Wednesday, 14 November 2018

November at the Bench

Another Pair of Chopstick Earrings

Back in September, I posted about making a pair of sapphire "chopstick" dangles for our daughter's birthday gift.

I really like the design, so I made this pair — sans stones. Now in my etsy shop, they are pretty cute, too.

Measuring for Next Pair

With the holiday party season ahead, I thought I should make another pair, and add some glitter. Here is a look at the process.

The dangles are made from 16 gauge square sterling silver wire. My calipers let me measure four lengths of wire to make two earrings.  Each pair has one wire slightly longer than the other. I like the asymmetrical look.

My previous post shows the wire and tube cutter I use to prep the pieces, so I'll skip that here.

Adding Some Holiday Sparkle

This photo shows my rotary tool with a 3mm stone setting burr along side my sparkle — 3 mm cubic zirconia stones. They are not diamonds, but they offer a pretty good sparkle! The tiny box also holds the tubes I use to set the stones into the earrings.

This design is a bit demanding. As you can see, the parts are all quite delicate. Setting big stones is, for sure, much easier on the nerves.

In this photo, the ring the piece will hang from has been soldered to the top. I placed the tube between the legs and used a felt tip marker to guide me  when I position it on the soldering block. Yes, the stone is there, but not set (I just wanted to admire the effect!). Stone setting happens after all soldering is done.

Almost Ready to Party the Night Away

I still have to finish the second one and polish the pair but you get the idea. The sun came out this morning, so I took some photos and will be able to post these at DixSterling soon.

Friday, 9 November 2018

How to Spin

Creating a Spinner Ring

Spinner rings have become very popular in recent years. I am not sure why it took me so long to get around to making one but when I did, I really enjoyed the process.

Ring One - The Base

To make a spinner ring I created two sterling rings — one wider than the other. One also a touch bigger than the other. The first, the base, measures 3/8 inch wide. I sized it to 7 1/2 (US ring size). Because the spinner covers part of it, I did a pretty thorough polishing job before I assembled them.

Ring Two - the Spinner

The second ring was cut from another, thinner, piece of sterling sheet. I made it just over 1/8 inch wide and cut the length a touch longer than I would need for size 7 1/2. I textured this one  with my riveting hammer to give it a sparkle.

Need a Perfect Fit

Fit is what makes these work. I rounded and sized that spinner on my steel ring mandrel until it would slip over the base ring. If it were too tight, it wouldn't spin; if too loose, it would be very difficult to flare the edges of the base ring enough to hold it it place.

I didn't take photos of the process of hammering the ring atop a steel ball — hands were busy ;-) The process very much like using rivets. You flare one edge first and, when the spinner can no longer slip over that, place the spinner and flare the opposite edge. It's a great project for when you feel like pounding on something. Lots of hammer work to round up the rings, texture the spinner, and flare both sides!

Ready Set, Spin

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

At the Bench

A Few Essential Tools

I have been outdoors a lot, enjoying our extended summer. It is a rare treat in this part of the world to have 15 dry, sunny days in October. The colors are almost as good as folks in the east enjoy every year. It's not that none of our trees turn gold and red, it's that we can't usually see them for the rain or fog. :-(

Of course, the extended summer also meant extended gardening but I will not complain. I was, however, happy to get to my bench today. Newest project not ready to share yet, but I will share a view of some of my favorite tools.

Darlin' Dremel

I have a super sturdy work bench to the left of my main bench. I use it for heavy tasks like punching out circles, doming, or stamping words into pieces. It is also home to a Dremel on its stand. Most of the time, I have the Dremel set up for drilling pieces but it also works brilliantly as a polishing station. Here it is, equipped with a cotton buffing wheel charged with rouge. Note the plastic over the stand base. Polishing is a very  messy activity and I don't much fancy having to get bits of cotton and rouge out from under the stand.

I also have a Grobet rotary tool (only seriously successful jewelers have a Fordom!) that I use for many processes including polishing but, when a number of pieces need polishing at once, this setup is more efficient.

I'm Packing Heat

No, not that kind of heat. This kind of heat.

