“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 28: Love Hearts

Once again I am apologising for not getting this post written and uploaded the same day I made the jewellery.  I have a good excuse though (honest!) – one giant, monster of a headache which arrived on Sunday afternoon. .  This made working with the computer just impossible, and it’s still pretty painful to look at the screen tonight (yes, it’s still here; and boy, do my eyes hurt).

Sunday was also my wedding anniversary (13 years!) and so I decided to make something romantic.

Deciding again not to solder or torch PMC (the fumes hurt my head); I trawled through my PMC fine silver pieces that had already been fired, to see what I had lurking about.  I found a pretty heart with an embossed texture and a slightly defective bezel, as well as a more modern and much smaller heart which I had started to gold-leaf but hadn’t got very far with it.  I wanted a third heart (it’s not often you get to say that!), but didn’t have a silver one that was just right, so a Swarovski® crystal 10mm heart in Moonlight Crystal seemed a good choice.

Today, I’ve been inspired with those “topsy-turvy” cakes with each layer at a different angle and looking like the whole thing is about to fall over.  For this look, the three hearts were first placed flat on my micro-fibre mat (very soft, so no scratching of silver or crystal, and nothing rolls about) so that they looked “topsy-turvy”; and then to make sure the holes were drilled in the right place, a straight piece of wire was laid down the centre of the design (a ruler, strip of paper or any other straight item to hand would have done, but I prefer wire as it’s light and doesn’t hide any of the design so you get a good idea of what it will look like) and then the right places were marked with a permanent marker.

Before drilling, indents were made by hammering a sharpened nail where I had marked – this would help the drill bit stay in the right place and not “chatter”, which is where it skips across the surface.  I find it essential as I mostly use a tiny pin vice and do the drilling by hand.

The largest heart had a plain-walled bezel which I had previously set a gem into but the gem was slightly too small and had to be removed as it didn’t fit the setting tight enough.  To make the bezel usable again, the walls were straightened from the inside using a metal burnisher to push the silver outwards; and then the base (which the gem would sit on) was drilled a bit deeper and smoothed out.

I have some beautiful cabochon moonstones and I found one which was the right diameter and which the bezel would fit round tightly.  This was then set with a pusher and burnisher.

The two PMC fine silver hearts were given a bit of a patina with black gilder’s wax.  I wanted the effect to be aged rather than uniform and, although the black didn’t come out on the photo as dark as it is in real life, I think it worked pretty well.  The highest points were re-polished to a mirror-shine, and a coating of Renaissance Wax was applied to seal and protect.

The silver hearts were connected with a jump-ring, and the crystal heart used a round head pin as a bail to attach it to the smaller silver heart.  The pin was threaded through the hole at the top of the heart, with the ball-end at the front.  The wire was gently (the crystal is more delicate than it looks, especially when using metal tools) curled around from the back and then bent so that the wire went straight upwards.  A loop was formed at the top and this was threaded through the lower hole in the smaller heart, so the crystal heart would hang nicely with some movement.

PMC fine silver hearts with swarovski crystal heart

I didn’t want a traditional bail for the necklace, so I formed a loop in a middle of some silver wire and threaded it through the top hole in the largest heart.  Then, taking a thin jump-ring former, the wire was coiled either side and the excess wire trimmed off from the back.

I think the unusual angles of the hearts give it interest and movement.  I may just have to go make a pair of earrings to match!

Oh, just to say, Day 29 will have to be written up with Day 30 – as it’s after midnight and now I’m going to see if I can go sleep this headache away.

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 27: Birthday Present

Wow, Day 27 already?  Where has the time gone?

Talking of time – apologies for the lateness of this post (it’s already half past midnight) but it’s been a busy day with both creating jewellery and going with my little girl to a birthday party at the local play-barn.

Today I wondered that when I talk or write about making things from scrap or recycled materials (even if they are precious metals), do those phrases bring to mind rubbish or even that the end product is sub-standard in some way?  It’s so hard to get beyond those concepts when recycling is part of the discussion; as if something that is reused or recycled has to be flawed in some way or that it’s previous life has to be hidden to value the new item in any way.

I suppose this came to mind more today because I was making a birthday present for a little girl and I wanted to include it in this challenge.  I didn’t need to – I could have made her something from new silver sheet or wire, but I really believe in not wasting precious resources and all my silver is the same (well, either pure or sterling, anyway), even if it has been made into something else before.

