Friday, January 27, 2012

What Have I Been Up To?

It seems like I haven't been around much lately. I have, I guess, but I have been so consumed with my new project that I haven't been doing much else.

I got my propane torch and quickly learned what it is NOT good for. Then I ordered my Blazer micro butane torch and fell in love. Stubborn me, though, I just had a to find a way to use the propane. I'm well accustomed to using a torch and not intimidated by it, so I began to play around with different things. My first efforts were the hummingbirds and hearts. Not content to leave it at that, I tried getting the forms smaller. Then I began to perfect the hearts. One of the things that bugs me about hearts is that if you hang it from the cleft, it no longer looks like a heart. So, I needed a way to hang them without simply running a chain through them. After probably 100 hearts, I have figured out a foolproof way of doing it.

With that revelation, I wondered what else I could do. But, at that point, I could think of nothing but hearts, so I asked Renate for some ideas and she was full of them. One of them is pictured below. Champagne bottle and glass earrings. I'm probably going to add some nice ab delicas in white to these-- Later, though, I am having too much fun melting metal right now.

Another thing that I wanted to try was to see if I could fuse the loops at the beginning and end of a wigjig earring pattern. I like the jig, but I find those double rings bulky, unattractive and never tight. Here again, my torch did me proud.

I call this fusing, but it isn't like silver fusing, at all. I am working on doing a tute for it. I think that learning this technique will become a really invaluable thing to know. I know I will be using my jig more and be making more hearts. And, well, the sky is the limit for what to do with the forms. I have even used them to frame up cabs in two recent pendants. But, it isn't limited to forms or frames, either, as in the wigjig earrings. It's a good way to join copper for whatever reason.

Because it is really hard to describe what goes on in the flame, I am trying to get good video of what is going on. I plan to offer a pdf with a video. I don't know if I will be able to, but that is what I am working on. It has taken me a lot of wire, time and propane to perfect this to the point of being able to teach it.

At one point, I almost gave up the whole idea of fusing. I put everything away and went to bed, very deflated. I was laying there, ready to fall off into sleep, when I had a eureka moment. I jumped up out of bed, unpacked everything again and began working. My idea worked!!! Glad I carried my butt back out of bed!  :) Sometimes, you just have to go with it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

*** $5.00 Tutorial Sale ***

At last, I have moved my tutorials to my store. I have reformatted them to be easier to print, too. If you have bought any on JL, I will be updating those files, too, if you are interested, but they won't go on sale there.

My tutes are regularly 12, 10, 9 and 7 dollars but for this week, ending the morning of Jan 29th, all tutes are $5.00 each (except for the one that's a dollar). This is a great chance to pick up a bargain. Most are half off and my most involved is more than half off. If you have been waiting for a better price, this is it.

More store news:  I have upgraded my store and will be adding the rest of my pieces. If there was something you liked and it's not in the store, odds are good that I'll be adding it soon. It takes a lot of work to get things listed. I'm working hard on it.

Jewelry news:  Dh and I collaborated on a piece today. I needed his expertise in measuring to figure something out. It didn't work though. My fault, not his. I'm not giving up, yet, though. If I can get it done right and it works, it will be really cool. Sometimes, the R&D takes longer than actually getting the piece done. :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I Confess: I'm Ascared of Silver

Yes, it is a word. At least according to The Free Dictionary. I'll take their definition a step further. Being a Southerner, I can say that the word is generally used to denote a silly fear. A child is ascared of the boogieman. I am ascared of silver. Sterling silver, in general; Argentium silver in particular. I know it won't hurt me and that it is an irrational fear, but I'm ascared nonetheless.

Yesterday, I spent the day trying to save a piece full of the expensive, shiny stuff. I was playing around with the torch and some Argentium and managed the difficult (for my newbie self) task of fusing big silver balls to a 20g wire. I managed. That gave me lots of confidence. Confidence that was soon crushed.

