The How To’s of a ring.

For Patti.

This really is a fairly simple ring to make.

Honest.

I used 23 gauge fine silver sheet, 18 gauge sterling silver wire, and 10 gauge fine silver wire.

Remember that you’ll have to accommodate for the silver around the cabochon you choose to determine the final size of the ring.

First up this is just the way that I make my jewelry. I’m self-taught and make loads of mistakes and don’t always do things the best way.

I’m a bit of a muddler really and so the way I do things and the tools I use are not meant to be set in stone.

The best way to view this How To is to take a looksee and see if it’s something you’d like to experiment with.

I won’t be answering the door to any subpoena’s for incorrect information.

Just saying…

😉

I start all of my pieces with a quick drawing to get a feel for what I’d like to start with.

Sometimes these are brilliant pieces of art work.

Sometimes not.

Here you can see that I’ve already made the collar for the cabochon, but you don’t have to do that first.

I just happened to have this one hanging around for a while because I started off with an idea for it, then couldn’t make up my mind.

I’ve got a lot of indecision on my table.

Then I stamp and cut out little pieces of silver.

Lots of little pieces of silver.

Which I then play around with on the sketch I’ve made adding some silver balls that I have laying around.

Every time I turn off my torch for the day I take out a charcoal block and use up the excess gas in the line to make balls out of the scraps I have laying around.

This way I feel as though I’m not wasting anything and the bonus is I have loads of little balls just waiting for a home.

Of course, however many balls I have hanging around I never seem to have the exact size I’m looking for.

Life can be complicated like that sometimes.

Once I’ve come up with a plan I then take a piece of 18 gauge wire and wrap it around the stone.

I try to do this loosely to give it a little personality.

Here I’ve used sterling silver because that’s what I had hanging around and so I annealed it first to make it more pliable.

If I were using fine silver I wouldn’t have to anneal it first as it’s much softer.

Once I think it’s interesting enough and balances out the stone nicely, I place the little pieces of silver on it to get another feel for it.

And then cut out a piece of the 23 gauge fine silver sheet to solder it on to.

I usually cut out the shape of the pencil line I’ve made around the piece so that I don’t waste so much silver, but for today I’ve just measured out a rough piece to work with.

I did have lots left over to make new leaves though so it’s all good.

🙂

Now I clean it up with my handy sanding pad.

And place the collar and wire on it to solder.

NOTE: I cover all of the plate with flux.

Some old gentleman at one of the shows I did a couple of years ago told me that this helps prevent fire scale, so I decided to believe him and that’s what I’ve done ever since.

Seems to work.

(See more info on this at the bottom of the post)

Also you can see above that I haven’t cleaned the wire for soldering.

I know you’re supposed to, but I’ve found that it’s really the correct heat and the area you heat around the piece you want to solder that is the key. I do, however, always clean the back plate.

I’m not recommending it, just explaining what you see in the photo.

Next I sand around the area to clean it up.

Sometimes this is enough, but sometimes you will need to pickle it.

I then check that the stone still fits using either dental floss to ease it out again, the sticky wax on a stick thing, or, if it’s willing, by just tapping it out.

And now you add the bits.

🙂

I have attempted to make a little youtube video showing how I do this.

It’s quite boring so I’ve sped it up a bit, but if you want to take a look at it I’ll put it at the end of this post.

You’ll see that I place each piece of stamped silver individually around the collar. Sometimes heating a little blob of solder on the bottom of a leaf etc.,and then taking it over to the piece works well enough, but this time I found that I needed to place the solder on the wire around the collar first and then place the leaves, etc., on it for it to stay put.

I use tiny chips of solder from Contenti to do this.

I heat the wire a little then I gently heat a stamped leaf piece as I take it over to the solder. I melt a tiny piece of solder onto it’s underside and then I bring it back to  it to the piece to fix it in place.

If you watch your flame and control where your heat is you won’t undo the pieces you’ve already soldered.

Continually watch the silver. You will see when a piece of solder is going to re-flow. Just take your flame away and come in gently again to the piece you want to solder.

This will work most every time once you get the hang of it..

NOTE: You can place all of the pieces on the piece at once and heat it up evenly until they’re all soldered, but I find that not all the pieces will stay put and I also like to make it up as I go along. You’ll see in the video that I sometime try different sizes of balls, for instance, or I might like to add or take away something.

Now I pickle it and cut it out.

You don’t have to use a sharpie to out-line it, but I find it helps me to keep the back plate just a little proud of the top which is the look I’m going for as, for me, it adds to the depth of the piece.

And now this stage is done.

Next up is the ring shank.

You can make this anyway you prefer, but for the purpose of this How To I’ll show you how I made mine.