The elements that I wanted to re-use were some pure silver PMC3* pieces, which were either testers or were reclaimed from other jewellery I had previously made (and then taken apart again – artist’s prerogative).  Luckily, I had made a tester of the right initial for the little girl’s name and it was sitting, waiting, in my box of misc. fired PMC pieces.  Looking through the box, I also found some stars of different sizes and took two – one big and one small.

I really dislike the phrase “on-trend” – it’s overused everywhere these days.  Well, something that seems on-trend (*winces*) in jewellery at the moment is chain necklaces with a drop of chain at the front with charms hanging from it – very bohemian, but with a chic style that could go well with a little black dress or a smart work suit.  It also seemed a fun and light necklace for a little girl’s jewellery box – something special but not too grown up (children should be children, in my book) that she could grow into.

Checking my box of chains (wow, that doesn’t sound *quite* as it should!), by now you’ll have realised that I keep all my materials grouped by colour or type in compartmented boxes , I found a small section of good quality silver belcher chain and some jump-rings of different sizes (although I don’t know why they were in there, my putting away must have been off that day!).  Looking at all the pieces, a design was sketched out and then off to the bench to put it all together.

I added all the pieces together with the jump-rings, which were then soldered closed carefully so as not to solder the jump-ring to anything else except itself – easier said than done!  A pair of locking tweezers, holding the jump-ring about mid-way, were very helpful in acting as a heat sink and stopping the solder travelling past the join and onto anything else.  A larger jump-ring (in a wider gauge wire) was attached to the top of the chain to act as a bail, and was also soldered closed.

As chain is notoriously hard (and dangerous) to polish with a rotary motor – the chain went into the tumbler, alongside the head-pin which I would use for the last dangle off the chain.  This would work-harden the silver, making it more hard-wearing, as well as giving it a mirror-shine.

After tumbling, I added the last dangle – a single freshwater pearl.  I believe that the pearl is the oldest known gem and was originally seen as the most valuable.  The story I like best about pearls, is that they are formed by angels travelling through the clouds of heaven.  A perfect gem for a little girl, I think.

(Sorry for how the pearl looks in the photo – I don’t seem to be able to take a good photo of pearls – it’s another thing for me still to learn)

Oh, see how time flies when posting?  It’s now 1:20 am and I think I’d better show you the necklace now before I go and collapse after this tiring day.  Well, here it is – and don’t tell me that it doesn’t look perfectly beautiful, even more so because I re-used and recycled.

 

 

 

 

*Precious Metal Clay is pure silver, which has itself been recycled, in an organic clay binder which can be moulded or worked like clay but when fired at the right temperature, will turn back into pure silver with the binder burning away totally

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 26: A Girlfriend for Pete

Remember Pete, my little bat from Day 16?  Well, today he got a girlfriend.

I’m down to really tiny pieces of silver sheet and odd pieces of wire in my main scrap box – so I wasn’t going to be making something big today.  I had made myself a replacement engagement ring a little while ago (the original had worn too thin and was uncomfortable to wear) out of two circles of wire soldered together, with the front part opened up enough so that I could set a rainbow moonstone with a heart shape either side.  I wanted to try this technique out again and I thought that a little bat would look great in the frame of silver wire.

The silver wire I would be using is the Reflections silver wire, which would make life easier with less pickling because of resisting fire-scale.

As you can see, the bat had to be cut in sections from lots of little pieces of scrap silver sheet.  It was quite difficult to use a hand saw with such small pieces but, apart from one broken saw blade, everything turned out how I wanted it.  Then, I soldered it all together with hard solder, making sure that all the seams were tight.

To make the ring, I decided to take two lengths of round 0.8mm silver wire and shape the middle of each to be a half-oval.  Putting the two wires together as a mirror-image of each other, both ends (where the wires lay parallel to each other) were soldered to make the ring shank.

When the bat was placed in the oval, even though it looked fine, I decided to shape the wire around the bat rather than leave it the oval shape.  This was easier said than done because the wires had already been soldered together and that left me with only so much wire that would still move.  Oh well, hindsight is always 20:20, yes?

