I had the old end of the world earthquake dream this morning.
It wasn’t all bad.
As we waited for the pre-quake green black apocalyptic storm clouds to totally cover the sky a small van pulled up down our road handing out supplies to the residents.
Did we need any survival supplies?
I chose a couple of dust masks.
You know, those simple ones with the little vents in the front.
Seemed as though they’d come in handy.
A large high rise was due to fall onto us once the quake started. Instead of moving away from the object of our imminent death, we instead contemplated the chances that the gaping hole torn into the side of the building would fall exactly over where we waited thereby saving us from being crushed to death.
I tried to calculate the exact trajectory of the high rise’s collapse, but ultimately knew that the life saving cavity would miss us by a few inches.
Still didn’t get out of the way though.
In other, less violent, news I just managed to send off another $7,000 to charity.
This is a very simple chain which you may have already seen on my Instagram page, and I promise this post is not as long as my last one.
I used 16 gauge sterling silver wire.
I haven’t calculated how much though, so sorry about that.
First up you will need a torch to ball up the end of the wire.
After which I like to use a large cup bur on it to round it out.
You won’t need the bur if you use fine silver as it will make a perfect ball when you heat it, but I tend to use sterling for most of my chains.
If you have never balled the end of a piece of wire before simply hold the wire vertically in a pair of tweezers and move the flame up and down the bottom of it until a ball forms. If you keep the flame on the ball for too long after it has formed it may fall off, so be sure to remove the flame when you have the size you need.
Now make a loop as shown.
Solder the ball end at the spot it crosses over the other end of the loop and then make another smaller loop and cut off the extra length of wire.
This loop is turned and soldered just under the first soldered join.
Take the remainder of the wire and ball up the end again.
Make another loop.
This time you will thread the larger loop into the smaller loop of the first link before soldering the loop together.
After soldering it make and solder the smaller link as before.
And continue until you have the length of chain you desire.
I made sure that the balls were all sitting the same way and that all the links matched.
No rules though.
You can mix it up if you want to.
Here are some more photographs of the process.
Now put a catch on it.
And you have a new bracelet.
Now I’m going to get my survivors guide to the end of the world out and see if there’s anything else I might need to start collecting other than dust masks.
I thought I’d show you how I made one of my cuffs. So if you want to make one yourself, and if you’ve the patience to get through this post, here are step by step instructions.
Before we start you should know that a lot of times I tend to make things up as I go along and only afterward realize that, had I a plan in the first place, things could have been done more efficiently. So if some of the steps here seem just plain wrong it’s just the way my brain works.
Not my fault…
Also there’s going to be a lot in here that seasoned jewelry makers already know and so many of you, who I know can recreate a piece just by looking at it, might want to skip this post entirely unless you’ve been having trouble sleeping.
Here’s what I’m working with, you can pick any cabochon that you think is worth the amount of silver in this cuff.
It’s a lot.
As always links are in the photographs and dotted around the text for the suppliers and tools I’ve used.
These are just what I use and are not necessarily what you need to create this bracelet.
First off choose your stone and make the bezel collar.
Here I’m making a collar for the earrings, not the cuff, but the process is the same.
Find the right height bezel wire. You’ll want it to be at least a couple of millimeters, if not more, proud of the stone.
Overlap the bezel wire as you fit it snug around the stone and then mark off with a pen or pencil where the join is going to be.
Be careful when you wrap the wire around the stone, especially if the stone has a domed edge, that you don’t push the top of the wire over the stone as this will distort your line.
Cut the bezel wire a millimeter or so away from the line so that the collar will be slightly larger than needed.
It’s better to keep snipping away thin slithers until the size is right than cutting off too much to begin with.
Once you have snipped away enough for the collar to fit perfectly around the cabochon, (ideally so that the stone will slip easily in and out of it without it being too loose), push the two ends into and beyond each other so they overlap slightly then you can pull them gently apart until they meet under a slight tension.
The two ends should be flush together as should the top and bottom of the collar.
Once they are in place I like to squeeze the edges together with a pair of pliers. This takes care of any distortions on the flat sides of the collar.
You can just about see the join here at about 2:10 o’clock.
Or is that 2:11?