I am forever promising myself a Smith Little Torch, but this setup has served me well. Maybe when we win that lottery... 

My husband mounted a piece of plumbing pipe on a plywood square and notched the square to fit onto the leg of my jeweler's bench so the disposable propane tanks are totally stable. I screwed a simple, large household hook into the vertical frame of my storage cabinet/soldering station to safely store the torch when it is hot. Might not be fancy, but it works.

Pinch Me

Not really, although I have pinched myself with my pliers a few times. 

This is only part of my collection — a girl can never have too many pliers. Many Christmases ago, my husband built that rack to hold the most often used ones right atop my bench so they are easy to grab as needed. What a thoughtful gift.

In the bench drawers, I keep some of the more specialized ones. Like I said, a girl can never have too many pliers!

Other Essentials

Here are a few more tools a jeweler must have.

One of the first tools I bought was that saw. I use it every time I start a project.

Next to it, my Grobet rotary tool, used for everything from drilling holes to cutting seats for gemstones.

Next up, one of several hammers that live either on the bench at my right hand, or in the top drawer, also at my right  hand.

Next, a steel burnisher — used, oddly enough, for burnishing metal.

Finally, the small flashlight. Utterly essential when something leaves the bench and hits the floor!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Just 4 Fun

Fun to Make & Fun to Wear

Several months ago, I acquired a fistful of charming square beads. They have been languishing (any crafter knows how that goes) while I dealt with other projects. One of those projects called for some silk cord. I already knew of a great supplier on etsy <> so got a hank of beautiful hand dyed cords in shades of blue-grey to make this necklace:

Yesterday's Project

I still had quite a few of the cords and decided a couple could be combined with the square beads for a different — and fun — project. The way the beads and cords fit together was the real source of the idea.

This shows the pieces — and tools — I needed. I worked at my desk for this as there was neither soldering nor sawing involved.

The wire is 18 gauge sterling (although those charming beads are not sterling). I used a couple of pairs of pliers and some wire cutters.

In the photo, I have already threaded a bunch of beads on each cord. No scientific formulas — I just threaded them on until I liked the look.

Attaching the Clasp

Here (shown on my black pant leg) is the beginning of wrapping  the ends of the cords with wire.

Once the wrap was secure, I threaded that bead cap onto the wire.

Above photo shows the loop completed on one end of the necklace. Below: the finished hook and loop clasp.

And, the finished necklace.

The fun feature is that you can slide the beads into any arrangement that suits your fancy. The fit between cord and bead is just tight enough that the beads stay put. If, over time, they want to cluster at the bottom, you can just arrange them again.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Start for September

New Earring Design

Every birthday and Christmas, our daughter's gifts include a new piece of Dix jewelry (whether she wants it or not!). For her birthday, I usually try  to incorporate a sapphire or two. This year, I came up with a design for a pair of dangle earrings and, to be sure I would like the finished product, I made a pair without sapphires. Follow along here:

Wire Cutting 101

My design requires two 16 gauge square sterling wires, cut to length, per earring. Before I bought this handy wire/tube cutter, the process was a touch painful. Holding the material steady on the bench pin while cutting is hard on the left hand as the wire just wants to move around. I used to get hand cramps if I had to make several cuts. This rig makes it easy to cut as many pieces as you want and all to exactly the same length. Love it. This photo shows one length of the square wire set for cutting.

 Perfect Cut Every Time

In this photo, I have just finished cutting the (much shorter) length of 3.5 mm sterling tube. I tipped the cut piece up in the jig to show the neatly cut end.

The second photo shows the cutting jig to better advantage. It has a detachable handle so, for one quick cut, you can just steady it in your bench pin as shown here. Left hand holds the handle under the pin with thumb pressing on the lever that holds the metal down in the jig. If I need to make several cuts, I unscrew the handle and clamp the squared off bottom of the jig in the vise as in the first picture.

Prepping the Tube

Here is the 3.5 mm tubing set in my bench vise. In the background you can see my magnifying visor and a respirator — needed because that 3.1 mm cutting burr between them throws a lot of silver dust. Nobody's eyes or lungs need that stuff.