I took two pieces of 10 gauge wire which I rolled slightly through the rolling mill.

You can leave them round if you wish, or gently hammer them if you prefer.

Once I flattened them slightly I then bent them so that their middles met to be soldered.

That’s when I found out that I’d used one piece of fine silver, and the other piece, which I’d found lying on my table, was sterling.

Told you I mess up a lot.

My life, I tell you.

:/

But we’re not going to talk about that anymore.

Needless to say, when you have joined two pieces of the correct wire together you will bend them around your ring mandrel.

Depending on whether you measured out you wire before hand, which I didn’t, you may have some excess which you can then mark off at the size you want the shank to be.

And cut down accordingly.

You will then need to take your rubber/rawhide hammer to shape the ends around the mandrel.

Next you will need to angle off the cuts so that they will sit flush to the base of the ring top.

You can do this a couple of ways.

By holding it in you fingers to file down.

Or your thumb.

Or you can sand it.

I stick a piece of that sticky backed sanding paper on my table next to my bench block.

Once the ends sit flush you are ready to solder it onto the ring top.

Here I’ve already stamped the bottom with my mark and silver content. You can do this as I’ve done or you can stamp them on the ring shank itself.

I usually stamp my pieces after I’ve made them and before I’ve set the stone.

I balance the piece on one of my disc cutting punches and stamp it that way.

Don’t question me. It’s just a thing I do…

And now you’re ready to finish up.

I cleaned up the bottom with my new favourite abrasive wheel.

You can choose the best way for you.

Then I cut down the collar.

I ran a pencil around the inside of the collar keeping it flush to the top of the stone.

You might want to cut off the collar differently depending on the cut of the cabochon. This one had a distinctive curve that stopped without transitioning smoothly to the flat top of the stone and as I didn’t want the collar to sit short of the top I decided to roll it over the sides of the cabochon to meet the flat top.

I don’t know if that makes sense, but a long story short I felt that the collar would look wrong curved just half way up the edge of the stone.

I next brushed it with Black Max and buffed it down as much as I could at that point.

 

After which I set the stone and covered it with masking tape to protect it and finished off buffing it until I got the finish I was looking for.

I prefer this brushed look, but you can finish yours using the method you prefer.

And there you have it.

Your new ring.

Hope that all made sense.

I’d love to see what you make.

Happy Mother’s Day.

🙂

As I didn’t want you to watch sugar dissolving I sped this video up a bit, but I think you’ll get the gist. Here I’m soldering the bezel collar and the 18 gauge wire to the back plate using a larger #1 Smith nozzle on my torch which helps to heat the whole area evenly. The solder pieces are already placed inside the bezel collar and the whole piece is raised up from the honeycomb block on one of those titanium strips which I’ve bent into a triangle shape to support it. Once the solder pieces (pallions) begin to shine slightly you might just be able to see that I lift the corner of the silver plate up from the titanium prop with my pick. This allows the heat to get underneath the piece and helps the solder flow.

This lifting of the corner is a great tip and my solder flows every time I do it. I use less solder because of it and it really flows evenly around the whole area leaving no pits on the inside or outside.

Depending on how much you use some of the outside wire will be caught up in the solder flow, but generally only those areas that are closest to the collar. You’ll see that after the bezel collar is soldered I use my pick to pick up small chips of solder to attach the outer edges of the wire to the back plate. In this instance I didn’t need the wire to be completed soldered down as I wanted it to lay in a more natural flow around the piece. I just needed it to be secure, but you can use this technique to fix it all down if you need to.

If you use this technique, at times, if the pieces to solder aren’t evenly heated, you might find that as you bring the solder on your pick to the piece it will flow up over the wire and not underneath it to join it to the back plate. If this happens take another small chip of solder and hold it down with your pick as you heat it so that it doesn’t have the chance to go where you don’t want it to.

                                             

 

This second video, which isn’t 7 minutes long by the way, but is thankfully only as long as the first video, shows how I attach the small leaves and balls.

I flux everything and then heat it up. As I mentioned above at first you can see me taking each stamped piece to the small chips on my board, heating them slightly so that the solder sticks to their undersides and then taking them back to the place I want to attach them to. Usually this works fine, but for some reason today, (probably because I was being watched) they wouldn’t stick. To remedy this I then took the small chips and placed them on the wire where the attachment was to go and soldered them that way.

                                             

Let me know if I’ve missed anything out, or something doesn’t make sense.

😉

UPDATED INFORMATION – QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FROM FRIENDS ON FACEBOOK.

If you have anything to add that may be of relevance just let me know and I’ll update it here.

  • First commenter: Only one issue: that particular flux is not a prevention flux for firescale. It’s a flow flux, to facilitate solder flow. No need to put it all over the piece; just use a little where you want your solder to flow. 

