday, 3 December 2019

2019 Is Almost Done

And So Is This Pendant!

It was an oddly busy summer and fall — probably why I just finished this pendant, which I started way back in April! So, here are the steps.

Character Stone

I picked up some interesting pieces of agate at a rock and gem show last year.  This roughly triangular blue-grey one had been on my bench for months before I decided how to use it. The inspiration came from a few 5 mm Iolite cabochons in my stash. Their deep purple seemed a perfect foil for the agate. Here's the design, laid out on a piece of 20 gauge sterling sheet.

All Parts Prepared

Here you can see the stones, the back plate, a bezel for the agate, and a piece of sterling tube cut and reamed to mount the Iolite.

It was about June at this point and things like the lawn and garden got in the way so these bits went into a plastic baggie to await some free time.

Then Came Autumn and Progress 

Like many jewellers, I like embellishing the back plate for large stones like this with cutout patterns. It gives the back of the piece some visual interest and also cuts down on the weight for comfortable wearing. 

This pattern removed a fair bit of metal but the cross piece left kept it strong (that counts, too).

Time to Torch It 

Large bezels are a bit tricky to solder onto back plates. The bigger the bezel, the harder it is to ensure contact with the backing all the way around so it will solder on solidly. As you can see, one way to cope with that is to use bailing wire to secure the bezel. By tightening the wire, you press the bezel onto the plate and ensure it will not shift while the heat is on.

Final Views — Back and Front

Still needs polishing and the bail — those two holes are for a double chain system. While the design is intended to distribute the weight reasonably evenly, the two point bail will ensure it will hang straight when worn.

Coming soon to an etsy page near you!

Monday, 25 November 2019

It's Beginning to Look a Lot. . . .

. . . Like Christmas

As of midnight November 25, everything in my etsy shop <https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/DixSterling> is 25% off and most also offer free shipping.

Here are a few gift ideas:



and Rings

Purchases made before December 1st will ship immediately and arrive in time for Christmas.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Almost There

The Ring Saga Continues

Polishing takes many steps — the process is slow but essential.

The first step (above) is done with a jewelers' file, inside and out. This removes the tool marks you can't altogether avoid as you shape the metal.

After filing comes sanding, using grits 400, 600, 800, 1000 and finally, 1200. You work alternately; 400 across the ring all the way around, 600 along the length, 800 across again, etc. You sand the inside, too, using sandpaper mounted in a split mandrel on a rotary tool and holding the ring as you work. If you do that enough, you'll get safe cracker's fingertips ;-)

The Sweet Spot

Once the filing and sanding (pre-polishing) was done, I selected a spot to mount the setting.

I needed to create a level, flat spot on the surface of the ring shank (the shank is curved twice – the half-round of the wire and the circle of the actual ring). The spot had to be large enough to provide a safe mounting for the gem setting.

In this photo, I am holding the shank in a ring clamp, braced against my bench pin, so I can file the spot exactly where I want it and totally level.

Soldered. . .

I mounted that setting a touch off center. Hard to see, but it means there is an easy way to remove the stone (small hole under stone) if the ring ever needs down sizing. (Up sizing can usually be done on a ring stretcher, no heat, so the stone can stay put).

. . . And Polished

Here it is, all polished and shiny. If all goes well, I should have time to set the onyx tomorrow.

This ring is a special project for a special friend so I hope she will delight in wearing  it for many, many years to come.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Moving On

Picking Up Where I Left Off

Here are the steps involved in  making the ring shank.

Size Matters

If I am making a ring on spec, I can pretty much pick any reasonably common ring size and go with it. When the ring is a special order for a special person, getting the size right is a very big deal. At left, with the half-round wire formed into an (almost) circle, I marked where I was pretty sure the cut should be. I needed to end up either exactly as ordered or a touch smaller (knowing I could increase the size a bit on the mandrel later).

How Amazing!!!

Maybe I'm getting better at this after 20+ years. The size was perfect on the first cut.

To the right, I put the ring shank in my bench vise (I love the rubber guards in this one) and gently ran a flat file through the join to true up both sides. It is virtually impossible to get a proper solder joint if the sides are not a snug fit. It can be frightfully tricky to get that tight fit but this project seems to be under a good star as it took only a little bit of file work.

