Friday, 12 February 2016

More Organic Casting

That Cedar Sprig

Long ago (October 20), I blogged about silver casting some organic material to create a couple of entries for the 2016 BC Gem Show <>. More recently, I turned one of the items from that workshop into a hair stick. That was relatively easy. Creating a piece with the silver cedar sprig, not so much.

The Plan — and the Problems

My plan was to make it into a brooch titled (apologies to David Guterson) Snow Falling on Cedars. Fabulous book by the way. I just re-read it recently.

Exhibit 1 — The Parts

It seemed an easy enough thing to do: just create some 3 mm tube settings, solder them randomly on the sprig and mount cubic zirconia stones in them to sparkle as snowflakes do. Here is the sprig (unpolished) and a box of faceted CZ stones.

Exhibit 2 — Getting Ready

Here are the components on my bench: the cast sprig, the neatly placed tube settings, the brooch findings, several grades of solder, a sanding stick and some gel flux.

There was quite a bit of prep work on this. One rule for soldering silver is that the pieces must meet evenly. Flattening the bottom of the tiny tube settings was easy — just sand them. Leveling the spots where I wanted to place them was a real challenge. The casting very faithfully reproduced the texture of the cedar so the entire surface of the piece is very rough. I worked with a flat bur and some small files to try to create seats for the settings.

It All Looked Fine

I managed to solder five settings onto the sprig (photo) and then needed to add the pin and catch on the back of the piece (after filing away several silver spikes to make it wearable art. If you think real cedar is a bit rough, try it as metal!). Here, to keep the solder on the settings trapped while soldering on the back side, I have painted the joints with yellow ochre. Solder will not flow on a dirty surface.

Uh—oh, This Was Not in the Plan

When I soldered the pin findings onto the back of the piece, one of the tube settings popped off. I tried in vain to re-solder it but the darned thing was cursed. Actually, the spot I wanted to place it was just too hard to get at for proper leveling. Eventually, to avoid damaging the whole piece, I just gave up. Nothing wrong with four snowflakes instead of five, right?

So, Snow Falling on Cedars is now complete and tucked away to wait for its debut at the Gem Show.