The vise is another wonderful bench tool. This one came with rubber jaw covers (not in use here) that can protect your metal when you are sawing or filing and the metal might move a bit. It also has notches that are holding that piece of tubing so  I can drive the burr in to enlarge the hole until the tiny sapphire cabochons will slip into place deeply enough for setting.

Parts Coming Together

In this photo, I have assembled the pieces of one of the test earrings on a fire proof soldering block.

Keeping everything aligned under the torch was vital. The two side pieces are balanced atop a tiny jump ring at the top so I can hang the earring from a shepherd hook. The sterling silver dot — a short length of round wire — sits between the square wires. A couple of dirty old T pins — one on each side — hold everything in place. You can tell they have been used a lot. In the picture, I am using a pair of heat proof tweezers to pull out the very hot pins after soldering.

A+ on the Test Pair

Here is the test pair finished and polished.

I was completely satisfied with the result so assembled the other pair, with the sapphires in place of the silver dots, as the "birthday gift from Mom 2018".

Below: the gift version, ready for me to set the cabochons.

PS — She has them now. And she likes them ;-)

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Copper — for a Start

How to Fit a Ring — Long Distance

Someone in England has asked if I could custom make a ring. Of course I could but being sure it will fit is the issue. The first step was to find a North American size to match the British and Australian so I would be able to size it on my ring mandrel. Years ago, that might have been tricky but the internet changed everything. I found a chart that gave me a target size. Great, but I wouldn't want to just trust a chart, make the ring, then find out it didn't fit. The cost and hassle of shipping it back and forth for adjustment would be unacceptable.

Copper to the Rescue

Here is my solution — a quickly assembled, made from scrap, copper ring. Nothing fancy but I can mail this to her and she can tell me if I would need need to make the real thing a bit larger or smaller.

Here it is being hammered to make  it round (and adjust size a bit) on my steel mandrel. Like I said, not fancy.

Ring in the Rough

Well, I did sand it enough that it won't be painful to try it on!

Monday, 13 August 2018

A Ring Story

More Bench Work

Back on April 20, I posted the story of making a ring from the client's inherited gem stones. I liked the overlap design so much that I made another and set it with one aquamarine. That sold as soon as I listed it. Still drawn to the possibilities of that style of shank, I decided to try another version. Here is how that went.

The first photos (also shown in April) outline the basics of creating the shank.

 I copied the pattern (for once, I had the sense to actually make a pattern and keep a copy). That made cutting the shank easy.

Sure glad I bought that pair of shaping pliers.

The tricky bit is getting the shank to round up on the mandrel — an easy chore when the ring is soldered shut but hard to do when the ends are loose. It took quite a bit of time.

Pretty Ballsy ;-)

When you create jump rings, there are always short bits of wire left from trimming the ends as you take the wound wire off the mandrel. I gather those up, set them on a charcoal block and melt them.

The clips quickly form into tiny silver balls which  I keep on hand to embellish pieces. Because the wire ends are not all the same length, the balls vary in size.

For this ring, I wanted to line up three balls along the edge of the overlap so I secured the ring close to my bench pin and used tweezers to select balls from my storage box and drop them into the round container in the foreground. Once I had three the same size, I was ready to place them.

Place, Solder and Polish. . . 

. . . AND Polish — a Lot 

I wonder if I have exhausted all the possibilities this design has to offer. I guess time will tell.

This ring will be coming to my DixSterling etsy shop soon. It might even be included in etsy's Labor Day sale, so keep checking ;-)

Life is Not Only About Jewelry

For the moment, I have to run. A bunch of peaches on the dining room table are ready for canning!

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Mid Summer Sale

Great Deal on Several Items at DixSterling

Sales on etsy get pretty slow in the summer so I am offering free shipping on several one-of-a-kind items in my shop <>

Take a look. Maybe something you had your eye on is included. If not, drop me a note and I might extend the free shipping option to you, too.

Friday, 15 June 2018

If Not etsy, Maybe ArtYah

Trials of Selling Online

I started selling at in March of 2009 and was thrilled when I made my first sale, shipping this brooch off to a buyer in the eastern USA. I guess she liked it. This was bought as a gift but she ordered a similar piece for herself soon after.

