Sunday, 14 July 2019

Pretty Peridot

Setting August's Birthstone

I had a sweet square, 4 mm peridot in my stash and decided, with August on the horizon, it was time to design and create a pendant.

Everything Starts With the Saw

I designed a long, slotted rectangle and chose to laminate a strip of reticulated sterling on one side for contrasting texture. The design sure offered lots of practice in sawing long, straight lines ;-)

There Was Also Trial By Fire

Here, I was soldering the reticulated strip onto the body of the pendant. I held the strips together with two pairs of soldering tweezers. The tweezers, of course, act as heat sinks, so it took a lot of heat to sweat solder the pieces together.

Do not worry about that bright orange spot behind the piece. That is the edge of a fire brick. My soldering station is super safe. Ceramic tile, topped with metal tray, topped with rotating metal solder brick holder atop which I place whatever soldering surface seems most appropriate for job at hand and, yes, that firebrick back stops the hot spot.

Pre-Finish the Metal Before Adding The Bail & Prong Setting

I filed the strip I cut from the center of the rectangle to fit into the slot and form the bail. That bend was the first of several forming steps. I also did as much sanding and polishing as possible at this stage. Easier to polish flat surfaces than to work around projections.

Once bail was set, I positioned the prong setting for the peridot and soldered both in one operation. That way, the job only required two grades of solder and there was much less chance of delaminating the reticulated strip.

Finishing Touch

I do love having the right tool for the job. Setting the peridot could be done with almost any pair of pliers but these prong setting pliers make doing a neat job much easier. The cast setting has tiny indents on the inside of each prong for the corners of the stone to fit into. With just the right amount of pressure, the stone gets locked in place. Too little pressure and it will surely pop out. Too much will just as surely crush the stone. It's a bit of a Goldilocks situation ;-)

This August lovely is now for sale in my etsy shop <>

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Almost July?

Wow — Time Does, Doesn't It?

I can't believe how long it has been since I posted here — or since I spent some time at my bench, for that matter. Once the grass starts growing and the planters start looking bare, I get busy outside. I enjoy the garden work (mostly) but after a while I really long for something more creative than pulling weeds ;-)

This Time,  It's A Rebuild

Several years ago, I bought this truly unique piece of agate: earthy banding at the bottom, shades of gold above fading to a deliciously shattered top. It makes me think of a mesa in the American southwest so I decided to mount it with a dusky quartz cabochon hovering above it — "Moon Over the Mesa" if you will.

To make it into a necklace, I had to add a chain. Sadly, my chain making skills were pretty primitive, so I was never satisfied with the chain I made. It looked to flimsy for the piece so I decided to try again.

Rings — Round to Oval

I chose to use oval rings with triple rounds connecting them in 16 gauge sterling wire. Here are the 12 mm diameter rings ready to be soldered closed. Once I had pickled them, I stretched them into ovals on the outside of a pair of pliers (sorry, I forgot to photograph that).

I also used a small ball pien hammer to texture them so the finished chain will have a bit of sparkle. Who doesn't like a bit of sparkle?

It took quite a lot of time to wind, hand-cut, solder, pickle, shape and texture 15 of the oval rings. Those are the kind of unseen operations that make artisan jewelry a bit costly.

Lots of Small Joiner Rings

I used my jeweler's saw to hand cut the large rings but, needing so many, I set up my Pepe Tools jump ring maker for the small ones. It makes short work of the job.

Once wound on a mandrel, the coil of wire gets inserted into the ring cutter. Just behind the cradle, you can see part of the arbor that holds a saw blade. The arbor lets you run the blade along that slot, neatly slicing the rings apart.

It's Like Magic

One smooth pass with the saw, and presto, many, many jump rings.

My Jump Ring Trick

To create a chain, you must open some of the rings and tightly close others. I've never found a way to close rings except with two pairs of chain nose pliers but I did dream up a way to speed the opening process. This tiny vise sits to my right at the edge of my bench. By setting the slot a hair wider than the thickness of the wire, I can put one side of a ring into the slot and swiftly twist it open. Sure speeds up the chain weaving process.

Weaving Underway

Here you can see the beginning of the chain. One oval, three joiners, one oval.... It may be repetitive, but it is a pleasant chore and there is considerable satisfaction in seeing the length grow.

Once the chain was fully assembled, I polished it in my Lortone rotary tumbler with steel shot and a tiny bit of Ivory soap (Dawn works, too, I'm told). Set it going and do something else while it works.

There are ways to polish chains on polishing wheels at the bench but they are time consuming and can be dangerous. You do not want a chain to fly across the room or — much worse — wrap itself around your fingers.

Ready to Reassemble

Sunday, 28 April 2019

April at the Bench

Moonstone Dangles — Gifts for June Birthdays

Online shoppers needing June birthday gifts will be on the lookout now, so I thought a new pair of moonstone earrings might be a good thing to add to my #DixSterling etsy shop. I had a pair of tiny oval moonstone cabochons and the settings for them in my supplies, so I just had to come up with how to show them off.

Rectangular Wire — Made to Measure

I recently made a pair of dangles earrings from 3/8 inch wide rectangular wire and decided to go with that, making the dangles about 1 inch long and setting the moonstones at the bottom of the drops. Shepherd hooks work to make earrings like this swing from your ears.

The Joys of a Owning Drill Press

I remember having to use my flex shaft to drill holes for ear wires but having the Dremel as part of my bench setup sure makes it much easier. I use a punch to dimple the metal where I want the holes then tape the pieces to a bit of wood to steady them for drilling (you can't just hold them down — too hot for human fingers).

