Saturday, January 18, 2014

Part 2 of my Bezel Setting Project

Although I am finished with this first project I took pictures along the way and journal-ed this to share with you.


The first part of my first project went very well. Much easier than I had expected it to.

The bail part turned into a nightmare.

I decided to use this template from to make a simple bail.

What you get is something like you see below. I ended up cutting with shears because my bench pin is still in the mail. I made several because I messed up several.

I tried a variety of ways to solder this. I photographed the last tries today after several failures yesterday.

First let me say that when you are making a bezel, you really have to see things a new way. Luckily, I am used to it from wire wrapping. But, even I, at first, had trouble seeing that the bail couldn't be at a 90 degree angle to fit flush with the bezel wire. In other words- the areas to be soldered were NOT 90 degree angles, although at first your brain thinks they are. I had to put an ever so slight concave curve in the bail end with a file. I then had to decide where to place the bail in relation to the bezel cup.

I decided to solder the bail midway on the bezel. (I have since found out that this is, of course, the wrong way to do it, but I thought it would be ok.) I needed to lift the bail up to solder and tried a stainless steel wire to do it. It didn't work. I had to file solder off the bezel. Even though I knew the copper bail needed more heat, the thinner silver still got hotter and the solder flowed up the bezel.

Next I tried using my new solder station that I got from DH for Christmas. Looks like a good fit.

However, I could NOT get the solder to flow no matter what! It was easy solder, too. I think the clamps were too much of a heat sink, so I went back to the charcoal.

The 3rd hand lifted the bail up enough and I thought everything looked good. At first, I thought the solder wouldn't flow again, but I quickly ran some heat under the join and it ran beautifully.

But, look what happened. I don't know if I moved it, didn't line it up right to begin with, didn't have enough solder or maybe the fit was just off, but I was left with a gap. You can see it in the forefront, where the bail meets the bezel.

Here's the back.

As you can see, I was soldering the bail closed AND soldering the bail to the top. A lot of solder ran up the copper, but it is soldered shut and the bail does seem secure, if not flat out wrong.

I thought about trying to use extra easy solder to solder the gap, but I don't want to distort the bezel by doing it. I would have to form the metals closer together. Since this is my first project, I have decided to let it go. My focus will be on finishing when my order comes in.   

I have a feeling that finishing this will be the hardest part......


Since my first attempt at soldering a bezel, I have learned a lot from practice, videos and books. It is just like me to dive in and try to learn by trial and error. As bad as this project went, it actually worked out better than my second. LOL!! I'm awful, but I am trying. I'm having a lot of fun and I'm learning a lot. Everyone makes mistakes when they are learning something new. In fact, I learn more by making mistakes.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My First Bezel: A Comedy of Errors

As I began my first bezel project, I thought to take some pictures to share. I have completed my project now. I'll tell my tale in three parts.

Part One:

All of my supplies aren't in yet, but I couldn't stand to wait, so I got started with making a bezel with what I had. I made every mistake along the way.....

First, the stone I chose-- I picked this up on ebay many moons ago. It's a gorgeous composite stone. The guy really liked making them, but I guess they didn't sell because he quit selling them.

I pulled out some 1/4" scalloped bezel thinking it would work for the stone and got started. I measured a hundred times and got to soldering.

The soldering actually went very well. As you can see, I chose to use a copper base. Didn't want to experiment on silver sheet. I used a micro torch. It worked a charm. :)

I should admit here that the first thing I did was trace out the stone on the copper sheet and try to cut it without a bench pin. Not good. First I learned (Duh!) you have to leave room for the bezel wire to fit and then I learned that a bench pin must be VERY useful. I tried clamping the sheet in a vacuum panavise which kept coming lose. Bad. So I ended up soldering the wire and worrying about cutting later.

My next mistake? Wow! I was so flippin' excited abt my solder join (my first bezel solder) that I pushed the stone in, forgetting to put some dental floss in so that I could pull it out. Yeah, that called for a swear word. After I mangled the wire to get the stone out, I figured this was a lost cause, but I carried on with dental floss. 

So, I put the stone in and found out that the bezel wire was too high. I used a cheat. I put some wire in the cup to lift the stone up.

Then I took my setting tools and turned over the scalloped edges.

It was then that I found out how easily they mar the wire. I also found out that my stone was TOO high and only one side of the wire was holding the stone in. In other words... it was lopsided. So, I mangled the hell out the bezel wire again to get the stone out. I figured all was lost. But, I carried on.

Just then, the UPS guy showed up and brought me some shears. Yay! I cut the extra base off and started to file it down flush.

Check out how badly I mangled the wire with the prong pusher thingie (the black square tool).

Even though the bezel wire is in pretty bad shape, I am going ahead with this. Hopefully, I can get it looking somewhat good.

This is the point I am at so far. I put a smaller gauge wire in the bottom of the cup. It looks like it will work.

Now I need to polish it up and figure a bail. I made a copper bail that would hang from the top silver, but my soldering didn't flow where I wanted it to. I'm going to try a different bail anyway.

I'm off to to scrounge for dremel attachments and get this polished up. Hopefully my finishing supplies will be in soon. In the meantime, I have some things that should work.