Demanding a Different Skill Set

While that got the ball rolling, sales came slowly for the first couple of years. As I was still "working for a living", I didn't spend a great deal of time on my etsy shop <> but I did prowl around enough to realize that I needed to brush up on photography, learn a bit about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and give a lot more thought to writing titles, tags, and descriptions. It paid off. By 2012-13, I was selling two to three items per month. Clearly that was not going to pay for a trip to the famous Tucson Gem & Jewelry Show, but it did cover my material costs so I could keep playing.

"The Times They Are A'changing"

As things turned out, 2012-13 was pretty much my peak with etsy. There were lots of changes on etsy and they seemed to render some shops invisible.  As you might expect, a lot of etsy sellers got frustrated and went seeking a new online site to sell through. In time, we found (crest below) and I opened SterlingByDix there <>

At the moment, ArtYah is small. It is more like shopping at your corner store instead of a big box store but, unlike the big boxes, this small store offers only genuine handmade or vintage items plus craft supplies.

If you like to buy from people who thread their own needles, wind their own wool, clean their own paint brushes and hammer their own silver, check it out.

#ArtYah #Home4Handmade

Thursday, 31 May 2018

End of May

My Sterling Rain Chains

A few weeks ago, I created a pair of copper rain chain dangle earrings as a prototype. I have been wearing them quite a bit recently and decided they are enough fun that I should make a pair in sterling silver. Yesterday, I deserted the vegetable garden and sat down at my bench.

Take 2: Doing It Right This Time

When I made the copper prototype, I punched out the tiny discs first, then drilled them. Difficult to say the least.

What follows is a better planned way to create these fun for summer earrings. First, I drew the ten circles I need on 28 gauge sterling sheet. I used a felt pen for that and to mark near the center of each circle. The center marks are not exact because I like the way they do not hang perfectly straight. In this photo, I am using my Dremel drill press (great tool) to quickly drill all ten center holes. Compared to holding each tiny circle with pliers to drill, this was a snap!

Next Steps: Punching . . .

Have I mentioned that I love good tools? With so many jewelry tasks, there are various ways to do the job. Long ago, I cut out discs by hand. A good way to practice sawing, but awfully slow. As for trying to hand cut ten one centimeter circles, it's a sure way to go crazy! With my disc cutter and a brass hammer, it took only a few moments and my sanity is intact.

. . .  and Dapping

Once I had all the predrilled circles on the bench, I used
a steel doming block and punch to shape each one into a half sphere.

This is another of the super useful tools my husband gave me some years ago. He drilled a piece of handrail wood to hold each of the steel dapping punches, too, so they are easy to pick out. As with the disc cutter, I use a brass hammer for striking because I don't want to damage these terrific tools.

Making Links

Obviously, if it's a chain, it has links. To link the discs up, I used two centimeter lengths of sterling wire. I went with 18 gauge this time, as it was the finest in my stash. Bending it into loops proved a bit of a chore so, for future earrings, I will order some 22 gauge round wire.

Mini-assembly line: I measured and pencil marked two centimeters from the edge of my bench pin to speed cutting.

And Assembling the Dangles

Suddenly, my bench was cluttered with tools: mini anvil, wire cutters and several pliers. It takes quite an array to thread these beauties together!

Ready to Polish, Photograph and List in My Shop

I think these flashy shoulder dusters will look fabulous swinging above pretty summer dresses. Only decision I have left is whether to list these with DixSterling on etsy or with SterlingByDix on ArtYah.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Garden Walk

My Bench is Lonely Because...

Well, because it's May and the garden rules. We are getting seriously summery weather after a very, very soggy April and the sun has been luring me outdoors. You know how that goes, right? You decide to take your coffee outside and bask in the sunshine. You barely sit down when you start seeing all the "must dos". Lawn needs cutting. Hedge needs trimming. Planter needs planting. Okay, I get it. Time to get to work.

Two Successes to Report

We have made progress over the past couple of weeks. Lawn has been cut (three times already). Hedge has had first light trimming. Planter and window box have been planted. Hanging baskets purchased and installed. Fountain removed from shop and set in its place. Oh, oh, it seems the pump housing has cracked. Off to hardware store for new pump. Install same. It's too powerful, water splashing everywhere. Fountain empties swiftly. Remove that pump. Off to different hardware store for different pump. 

