Monday was for chores, but Tuesday was for Toggles!
These are a variation on a project in Kate Richbourg's book Simple Soldering and while they're not perfect, I think I will use them for some future items. Here's a little look at how they went together. I apologize that I didn't photograph every step. I was caught up in the process and forgot about doing a blog post. Really have to get better at that.
First I cut 1 inch lengths of some 4mm flat sterling silver wire, then filed the ends smooth. Next I made and cut two rings from 14 gauge wire. The book calls for 16 gauge wire so that's what I used for the little half circles jump rings to attach the clasp to the bracelet or necklace. They get hammered flat and then the ends are filed to fit what they will solder to. Flat ends for the T section, beveled or angled for the O section. I don't have any photos of me making that end (doh!), but I do of the other. It requires careful measuring for placement and a third hand.
I see there that I should have cleaned up a little, but it took so many tries to get it set reasonably well that I just left it. Going forward I'll be neater and straighter!! Here it is after soldering.
A little messy, but not really awful. I used medium solder and concentrated the flame on the larger piece of metal. Solder flows toward the heat and since I'd put the solder on the jump ring and it's such a small part compared to the other, that's the way it should go to avoid melting it.
The O end of the clasp lies flat on the charcoal brick and it's a bit fiddly to place the jump ring as well. I used medium paste solder for that join since I used hard solder to make the ring itself. The solder pallion should be really tiny even with 14-gauge wire - less than 1 mm square since even with some that size I had a little mess to clean up.
Here they are cleaned up after pickling. I just use a brass bristle brush in the sink with a little water.
And here they are after an hour in the tumbler and some polishing with the Foredom.
I'll probably touch them up more before I use them, but they are decent enough and I'm so relieved! It took far less time for me to make the second than the first so I'm definitely getting better at this. Woo hoo!
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!
As the nation and the world hunkers down in an effort to slow the spread COVID-19, not much has changed here at the Wire Smith. Everything I make is done at home and I'm limiting my time in public places. Have made a few improvements to my studio, check it out -
Front and center a new stool. I was using an office chair, but the arms got in the way and if my husband needed to be in the office, too I was out of luck. As a bonus it matches my vise.
That green and black box is a fancy new vacuum with HEPA filtration. Doesn't it remind you of WALL-E when he folds himself up? Very cute. I have to perfect the dust collection on the bench, but it's all in the works.
That's a new task light as well. The one I had was a strange compact fluorescent and the bulb broke. We'll probably replace it and use it elsewhere in the house, but this one is LED and has a much more neutral color value to the light so it's better.
Anyway, that's what's going on at the Wire Smith. Will write about making my first ever post earrings with cabochons - success, failures and lessons learned! Boy did I ever learn some of those.
I have a long history of making and selling wire jewelry, but I've always wanted to move into the world of soldering. Last fall and winter, I did it; buying the initial supplies and tools to begin working with metal in new ways.
Of course I read a lot of books and watched even more You Tube videos before trying my hand. I'm still basically practicing using copper, brass and nickel silver (which doesn't contain actual silver, but is an alloy of zinc, nickel and copper) and here's a cute pair of earrings I made the other day -
They're only about an inch long and 1/2 inch square, but I love the way they turned out. I tried a couple of different soldering techniques to secure the ear wires to the back and so now I know which works best. Cutting and measuring is something everyone needs to pay attention to when making jewelry and so I went really carefully about that part.
I also experimented with soldering bricks. Some hold heat better and some stay quite cold which means I have to keep the flame on the piece longer - not good. It's interesting to learn which works best when. Ditto with fusing which is something I still do a lot of.
So as I progress through different little practice projects I'll post them here. Soon I hope my quality is good enough to buy sterling silver and make pieces for you!
In a little spate of creativity and time at the bench, I've explored design options with an asymmetrical bracelet. One of the priorities in any jewelry business is to create pieces that can become a standard line; something the brand becomes known for. I am really pleased with this basic design - it's very wearable, even layerable, and lends itself well to variations like wire gauge, bead link style, end finishers and embellishments.
I'll have to tinker with it more and find out how long it actually takes to make one. Since I've been experimenting and changing things up, I'm not quite sure. The most time-consuming part is making the rings for the chain. Each ring is formed individually and has to be worked, shaped, and rechecked so they are as perfect as they can be. The large rings are fused one at a time, and then the smaller ones are fused around the larger to form the chain. It takes about 3 inches per bracelet. This can vary depending on the bead links. The toggles are made individually, too. If I have enough in the works I get into a nice rhythm.
When I have several bracelets worth of silver finished, they go in the tumbler in a batch. I tumble for several hours and so the process runs to two days at least. It's important to plan ahead and know what I have on hand and how many pieces I can create. Then I can turn my attention to the bead links. So far I've worked with a variety of gemstones, but small glass beads would work as well. Wrapped links work best, but I use a finer gauge of wire so they come out more elegant and subtle. Some I attach directly to one another, others get jump rings. If they're open jump rings I'm thinking about doubling them up for strength. If they're closed I can go with one. Some I leave plain, some get a little dressed up.
So much fun and lots of choices. I could even do them as custom orders one day. Hm. That's an idea. So many things to consider. All part of the process!