This is how I solder my collars.
I like to hold them in a Third Hand – HERE – and solder them with hard solder on the inside of the collar.
You can’t see them clearly here, but the joins are on the bottom waiting to be soldered.
I also like to use their chips for soldering links and small parts – HERE.
And I use Wolverine Flux which you can find on Amazon.
Because someone recommended it to me and I believed him.
Don’t judge me.
As with everything here, you can use whichever products you prefer.
Now they’ve all got their collars on.
Hopefully, if they behave they will become a pair of earrings, two rings and a cuff.
Next I cut a piece of silver sheet leaving about a centimeter around the stone.
Here I’m using 23 gauge because I didn’t have any 22 left.
You can then saw or cut it out.
If you use snippers, as I do, it can distort the sheet. In this case take a raw hide hammer, I prefer one of those rubber hammers – HERE – and tap the sheet gently as you pull the hammer out away from the center rotating the sheet as you go.
This will flatten the sheet.
Alternatively you can place it in-between two bench blocks and hammer the top.
Whichever way is good for you.
I then take the sheet and hold it in-between a pair of long tweezers – HERE – and begin to run the heat slowly along the edges of the sheet until it begins to melt.
This can be a little frustrating.
I use an acetylene/air torch so I’m not sure how this will work with the smaller hand-held torches, but the key here is to use a torch head that will heat the edges sufficiently to keep the molten silver moving.
I’ve found that on smaller pieces a #0 torch head is sufficient, but on longer or larger pieces you may need to use a #1 torch head.
Ideally I needed a torch head in-between these two numbers for this piece as the #0 wouldn’t touch it and the #1 took itself way too seriously and wanted to control the whole show.
But, if you’re careful you should be able to melt the edges into a nice crinkly blob effect.
Note, however, that if you haven’t done this before and decide to practice with the torch you have that different metals will melt at different temperatures. So using copper, for instance, which would be great to practice on, may give you a different feel for what you’ll experience with silver.
One thing I’ve found is that it seems to work best if you keep the flame moving at a slight angle along the edge of the silver and then once it starts to melt you can ‘push’ the melting silver along.
(That’s not strictly true as you’re not actually ‘pushing’ the melting silver, but rather new bits are melting as you move along the edge.
Just wanted a visual is all.)
Anyway, watch it carefully as one lapse in concentration can result in the whole thing going to pot and you’ll have to swear mightily and roll around in a tantrum across the room.
Which actually might not be a bad thing as could be you’ll find all sorts of goodies that you thought were lost forever on the floor.
Not that I’ve done that.
So, all blabbing aside, this is what you should end up with.
Which I then clean up with one of these special things – HERE – that I bought a while back and didn’t know what to do with.
The melted edges can be very sharp and this bristle brush takes care of it almost immediately.
Love it when I finally figure out what to do with things.
Now solder the bezel collar to the melted sheet.
If you have trouble soldering the collar because of the rippled edges of the back plate and you find you are left with some gaps that you can’t fill, solder what you can and then quench the piece. Put the piece on your bench block and gently tap the collar with your rubber hammer to close any gaps. If you do this gently enough you won’t distort the collar too much as the silver will already be softened due to annealing during the first solder and it won’t take much to close it.
If it does distort you can place the stone back into the setting and re-form those parts affected. I use wax – HERE – which I have blobbed onto the end of a stick to lift my stone in and out of a setting if I haven’t drilled a hole in the bottom from which to poke the stone out.
Doing this isn’t ideal as you should try to get your bezel collar and back plate to sit as flush as possible, but in a pinch this works for me.
Now you can put a little more flux on the piece and heat it up again so that the solder flows nicely around the edges.
Next I put the stone back in the setting and textured the area in-between the wavy line of the melted silver and the bezel collar. I also textured slightly up the collar.
I then used a pair of pliers to turn up the edges.
You can’t use normal metal pliers as I have here if there is no texture on the back plate as they will mar the silver, but you can carefully use the pliers with the nylon tips, or I have also used my burnisher to push the sides up from underneath.
Again this step can distort the bezel collar so you have to take care not to trap the stone.
Once this is done I cut the inside silver away.