 

  • From another commenter:  I thought all flux covered firescale & flow. No?

 

  • Original commenter: No. There are flow fluxes and barrier fluxes. Neither does both jobs.

 

  • Another commenter: Sooooo cupronil says it’s both a flux and a fire coat preventative … is that not the case?

 

  • Cupronil contains some boric acid and some do use it like Prips as both, but I have not found it to be as good as using 2 separate fluxing preps- all in what you get used to and how you were trained. My training was to fire coat thoroughly, then use flow flux only where you would solder.

So.

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.

Bummer.

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.

To celebrate.

A chain.

🙂

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.

You can find a selection of cup burs – HERE.

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.

😉

The anatomy of a stone cuff.

This is going to be a long one.

You have been warned…

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.

Dendritic Landscape Opals from HELGASHOP

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.

I find I mostly use this one – HERE

For thicker stones this one – HERE

And very thin ones – HERE

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 prefer to use Contenti solder – HERE.

It seems nicer to me.

Just sayin’.

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.

And voila.

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.

Bit fiddly.

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.

Sorry.

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.

🙂

If you make one, I’d love to see it.

So we haven’t had a project in a while…

And I thought you might like to play along with me.

By the way, Dracula is great. I much prefer it to Frankenstein except that it’s spoiled somewhat by the fact that the Gary Oldman/Keanu Reeves movie is so true to the book that I can see it all playing out in front of me again. I really wanted to imagine it differently this time.

Oh well. Rebecca next…

Or Anna Karenina.

Don’t know.

So onto the project.

I bought a lovely piece of Sage Amethyst and thought I’d make another of my boxy pieces.

So if you fancy making one here’s how I did it.

I drew a rough design around the stone.

IMG_8840

Then I took a length of bezel wire that is the same width as the depth of the stone and shaped it into the top three sides of the box.

You can just about see it below.

See.

IMG_8842

I sniped it to sit perfectly on top of the stone.

IMG_8844

Then I bent another piece of the bezel wire across the top of the stone.

IMG_8846

And soldered it to the bottom part of the box.

IMG_8847

(Prepare for fuzzy photo)

I turned it over and soldered what will be the top of the box onto a piece of silver leaving enough overhang on the bottom edge to create a lip that will cover the top of the stone slightly

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Then I cut around the sides of the box.

(Another fuzzy photo)

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and checked out how it fit to the stone.

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I actually thought of leaving it right here as the plain silver looked so good on its own. But you know me and my fiddly ways…

Here’s the lip.

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You can see above that the area where the sides of the box and the stone meet doesn’t lie flat on the block. Annoyingly I had forgotten my own instructions and chosen the wrong bezel depth so I had to adjust the lip slightly so that it didn’t lay quite as far over the stone as I would have liked. This allowed the two pieces to sit flush.

Had the sides of the box been deep enough I wouldn’t have had to kick myself and swear (just a little – I’ve had bigger problems) but as I’m all about problem solving I manned up and moved on.

So much for paying attention.

Then I forgot all about it when noticed a half set little Tiger’s Eye just laying around on the table doing nothing much in particular and thought it might look good with the amethyst.

The colour actually looks a lot better with it than this photo gives it justice and, as Snow White would sing anytime she had chores to do – Someday my Prince will come – It was as if it knew its soul mate would eventually come.

Somehow thinking of P when I’m doing the washing up doesn’t quite have the same effect on me..

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As the sides of the tiger eye bezel wasn’t as deep as I wanted it I decided to make it another.

Now I don’t know if you remember, but I had an awful time fiddling around trying to get this vice thing to work for me.

But now I can tell you it’s my new best friend.

I just wasn’t being stern enough with the screws on the top.

Now I’ve figured out that I just have to be firm with it the thing holds the tubes, and whatever else you want it to hold, like a champ.

So I cut another length of tubing to fit the tiger eye.

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And placed the cut off bit back in the vise and made sure to sand the ends completely flat.

You can file right down the vise and not damage the file, or so the Internet says, and you know the Internet is always right…

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Once you’ve done that you can use your nifty bur to drill down into the tube to cut a seat for the cabochon to rest on.

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As you probably know you can purchase cabochons, tubing and bur sizes in various millimeters so that they all correspond to make setting a stone a breeze. Once you get the hang of the annoying vise…

See here how it sits so pretty.

Took me over a year to figure out the easy way to do this.

Man I’m slow…

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Next I cut out a matching hole on the top of the box.

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You can just about see below that the tube has been soldered to just stand proud of the top of the box. You want the tube to fit snug into the hole you’ve made so that the solder joins the two completely and you want just enough of the bezel showing above the box to be able to push the sides over to hold the bezel.