In my excitement and zeal, I put the stone in my setting backasswards. I didn't notice till I got most of the way finished- in other words, too late. My precious beads of carefully fused metal were now completely opposite of where they should be on the stone. Then, nearly completed, I realized that I didn't leave enough wire for a respectably large enough bail for the big stone. By then, I was pretty disgusted and frustrated. I cut the wires off. Yes, I did. I was frustrated and cut them off. What in the world was I thinking??

What I ended up with was a very respectable, upside down stone with lovely little gobs of silver holding it in along with some pretty, coveted pattern wire. Crap. Maybe, I could make a pin? Maybe, I could use the wire for another stone. Maybe.... whatever. I took it apart. I annealed the metal. I put the stone in right way round. I got it all zipped up again and even had a loop of wide pattern wire left to affix a bail to.  Then... I broke the damn loop. Guess, I shoulda annealed it again.

That was a lot of silver to mess up. :(

I didn't even bother to get a picture of the final attempt.

Today, I decided to do a straight up wrap to take my mind off the torch. I picked up a big, beautiful Andean Pink Opal that had been beckoning me. I fully intended to do this in silver. Then I got cold feet. I got a cold sweat. I got ascared. I wimped out and reached for copper. The whole time I was making it, I was thinking- I'll just redo this in silver. No problem. No problem, at all. 

If you look real close, you can see that I ran out of wire on the back of the bail. I really wasn't concerned because, after all, I'm redoing this in silver.

I have publicly stated on a number of occasions that I am redoing this, so I know that I will. It is my little way of getting past my fear.

But, honestly, don't you sometimes feel like when you are working with silver that everything goes wrong? It does for me. When I use copper, I'm a freestyle wrapper. I like to pull wire off the spool and GO. When I use silver, I second guess myself and end up screwing up. In the wrap above, I didn't even measure or mark. Everything just came together. Not so with silver. I have no problem with the actual workability of silver. I just get overly cautious and ascared.

Did I mention that I'm redoing this in silver?
Update 10:30 PM EST

I did it!! I'm not thrilled with the bail, but I did it. At first, I was going to leave the sterling silver raw, then I gave it a patina instead.

Huge Rare Genuine Andean Pink Opal Antique Silver Deco Style
Clicking this image will open it in my store in a new tab.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Tute Available: Beaded Frame Pendant

I've been working hard putting this together and it's finally finished! I'm very happy with this tutorial. I have to say, I think this is the best tute I've done. Both in terms of the design and the technical aspects of writing and photographing a tutorial. You can read more about it if you click on the NEW tab above and click on the tute. Or, just click here. It is also available at, however, direct purchases from my store mean all the proceeds go to me, the artist. I have tried to keep this affordable for everyone.

I am in the process of putting my tutes for sale in my store. I will be writing more tutes and offering them both in my store and at JL.

Thanks for all the interest shown in this setting. :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tools Are Not Toys (?)

I've told all of my kids and grandkids that tools are not toys. I pounded it into their heads until they had a healthy respect for them. After all, they are what separates us from (most) animals, right?

I can only imagine what goes though their heads when grandma gets all excited and giddy over a package in the mail. "Oooooo, gimme gimmee!!" I shriek with glee, as my granddaughter brings in the mail, forgetting my manners and age. I must seem like a little kid getting a new toy at Christmas to them. But, wait a minute.... I AM a big kid getting a new toy for Christmas! LOL! Yes, yes! Tools are my toys. I respect them, yes, of course I do, but what FUN! I love tools and have more than my husband does. But, we share and share nicely. We sit at the table and play nice with our toys, er, tools.

I got an allowance for tools for Christmas. DH wanted me to get what I needed. Bad move. Naw, he knows I know how to control myself, so he didn't have to worry.

Now that I have burned through my purse, I thought I'd share what I got. Only women of similar minds could fully appreciate my delight with my new... tools.