As a note, I have turned the sides of the setting up both with the back still in and with it cut out. Although it seems more logical to turn up the edges with the back already cut out so that the stone doesn’t get trapped I found that, for me, it distorted the setting more and it was harder to get the shape back so that the bottom lay flat.
You could try either.
You don’t have to cut out the inside of the setting, but I like my stone to sit further down into the design as it gives it a little more dimension. It also takes away some of the weight from the larger settings.
Use your pliers to reshape any distortions.
Try to saw away the inside as close to the edge as you can otherwise you’re going to have to do a lot of filing.
I rest the collar on the edge of my bench block and either use my file,
or an old, worn down grinding wheel – HERE – that is able to fit inside the setting.
This can be a bit vicious however so use with caution.
You want to end up with your stone being able to slip right through the setting.
Now cut out another piece of silver sheet just a fraction larger than the piece you’ve just finished.
Sand the silver sheet with a piece of rough sandpaper.
I like these foam backed pads from the local hardware store – HERE.
And use that special buffing thing on the bottom of the setting.
Or whatever you normally do to clean things up for soldering.
I like to lift the larger pieces I need to solder up off the block a little as it really helps to move the heat around.
I use one of those titanium strips – HERE – that I don’t know what else to do with.
I never can seem to bend them into the shape I want, but for this it’s perfect.
When I solder larger pieces I not only raise it up off the block a little, but once the flux has begun to gloss over I lift the whole of one side of the piece I’m soldering up with my pick. This really gets the heat moving around and the solder flowing.
For those new to soldering sometimes you will notice that the solder flows up onto the bezel collar. This is because the bezel wire is thinner and therefore heats up faster than the rest of the setting. The heat draws up the solder. Be patient. Keep an eye out not to melt the collar, but the solder will eventually begin to flow and you will have won the game.
It’s all about where you place the tip of the flame and getting it to heat all of the silver to the same temperature at the same time.
You don’t want to concentrate your flame on one spot, but rather move the flame continuously over the whole area you want to solder.
The very tip of the blue part of the flame is the coolest, so that can be a little closer to the top edge of the collar. The hotter part is about a centimeter out from the blue tip. This is the part that will melt things, so if you bring the blue tip down closer to the top edge of the collar the hotter part of the flame will go down beyond that to the area where you want the solder to flow and not melt the collar itself.
You still have to be careful, but it works.
I then saw away the base to mirror the top layer of the setting and sand it smooth.
A little grubby but I’m not complaining.
Now I put it in the pickle and work on the cuff.
Here I have a 6″ x 1″, 20 gauge piece of fine silver.
I tend to use fine silver for all my pieces and only use sterling for some wire.
Anneal the silver.
Charles Lewton-Brain says that you know when the silver is annealed when the flame turns orange.
I always looked at the colour of the silver, but now I look at the flame.
It’s good to mix it up once in a while.
Once annealed I start to hammer it over the edge of my bench block to fold it in half.
Eventually I decided it was easier to wedge the silver in-between the block and my bench, push down on the block and whack the thing upward.
Once it folded over as much as it wanted to, I annealed it again.
I then hammered along the very edge on the fold.
Which opened the ends up slightly.
Enabling me to get one of my jump ring mandrels inside and pry it apart by tapping gently on the mandrel with my rubber hammer.
I put the hammered part of the fold, about 5mm or so, into my bench vise and then hammered one side down to make it a 90 degree angle.
After which I was able to fold it back over itself.
And flatten it down.
It doesn’t look tremendously great at this point.
Going to have to work on my folding skills.
Remember to keep on annealing during this process. As soon as the silver seems harder to work with put it back under the flame.
Now you’re ready to stamp.
I hate stamping, and I hate wire wrapping.
Fortunately I only had to deal with one evil here.
You are going to have to level up the underside of the cuff with a piece of metal so that the stamp will mark evenly on the top.
Here I’m using another piece of silver because I was too impatient to find something else.
Not really one of my better ideas although it didn’t spoil the smaller piece as much as I thought it might.
You can use card or something else to pad it with.
Here is the front of the piece ready to continue stamping.