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Next I filed the bottom flush.

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And cut out a backing sheet of 22 gauge fine silver to fit both the top box and the stone.

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Before soldering the top to the backing plate, however, you have to pierce the back so that air can escape as you don’t really want another explosion in the studio.

Just sayin’

My tube sits all the way down and will be soldered to the back plate so creating a sealed chamber around it inside.

My preferred way to do this is to trace around the pieces to be soldered with a Sharpie pen.

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This way I can play around with some ideas and then saw out my design.

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After I have done this I can then go ahead and solder the box to the back plate knowing exactly where the design will lay by matching the top to the Sharpie lines.

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I then drew in the bottom part of the stone again and drilled some holes for the prong setting.

IMG_8868I like to solder the prongs using a charcoal block. This way I can place each prong into the hole I’ve drilled and gently tap it with a hammer so that it sinks down into the charcoal a little. I place each prong as you would close a bezel up, tapping the next prong on the opposite side, etc., etc., until they are all in. This way seems to keep them more secure.

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Then I place a little blob of solder at the base of each prong and place the leaves around the bezel and after soldering

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See if I haven’t completely messed up and that the stone fits correctly.

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Here is the pierced back.

And my grubby finger. Oh how we suffer for our art…

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Here I have cut the excess silver from around the box and stone and have cut the prongs down to their correct height and finished them by shaving some of their thickness off and smoothing out the tips.

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Here’s it’s sexy shot.

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I fashioned it a simple, yet charming bale and soldered that to the top after I finished up the back design.

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At this point we know that it would be an extraordinary thing for me to have managed to photograph every stage of the pendant’s making.

Extraordinary I am not.

I forgot to show you the back.

You’ll have to improvise.

Sorry.

Here is the piece sanded, patina’d and buffed.

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Sage Amethyst

Turns out that I’m not completely happy with it because the top left hand of the stone doesn’t sit as snug as I would have liked it to and the prongs are set too far out on the left hand side. I think it happened when I had to fiddle with the lip to fit over the stone.

🙁

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But I will bravely continue on with my struggle to produce technically perfect little pieces of lovelies.

I’ll never surrender…

And here’s its back.

Finished while you weren’t looking.

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And here’s another piece I had on the back burner.

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Variscite

So let me know if you make one.

🙂

A chain for you and a question…

I thought I’d share with you one of my chains.

It’s very simple, and like most things creative, not unique to me, but if you’ve not tried making your own chains yet and fancy having a go, read on…

You will need about 4 ft of 19 gauge wire for this 18″ chain and simple soldering skills.

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I used sterling silver because that’s all I had available in 19 gauge.

Of course you can use any gauge and ring diameter, but you will have to adjust for the amount of links, etc., accordingly. You can use copper if you prefer, but note that the solder tends to show more.

TIP

When making calculations for a different chain design or gauge I like to make a 4 or 5 link sample chain. This way I can measure how long that small piece of chain is and then multiply it for the actual amount of links I would need for the chain length I want.

I can also see at this time if I like the chain design and the gauge.

For this reason I’ve started making different sample chains out of copper for quick reference.

To calculate the length of wire needed for each chain I’ve found this handy interactive chart.

how to work out the circumference of a circle

and for calculating millimeters into inches,

how to convert mm to inches

NOTE

Jump ring sizes are measured using the inside diameter. To be sure that I actually have enough silver to complete the chain I measured the jump ring I want to use by the outside diameter.

Now for the chain…

Make 24 x 9.5mm jump rings.

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Wrap them with tape.

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And saw them apart trying not to slice your finger open – because it hurts.

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TIP

After much experimenting I find it easiest to use long blade passes through the rings holding the rings just proud of the edge of a wooden block. Start sawing at an angle and once you’ve got a good purchase straighten up the blade so that it runs more or less perpendicular to the outside of the rings.

With practice it becomes easier and that’s actually the first time I’ve cut myself.

Must not have been paying attention.

Always pay attention…

Now make 26 x 3mm jump rings and do the same.

Beware as this is more fiddly and swear worthy.

Now solder the small jump rings together.

Note: I like the whole chain soldered, but you can skip soldering the small jump rings if you wish and just join the completed larger links together at the end.

For a completely soldered chain, however, I find it easiest to solder the small jump rings first.

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For joining the jump rings I like to use chips of solder which I buy from Contenti.

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I sprinkle a small batch directly onto my soldering board and use my pick to take them one at a time to the links.

NOTE

You do not need flux or solder to join fine silver together.

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You really only need one of these tiny chips to solder the 19 gauge jump ring together. The key, as always, is to make sure that the ends of your jump ring fit tight together.

