Friday, 26 December 2014

Year End

2014 Wrap Up 

Well, where did that year go? I feel as if we hopped straight from our amazing long summer into Christmas. Maybe all that sunshine addled my brain?

As we come to the end of another year, I notice that I only finished one of my two most recent projects. I will blame it on a ton of holiday baking — and on the need to shut off heat to my shop so it would get cold enough to store Christmas pudding and Gingered Truffles. I do not work well at 40°F.

Here is what I've been up to (when not in the kitchen).

A Pretty Pair of Stones

I purchased these stones some time ago (probably when on a mission to my supplier to get something I actually needed) but I never got around to setting them. The one on the left is a Plume Agate and is really stunning. I have sketched up many ideas for how to use it but none seemed quite right. The second stone is Polish Flint. If you follow my work, you likely know my weakness for these beautifully striated stones.

Early in December, I set about designing settings for these two. It took a bit of doodling because I wanted both stones to really shine.

Settings Begun

The Polish Flint will (the god or goddess of artisan jewelers willing) become a lapel pin in an angular shape to contrast with the smooth oval of the stone.

For the Plume Agate, I finally decided to make a pendant from reticulated sterling. As you can see, the stone is nearly free of inclusions at one end and heavily mottled at the other. I persuaded the reticulation to echo that by working the molten metal heavily at what will be the bottom of the pendant and only lightly at the top.

See It Taking Shape

I wanted to keep the setting simple because I feel it would be sad to detract from the beauty of this stone. Once the reticulation was done to my satisfaction, I opened up the area under the stone and cut five tabs to become claws that hold the agate. The open area serves to allow light to shine through the stone and show off the fascinating mineral inclusions that give it it's character.  I also added a very simple square wire loop bail.

Finished Pendant 

Here is the finished project. I am pretty happy with it. I plan on taking a short break until after New Years, then I will wait for a day with good enough light to take photos for my etsy shop listing. I just hope someone will see this and love that stone as much as I do.

Looks like the Polish Flint will have to wait its turn ;-)

Hope to see you all in 2015 

— Dix

Friday, 5 December 2014

From the Wax

Comes the Silver

I promised a followup on the lost wax casting. When last seen (Nov. 24), my three wax models were all on sprues, ready to invest.

I didn't take any photos of the invested metal flask because there really is nothing to see — just a length of pipe filled to the brim with plaster. That investment material needs time to set. As little as a couple of hours will do but for the class, we left them for a week.

Fire It Up

On November 30, things got more interesting — way more interesting.

Here, one of the class is melting silver pieces in a crucible. This is being done for a hand pour into a bucket of water. If done just right, it can produce some quite interesting small silver blobs. A few resembled elf hats and lots were like miniature bowls. I'm afraid I poured mine too fast and the blobs were, well, just blobs.

While our flasks finished the wax burn out in the kilns, we undertook this exercise for practice in melting silver (and probably to remind us how intensely hot things get during this process)!

To see the real drama of casting, with a flask and crucible whirling in the centrifugal casting arm, visit the Creative Jewellers Guild Instagram site:

Fishing for Silver

Once the silver has been flung into the cavity left from the wax burn out, the flask is removed (with tongs and great caution) from the casting arm and plunged into a bucket of water. It bubbles and hisses — duh — for a few moments as the hot investment starts to dissolve and fall out of the flask. Pretty soon, the water is warm and very muddy. Somewhere in that mess — hopefully — you will find your silver castings. Fish for them, take a toothbrush, remove the last of the investment and admire your work.


Okay, things do not always go as per plan. The bottom of my ring shank blew out during the cast. This is not a total disaster because the part that would be hard to fabricate is that pair of arms to hold my silver bead. I can cut away some of the damaged shank and manufacture a ring to mount it on.


The other bits fared better.

Above is the wee tiki I carved. As you can see, there is a lot of polishing to be done but the item is there.


All shiny and sitting on my Kindle reader.

I'm pretty happy wit this little guy. It was fun and I plan to find a way to do more casting in the near future. Certainly the only way I could have made this item.