You can gently hammer on the edges of the strip if you find it has distorted during stamping, but the reason it’s distorted here is because I have stamped more on one side than the other which has, in essence, stretched the silver out unevenly.
You can correct this by stamping more on the other side to compensate for this.
Here I have leveled it up and snipped away part of the ends to help with shaping.
And now it’s ready for the edge melting process.
At this point I shape it on a bracelet mandrel.
And take the setting out of the pickle to cut down the collar to the correct height for the stone.
I run a pencil around the inside, snip as much as I can away with some snippers, and then file the rest down.
For this setting I wasn’t as precise as I usually am as I wanted a more uneven look to go with the setting.
I propped up the cuff and used far too much solder on it to join the two together.
But that setting ain’t going nowhere…
I forgot to mention that at some point I also added some balls and whatnots to the setting.
I pickled it once again then painted it with Black Max – HERE – which is not the least toxic of products out there, but is my favourite patina.
Just be very careful with it and always wear a dust mask when buffing it.
Always wear a dust mask anyway.
I give it an initial buff which I forgot to show you, with both a radial wheel – HERE – I like to use these 1″ yellow ones for the tight places and then with my dinky buffing machine – HERE – with this very fine buffing wheel – HERE.
After I’ve got it almost finished with the first buff I set the stone and place masking tape over the top.
Which I then cut away leaving enough to protect the stone.
And then I buff it again.
Until I’m satisfied with the end result…
So I hope you made it through without my boring you to death.
I come to you today with my new, ‘stepped up’ pieces of jewelry which now I actually think of as being more ‘stepped out’.
They kind of happened when I wasn’t paying attention.
Which I highly recommend.
I’m a very anal creative.
With the pottery, with the quilt making, and with the jewelry making, I like to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, and will often go back, even when something’s finished to fix something that, in my opinion, is just not quite right.
Can be annoying.
Also, I don’t think it’s necessarily always a good thing.
Sometimes you’ve just got to let yourself go.
It all started with a ring that a lady had asked me to make for her, but which we could never really decide on.
She liked this, but I couldn’t find a similar stone.
I also thought that perhaps all the little leaf things would catch on other non-leaf things when she wore it.
Looking at it now I’m not so sure.
So I cut quite a lot of stones and made up a few settings, which I consequently made into necklaces.
I didn’t mind doing this as I’ve been needing some help getting into the studio.
I really like this setting. It’s clean with a little interest and it highlights the stone nicely.
India Black Skin and Larsonite are now two of my favourite stones.
I next cut a nice piece of dendritic opal.
And this is where it all went wrong.
I admit I was at a loss for making the ring and when I feel that I’m not able to do something I tend to self sabotage.
It’s not going to work anyway, right? So why pay attention.
This happened while I wasn’t paying attention.
I had made a cuff the day before, but I didn’t like it. I did like the melted edges, however, so I decided to make my favourite setting with the same edges.
And as I’m a slow learner I soldered the bezel collar to the sheet first.
I managed to melt the edges of the sheet o.k.
Along with the collar.
Frustrated I just decided to leave it and make the most of it.
I was kind of liking the rough and ready, Capt’n Jack Sparrow look to it anyway.
It just reminds me of him.
Pirates in general really.
So I improvised around the collar, in the back of my mind thinking that it might turn out o.k. after all, but at the same time not holding my breath.
I knew it wasn’t going to be a ring as it was just too big, so a brainwave later, I decided to put the whole darn thing on the ugly cuff.
Still on a bit of a downer after dad.
In-between nice shiny bits of lovely.
It’s a work in progress.
Bottom line is that I kind of liked it.
It’s funky and statementy and more out there than what I’m used to, but it may just be exactly what I need right now.
Not that anal isn’t necessary at times, but I need a change.
So I made it a friend.
And then decided to make it some cousins.
Here’s a ring.
And another ring.
Seen here at their group photo op.
Pretty darn big rings really.
And here’s their second cousin once removed.
Which isn’t as deep, dark and seductive as it is in this photo.
For some reason certain stones just want to mess up the whole show.
So in a sense I think I have stepped it up.
In that out of the box way.
Although I do tend to suspect that my inside self is more big, bold and colourful than my outside self gives up.
And so I’ll leave you here to go out to make more.