There shouldn’t be much of a gap at all otherwise the solder will not flow across the two ends to join them.

Now they are all soldered you can slip two of them onto a larger jump ring and prepare to solder that closed also.

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TIP

 Always point the joins you want to solder in the same direction. This way takes the guess-work out of finding the join, especially if you’ve done a good job preparing them and they’re so tight you can’t find the join at all.

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Now take two of the soldered links and join them together with a third, large link.

Solder these also.

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Now you’ll have groups of three.

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Which you’ll join together with another large link.

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Although at this point it becomes easier to solder the whole chain together at once.

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Continue in this way until you have used up all of your jump rings.

Now you could stop right here and you’d have a nice, large loop chain to clean up and buff.

You could leave the rings round or hammer them slightly to give them more character.

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But I took a pair of round-nosed pliers and opened up the links.

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If you do every other link in this way you’d once again have a nice, large loop chain to wear.

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If you then took the oval links and squeezed them together so that their middles touched, you’d have yet another design of chain.

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But I was going for the figure 8, which is achieved by holding a pair of flat nosed pliers at each end of the oval link and twisting it 180 degrees, making sure that you twist each link in the same direction.

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So here’s another chain design.

You could also change it up by using a different size joining ring.

Your options are limitless…

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If you continue to stretch the rest of the 9.5mm links you can go through the same process, making a different style of chain at each stage.

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But, like I said, I was going for the figure 8 all the way…

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Here it is after the pickle.

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And once it has been dunked into the Black Max, or Liver of Sulphur. and buffed.

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All ready and waiting to go.

You can see here that I also hammered the ends of the figure 8’s.

Now for the question.

How much would you charge for this chain?

Bear in mind that you have to accommodate for your experience. For example it’s not fair to set a price when it’s taken you all day to make something which, in fact, it should only take you 2 hours.

I’ve made quite a lot of them now and each time this particular chain takes me 1 hour 50 mins from start to finish.

No breaks. No daydreaming. Just exact timing carefully watching the clock.

Right now silver is $15.79 and so this piece has $4 worth of silver in it.

If you have a scale you can easily weigh the finished piece in troy ounces and then calculate the silver content.

You can find the current silver prices at the top of Rio Grande’s site.

I have a scale similar to this one.

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So, what is your formula for pricing?

I used to just guesstimate, but as time has gone by I’ve begun to see how important my time is and how, in the past, I was almost giving my jewelry away.

This had always been o.k. with me insofar I was learning my craft as I went along, but if you are serious about making and selling your jewelry there comes a time when you should start to look into the real value of your work, if not you are not only underestimating your worth, but also undercutting the worth of other artists.

This is a simple formula that I like to use.

labor + materials + overhead + profit = wholesale price

wholesale price x 2 (minimum) = retail price

At the end of the calculation I then look at the figure and see if I think it’s fair and if I think the piece will actually sell for that.

I would be interest in your opinions about this and how you work out your prices

🙂

The rise and fall, and rise again, of the Willow Creek Jasper…

I’d like to tell you that everything I make starts good, ends good, and everything in the middle is perfect.

But…

So I cut this nice little Willow Creek Jasper cabochon from a big chunk I bought from The Gem Shop.

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And thought I’d show you something I made with it.

I decided to go for something like this, but wasn’t sure about the garnets.

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I thought they might be a little too pretty, but decided to go ahead anyway.

If you’re new to bezel making here’s how I prepare mine.

I run a length of bezel wire around the stone and cut it off a little larger than it needs to be.

If the stone has corners I define those with a pair of flat nose pliers first.

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Then holding it as tightly as I can I tuck one end underneath the other and mark where it overlaps with a pencil.

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O.K. so that was a lot more overlap than I needed.

I was obviously feeling generous.

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Now I snip the extra off leaving it a slither longer than I measured it.

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And I work the two ends by pushing them beyond each other to close up the gap and create some tension when they touch together.

I use my flat nose pliers to slightly flatten the join. This helps to finish up the alignment.

The join has to be perfectly aligned before soldering.

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With no gaps.

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Now I solder it.

I like to use a third hand and place the solder piece on the outside of the bezel, but there are many ways to do it. Just make sure to heat the silver evenly so that the solder flows over the join. If you heat one side more than the other the solder will pull away from the join toward the hotter end and the solder won’t fill the join.

If this happens take your flame away, start heating the whole thing again so that the silver heats evenly and then help the solder flow across the join with your pick.

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The bezel should fit nice and snug.

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See.

Look at the shine I got on that cabochon.

I did that.

😉

In fact I was so impressed with myself that I celebrated with a cup of tea.

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Here’s the other side.

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They’re not so impressed. Especially the last man.

