Thursday, 29 August 2013


August 29

Took some time yesterday to wash and wax our dear old motor home for one final family camping trip with daughter and family.

Our Travel Home

It is a 24-foot 1984 GMC Travelaire and, despite its age, it has served us well as we explored many parts of BC and a bit of Washington and Oregon as well.

Perhaps, like its owners, the *MoHo* has aged well ;-)

Our beagle, now camping in doggy heaven, loved hopping into the MoHo and heading out on the perfect dog holiday. She insisted that Keith setup camp at each new site so she could drag me off and use her finely-tuned beagle nose to inspect every inch of the campground. If she worked it just right, Keith would have finished the hookup and had her dinner ready when we returned! Camping has not been the same since she left us.

Working Holiday!

This trip, I will try something new. I am still working on that pair of rings. They have been shaped and sized, so it is time for hours and hours of hand sanding, starting with 400 grit paper and working up to 1,000. I think I will take the rings, the sanding sticks and my jeweler's apron along and sand at the picnic bench. It will pass the time just as pleasantly as reading and move the project along as well.

To the right: sanding sticks, one of the rings, a length of tube to be reamed and cut for stone seats and my flexshaft with its 3 mm burr all ready to go. I will get the rings to a near-final polish before I solder on the tube settings as it is much easier to polish the flat surfaces and only do final touch-ups once that setting is on the ring.

Once we get home on Monday, I will start on those settings. I'm taking my time on all this polishing work because I always want custom work to be as close to perfect as I can get it. Sanding is really boring work, but it makes all the difference to the finished piece.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Custom Order

August 26

Got back to the bench today and made progress on that pair of rings for Glasgow pals.
The prototype, available in my shop, is in the tweezers. It is a size 4 1/2. Not right for either of these best of friends, hence the custom work.

Here, the two ring blanks have been cut, filed and sanded to a preliminary finish with all edges rounded. I've stamped my maker's mark and the recipients' initials on what will become the inside of the rings. Best friends with the same initials - perfect.

The Original and a Start on Two More

Work in Progress
Here are the blanks with the matched stones. I really love topaz in all its colors. Imperial topaz displays warm golden shades. Colorless stones are often used in place of diamonds but can be irradiated and heat-treated to produce lovely blues. The paler shades are known as Swiss Blue (I have a smashing pair of square-cut Swiss Blues that I plan to set soon). A stunning, deep sky-blue shade is known as London Blue.

Handcrafting, One Step at a Time

On the right, both rings have been roughly shaped into circles. I will file the underlying end to make good contact so I can solder the join. Once that is done, I will use that rawhide hammer to hammer the rings into perfect circles on the metal ring mandrel.

I also have to use a burr to create a seat for each of the stones in a piece of sterling tubes then cut those to length and solder them to the rings. That will be followed by some serious polishing. The last step is setting the stones and burnishing the rim down to hold them securely in place.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Late Summer

August 23

Garden decor looking good in August 

This hanging basket wasn't much to brag about when we hung it (see blog of May 17) but that western exposure must really please it! Okay, I have fed and watered faithfully, too.  Gorgeous now, isn't it?

 Seasonal chores

With the days growing shorter, it was time to do some canning. Yesterday, in muggy heat, we drove to our favorite farm market and loaded up on freestone peaches and the ingredients for my mother's amazing mustard pickles. The pickles are essential as I have only one jar left and find it almost impossible to eat roast beef without them!

This morning, with a lot of help from a dear husband (who happens to love home canned peaches), I prepared and canned nine pounds. Happily, there has been a sea change in the weather. We are getting a mix of sun and cloud with a delightful breeze coming off the ocean. Perfect day for canning.

The yield of 11 jars may be a bit slim. If time permits, we might pick up a second load in a day or two. Anyway, here they are, cooling for storage. Why on the washing machine, you might ask. Simple; it is a small house and I will need the kitchen counter space for dinner before these are ready to stow away. Laundy will have to wait. How sad :-)

Pretty peaches, all in a row

I confess I'm not a great housekeeper (why do you think I work so hard at being an artist?). I'm quite willing to let sleeping dust bunnies lie. Cooking is another matter altogether. And canning? Maybe it was the twenty years spent in a Victorian farm house that caused it but I really relish the sight of home-made marmalade, peaches and pickles on my pantry shelves. Also, they taste darned good at a fraction of the cost for store-bought. Win-win.

Work not forgotten

While the pickles steep in brine overnight, I am back at my bench. I have a custom order to fill for a pair of topaz-set pinky rings.

