Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Return to the Bench

A Long Story

Near the end of May, I hurt my back. Not sure if it was a struggle with a jammed window or too much garden work, but it left me in quite a bit of pain. Sadly, one thing I couldn't do was work at my bench. Instead, I spent close to five months seeing a physio and doing endless exercises. So not fun but finally pain free, I ventured back to work the other day.

Kind of a Back to Square One Deal

As you might expect, the first thingI had to do was start from scratch in a few ways. I tidied up the bench and sorted a bunch of stones and notes for projects. Next came the solder. Soldering rule 1: Solder must be clean.

Years ago, I stumbled upon the idea of using four sections of a plastic daily pill holder to store my tiny solder papillons — a term best explained on the International Gem Society's web site as follows:
Sheet solder is cut into “papillons,” which is a French word meaning little tiny pieces of metal that fly all over the place while you’re cutting them.
The container I have been using had become scratched over the years, making it hard to clean. Dirty storage = dirty papillons. So, off to the drugstore for a new pill container. This photo shows how I prepared it by cutting two days off one end and one day off the other (so it will sit level) and using a carpenter's file to smooth the cut edges. Lastly, I label each section for the different grades of solder: H for hard, M for medium, E for easy and SE for super easy.

Let the Cleaning Begin

Over the years, I have tried various ways of cleaning the sheets of solder before cutting the papillons (it is obviously impossible to clean them after cutting). The absolute best — learned from a fellow member of the Creative Jewellers Guild of BC — is a good scrub with Bar Keepers Friend and a plastic scrubby.

Yes, dear auto correct, I know you think I should spell it jewelers, but the guild is in Canada and that's the Canadian spelling.

Tuesday, Get Solder Ready; Wednesday Get Back to Work

Above: the cleaner and scrubby sit atop a dark piece of leather with the tools to make papillons. I keep each sheet in a different, labelled, plastic box. The very sharp cutters nip the tiny pieces which I catch on the leather (so I can see them). The scoop and tweezer tool lets me pick them up and drop them into the containers. All set to get back to work.