Tuesday, 29 March 2016

March 29

Another Spinning Bead Ring

Back on December 3, I posted an account of making a sterling ring with a bead that free wheels on a spindle. I liked the concept and tucked it away in the back of my mind to play with later. Later is now.

Plan A

My original idea was to hand make a silver bead and mount it in a ring. Here is the bead, created from two circles. I domed each with a steel punch then soldered them together. As you can see, the finished bead measures about 1/2 inch across. At first glance, it seems small enough.

Accuracy Counts

The next step was to make a ring by cutting a strip of sterling, giving it a hammered finish, soldering it closed, and rounding it on a steel mandrel. The calipers take very accurate measurements to mark how much to cut out of the finished ring to make room to mount posts to hold the bead. So far, so good.

Plan B

So, if you put the bits together and do not like the result, it's time to adapt. I cut the ring open and looked at the bead and ring together. I quickly realized that, unless it was to be a ring for a giant, it would be way out of proportion. That bead is just too big.

I have some commercially made tiny silver beads on hand (as used in the previous ring), so I took one of those, created a spindle to hold it above the ring (so it clears the finger when worn), and mounted that on my ring. Below is a photo of the final product. The bead slides back and forth and also rotates on the silver wire spindle. It's the ideal ring for someone who likes to fidget!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Bench Report

Another New Design

I have finally been able to get to the bench for a couple of afternoons. I'm trying to get a bunch of designs out of my head and into production before the sun comes out and the garden demands my attention.

One sketch I had on hand was for a freeform, wonky, openwork diamond shape — one could dub it a "Drunken Diamond" — to be set with a small amethyst.

Bless the Press

In this photo, I have cut the shape from sterling silver sheet and am using my new drill press to create holes above and below the spot for the stone so I can insert the saw blade and cut the openings. Those holes used to be such a pain to drill with my rotary tool. Even with a punched mark to start on, I was always afraid the hand held drill would skid across the face of the piece. Yikes.

Checking Stone Fit and Placement

This next photo shows the wee amethyst, held on the tip of an orange wood stick with a bit of Fun-Tak. Once again, not traditional jeweler's tools, but very effective. Before soldering the tube setting in place, it is good practice to assemble things and be sure you like how they look. As you know if you read my last post, I did alter the stone placements for the Amazonite earrings at this stage.

Every Pendant Needs a Bail

There are many solutions to the bail question. Sometimes, it is desirable to make it a visible design element as I have done with a number of pendants in my etsy shop <www.etsy.com/shop/DixSterling>

In this case, I chose to create a hidden bail from a short section of sterling tube. Before soldering it to the back of the piece (photo left), I slightly flattened it to improve the way the jewel will hang from a chain (or leather thong). Those very dirty nickels under the piece keep it level, compensating for the depth of the tube setting on the front as I press the bail onto the piece while soldering.

Final Fit Check

Before actually setting a stone, I always double check that it will still drop properly into the setting. If the setting is too high, closing it over the stone will hide much of the gem. That is especially nasty when using a small stone like this 3 mm amethyst. At this stage, you can sand the top of the setting until it just protrudes above the stone (which I had to do here). On the other hand, if the setting is not quite deep enough, you may be able to very carefully use the setting bur to make the setting a touch deeper. If so, it is essential to use a very light pressure so as to avoid twisting the setting!

Ready, SET, Go

And here is the setting process. No need to describe that again. 
This piece has joined the rest in my esty shop.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

New Toy, New Project

The Search for the Perfect Hole

Being able to drill an accurately placed hole is an essential facet of jewelry making. Sometimes that hole will be visible (when used to attach a shepherd hook, for example) and sometimes not (when creating the initial opening for your saw to create cutouts in a piece). Either way, you do not want the drill bit to slip, making your round hole into an oval, or slide across the piece, creating ugly scratches that must be sanded out. Achieving such accuracy is tricky with a hand held drill but it's a cinch with a – Ta-Da – drill press.

New Toy

No more wonky holes for DixSterling. Of course, once I had it, I had to test it out on some jewelry.

New Project
Wandering through various rock and gem shows, I inevitably pick up a stone (or several). Frequently, I find a nice matched pair for some earrings.

In my current stash were a pair of Amazonite cabochons (oddly, although found in Brazil these do not occur in the Amazon Basin). I decided to mount them in triangular dangles with cutout centers. A perfect drill press project! In this photo, I have made the cutout and am rounding up the bezel for the stone.

A Slight Adjustment

If you are an observant type, you will instantly spot the change I made to the design.

Right. When I placed the stone on the back plate as first designed, I did not like the way it filled so much of the opening. Happily, this was a design flaw that was easy to fix. I simply cut away the original mounting circle, created full bezel cups for the stones, and mounted them lower on the dangles. In this photo, I am using dental floss to pull the stone out after a test fitting. I hope you also noticed the very precise hole for a shepherd hook at the top of the piece.

Getting Set

How would I manage without painters' tape? While a scrap of leather protects the back of the piece from any rough spots on the bench pin which could cause scratches, the tape protects the face from the steel burnisher. Stone setting made (almost) fool proof.

Ready for Their Closeup

From the design to the finished earrings, a creative process made that little bit easier with the addition of a drill press. Aren't tools great?

Tomorrow, these will make their debut in my shop <www.etsy.com/shop/DixSterling>

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

March 1

A Second Stick

Back on January 23, I blogged about using a cast sterling flower to decorate a hair stick. When I decided on that project, I ordered a package of several handcrafted wooden sticks from an etsy seller. My Scottish ancestry would never tolerate letting the extras go to waste, so I will be coming up with several hair stick designs in the near future. Here is the process of making one.

Making Bezel Mount for Quartz

I had a 10mm dusky brown quartz cabochon in my stone stash and thought it would compliment the brown wooden stick very nicely. All I needed was a mounting system.

In this photo, I have just finished soldering a bezel cup to a post that will plug into a hole in the top of the stick. It is still held in the soldering tweezers (and too hot to touch).

Getting here took several steps. I had to shape, solder and sand a wide bezel strip. Then I cut a base plate, slightly larger than the bezel, and soldered them together. I also had to file and sand away any excess base plate.

It's All About Fit

Of course, the bezel was sized by wrapping a strip of fine (pure) silver around the stone and cutting it to length. Fit was checked again after soldering (at which point, it is quite easy to stretch it a bit and also possible to cut out a bit and re-solder it shut to make it smaller). Here, as you can see, the fit is just fine, the excess base plate has been removed, and I am about to use that burnisher to force the top bit of bezel silver over the edge of the stone. The mounting post is sitting in a hole in my bench pin (very handy for stability at this stage).

Gild That Lily With a Sterling Collar

When I got the stone set atop the stick, I decided it required something more so I created a fine silver collar to mount below the top of the piece. This is not a great photo but it does show the finished item. I think that collar is just right. Now, if our grey skies will brighten soon, I can photograph this for my etsy shop.