Here are the components; a package of pretty, palest-of-blues stones and two strips of sterling. Yes, I bought four stones. What if I drop one and can't find it? My supplier is miles and miles from here. Better safe than sorry.

I cut the strips of sterling silver yesterday. Will start smoothing the edges and polishing the surfaces tonight. I'll post the project as it progresses.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Let There Be LIGHT!

August 14

Young Aaron Greenaway from Super Skylights was here yesterday morning. When he left, the black hole that had been my office was glowing. It is hard to believe all that light comes from a small tube.

We are thrilled with the improvement. That is my jeweler's bench on the left. I will be seeing much better there now!

Last post, I mentioned the vegetable garden. The cherry tomatoes are beginning to ripen (that's one day's harvest in the photo below).

Then there's the zucchini crop. As you can see below, I missed finding a couple when they were a civilized size. They do such a fine job of hiding under those huge leaves until they are super-sized!

I am collectiong zucchini bread recipes for the giants. Also made some yummy zucchini latkes the other day and served them topped with herbed sour cream and smoked salmon (that's a real BC hors d'oeuvre, isn't it?).

The forcast is for some clouds and showers over the next few days so maybe I can spend less time in the garden and more making jewlery. I had a query about a possible custom order based on a piece in my etsy shop. If she decides to go ahead with it, I will be happy to sit at my newly-bright work bench to create her items.

As for the zucchini - a friend mentioned driving around and tossing them through open car windows in parking lots. Hope it won't come to that!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

LOVE books

August Long Weekend Project

Okay, I'd like to be making jewelry but we need to get our many, many books out of the house that will be turned over to new owners early in October. So, of course, IKEA to the rescue ;-)

Billy Bookcases

We ordered three of these Billy Bookcases (I often wonder how many of these they sell in a year!) and had them delivered yesterday.

IKEA has made some changes since we installed several in our previous home. Perhaps easier to assemble but I'm not thrilled with the folded backboards. There is a visible line where each of the sections joins. They are taped on the back. Wonder if that tape will hold for years to come.

Vegetable Update

The garden has gone really wild during this long spell of hot weather.  The lettuce bolted, of course, but the last of the romaine was great. We've had a couple of ripe grape tomatoes and there will be lots soon. Carrots are fairly abundant but we have not been overwhelmed by their flavor. Guess I planted the wrong variety! I'm still hoping to get some beets so now have an array of old CDs hanging directly above the row. I'm pretty sure the rabbits are feasting on the beets tops as soon as they are big enough to make a mouthful. Maybe all the moving, flashing things will keep them at bay. Why don't they go after the bolted lettuce?

Then there is the zucchini. I'm sure I need say no more than that.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Rainy Day Work

August 2

All those warm sunny days kept the yard work coming - grass, weeds, weeds, grass. Have harvested lots of lettuce (despite the resident bunnies), some volunteer spuds and the first few zuchinnis. All very yummy. Also rebuilt some decaying pathways so things look neater now.

What has been missing is time at my bench. Yesterday, however, turned grey and showery so I pulled together the pieces for that abalone and moonstone pendant. 

It was nice to see that the moonstone cab will fit the bezel setting perfectly. The next step with this will be to set the claws into the backing and solder the bezel setting (will pull stone for that). After that, there will be lots of polishing before I can set the stones. This is still going to require several hours of bench time.

Sources of Inspiration

Sometimes, an idea comes from the simplest source.  I had, sitting on my bench, two sterling discs punched out to lighten this and a previous abalone pendant. Also sitting off to one side were three circles of square sterling wire left over from a bracelet.

As I picked them up to put away, It occured to me that they would make an interesting pair of earrings. I got a couple of small jump rings from my stash and set them together on the sandbag.

Liking how this looked, I filed the jump rings on one side so I could solder them to the discs. I also hammered the discs to give them some texture.

The next step was soldering; the jump rings to the faces and a pair of ear posts to the backs.  As the photo shows, soldering leaves the metal grey and dull. The cure is a bath in a mild acid solution called pickle.

The earrings came out of the pickle looking silvery but still not shiny.

Below, I have inserted the wire hoops into the jump rings. To ensure the ear posts are strong enough, this pair will get a run in my tumbler to polish and work-harden the metal.

The final step will be to get a set of good photos and list them in my etsy shop <>

Expect to see them there soon ;-)

If the weather stays damp, I might get that pendant done soon, too!