Making a Stamped PendantRecently, someone asked if I could make a pendant that required a fairly large bail. It was to be stamped with a name. I submitted three designs and the client selected a square wire bar, topped with a tapered 6 mm diameter bail.
I was waiting eagerly for this shipment.
A Very Special Piece of Wire
The photo on the right gives you an idea of the scale. Lovely bit of wire but just over twice as long as needed. I always hedge my bets — if something goes seriously awry, I want to have enough material on hand to start over.
The Plan — Plus a Super Tool
This photo shows the sketches, the piece of square wire, a marker pen and the amazing tool that helps me cut a piece of wire with a nice, clean square end. Before I bought it, a job like this involved putting the wire in a vise and cutting it freehand (trying VERY hard to keep the cut square). I almost always ended up having to file the end to square it up. This little jig makes it easy. PS - I have used a blue ink smear throughout this blog to conceal the identity of the recipient.
Right: this photo shows the wire in the jig. I have adjusted the jig for the length needed (pretty close to maximum for this jig). Near the left side of the photo, you can see the thin slot that the saw blade rides in to make the cut.
It's a really, really great tool.
The Pieces Take Shape
In this photo, you can see the square wire bar, cut to length, and the bail beginning to take shape. I cut a length of sterling sheet to the right width and length, then filed the ends to give it a taper. Next, I used those shaping pliers to begin rounding the bail. Eventually, I had to hammer it around a steel mandrel of the correct diameter until I had a circle. That was soldered to the bar.
Pattern For Stamping a Name
In this photo, I am using three pieces of painter's tape to anchor the bar to the top of my jeweler's anvil. I have also used a marker pen to help me position the letter stamps to set the name in a vertical column. Also in the photo, a piece of graph paper (I used it to set positions for the marks to align the letters), also one of the letter stamps and the brass headed hammer I use to drive the stamps. It sounds pretty easy but getting those letters aligned — up and down plus side to side — before stamping is pretty fussy work.
Getting There— But Keeping The Secret
Stamping letters into sterling sounds very simple: steel letter stamps, brass hammer —bingo! In truth, it's nerve wracking. Holding the letter punch straight and aligned is a challenge. I never do it without fearing I may miss the mark (literally) and have to begin again. SO happy when it works.
The (Obscured) Final Result
Final photo: the pendant with the named stamped in (but blanked out here).
Since this photo was taken, I have done most of the polishing. Five grades of sandpaper, followed by five — even finer — grades of polishing wheels. After this photo was taken I used a chemical to blacken the letters and then re-polished the piece. Tonight, while watching television, I will use my silver polishing cloths and rub, and rub, and rub, until it totally gleams. Then, I will package it safely and send it on its way.
Custom Work Welcome
If you crave something you cannot find in a store, send me a note. Maybe I can design and create the exact thing for you.