Trial By Fire

I guess everyone has their own favorite way to solder a ring shank closed. Most times, this is my choice. The ring is held, above a charcoal block, in my soldering tweezers. They, in turn, are held in a vise that allows me to position the tweezers any way that lets me access the joint.
I bring the flame in from below. The joint has been treated with flux and I placed a small bit of solder on the joint before lighting the torch. As soon as the solder flashes silver, I pull the heat away and turn the torch off. This photo also shows that I am pretty safety conscious. Behind my soldering spot, you can see a large fire brick with my ceramic soldering block atop it. The charcoal rests on a metal tray that swivels as needed. The swivel tray sits on a metal tray and that is on top of a large ceramic tile. And the neck bone's connected to the . . . .

Speaking of Solder

I also soldered that back plate to the bezel setting. Here it sits on the charcoal — looking very ugly for the moment.

Polishing — And More Polishing — to Come

First with files, then with increasingly finer grits of sandpaper before I solder the setting to the shank and move on to jeweler's polishes for a final finish.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Another Progress Report

Moving Ahead With That Ring

Here is a better photo of shaping the step bezel to fit the onyx. With a step, or ledge, on the inside for the stone to rest on, you have to be very precise when cutting and shaping the material. As you can see, I started with a piece that was too long and nibbled it down bit by bit until it would form a perfect wrap before I soldered it shut and rounded it on the mandrel (see previous post) .

See how nicely it fits in the photo below.

BTW, I quite love my "fashionably distressed" bench pin, which has been serving me well for the past six years. It has seen lots of sawing, filing and — obviously — lots and lots of drilling! I do have a Dremel drill press as well, but sometimes just throwing a bit into the rotary hand piece is quicker and easier.

Adding a Back Plate

Although the step inside the bezel will hold the stone, this ring design also involves a round base plate, slightly larger than the bezel. It offers a more secure attachment to the ring shank and adds a nice visual touch as well. See the garnet cabochon ring at https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/DixSterling for this style of setting.

The next photos show the steps to measure for the backing and how to use a disc cutter to create the plate.

Of course, I could cut the plate by marking it on the silver and cutting it with my saw but, when it comes to accuracy, this method is much better. Before I got that tool, making a perfectly round piece was very tricky — and very frustrating! 

Here are the parts — and the bit of scrap I cut the circle from.

And the here is the setting, ready to be soldered together.

The next few days are looking busy, but "watch this space" — I will be completing the ring shank and pre-polishing everything for final assembly very soon.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

October Already?

Where Did That Summer Go?

I have no idea, but I guess various garden chores had something to do with it. The weather turned fast here this year so I had to turn the heater on in the shop last week. Now I can get back to work and my current project is an onyx ring. You can follow along here.

Start With a Ring Shank

I create many of my rings with shanks cut as strips from 18 or 20 gauge sheet sterling silver. For this one, I am going with a different option. This shank has been cut from 6 gauge half round wire. I cut it to length, then filed the ends until they are perfectly square so I can get a clean solder joint.

Creativity Can Be Hard on the Hands

I had forgotten that this stuff is hard to bend! I had to anneal the silver several times to keep it pliable. Hmmm. Do you suppose it's just that I am not a strong as I used to be ;-)

Here, I am getting close to bringing the ends together for soldering. To get a perfect joint, I need to get the shank into a D shape with the joint in the center of the flat side. There is more bending to be done. And, in case you are wondering, that cut down pill container holds chips of various grades of solder - not headache remedies!

Meanwhile. . . 

I had another circle to make, a bezel for the stone. I cut a piece of step bezel silver to fit the stone. That's my saw hanging on the bench pin just in case, once bent, the bezel proved to be a bit too big. It did, so I had to trim it before soldering it closed. The fit of bezel to stone is critical. Too small and you can't get the stone into the bezel. Too big and the bezel will not close around the stone to secure it.

No To Make It Round

In this photo, I have the soldered bezel on a steel mandrel. Soldering requires that D shape and — duh — the bezel has to be round to fit the stone. I use a rawhide hammer to tap the bezel while rotating it on the mandrel. To keep it even, I flip the bezel from time to time.

This, by the way, is the cure for a bezel that is just a touch too small for the stone. A little more time on the mandrel will stretch the silver and allow the stone to slip into the setting. The same process rounds the ring shank and can allow for a slight stretching to adjust the fit.

This is just the beginning. To follow my progress, come by again in a day or two.