Thursday, February 27, 2014

Brave Enough

I think, no, I know, I am brave enough to say that I have simple soldering down. I don't think I have done anything terribly complicated, but each new thing sure seems that way! I hold my breath and just do it. (After procrastinating for many minutes.) I hope for the best and jump in with both feet. The idea of ruining some expensive silver and wasting a lot of time just can not enter into the equation. If I think about it too much, I would never do anything. So far, so good. So good, in fact, that I have actually listed 2 pieces in my Etsy shop and I am getting ready to list a third and maybe more.

Here is one that I think is ready for my shop. It is a gorgeous Damsonite or otherwise known as Burro Creek agate.

I love this piece, but let me tell you, I really sweated the load getting those beads on right. Afterwards I thought, "Why didn't I use a centerpunch to mark the spots for the beads?" Duh, live and learn. The cutout back, or, pierced work as it is called, came out brilliantly. I really fretted over that, too. This was a very good project and I learned a lot and got lucky a lot. :)

Here is one that I have listed. It's a wonderful dendritic Montana agate.

This one has pierce work on the back, too. The picture won't upload for some reason. Anyway, this piece is a play on the shape. The front and back have opposing pears, but if you look through the stone you can see another pear, which is oriented the way the stone is. Well, I thought it was clever, anyway. :) I love this piece, it was fun to do and didn't trouble me much.

Did you notice that I have a stamp for .925? Now all I have to do is remember to put it on before I put the bezel wire on.

Just in case anyone is thinking that I quit wire wrapping here are a few recent projects.

Parrotwing Chrysocolla
Blue Dinosaur Bone
Indonesian Petrified Coral
Chrysocolla in Quartz
Ocean Jasper

Thanks for reading- be well and create happily. :)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More Silversmithed Pieces and Donating Bone Marrow

I admit it. I am addicted to metalsmithing. One of the things I like about it is you can do it in bits and pieces. There are steps involved. Each step can be a session unto itself, if you don't have a lot of time. There is the designing stage, which I really like and find myself doing at night. Then you can make the bezel, which can be done pretty quickly with the micro torch. You can do the sawing of the backplate and any design cut out you may want to do. You can start many projects to this point and then do a bunch of soldering at once, when you have the time. I really enjoy being able to work in spurts. It came in handy when I was away babysitting last weekend. I was away for the day, came home and did a little work, went away again and came home to do some more.

As a side note and a gentle nag..... I was babysitting for my nephew and his two little ones. He and his wife took a much needed break from the chaos and uncertainty that is their life. He is the nephew I once mentioned as having leukemia. Well, folks, he still has it and desperately awaits a bone marrow transplant. Flatly put, if he doesn't get one, his odds of living to see his his kids another year are slim. So, I ask you from the bottom of my heart to please visit a hospital or bone marrow drive to see if you are a donor candidate. Not just for him, but for all of those people who need it to live. My daughter and her fiance went this morning to a donor drive and all they had to do was swab their cheek. Please consider doing this. You will go on a registry for all those that need a transplant. My nephew has a rare type, so as of now there is no match. The more new people that sign up, the better his odds of finding a match. For more information about becoming a donor visit bethematch.

Well, I have finished pieces numbered 6, 7 and 8 and I am working on 9. Each one that I do, I try to add a new skill. The unfinished piece will have some pierced work on the back, meaning a fancy cut out that will allow the back of the stone to be seen. I didn't trust my sawing skills until today. It came out rather nice, though, if I don't say so myself. :)

Here is the 6th piece. A delicious and delectable bruneau jasper.  As with all pieces up to this point, there is a small mistake which I have learned to never make again. There is a tiny section of bezel wire that didn't solder down. I didn't even notice it until I was just about finished with it. It's still structurally fine and quite solid.

My 7th piece is one that I will be selling. It came out perfect.... eventually. I soldered on the bail connector and thinking that it was a good join, I tumbled and set the stone only to find out that one side didn't solder down. I considered leaving it as it was, but took the daring step of removing the stone to fix my mistake. Last time I did that, I botched the whole thing. This time, though, it went off without a hitch and everything turned out great. Thank goodness. I really love this piece. It is a Moroccan Bryozoan petrified coral. (Go ahead and enlarge, but don't mind the reflections.)

My 8th piece is a mahogany jasper in copper. I love to work with copper. I always have, with wire wrapping, too. BUT (there is always a but isn't there) there is only one kind of solder for it, so you have to be really careful. For this one, I used wite out brand correction fluid to keep the bezel solder from running onto my backplate. It seemed to work. This is much better in person. Copper usually photographs so well, but these pictures seem dark to me.

I'll show you my pierce work in the next blog post when the whole piece is finished.

Stay well and warm. :)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tools For Bezel Setting Stones- A TOOLTORIAL

As I mentioned in my last post, here is my list of some of the things that I got for metalsmithing. Some, I discovered I needed as I was needing them. Others were tools that I had seen other people use. And, others still were recommended to me. Of course, I already had all of my wire wrapping tools and mandrels.