Once the “oval” was roughly the right bat-shape, the little bat was soldered in place with hard solder.  Any previous solder joints that melted would re-harden again without moving due to the fact that all the pieces were still flat.  If this had been shaped or already formed into a ring, this technique would not have worked and a lower temperature solder would have been used to avoid melting the original joins.

The ring was then formed on a metal ring mandrel (looks like a thin cone which is marked out in graded ring sizes) with a raw-hide hammer, so as not to mark or distort the silver.  The ring shank cut to size and the joint soldered with medium solder (after having been taken off the mandrel!).  I took this opportunity to check the back of the ring and solder again any part that had not been done to my satisfaction.

The ring was put back on the mandrel to check that it was still round and to make sure the ring shank was level (heating the ring for soldering can distort the piece so it is always best to re-check your work afterwards).  Looking at the little bat, it occurred to me that she was missing any definition (except for her eyes, which were round indents punched with a sharpened nail and a hammer).  Leaving the ring on the mandrel for support, the lines on her wings where her bones would be and the fur-like texture on the main body were created with a motorised engraver.  I don’t use the engraver much as it buzzes extremely loudly – even a few minutes of using it is enough for me!

Another check and then into the tumbler for about an hour.  It comes out looking really shiny, but after taking photos, I decide that it could do with a final polish by hand to make sure any fine scratches (which show up on the photos but you can’t see by the naked eye) are removed.  I am in two minds about adding black (by either Liver of Sulphur or by Gilder’s wax) into the details; on one hand – the patina may not stay in the engraved lines and just polish off, but on the other hand – it may make it easier to see the details and this little bat is really pretty.  If I decide to add the black, I will do an update post with new photos.

Anyway, here is the little ring (it’s size is about halfway between “O” and “P” on the ring mandrel):

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 25: Problems with Pumpkins

How I hate having ideas but not being able to bring them to life (How apt – I feel a bit like Dr Frankenstein today; although my monster didn’t even make it off the slab).

I wanted to make a copper pumpkin, built up in layers with the top layer having the face cut out and so I could then give the whole thing a patina but polish it away in the cut-outs so that they would glow with the polished ‘raw’ copper.  I thought  it would look good that way, and so went about designing it.

Well, it turns out that soldering two pieces of copper together (in the freezing cold – I could see my breath as I was working!) wasn’t too bad; but then trying to solder that to another piece was nigh on impossible!  I don’t think my blow-torch could get the metal hot enough for the solder to flow smoothly.  The cold probably didn’t help either.  After a few tries and some time in the pickle in-between (to take any old flux and fire-scale off before trying again), I was ready to throw the piece out the window (without opening the window first!).

The model of restraint that I am (*cough*), I decided instead to sit down and rethink the design.  I liked the shape and the copper, but how to get the face of the pumpkin right?  Well, it turned out to be as simple as cutting the shapes out of silver and soldering them on the basic shape of the pumpkin (single layer of copper).  The silver solder leaked out slightly around the pieces of silver sheet and instead of sanding it away, I decided to keep it as it gave the pumpkin a sort of silvery glow around it’s features – very spooky!

To get the 3D feel without the layers, which proved so tricky in my first attempt, I used a hammer with a small flat-head screwdriver and did a very (deliberately) rough repoussé  technique where the pumpkin’s curves would be.

The pumpkin polished up well with the silicon wheels and then I heated the whole thing very gently to give the bright copper a more orange patina.  In fact, the colours were a very beautiful pink and orange but after the Renaissance Wax was applied, the colours dulled to a more all-over pumpkin orange.

So here is my pretty pumpkin, all ready to be a pendant or a fob on a key chain. He’s so light-weight – just don’t tell him how simple he is too.

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 24: Back to the Beginning Dragonfly

The “back to the beginning” in the title is a reference to where I started with jewellery.  A pair of round-nosed pliers, a pair of snipe-nosed pliers and some wire-cutters rattled around in my first tool-box and I worked with silver-plated wire and crystal beads from a well-known hobby store (in the UK).

That was about five years ago and my first pieces were wire-wrapped earrings.  I soon progressed to sterling silver wire and semi-precious stones, but it wasn’t until I got my blow-torch  that I really started to broaden both my skills and designs.  (I had learned to solder and arc-weld at college w-a-a-a-y back in my youth as an art student.)