Next up I soldered the bezel wire to the back plate and pickled it.

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And because all of a sudden I thought perhaps I should I’ve stared rinsing the piece in a solution of water and baking soda when I first get it out of the pickle.

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Then I rinse it in water.

I also hold my breath when I open the pickle crock pot.

The hypochondria’s been creeping back in.

It’s O.K.

I’ll be O.K.

:/

Now I trim away the excess silver from around the bezel wire leaving a couple of millimeters as a border.

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And then I cut away all of the silver plate inside of the bezel wire.

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You don’t have to do this when making a bezel setting. I just like to sink the stone down into its surround a little more to try to give it more depth.

If you want to try this make sure to saw as close to the inside edge as possible otherwise you’re going to have to do a lot of filing.

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And that gets boring real soon.

The end result should see the cabochon passing through this first step of the bezel without it getting caught on the sides.

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Just in case you were wondering we’re still on the rise bit of the project so try not to worry too much.

Now I stamp and cut out some leaves.

I found these little beauties

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HERE

I try not to buy much from overseas, but in this instance I couldn’t resist.

I was having one of my bored Sunday buying days.

Nice stamp though.

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Once they’re trimmed I push them against the edge of my block to give them some dimension.

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I’m all about dimension.

Except around my waistline of course.

That can be as flat as it wants with no complaints from me.

 Next the garnet bezel.

I’m using a 5mm garnet cabochon which I found at Rio Grande.

And this is the tubing that I used to set it.

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If you haven’t got one of these special little glob on a stick things you’ve got to get one.

Aside from coming in very handy they just make me smile.

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I’m sure there are lots of other fun stuff you can do with them aside from picking up small things that don’t want to be picked up and, of course, you could easily make your own out of wax, but even when I’m not using mine I sometimes have to look over at it and give it a wink.

Just sayin’.

I used it in this instance to pick up the garnet and measure it with this gauge tool.

I’ve got to tell you that this is another one of my smiling tools.

It’s just so simple and neat.

And here the two of them are doing their stuff together.

Brings tears to the eyes…

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O.K. so I measured the height of the garnet and then marked out the length of the tubing.

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I cut the tube with my new favourite tube tool.

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And sat back admiring my work.

Again.

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Now I use the corresponding bur bits to drill out a seat for the garnet.

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This takes a bit of practice and a steady hand as there’s not much room to play with if you chose this method to make the bezel.

The first couple of times I made one I gave up on ever being able to do it properly.

But.

This is still not the fall of the Willow Creek Jasper.

I know you’re getting anxious.

So there’s hope.

Always hope.

Again, there are different ways to do this, but this is the way that I’ve found works for me.

I take an old pair of flat nose pliers and hold the tube against a wooden block and gently drill out the middle, first using the round bur.

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Up until now I’ve found that the tube easily slips out from the pliers if you’re not paying attention.

But then.

I had a brain burst and got out an old pair of plastic tipped pliers which I rarely use because they don’t have a spring handle and I don’t like them as much as my other pair.

These grip the tube so much better and I’m not worried about ruining the plastic stuff as I never use them anyway.

Win win.

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(Update: The heat from the drill bit melts the plastic stuff so it doesn’t work after all. Man! I was so excited as well. I’m going to see if I can’t drill some tube sizes into an old pair of pliers, or something like that.)

After using the round bur to drill away to the depth you need you go in with the setting bur.

This one creates a little ledge for the stone to sit on.

Check out the fit as you go along using the fun goo stick thing.

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Use your beeswax or Bur Life as you drill.

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I prefer the beeswax as the Bur Life is too crumbly for me.

And voila!

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The stone should sit level in the bezel cup and deep enough for the edges to be pushed over the slope of the stone.

With practice this is possible.

My theory is.

If somebody else can do it. So can I.

Be strong.

Now I place all of the components on a sheet of 22 gauge fine silver to outline where I need to saw the sheet to prepare for soldering.

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And so begins the downfall of the Willow Creek Jasper…

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It all started innocently enough.

A phone call with P.

Another cup of tea.

Some yelling at Willow who has taken to barking all of the time wherever she is and whether she wants to or not.

P thinks it’s because she’s deaf and old and becoming senile.

I think that’s a bit harsh.

Deaf maybe.

You can yell at her all day and she won’t hear you.

But look at her.

🙂

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So basically I was distracted and didn’t know it.

And so happily continued on my way

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Until everything was nicely soldered.

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Except for the little balls which needed a slight adjustment.

Nothing much to worry about.

Except for the fact that I had soldered the bezel collar upside down which might not have been a problem except that the stone really really didn’t look as good this way up as it would the way I had intended it to be.