I have tried to include a link from where I purchased, but you can get a lot of this stuff in other places. I have Amazon Prime and use it a lot. You can get things cheaper if you want to wait for it.

I did get some things that I found I have no use for. I haven't included those.

So, here, in no particular order, is my list:


Safety- You will want your usual suspects, safety glasses and gloves, but DO NOT forget a good fire extinguisher. Keep your fire extinguisher near, but placed somewhere along your escape route. It will do you no good if it is behind your fire. Being prepared is not only good for your piece of mind, it is also a potential life and property saver.
Torch - Smith's Handi Heet acetylene/air with 0 and 00 tips separately
I know from experience that I did not want an oxygen/gas torch. This is a great torch and that link has the best price. You may not need the extra tips. I seem to use the #1 the most and it comes with the set. The Handi Heet torch is exactly the same as the Smith's Silversmith torch just with different tips included. Buy a gas bottle from them, too. Then you can swap it at your gas supply and won't have to lease a tank. I chose acetylene over propane because it burns hotter. Propane, however is cleaner. But, I have not noticed any dirty problems with my torch, at all. It seems that gas/air torches rely on different sized tips to produce the flame size you want, whereas oxygen/gas torches have an adjustable flame. I prefer not to use expensive and hazardous oxygen. And lastly, you'll want some chain or bungee to strap your gas bottle to something.

universal tank wrench and key-- Don't forget these! You can get them with your torch or at your gas supply house.

Foredom rotary tool with accessories- I got the kit with accessories and another accessory kit, too. Also, get the hanger with it. I figured I could find a way to hang it. I was wrong. I had to get a hanger after I got the Foredom. If you have a smaller Dremel, it may work for you for awhile, but, at some point, you will want to upgrade. A lot of specialty bits for jewelry won't fit the Dremel.

inverted cone bur - This is really useful for cleaning out the extra solder you might have in your bezel cup. Extra solder can keep your stone from setting correctly.

tube cutter for cutting bezel wire at 90 degrees- This is invaluable and one of the first things that I realized that I needed. It will save you a lot of headaches trying to get perfect bezel joins.

jeweler's saw

bur life - This will lubricate your bur and blades. You can also use wax, like an old candle stub.

saw blades Be sure to get the right size for the gauge of metal you will be using.

#2 flat file- More coarse than a #4

#4 flat file You will use this a lot.

needle file set- I just got a cheap set from Sears

file cleaner (called a file card)- keep your fles in good shape.

small Fretz precision hammers for detail work- You don't need these, but they are a nice splurge and useful.

muslin wheels

felt wheels- round and knife edge for foredom

white diamond compound - for prepolishing

bobbing compound - fast cutting- powerful stuff

burnisher set - for smoothing bezel wire

Brass Bezel Roller - I ordered a cheap one first and found out you get what you pay for. This is better.

prong pusher - Another way to push your bezel wire down

solder cutting pliers- Not neccasary but I got tired of snipping sheet solder. Totally worth the money.

a set of solder sheet with stacked cups

400 grit wet dry paper - Good for sanding down bezel wire to the right height.

sanding sponges - Really awesome- Just try them. They are cheap and you will wonder why you never used them before.
tweezer assortment for soldering

scribe - for marking metal

dividers - for marking metal in exact increments

radial bristle brushes - Like the sanding sponges. Once you use them, you'll never look back.

Moores sanding discs for foredom- Convenient, but not necessary

charcoal block - get a small and large for your pumice pan.

revolving pumice pan - Really, really nice to have.

bench pin and holder - You will need a bench pin as much as a torch. Find one that works best for your situation.

solder picks - for pick soldering and moving hot solder pieces

handy flux - Good to start with because you can judge temperature by how it looks. It DOES take getting used to. I put a small amount in a separate jar and thin with water. If it gets contaminated- the whole tub isn't bad.

Paint brush for flux- whatever you might have, but natural hair is better

metal shears - I use mine A LOT, must have

nylon hammer - good for flattening metal sheet among other things

shot plate for fancy beading - You don't need this, but it's super cool to add decoration. See Soham Youtube link for a video he has on using this.

pickle pot-- I use a little dip crock pot

copper tongs - for your pickle pot 

pickle-- PH down or any number of different kinds

parallel pliers - useful for many things

automatic center punch- cause they're cool

center finder

polishing pins - put them directly into your Foredom chuck and sharpen with a file. Used to get into tight spots fo finishing.

marking stamp- Mark your silver

fine point centering punch

metal hole puncher

mechanics square

steel t pins - for holding soldering pieces in place

steel or stainless steel wire for placing items to be soldered 

made a large sanding stick with 400 grit

made a soldering donut/bun with 16g copper - see Lexi Erickson soldering videos

all various handtools for wire wrapping - pliers, cutters, mandrels, etc.

rawhide mallet

steel block with wood base

rubber block base for steel block

small anvil

drill bits


ring mandrel

tumbler Lortone 3a with steel shot for tumbling

glue stick - for gluing down your patterns on your sheet metal

a variety of sheet metal generally 22 and 24g sheet and a variety of bezel wire. I think 1/8th bezel is most often used.