The reason I’m in the reminiscing mood is because I’ve had to put down my torch for today.  My little girl is a bit under the weather and we’ve had a lovely day doing nothing-much but watching films and playing Lego Rock-band.  Not wanting to disappear to my bench, I decided to make something while we sat watching another Scooby Doo film.

That meant that I could only use enough stuff that I could sit on a tray on my lap and only cold-connections.  I’ve got some lengths of gold-filled (better than gold-plated as it’s got thicker layers of gold and is more resistant to polishing and general wear & tear) round wire that I’ve not really found much use for (it can be really hard to solder without the gold fading by being absorbed into the core metal).  Well, I’ve had an idea for a dragonfly brooch for a while and so today seemed a great day to try it out.

I found a picture of a dragonfly that I liked:

I sketched it out on paper and decided on how the wire would have to be wrapped together to make the shape.  Then I got my first piece of wire and made the first loop (for right at the top, so it could be a pendant as well as a brooch if needed).

All the crystals used were either Swarovski® or Czech crystal beads.  I used two black ones for eyes and Light Sapphire for the body with the “tail”  in Metallic Crystal Blue ABx2 (twice coated in the Aurora Borealis finish, which gives the crystals a multi-coloured sheen), and the wings in a mix of AB crystal in different sizes/shapes.

The main outline, including the wings and legs, was made first out of 0.8mm gold-filled round wire.  Then the eyes, body and “tail” were beaded.  I added a brooch fitting (sadly in a base metal, as I didn’t have any other and wasn’t going to make a brooch pin as I wasn’t soldering today) and wound the wire round to secure it.

I didn’t totally fill the wings with beads – I liked the lacy look came with having spaces in-between the beads.

This piece turned out bigger than I actually had expected.  It measures approximately 7.5cm across the wings and 7cm from head to tail.

It reminded me of how difficult I found this type of jewellery – I find it really hard to make the wire-wrapping neat, and tight against the wire.  I’ve always had respect for those who can make beautiful things without being able to solder or rivet; but today has reminded me that I shouldn’t neglect to refine all my learned jewellery techniques and still strive to learn more – as they are all facets of this craft that I love.

Update:  I’m so sorry that this didn’t make it onto the blog yesterday (when I wrote it), I thought I had posted it but only noticed that I hadn’t when I came to write today’s post.

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 23: Boo!

Halloween is nearly here and I felt like getting into the spooky spirit (excuse the pun) with today’s design.

I doodled some ghost designs, you know the ones that look like a draped sheet with big eyes.  I first thought about making earrings – just cutting the design out of sheet silver and adding red crystals for eyes; but,as well as not being inspired by the idea, I don’t actually have enough scrap silver sheet to do it.

This then forced the idea to evolve into a wire project.  I decided to make the outline in 0.8mm round silver wire and solder two ovals for eyes.  Looking at the design made me think that something was missing – it also looked a bit unsupported (the wire form would not be rigid enough to withstand wear and tear).  Thinking about ghosts, and the ghost stereotype in particular,  I decided my ghost would be the type to jump out and shout “Boo!”, so why not add the word to the design?

Well, down to the actual making of the project.  First, I shaped wire into the individual letters of the word “Boo”.  The “B” was actually made up of two separate pieces of wire instead of trying to get the shape right using only one; and two tiny jump-rings were perfect for each “o”.  These I soldered together with medium solder (If I haven’t said before, solders are graded according to how much heat it takes to melt them – hard solder takes a lot of heat and then next is medium solder, then easy solder and lastly extra easy, which will melt and solder at the lowest temperature.  It makes soldering lots of pieces in different stages very easy by taking the temperature down each time you don’t re-melt the previous solder joints) and put aside for later.

The main shape of the ghost was based on my original pattern but, as I worked the wire using the round-nosed pliers, I changed some of the bends slightly if I thought they looked better.  As I was using scrap wire which was in short lengths, I actually had to make the main shape in two pieces and solder them together (again using medium solder).  The eyes were wire, soldered into large circles and then squeezed gently into ovals with my fingers.  The eyes came out different sizes but I liked the effect and decided not to re-do them.

Putting all the pieces together flat on the soldering board, I saw that I needed to squeeze the main body in slightly so that there would be good contact between that, the eyes, and the word “Boo” – I wanted everything that touched to be soldered well together.  I added a jump-ring to the top (after filing a concave curve in it so it would fit well to the top of the ghost) and then fluxed and soldered all the joins at the same time with easy solder.