Mostly it’s because I’m impatient which, of course, often times means that I end up needing to work on something for longer anyway because I didn’t pay enough attention in the first place.
So I’m going to step it up.
I know I stepped it up once before, and that was a good thing, but now I want to work on always being able to know, with confidence, that what I’m doing is definitely going to work the first time and that when it goes out the door I’m completely satisfied that it’s the best I can do.
I know it can be done.
I know there are people out there who are so bang on their game that they’re just brilliant at it.
Don’t get me wrong I’ve enjoyed my new pieces.
But I always get worried when one of them goes out the door.
No, not worried.
It’s worse when I see that I have a review on Etsy.
I can literally feel my heart stop a beat because I know they are just so disappointed with it and I have to cross my fingers to see if it’s going to be o.k.
Crossing my fingers, by the way, happens to be my go to safe place.
Nothing bad will happen if my fingers are crossed.
Well that’s what I tell myself anyway…
It’s amazing to look back at pieces I made when I first started out and didn’t know what I was doing.
The amount of solder I used for instance.
Way too much
But you don’t know these things unless you keep on doing them wrong until they whack you over the head.
And that’s o.k. as we all have to start somewhere.
But for a while now I just would really like to not do it wrong.
And for me that means slowing down, paying attention, and finally being able to let go of a piece knowing that it’s everything it should be.
For years I just put all the jewelry I made into little bags and popped them in a drawer until I sold them.
This worked well until I started to drown in finished jewelry pieces and found myself becoming more and more fraught with anxiety each time I sold something and couldn’t immediately put my hands on it.
It didn’t help that I wasn’t always good at following the drawer rule either.
Sometimes I’d find the pieces in other places.
Just laying around.
I’ve always worked, (and lived really), in a chaotic mess which has never really bothered me except that sometimes the idea of running a business just really brings out the nerd in me.
I mean I love Office Depot for instance.
All those organizing things under one roof.
It’s just unfortunate that Ms Chaos runs rings around Order every time I decide to sort myself out..
But now I have the perfect system.
For me anyway.
Prepare to get your nerd on…
… and your baggies out.
And the sticky labels…
This is only for those of us who don’t know what the hell they’re doing.
For all you other people who already know what you’re doing this will probably have you either in stitches or you’ll lose your eyeballs in the back of your head.
You have been warned…
I break down all of my items into codes as such.
Necklaces with Cabochons = NC
Necklace without Cabochons = NS because they’re typically just made with silver.
And so on.
Earrings = EC and ES
Bracelets = BC and BS
Rings = RC and RS
Then I add their numbers after this code and stick it onto individual appropriate sized bags.
I then use a larger bag to hold up to ten pieces of jewelry.
This bag gets its own label.
NC1 – 10
NC11 – 20
NC21 – 30
Into which I put the corresponding items.
The good thing about this is that I can then store them in bag order in the drawer and so when I sell item NC26, for instance, I can put my hands on it straight away.
To encourage me to remember to do all of this I have a set of numbered bags ready and waiting in a little box on my work table.
When I finish a piece I put it straight in its pre-labeled bag, then I just take the box inside and list the pieces that are in it.
It may sound simple.
You may already do this.
You may have a better system.
But to me, this is heaven on a sticky label.
Here are the cabochons waiting for their turn.
I then have a simple spread sheet that I made on my computer which has this code number on it, where I have it listed, i.e., Etsy or my Website, the item name, how much it is, and finally a box in which I can mark off when and also where I sold it.
i.e. √E = Etsy
√F = Facebook
√I = Instagram
This one is for the earrings.
Don’t ask me what the P is for…
Just goes to show. You can take a horse to water….
Maybe it’s a private sale?
We may never know…
So there you have it.
Of course you have to follow through with all the putting things in baggies and remembering to put the code in the item’s title when you list it on Etsy, etc., although I noticed that now Etsy has a new box for putting in your SKU number when you list something so that should make life easier.
O.K. so don’t laugh that it’s taken me this long to figure things out.
I didn’t know I was going to make so much stuff.
Not my fault…
Of course I don’t have any system whatsoever for keeping track of materials etc.
I suppose I’ll be saving that little project for another decade.