The Complete Metalsmith: An Illustrated Handbook

Super jewelry videos and FREE!

Soham Harrison
Nancy LT Hamilton

Lexi Erickson videos

Bill Fretz video

This is all I can think of at the moment.

Wait! There's more!

Reader, Kathy, noted in the comments some important things that I had forgotten- aside from the dust mask you should use when sanding and polishing. Here they are as she wrote them:

1. Prips Flux - I read a long time ago that this is the secret of soldering copper. It works well for me. I have a little "hairspray" bottle I use to spray it on heated metal. You can also dip or spray and let it dry before soldering. I also use Handy Flux, but this is my main "go to" with copprer. Works for silver too--it is supposed to help with firescale.

2 Fire Brick - This is moderately soft and will accept t-pins. it reflects the heat well and the surface is renewable when it gets gunked up. Rub the block lightly on a concrete sidewalk until it is clean again.

3. Magnesia Soldering Block - This is much softer than the the firebrick. You can actually press a piece down into it so that it is held securely. It's wonderful if you have a two piece design that you need to lock into position. Also good to "level up" pieces that need to touch at a certain angle -such as a bail onto a back plate. Of course you can stick all sorts of pins into it to hold things.

4. GOOD Third Hand - This is worth the money! The "holders" for steel tweezers are mostly worthless. The arms in this articulate to exactly position your work. The Tungsten tips are much more heat resistant than tweezers. I get to use a double one at my class. [I can add that if you have the money (or a birthday coming up) you could get one of these. They are awesome!]

Please comment with your must haves and I'll add them here. I can always use a new tool. :)

AND..... Because this is a visual medium. Here is my latest piece. Cherry Creek jasper necklace in copper with acid etching. You can see the etch pattern better if you enlarge by clicking.

Friday, February 7, 2014

First, Second, Third ... Bezel Settings

If you have been following along, you have noticed that my first bezel setting has been a comedy of errors. As much as I hate to show this, here is the finished piece. (To be tucked away in a box and pulled out in 5 years.)

You can see that I should not have chosen to use the scalloped bezel wire. I had NO CLUE what I was doing! LOL! Hey, live and learn. Keep reading, I think I redeemed myself. But, not on the second one.

The following picture is the only one you need to understand how badly this second project went.

Yeah, I messed up setting the stone and while trying to get the stone back out, I, literally, ripped the thin bezel wire. I tried to even it out and call it "ART", but I just couldn't do that. :)

By now, you may be feeling my pain and frustration. I don't give up easily, though. It didn't take me long to understand a few vital things:  I needed to learn more and I needed a bigger torch (among other tools). So, I got my pennies together, lots of them, and ordered a new torch, some new tools and some soldering videos. I'll go into more details on those in another post, because it is a post unto itself. First, I want to show you that, indeed, I can do this.

After getting my new torch, things went much, much better.

This little sterling silver and labradorite pendant has lots of little mistakes to learn from, but all in all, I think it came out pretty good. Right now, my biggest challenge is in doing the finishing work. I experimented a lot on this one. (And don't even ask me why the pictures look blue or gray- it's a blogger thing that drives me crazy.) This small piece was full of challenges. See that little wire on the bottom? (I was so happy that it didn't melt!) It covers a mistake I made and did a good job of it, too.

My next piece came out really nice, if I don't say so myself. I tried lots of new things with it.

I don't think the pictures do it justice.  For some reason, the back looks funny in the picture, but it is actually a very even finish with los on a satin finish. I love working with copper. However, there is only one kind of solder, which makes it very difficult to plan a project. When I sweat soldered the bail, the solder around the bezel wire melted out onto the backplate. I have ordered some things that might help with that and discovered a new use for Wite Out. In the meantime, I am content with this despite it's problems.

I am currently working on 2 more projects which require tools that I am waiting for in the mail. Yes, I am beginning to think that  a silversmith can never have enough tools. 

I may have been slow to update my blog, but now you see why. Another reason being all the snow we got. I solder in the house, but didn't want to do it with the kids home from school and underfoot.

My next post (soon) will be a compilation of all the tools, videos and the torch that I've gotten. Yes, it will be a big post. I am very fortunate that I was able to get what I need in a relatively short time. If this is something you want to do you'll find the list very useful, I think. It is, essentially, the bare bones. As I have been working, I stopped to put a tool on a wishlist as soon as I realized how handy or necessary it would be to have.

I hope you enjoyed seeing my failures and successes. :) I know this sounds wrong, but I like to make mistakes. I learn best that way- as I hope you can see from my progression of projects.

Stay warm and happy. :)