Looking at the ghost, I remembered I had wanted to give him red eyes.  I soldered one half loop to each eye and then hung a red (Siam) Swarovski® crystal from each loop.  They now swing in a very sparkly but somehow disturbing fashion – they remind me of those googly-eye glasses that you used to get from joke shops or advertised in the back of comics (am I showing my age now?).  I just also thought I should say that the head-pins for the crystals were hand-made as normal ball-ended head-pins but I held them in a pair of pliers and hammered the “ball” at the end very flat.

A bail was added, which was made from a coil of silver wire soldered together.  Very simple but effective, especially when silver sheet is not available to make bails.

You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned pickling in this post.  The silver that was used for this project is called “reflections” silver and is a silver allow with less copper but increased tin, zinc and germanium, which means it has amazing resistance to tarnish and fire-scale.  It is still 925 purity and can be hallmarked Sterling Silver or “925”.  It’s also much easier than traditional sterling to work with.

Well, lastly I gave the piece a preliminary file and polish before a very quick half-an-hour in the tumbler to boost the shine and work-harden the piece (to make it more durable to everyday wear and tear).

Here he is (don’t get frightened now… he might cry!):

Silver GhostA little after-thought: I wish that I could have thought of a way to do his eyes that meant they were a little bit clearer as to what they are!  I think that the loops detract from the design but I couldn’t think of another way to get the colour in there (apart from using coloured resin, but I didn’t want to do that; or flat ovals of red glass, which would have been perfect but I don’t have any – so I couldn’t do it that way).

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 22: A Present from the Goblin King

I’ve had that David Bowie song from Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, in my head all day; you know, the one from the Ballroom scene.  I’ve loved that film since I first saw it and I’ve always wished I looked like Jennifer Connelly’s character when she dances with the Goblin King.  I can’t turn back time to my twenties, so second best is to have the jewellery as it’s so beautiful and perfectly fairytale – and that is what I decided to make today.

I thought I would just make the earrings today, as I only had some of the afternoon and a bit of the evening to sit at my jewellery bench.  First of all, I decided to get the blu-ray out and have a look at the Ballroom scene in Hi-def (it was really hard not to just sit there and watch the whole film, but I found some self-restraint somewhere and limited myself to the one scene!).  I sketched out the general design of the earrings and thought about how I was going to go about this.  I would have thought that the original earrings were cast and then had diamanté set into the metal.  This wasn’t an option for me today and so I decided to get my silver sheet out and make the basic elements with this.

As it is a recycling challenge as well as making “one-a-day”, I decided to use as much off-cuts and scrap as I could; but I still had to use a new piece of 0.4mm silver sheet because the main piece to each earring was so big to be made from scrap (I can’t imagine ever having “scrap” silver that big!)

To give the earrings movement, I split the design up into three (for each earring) silver shapes and would attach these to each other with tiny jump-rings.  To cut out two identical sets, after I had drawn my designs on the silver, I taped them together with clear tape (I usually use masking tape but clear tape stopped the design getting smudged as I worked and kept the two layers of silver together nicely) and then set about sawing the pieces out with my hand saw.

Two jump rings (cut in half) were soldered to each side of the biggest piece (so that the dangles would hang properly) and the earring posts were sweat-soldered onto the back of the top piece; after which they had a turn in the pickle pot.

Holes were drilled by hand and edges filed smooth before I gave everything a hammered finish (so that light would bounce off the silver and give the impression of lots of tiny gems).  Two of the pieces (for each earring) had a shape like a lily and I decided to define them (so as they were more like the original) by hammering the lines (repoussé technique) so they would be seen better and that the pieces would have some shape. All the silver pieces were then attached with the jump-rings.

I decided to use Swarovski® Aurora Borealis crystals (ABx2) in 4mm for the sparkle and some discontinued Swarovski® crystal drops in the same finish for the end of the dangles (I know they’re not exactly like the original but I didn’t want to buy anything new for this – just use elements that I already had).

Here are the finished earrings (another difficult photo – but my fault for finishing after midnight, I suppose), I hope you like them.

My version of Jennifer Connelly's earrings from Jim Henson's Labyrinth