Here's the list. See if you can guess what my next big purchase will be when I get some more money:
Soldering Made Simple DVD, Joe Silvera
Soldering Made Simple: Easy techniques for the kitchen-table jeweler, Joe Silvera
Torch-Fired Enamel Jewelry: A Workshop in Painting with Fire Barbara
Making Metal Jewelry: Projects, Techniques, Inspiration, Joanna Gollberg
Propane torch, fine tip
Blazer Self-Igniting Butane Micro-Torch
Vector Quintuple Refined Butane Fuel - 3 Pack
Annealing and Soldering Pan with Pumice Stone   
Kiln Brick

Sparex Pickling Compound
Copper Tongs   

4-Ounce Cross Peen Hammer
Stainless Steel Block with Wood Base
Rubber Block

Copper 22 gauge Sheet Metal, 3" x 3" piece
Copper 20 gauge Sheet Metal, 3" x 3" piece
Copper 24 gauge Sheet Metal, 3" x 3" piece
Screw Down Hole Punch

Pro Polish Pad
Zam polishing compound
I took my time getting these things and did some research. Amazon was my friend and so was Beaducation, which is a great place to learn and has good prices on some of the things that I wanted to get. I did some scrounging around the house and commandeered a few things- some graphite (as a heatproof surface), a jeweler's saw (DH never used it), some leather tools and some glass working tools, to name a few. I have a kiln, but I haven't busted that out, yet. Not sure I'll need it.

So, other than a rolling mill, which is down the line- can you guess at what is sorely missing? If you can guess, then you know what my next big adventure is. After I exploit some more fire, that is. :)

Ammolite doublet  Biding my time waiting for new tools in the mail.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ugly Firescale vs Speed Brite

* **This has been updated to add some pictures of an experiment at the end..***
I prepared some wires today to try out Mary Tucker's, "Flat Twining Guide" tute. While I was doing it, I took a few pictures for the blog because I want to share with you something I came to recently by accident.

As a newbie to the torch, I was shocked to see how much firescale and discoloration was left on the copper wire, even after a simple balled end. I wondered if it was worth all the trouble of cleaning to use the torch.

I have a tool that always sits near my work area. It is a Mini Speed Brite and it, again, came to my rescue. Here is what I had to say about my nifty tool at jMf. (It's not a paid endorsement, I swear!):
"SB is an ionic cleaner. It works by placing a tiny charge on a piece of metal resting in a liquid bath of cleaner. The mild current lifts dirt and other things off the metal. This may not be an exact analogy, but I like to think of it as the opposite of electroplating. Instead of using current to put something ON the metal, you are using it to take stuff OFF the metal.

SB is very, very safe to use, both for yourself and for your jewelry.

What I love to do with it, just for fun because it is so pretty and amazing to see, is to clean diamond jewelry. No matter how clean you think yours is, SB will show you what the word sparkle really means!!! All diamond jewelry should be cleaned daily with a SB. It is just that fabulous.

I used to avoid sterling silver jewelry like the plague because I so despise how it tarnishes, but now, my SB keeps it looking like fine silver. It does a really beautiful job on silver. It has saved more than one great chain that was almost trash because of stubborn tarnish in hard to reach pieces.

I use it to clean all my jewelry, with one exception: be careful with purposely oxidized pieces, especially copper!!! It will remove your oxidation. But, it can be used carefully. I've done it. You can see your pieces being cleaned, so you can pull it out before it gets *too* clean.

I use it to do a final cleaning before sale, I use it to clean metal before torching, I use it to clean after tumbling, I use it to help remove firescale. I use it to clean before LOS. I use it ALL the time! It is tied with my tumbler in terms of usefulness. Like the tumbler, once you get one- you will wonder how you ever did without one.

They are relatively expensive, especially for how simple and lo tech they are. But, FDJ has a large one on sale right now. You can find them at a lot of supply places, but shop around because prices vary. My DH got me mine for cheap on eBay when we didn't have the extra money for one. I had wanted one for years and he got me one for my birthday a long time ago. Still works like new. I bought more of the liquid and a plug because, on my small unit, the battery wore out too quick. But, only the small one has batteries. The battery unit is good for taking it to shows, if you do them.