Success 1: Pump Problem Solved

We bought this delightful pottery fountain as an anniversary gift to ourselves a few years ago. About the time we moved off the river, various aspects of getting older also convinced us that it was time to retire our motor home and give up camping. We sure miss setting up camp beside B.C.'s many chuckling, gurgling creeks. At least this pretty fountain provides that cheerful, restful sound of splashing water. The fact that it lives in a sheltered nook near our bedroom window makes very welcome on hot summer nights. 

Success 2: Labor Saving Device Installed

Every spring, I buy a pair of lovely hanging baskets from a local nursery. I really enjoy the color they bring to the edge of our carport.  They also create a fair bit of privacy to the seating area on our raised porch. Win-win.

Lose-lose is the struggle to drag a heavy hose about 25 feet across patio and carport to water the baskets each morning. This year, we finally bit the bullet and bought all the materials needed to run a drip watering system to feed the baskets. Wouldn't you know it: the first hardware store had everything we needed except the 1/2 inch tubing and the faucet connector. Once again, we had a two-store project! Then installing it became a two-day project. Never mind, now that it's done, the only labor required will be dragging out a ladder to get up there and fertilize them every few weeks. A small price to pay.

Also One Failure

Our current home has a raised bed vegetable garden. For the first few years, I kind of enjoyed it. Late last summer, I got lazy and it began to run wild. As winter moved in, I quit thinking about it. Weeds took root. Then we got hit with a super soggy March and April. There was no hope of any digging out there. By the time the weather warmed up, the weeds were flourishing. I have launched into the clean up but fear it may be fall before I am ready to plant anything. Just look at that mess!


Friday, 27 April 2018

Cooking Copper

My Not So Secret Recipe

If you want to have a go at this process, you will need:

• a piece of copper jewelry
• a plastic scrubbie
• scouring powder (I use Bar Keeper's Friend)
• a small lidded cooking pot (I got mine at a thrift store)
• some dry organic material: pine needles, bits of cedar, anything with high resin content
• a torch (jeweler's great but propane plumbers' torch will work for this)
• heat safe soldering tweezers
• archival wax or spray sealant

I photographed the tweezers (upper left in a third hand holder, which is handy but not essential) and my cooking pot at my soldering station but you really want to set up for this outdoors — it gets campfire smokey pretty quick. Obviously, it's not a task for a windy day.

Create Your Copper Item

Of course you need to create a piece first! In this case, I am working on a pierced pendant. I used 24 gauge copper but your design will determine your gauge.

This photo shows the paper pattern glued to the copper sheet for sawing (see part of my saw on right of frame). I drew in the bail for style and placement but, of course, it is not cut out as part of the circle.

Pierced & Punched

I used my saw to pierce out the large circle but was able to use my punch for the cutout (photo left).

I also created a pattern for the folded loop bail and cut it out with the saw.

Check the Fit, Remove the Pattern

Here, I am checking the fit for the bail (using its folded paper pattern) on the copper piece.

You can see that I have sanded the pendant to remove any scratches.

Once satisfied with the style and fit, I glued the bail pattern to another piece of copper and cut it out. You can remove the paper with soap and water or just use the torch to burn it off.


I put the bail on an old hockey puck (we jewelers can find a use for just about anything!) and forged it to the correct shape using shaping pliers and my rawhide mallet.

The next step was to finish all edges with files and sandpaper before closing the bail around the pendant and soldering it shut. At that stage, I took the piece to the sink and scrubbed all sides super clean with scouring powder and a scrubbie. When the water was sheeting off all the metal, I dried it very carefully with paper towel (touch edges only) and put it into the tweezers, positioning them to cover a minimal part of the back of the bail. Next step: torch it and cook it.

Painted and Protected

Once the piece cooled, I coated it with a spray sealer and hung it over the edge of our patio table to dry. All ready to list at SterlingByDix on ArtYah.

Go ahead; try this at home ;-)