Polishing — Not the Most Creative Part of the Process

I have buffs and polishing compounds that I use on the Dremel for larger pieces but for small items like these earrings, I prefer the 3M Radial Bristle Discs. I have a set, mounted on mandrels for my flex shaft standing in a piece of wood (upper right side of photo) on my bench where they are easy to grab. Speaking of tool storage, I use a 2X2 inch wood strip to hold my needle files. It is just behind the polishing discs and makes it easy to find and grab the file I need.  I drew crude but useful diagrams of the file shapes beside each hole so I can ID them at a glance.

Ready to Set Stones

Once I had the bezel cups soldered on and had finished polishing the pieces, I was ready to set the cabochons.

I use the tip of the steel burnisher to push the serrated edge of the bezel cups on to the stones. I also use the smooth face of the burnisher to bring up a bright shine on the edges of the silver dangles (almost impossible to do that narrow strip with the polishing discs).

From Concept to Completion

Friday, 1 March 2019

Winter Work

A New Take on Hoops

My Rio Grande shipment arrived the other day ;-)

I finished that pair of gift earrings more than a month ago. When I did, I realized I was totally out of ear wires.

The good thing about that was, if I need to order one item from Rio Grande, it's a chance to survey the bench and see what other supplies I may need — or want.

So I placed an order for the ear wires, some rectangular wire (I have a plan for that), a piece of 20 gauge sterling sheet, and a length of bezel wire.

Love my Disc Cutter

Just imagine how long it used to take me to cut hoop earrings. First, draw/trace a circle for each dangle and another one for the smaller cutouts. Then drill a starter hole for the smaller circles, insert the saw blade and hand cut each of the circles. Finally, cut out the larger circles. Next, absolute precision being a rare event when piercing metals, use a file and sanding sticks to remove any wobbles. That is most of an afternoon's work. With my disc cutter, I had the blanks cut in about five minutes.

Dimples to Make Them Sparkle

Because these will swing from shepherd hooks, I want them to have some sparkle. This photo shows my setup for a hammered finish. I have a bigger chasing hammer but, given the size of the hoops, I selected a small ball peen hammer to give the hoops a texture. The hockey puck is a great backing for this work (got that tip from a #Riojeweler recently).

There is something quite satisfying about taking a hammer to metal ;-)

Dapping to Make Them Shine

Silver is more reflective with a curved surface than with a flat one, so I pulled out my old wood dapping bloc and punch set. After a second torching to anneal the silver, I selected an appropriate hollow and punch to dap each circle into a soft curve.

There really is something quite satisfying about taking a hammer to metal ;-)  I think forging metal is my favorite bench activity.

Add Wires and — Done

Available now at #DixSterling on #etsy

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Where Does the Time Go?

Almost February —

And I haven't posted a thing here since November.

To be honest, I haven't been at the bench much, either. That whole "put Christmas together and then take Christmas apart again" business eats time. I did, however, get to one very important project for one very important lady in our family this month. Follow along as I make a pair of birthstone earrings.

Rhodolite Garnets

I suppose everyone knows deep red garnets are January's birthstone, but many may not be familiar with the less common rhodolite version. If you want to learn more about these (or any gemstone) this is an excellent resource <>

Pretty in Pink

These lovely stones are purple tinged and pinker than regular garnets. My photo doesn't really do the color justice but you can see why I thought they would make a special gift for a special lady. (That's FunTack on a cuticle stick holding one!).

Yes, Size Matters

The old saying, "Measure twice, cut once" only tells part of the tale. Equally important is "Be accurate". When I first started making jewelry, I bought a small brass caliper and found it a fine tool for checking the gauge of a piece of sterling or marking lengths for cutting sheet or wire. Once the lure of stones began calling to me, however, I found it a slightly awkward tool for measuring tiny stones. I love my digital caliper and use it constantly. In this photo, I am checking the exact diameter of a setting bur to use for tube setting the stones. The jar of yellow stuff, top right, is a lubricant to protect the bur. Of course, you do not need to use it — provided you like buying lots of burs!

More Measuring

While most women probably do not hold a pair of dangle earrings together to be sure they are the same length, I think it matters, so a ruler and pair of dividers are also useful measuring tools.

Marking & Cutting 

The design  I came up with involved setting the tube mounted stones into the edges of some rectangular sterling wire. I rubbed a bit of pencil lead on the end of that tube to lightly mark the position for the hollows. I held the bars touching to ensure that each earring would be the same. I followed up with a fine marker so I could do the cutouts. Fussy bit of cutting. When I first started, I doubt I would have tried it!

Test & Adjust Fit

 These two photo show the earring in my bench vise being filed to shape and the two parts being checked for fit.
I love that vise with its removable rubber jaw covers. I can pivot it to almost any position to get at the piece I am working on. It holds things for cutting, filing and sanding — and frequently keeps me from totally removing skin from the fingers of my left hand!

Filing is an essential part of making any piece of metal jewelry. The process is used to refine shapes, as above, and to remove deep surfaces scratches (because you can't always avoid a few of those — silver is soft). Like any jewelry maker, I own several files in different shapes and sizes and could not function if you took any of them off my bench.

Once the tubes were a snug fit into the hollows, I soldered them in place. Next, I soldered a pair of sterling rings onto the top back of the dangles to hold the ear wires. After that, lots of polishing.

Lastly, Add the Sparkle

If you follow this blog, you know that I like to wrap a piece in painter's tape before I start setting stones. After all the sanding and polishing, I sure do not want to have a steel burnisher slip from the edge of the mount and score the face of the earring.

I hope the recipient will enjoy these for many years. I like the design so I may make a few with  different stones for my DixSterling shop.<>

See you in February ;-)