So, was I a good commercial? LOL! Seriously, I swear by mine and if it's in your budget, I strongly recommend one."
When I first used the torch, out of curiosity and not really believing that it would work, I dropped a piece of copper with firescale in my SB-- By golly, IT WORKED! It took off most, if not all, of the firescale! I used several cycles and have found that the amount of time varies with the amount of firescale. What I was left with was dull copper, that very easily shined up with a Sunshine cloth. Check out these pictures.

See how nice the center wire is after a light polish?? Amazing, no??
Seeing is believing. I have had some firescale that was tougher. With that, most came off but needed a little Scotchbrite to finish it up before a polish. For the most part, the SB has worked a charm and will be what I continue to use for copper firescale. I have yet to try this with silver, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I will. :)
I ran some experiments after reading Kate's question. I thought it would be better just to do a pictorial answer. I use the SB almost unreservedly, but I understand others' reservations. I thought the best way to tell you was to show you. Hope the pictures are of enough.

I chose to use a copper spectrolite piece that I was aging naturally, a copper piece with a patina and a piece of rainbow hematite in silver- I believe it is fine silver, I can't remember, but it IS tarnished, it's an old piece. The first piece is red, as you can see; the second could use a good cleaning with a polishing cloth and the third needs a good cleaning and polish to shine it up.

Here is the used and dirty SB solution that was in the SB. I am going to use this solution. It has had all kinds of dirty jewelry in it including the firescaled copper.

Here at my table, I had to use a flash, so it is a little more blue, but you can see the tiny bubbles streaming off the piece and you can clearly see the piece to judge what's going on. I used this patinaed piece first to show you that I am going to use the same solution for the rest. If you are nervous, particular or doubting-- just change the solution. (The large bubbles are from pouring the solution back into the tub. It never bubbles that big with jewelry.)
Here's the piece fresh from the SB and gently wiped with a towel and polishing cloth. The recesses are still patinaed. The nice golden color is still on the high spots, but shinier. I left this in for abt 1.5 cycles (abt 45 seconds). If I had left it in, the darker areas would start to lift.

This spectrolite had a completely red, natural patina. One cycle in the SB and it was pink again. (Guess I'll have to wait awhile for that patina to come back :) )

It isn't real obvious to the camera, but this looks like raw copper again.

This piece was more stubborn. I left it in one cycle. I could have left it in more, but didn't. That's ok, one was enough. The unit and the solution are safe for rainbow hematite-- absolutely, hands down the most delicate of anything that I have worked with. I have no reservations about putting anything in my SB.

I needed to polish this a little more than I did the copper, but it still came out great. Again, I could have and probably should have left it in longer. The directions say don't leave silver in for too long, I usually do though. You can see, on the top of the picture, that there is quite a shine that wasn't there before.

Here is the solution after cleaning. It's not much different. It takes a long time to get to the point where it needs changing. In the Summer, I usually have to change it when funk starts to grow in it. (moldy stuff, yuck!)

Here are the cleaned pieces together again. Notice that the red copper is pink, the patined piece is just cleaner and shinier and the silver is cleaner and shinier.

*** For my own curiosity, I just put the patinaed piece back in for 10 cycles. The high spots aren't quite as dark, they aren't quite raw looking, either. The low spots are still dark. Actually, I really like the look and will do that again. :) So, Kate, thanks for the question. I wouldn't have tried this, had you not asked. This was my personal piece and I thought- what the heck- I can always redo it, if it all comes off, right? :)

Bottom line, change the solution if you want to or keep separate solutions for different metals, but you don't have to.

Raw copper cleans quite easily, but if you leave clean, raw copper in too long, it gets dull. No picture of that, this is just from experience. It can be shined up again, so don't worry.

It is suggested to use it for shorter times on silver. I haven't found that to be true.

