Monday, 23 October 2017

Colors of Fall, Part 2

Turning Cooked Copper into Autumn Leaf Earrings

In this post, I will finish making that pair of earrings.

This is Not What's For Dinner Tonight

First, I am posting a photo of the pot in which I cook copper sheet to create those lovely colors. It sure doesn't look very appetizing and, having cooked up quite a few copper projects, it doesn't smell all that great, either. A touch of Eau de Old Campfire.

What is does do is produce wonderful shades of red, green and gold on super clear pieces of copper. If this is something you are anxious to try, load the pot with the most resinous plant material you can get your hands on. The resins make the colors.

Bending the Metal For Strength

I do not want these long dangles to bend across their width while someone is putting them on or taking them off. Of course no jewelry item will last long if you step on it or mash it under the door to the bathroom (my grandmother did that to an amethyst earring once).

To add some stability to these leaves, I positioned each one along its center, lengthwise, in my bench vise and gently hammered a vertical bend. This vise has a pair of removable rubber jaw covers. It is a super useful tool and let's me manipulate metal without marring the surface. Of course, if I was really smart, I would have forged the bend before I cooked the copper but, you know....

If I was really smart, I probably wouldn't have cut my finger with my saw today, either.

Another Terrific Tool

For years, I struggled to drill holes with precision. I had a Dremel tool which would accept the tiny bits I use but trying to hold it steady enough to drill a hole exactly where I wanted it was a challenge. To be honest, I had to scrap and replace more than one item when my hand slipped. ARGH.

A couple of years ago, I finally treated myself to the drill press version of the Dremel. It has made life much easier. Here, I am preparing to drill one of the leaves to accept the shepherd hook. Quick note: I keep an old drill bit somewhat larger than any I use for drilling on my bench. Somewhere I learned the trick of hand twisting it a few turns to ream out the rough edges of freshly drilled holes. Way quicker than trying to smooth with a tiny round file.

One Finished, One to Go

When this one was finished, I hung it on the vise while I added the shepherd hook to its mate. Both are now in my ArtYah shop: SterlingByDix.

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Colors of Fall

Copper Earrings Underway

I have started working on some autumn inspired earrings, shaped like willow leaves and glowing with fall colors. Today, I am posting the first steps here.

Making a Pattern

I want to make more than one pair of these, incorporating some variations and experimenting with the coloring process. I could just hand draw the leaf shapes each time but decided it would simplify things if I created patterns. In this photo, you see one sketched pattern, partly cut out. I plan to make these forms in two sizes. The larger one is just about two inches long.

Material for Patterns

To be sure the pattern pieces will be durable, I cut them from 18 gauge nickel silver (also known as German silver). It is pretty cheap ;-) so I don't feel bad using it!

Here, I am cutting the second, smaller version. It only looks about the same size because it is closer to the camera.

Time to Trace

Here are the two patterns on my copper sheet. I decided to try 24 gauge for the first run because I want to keep these as light as possible (they are rather large!). At least, now that I have the patterns, I can try as many as I like on various grades of both silver and copper sheet.

I must say, cutting this 24 gauge was a whole lot less work than that 18 gauge nickel silver!

Cleanliness Counts!

I cut out two of the larger leaf forms, then took them into the house for a good scrubbing at the laundry sink. The process of coloring will not work if the metal is not super clean. I use a plastic scrubby pad and an abrasive household cleaner and clean until water sheets on the metal.

Once the cleaning is done, you have to remember to handle the pieces by the edges so you d not get any oils from your hands on the surfaces.

What You Don't See

I did not take photos of the coloring process itself because it requires a kind of a hairy juggling act involving 1) a pot full of dried pine needles and cedar bits, 2) the pieces you want to color held in jewelers' pliers, and 3) a flaming torch. Basically, you put the torch flame to your metal until it is red hot. At that point, you drop the piece (pieces in this case) into the pot and put the lid on ASAP. Wait a few minutes before peeking to let the reaction happen and, voila, colored copper.

These have been treated with a thin coat of archival wax to preserve the colors. The are pretty pliable, so I will try forging a central vertical bend to stabilize them. Obviously, I also need to drill holes to add copper ear wires.

Come back soon. I will be posting more on this project.