I could have continued with it, but it would have bugged me every time I looked at it and as I’ve decided to really try to make the best jewelry I can and also didn’t want to begin over, I reheated the piece and took the whole lot off and re soldered it the correct way up.

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A little tricky as, if you remember, I had cut the inside of the bezel away and now had to try to solder it back on again with no wiggle room whatsoever.

Here’s a trick to removing already soldered components.

If you just want to remove one item then heating it and picking it off with your tweezers is good enough, but if like me, you want to remove everything, it can be difficult to keep the heat spread evenly enough to loosen everything at once as one side invariably cools just enough for the solder to harden again.

So basically, just as you get one side of whatever it is you’re trying to remove loose the other side becomes soldered again and you can end up going backward and forward in a never ending spiral of desperation until you either melt the stuff accidentally, or more likely on purpose, as you’re so very frustrated and annoyed with it all.

To ward against flinging your torch across the room at this point and setting the room on fire I find that if you turn the whole piece over and heat it from the back it gets everything glowing nicely and evenly and then you can quickly turn it back over and pluck the pieces off easily.

Of course then you have to chance that one of the components will fly off the tweezers and burn a hole in your leg so that you’ll never be able to walk again.

Fortunately this time I was saved by the towel.

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Always pluck carefully.

Now, of course, because of the traumatic rescue, the whole bezel setting is a complete mess and solder has flown everywhere including into places that you never knew it could flow into.

And also the little border I cut out at the beginning was a little messy and uneven.

To even up the border I marked the outline with a sharpie which helped me see the areas I needed to file away.

I have to admit that I cheated here by using one of those handy little flat burs.

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Even so, it took some time.

A few moments of, Man! Why can’t you get anything right.

And another cup of tea.

But eventually I cleaned it up, and soldered that pesky leaf back on which had decided that with all the fun going on it would take a little field trip.

Next up I cut away the excess silver.

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Filed it and added a bale.

Then I cut away the back design.

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Just so’s you know, the flower design is upside down here on purpose and has nothing to do with the fiasco above.

The top half of the back of the cabochon isn’t as nice as the bottom and I wanted a nice colour to show through.

Then I cleaned it up some more with the flat bur and trimmed away the collar to the best height for the stone.

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And gave it a good scrub with the Penny Brite and a toothbrush.

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At this point I wasn’t too sure about how to hang the bottom garnet as, although wire wrapped tear drop beads are nice, I felt it would be a little too unfinished for this piece.

So I made it special home.

Yes, I know.

It looks like a cow bell.

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Then, relieved that the struggle was almost over, I blackened it with Black Max, buffed it as much as I could, and set the stone.

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After setting the stone I covered it with blue tape and buffed some more.

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Once I’d got it to the point I was happy with I got out the setting tools for the smaller garnet.

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These are neat little punches that hug the round of the bezel cup and, as you hammer the top gently, push the bezel over the stone.

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It’s a bit freaky when you first start using them as you just know you’re going to damage the stone.

But it works well if you take your time.

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And so there you have it.

I’m still not sure about the bottom garnet, and might change it up, but on the whole I like it.

Especially as now the stone is the right way up…

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Here are a few others that I just finished.

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Turquoise

 

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Back

 

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Flamingo Rose Agate

 

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Back

 

IMG_7518
Green Opal

 

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Back

Now I’m off out to yell at Willow again because she’s driving me nuts!

It really only makes me feel better as she can’t hear me at all…

Finally!

I’ve got some things done.

It’s been like pulling teeth.

Every day I go into the studio just to find some excuse to take a break.

Even after just fifteen minutes.

When I can’t find a reason to leave the studio I just decide that I’m so thirsty I’ll die if I don’t get a drink stat!

What’s all that about?

Remember this.

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That wouldn’t cooperate and decided that it just didn’t want to be made even though it deigned to pose to show you what you can do with all your broken pick sticks.

Well it took me three days by Jove, but eventually I was able to finish it in-between all the drink breaks and consequent rest room trips.

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Chalcedony

Not completely sure about the beads though.

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And I ordered an I.D. stamp.

Ain’t it cool 🙂

From Infinity Stamps.

They’re very expensive, but I’ve had one before and I really like the quality.

You just design your logo and send them the pic.

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It also took me five years to make these.

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Ocean Jasper
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Ocean Jasper and Chalcedony

In the meantime, while I was procrastinating going into the studio by ordering more stuff, I bought a sand casting kit.

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The wrong one as it turns out.

It all looked so easy on the videos, but man, that sand went everywhere. I even got some in my mouth.

It was like I was a child again.

O.K. still…

I couldn’t keep my space clean to save my life, yet the man on the video didn’t get a grain out of place.

It was very depressing.