Patinas are pretty hard to take off by accident.

(Sorry about the formatting with gaps between pictures and texts. It seems to be a real Blogger bug and I'm sick of trying to fix it. Argh!)

Update on the twining.... I kept breaking my 26g copper and switched to 24 which was working better. I had to take a break because, and don't laugh, my fingers are sore from filing the copper forms. I inadvertently filed my skin more than I thought I had and I'm a little raw. There's a lesson there, I'm sure. :)
Another update:  It doesn't work as well on silver, but helps.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

More Melting

Melting metal is so much fun! I have decided to invest in a few more things to help me along the path.

My brother in law and sister in law have 2 hummingbird feeders right outside their glassdoors. I love to sit and watch them when I am visiting. They are amazing and seem to defy all the laws of nature. They are improbable. There are many ruby throated beauties coming to the brightly colored feeders. When I am real lucky, I get a chance to see a few males vying for position. They are quite territorial and aggressive. They remind me of angry tinkerbells.

Anyway, while playing with the hummingbird forms, I had an idea to make a large form and to net it with crystals to hang in front of the window in the hopes of attracting more of the tiny birds. So, I made one which is actually larger than a real one. It has bright, sparkly green and red crystals and one black onyx eye. The form was fused closed at the belly. The beak and tail were fused and filed to shape. It is 5.5in wide - 14cm and 3.25in - 8.5cm long. The pictures I took do it no justice, at all. This is really beautiful with the crystals and hangs as if the bird is feeding in flight. I kept the best picture to post here, but you will have to imagine it hanging in a sunny window to get a full idea of what it looks like.

Everything that could go wrong with this did. This is the forth form I tried. I melted through the others in one way or another. I got a lot of practice with fusing! 
Next, the new package of 24g copper wire I opened seemed to be a little less than the soft it was supposed to be and broke three times. I've never had such a problem with netting! By the forth aggravating time, I decided to nip the problem in the bud and anneal problem spots with a cigarette lighter. It worked a charm. It's the first time I tried it. It didn't take much heat on a 24g wire and it didn't discolor much, either. I literally watched for the wire to relax and then removed the heat. You can't tell where I have done it. Learned something new.

I hope my bil/sil don't read this before they get it in the mail. If you do read this- the package is in the mail :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!!!

I was planning to start blogging again tomorrow, on a Monday, but I am anxious to get back to the blog. I have been on home vacation with my husband. The kids have all been home, too. It's been great, but I'm ready to get back to a schedule.

So, any New Year's Resolutions? My resolutions? Get healthier, number one. Manage time more wisely, secondly. And last, keep trying new jewelry techniques. I looked at my last years resolution on JL and found that I was a pretty good girl, with a few exceptions. This year, I am not so ambitious as I was last year.

I have already begun learning a new technique, though. I got a new, bigger, torch and started melting metal. Not too much, though, as it makes the kids nervous. I am waiting for them to go back to school to do some more. However, here's a few things I have done.

Fused copper:  The hummingbird(?) was fused at the beak, tail and wing tip.

Another fused copper hummingbird finished with beads.

And, here's a reason why you should not be in a rush and be careless. I used a heavy ceramic pizza stone under some silver to be fused with a microtorch. The heat transferred straight to my kitchen table. Come to think of it.... maybe that's why the kids are nervous.

I am preparing myself to start another technique. I am VERY excited about it, but that will be a future blog post.


My brother and sister in law vacationed at the beach for Christmas. They took time from their vacation to scour the souvenir bins to find me these wonderful treats for Christmas. I think my brother in law is developing a great eye for jewelry. ;) Can't wait to play with them. I doubt I can use the starfish as they are rather soft, but the others set my mind racing with ideas. Pretty cool! Awesome gift, guys, thanks! :)

Believe it or not, I have never wrapped a shark's tooth!

Love these!!

I hope you all had a great holiday! I wish you all a healthy, happy, prosperous and peaceful New Year!