I never considered the shape of the stone or the scalloped bezel wire when I decided to start this project. You will see what a mistake that was. It is typical of me to want to start right in on something more difficult than I could easily manage. :)

Stay tuned for part 2.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Simple Silver Soldering: A Start

Since my last post, proclaiming my aim to learn silver soldering, I have spent a lot of time trying. I tried to learn this once before and had miserable results because I just couldn't deal with the flux. So, I decided to start very small and work my way up, hoping to conquer my flux barrier.

copper soldered chain

I soldered this fancy link copper chain and made some earrings to match. The soldering went very well. I used copper solder and no flux because the flux was in the solder and I don't find that I need to flux copper for firescale. Any discoloration readily comes off in the pickle. This was a good exercise for pick soldering where you use a tungsten or titanium pick to pick up the heated solder and bring it to the hot join. I managed to get this together rather easily.

My problem was that I missed a join in a fancy link- there are 2 joins each- and it came apart while I was running it through my polish cloth. So, my next exercise was in doing a repair. The piece was already patinaed. I pickled the new fancy link and a few adjoining it and carefully soldered in the new piece without disturbing the patina or joins on the other links. It was difficult but doable. I'm quite proud of the feat, in fact. My daughter wants this and I'll probably give it to her.

On to silver solder with flux.

I did many a small silver ring for my grandaughter. But, this one is the nicest. I had some scrap from years ago which is 12 or 14g square twisted. It had a lovely patina, but I had to get that off before I could solder. Pickle and hard work did that. I then spent some time trying to line up the join perfectly while keeping the twist continuous. Easier said than done. But, after lots of fidgeting, I got it all together and soldered with a bit of easy silver solder wire and flux. I heated the whole area with the torch, avoiding the ring until the flux stopped bubbling, then I moved in with the torch until the flux went clear. After that, I picked up the heated wire solder with my pick and dropped it on the join. BINGO! A beautiful soldered seam.  

heavy silver soldered ring

I had lots of tools and material on order and in the mail, so I had to use what I had on hand for the next project. I made a little heart pendant- also for my granddaughter.

Silver soldered heart with prefab bail

This turned out ridiculously cute and she loves it. It gave me a chance to use some solder of different hardnesses. For the first join, where the wire meets the curl, I used medium solder and for the bail ring, I used easy solder. The reason being is that if I tried to solder the bail loop with the same solder hardness as the first solder join, it could melt. The idea is to use a progression of solder hardnesses as you work your project, going from hotter melt (hard) down to the lowest melt temp (extra easy).

After I was finished with this I added some texturing and polished it. I was hesitant to hammer around the joins, but I needn't have been.

After playing around with some simple projects, I had mustered the confidence to try a bezel setting. That will be the next blog, though I will need to do that in several parts. I am almost finished with the project now and I took some pictures along the way to share with you my roller coaster ride of ups and downs. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! Hello to New Beginnings

I hope you all had a great holiday. I know I did. The best thing for me is having everyone here. I had a full house on Christmas. I don't mind saying that it wore me out. It was a good tired, though. I went to bed feeling very happy to have had all the family here.

So, we're back to another New Year and the inevitable good intentions of resolutions. I have 2 sets:  one for myself/health and one for my art. For my health I need to lose some weight that I put on when I couldn't get around much. Now that the meds are helping, I feel sure I can get more exercise. I think that will be easier than my artistic resolutions.

Seriously, I should have stock in Rio Grande Jewelry Supplies. I just dropped a chunk of change there and more elsewhere to get up to snuff on metalsmithing tools.

Let me start my resolution story like this ...

A while back, I got into a wire wrapping slump. I didn't freak out too much. Not as much as usual, anyway. In my quest to find some eye candy and inspiration, I started looking into metalsmithing. I have 2 great DVDs.

I recommend both of these DVDs. Both can be found on Amazon. The second one, I have had a while (It is both book and DVD) and the first one is new. I give Cassie's video 5 thumbs up. I like the way she teaches and her personality is very easy going. She makes you feel real comfortable with the whole subject. I also have an ever expanding library of books. 

But, anyway. Besides finding intriguing references and eye candy, I have also been encouraged and inspired by several people. One of those people is my friend Laura, of CookonStrike. She recently started her journey in metalsmithing. She is making soldered silver chains to die for at the moment, not to mention the earrings you can find in her shop. 

CookOnStrike's beautiful new soldered chain.

Another artist, whom I consider a friend, has been metalsmithing for a long time. Susan, of Wired Lotus, has been a constant inspiration. She tirelessly and seamlessly launches into new mediums and techniques with the ease of a fluttering butterfly. I am amazed and inspired by her energy and eagerness. Her creativity knows no bounds! Neither is she afraid to go outside her comfort zone. This has not been missed by me, who has been stuck in a comfortable zone for far too long.

And, I just found out that, coincidentally, another artist friend is making the leap from wire to sheet. Cathy, aka Talking Stones, of Rockworlds, has just begun her journey. Cathy is one of the most positive and encouraging people. When I began cabbing she was my cheerleader. Now, we'll be cheering each other. :) She is also making the leap from craft shows to galleries. Go Cathy!!!!

To know of other people starting down this road is very inspiring to me. I feel like I can finally make that commitment, which I have been putting off for many years. As long as I have wanted to cab, I have also wanted to do bezel settings with sheet metal. In fact, it is traditional metalsmithing that inspires my wirework.

I will not be giving up wire, though. My intentions are to join the two fabrication styles into one. However, I need to learn to solder well and handle the sheet first. After I feel some what proficient, I will begin experimentation. 

Learning, experimenting, failing and succeeding will take a lot of time. At some point, I need to find the time to completely revamp my website. I will be moving to a totally new platform which is as beautiful as it is easy to use- as both user and owner. 
So, those are my resolutions- to get healthier, to learn metalsmithing techniques and to revamp my shop. Not too much ... I should be able to manage it :)

Do you have any creative resolutions??