My first casting came out so horribly that I just packed all the stuff back into the box in disgust and put the whole thing down as a waste of money.

But I really, really wanted to do it 🙁 and if that man could do it, so could I damn it!

I’d bought it on Amazon and decided to go back there to buy some different sand and try again.

The same sand that the annoyingly good at it man used.

And, while cursing myself that I always get things wrong, I decided to read the reviews on the kit I’d bought.

Now I always read the reviews before I buy anything.

Always… except for this time.

Should’ve read the darn reviews.

Everyone complained about the sand, and when I came to think about it, I couldn’t quite remember why I had bought the brand I’d gone for in the first place when it was more expensive than the brand I’d originally gone onto Amazon to compare pricing on.

The funk’s messing with my brain man!

Then I got a bit ticked off because it was 120 odd dollars and it didn’t work even though it said, new and improved sand, in big letters on the tub.

That should’ve been my first clue.

So in a fit of determination I sent the whole package back even though I’d used the sand and the casting flask had burn marks around the funnel area where I’d poured the silver in.

I told them on the little return box that I’d used it, but that it was horrible, but Amazon refunded me straight away, even before the company had received my parcel back.

I was quite impressed.

Don’t know if the sand casting people are going to be though.

Now I’ve ordered the one I wanted in the first place.

173-015

Stay tuned…

Emboldened I next contacted a nice lady on FB who reps for JoolTool.

I’d decided that I’d had enough of defective tools and products.

If you remember some of the discs that came with my JoolTool (seven of them!) kept spinning off the spindle when I was using them because their threads had worn or something.

These things are expensive and so are the adhesive pads and papers that you stick to them.

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I mean this bunch right here cost over $400!

(I shouldn’t have looked at the price…)

I’d already contacted the shop a couple of months ago and no one had answered me, so I was feeling pretty taken.

BUT this rep was great and Anie, the product designer and owner, phoned me and walked me through fixing them and now they are perfect and ready to go!

Great result.

Great customer service.

Very happy camper right here.

To celebrate I have a little pair of earrings you can make.

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All for you 🙂

First take 18 gauge sterling silver wire and wrap it around a mandrel six times.

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I’ve used the largest ring on this pair of pliers.

It always irritates me when I get this particular pair of pliers out because I can’t remember why there is a number 1 and an asterisk on them.

I don’t think I put it on them, but why would I buy a pair that were marked?

Just another of life’s mysteries to mess with my mind…

Now snip and solder them.

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Shape them into rough ovals and haphazardly hammer them.

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And group them into threes.

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As always I’ve forgotten the next photo which would have been of making a loop out of a thicker piece of wire.

I used 8 gauge half round wire.

Now loop the three wires through it and solder the top of the loop together.

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Because the half round wire is thick I left the top of it shaped as a teardrop instead of trying to get it perfectly round.

Now find two large silver balls that you have in your silver ball scrap box and solder one onto the rounded part of the thick tear drop ring.

The next photo’s are fuzzy, sorry. I tried hard to get good ones, but, as good as I am, I couldn’t hold everything at once.

Hold the tear drop point facing down in your third hand tweezers.

If you haven’t already got third hand tweeter, get some.

They’re invaluable.

Saves a lot of hospital visits.

Now make sure that all of the soldered areas of the thin large rings are facing down away from the tear drop and place one of those old pick sticks through the tear drop to separate the three rings from the soldered part of the tear drop.

This will help prevent the tear drop solder flowing onto the three rings while you’re soldering the ball onto the round part of the tear drop.

Capisce!

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Put some flux on top of the round end of the tear drop and on the bottom of the ball.

Heat the bottom of the ball and pick up a melted ball of solder with it.

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Now heat up the round end of the tear drop and solder the ball onto it.

Turn the tear drop over and clasp it in the third hand, again putting the broken pick stick between the bottom of the three rings and the inside of the round end of the tear drop as before.

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Get a little jump ring and place it in your third hand with the join facing downward and put some flux on the bottom of the jump ring and on the tear drop end of the large ring.

Gently heat the jump ring and pick up a small piece of solder as you did with the ball.

Now heat the tear drop end keeping the jump ring away from the flame, but close enough to stay heated and when the solder is ready touch the jump ring to the tear drop end.

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Pickle the earrings.

Make some ear wires.

And polish the way you desire.

And voilà!

Your earrings are ready.

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Now you can knock yourself out and make as many variations as you want.

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I tried a different way to connect the ear wire here, but don’t like it as much as the other way.

Always good to experiment though

😉

I leave you with the progress of the painting.

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And,

you might want to look away…

a poor me sawing injury

because when you’re in a funk normal activities take on a life of their own and like to do things to make you swear.

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I’ve made it small for grossing out purposes.

A lot.