These days I'm dividing my time at the bench between production pieces for the shop and practice pieces to learn new techniques. Today's post is about one of those practice sessions.
Just some simple earrings - a ring, a post, a bezel cup and a stone. What could go wrong?
Well, a few things. Nothing that couldn't be fixed or salvaged, but I learned a lot and it will make the next pair easier to put together. Here's the short version -
I started with some fused rings - fine silver. No problem there. I don't know why I decided on fusing versus soldering other than I had a scrap of 12 gauge wire sitting in front of me and I've been fusing for years now. Getting the two rings made and shaped to match was no problem. Between hammering on the bench block and then on the ring mandrel, I annealed the rings to keep the metal easier to work with.
I put the posts on first. They are pre-made findings because it's easier and I'm not too sure about making my own even though I've seen it done. Medium solder (paste) because they're kind of small and I didn't want to melt them. Plus I'd be adding only one other soldered element so it should have been fine. Oh and it was the first time I'd EVER used a third hand. Should have taken a photo, but I forgot in all the excitement and frustration.
After some careful measuring and marking with a Sharpie, I added the bezel cups. Paste solder again because I find it easier to apply to these tiny parts. Plus everything was fine silver and I didn't need to flux the universe, just the post to protect it since it's sterling.
But I ran into trouble getting the second post to stay on. I tried a half-dozen times. Once I thought it was on pretty good only to have it fall off while setting the stone. I had pushed on it a few times, pretty hard, and it seemed fine, but alas it was a weak join. I thought it was safe to put the stone in the bezel cup so I did. Dumb! And even dumber, I tried to quickly solder a the post back on with the stone attached. Yeah, I wasn't really thinking. Fortunately I was able to get it off the ring, because it was ruined. See how dark it is compared to the others? Don't do that.
So why is there a pendant there? Because I set the stone and the post fell off.
It's salvaged by becoming a pendant (couldn't solder a jump ring to it, so wiring a ring was the only way to get it to hang properly), but now one earring didn't have a mate. But would it fall apart, too? I decided to leave it unset and put it in the tumbler. Something I should have done before putting the bezel cups on!!
It passed the test! Everything stayed in place. Then I began making another to match it. This time I tested all joins thoroughly before moving on to the next step. The post was good and solid.
So that's my tale of semi-woe.
You can read a ton of books, watch hours of videos, but nothing can replace doing it yourself. Seat time as an old driving instructor told me. You just need experience. Sure I was a little disappointed, but the result is that I'm better. I learned lessons I won't soon forget. These earrings won't go in the shop, but they'll go to someone (me, my mom?) - a friend has already claimed another pair of practice earrings, rough as they are.
Onward and upward!