Tag Archives: Challenge

“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.

Advertisements

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 18: My Own Cheshire Cat. UPDATE!

As I said yesterday, My boy Frodo is my own Cheshire cat and this brooch is based upon him. (Please check out the previous post for the details of how I made it.)  I’ve now done the photos and, even though I think I still need to do more polishing, here they are:

First is the design I came up with.  It was originally to have had a gold ring suspended from a loop at the back, so it looked like he was holding it.  This was because of both of his name (Frodo from Lord of the Rings with the One Ring) and because it could then be used as a brooch to hold spectacles when they’re not being worn (not my typical type of jewellery, but it was a work in progress sort of idea).

As you will see from the photo of the finished brooch (see below), I decided against adding the ring.  The brooch looked pretty enough without it; although if I make another one, I may add one to see how it would look in real life.

The photo doesn’t show very well that the silver contrasts beautifully against the copper.  I know I need to polish it more, but I am quite proud of how smiley this Cheshire cat looks – just like my Frodo.

Oh, and I promised I’d post a photo of my beautiful boy – so here he is:

Beautiful, isn’t he?

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 17: Love-birds

I love this site called Cake Wrecks.  It’s really worth a look, so go check it out sometime (after you’ve read this post, obviously!), you’ll not regret it.

Anyway, every Sunday they post beautiful cakes (rather than the funny cake fails that they normally post about), and last Sunday they showed lots of Autumn (Fall) cakes.  They were all amazing, but one in particular caught my eye – an amazing Autumn wedding cake with twigs and leaves and two love-birds, by Mindy Gwinn.  This photo caused lots of little ideas to pop into my head – I had just done my first copper and silver piece and I had lots of copper left over (hooray!)

I sketched out the birds by eye from the photo on the web and made a note of how the leaves and twigs looked.  I then decided on a circular shape for the frame of this little pendant.  I drew all the elements inside a circle and liked how it looked, so I photocopied the design at the right size and set to work.

If I am working from a particular design, I like to have a copy that I can measure up against, or lay the pieces on (so I don’t forget anything and can check how it looks before soldering!).  This was important here because it was based on someone else’s design and I wanted it to look right.

Firstly, I made a circle of 0.8mm sterling square wire and soldered it closed (adding a jump ring to the top as well) with hard solder.  I cut and shaped the branches out of 0.8mm round sterling wire, then soldered them in place with hard solder.  A quick tap of the hammer to flatten where the branches overlapped (not too hard or they would have broken) and then into the pickle while I got the love-birds ready.

I basically used the same technique as with the bat I made yesterday.  This time though only the basic shape was in sterling silver.  I cut out the wings, eyes and beaks in 0.5mm thick copper sheet; and I can tell you, cutting out the tiny pieces was really tricky (the smallest beak is less than 1mm² and the male bird’s eye has a hand-drilled hole of about 1mm).  This time I used my medium solder paste which has flux already in it.  This paste can be used in tiny amounts just where it is needed, and I could place the small copper parts over the solder ready for heating.

After the love-birds were soldered and placed in the pickle solution to get rid of any fire-stain, I cut out some leaf shapes from the copper sheet and filed down any rough edges (I had already filed down any other parts when I had cut them out).  Then all that was needed was to place the birds and leaves on the pendant, check the layout, and then solder in place with easy solder.  This time, I turned the whole piece over and soldered from the back (so all the pieces had firm contact with each other), although I still had to be careful not to melt the more delicate branches.

I made a bail from a piece of rectangular silver sheet, which I rounded the corners of, and a small piece of silver tubing.  The silver sheet was folded in half with my round-nosed pliers and the silver tubing was soldered between them, at the bottom, for the jump ring to rest on. These were soldered together while they were attached to the pendant and then a copper leaf was soldered to the front.

The pendant only needed a quick dip in the pickle (about 10 minutes this time) and then a good wash with a brush and washing-up liquid, before going in the tumbler.  I’m still going to give it a proper polish to get any fine scratches out and to give it a mirror shine – but that will have to wait for tomorrow, I think.

I will be giving the copper a coat of Renaissance Wax to seal it.  It’s a great product (invented by the British Museum, I think), which will protect both the copper and the wearer.

Well, here’s to msgwinn and that amazing wedding cake … and finally, here’s my little tribute to it:

(I will do a better photo of this in daylight.  My ever obliging husband took this one for me but it was already dark and not the best conditions for photos)

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 16: Little Bat

Yesterday was day 16 of the challenge (wow, over two weeks!) and I just couldn’t decide on what to do.  I made lots of drawings and fiddled about with bits of silver, but still nothing seemed right.  I know that writers are told to “write  about what you know”, so I decided to put that into practice with my jewellery and “make what I like”.  I’ve already got a cat design idea in the pipeline, so I went with my other favourite animal – the Bat!

Originally, I was going to make a necklace – but the piece of scrap silver I wanted to use was so small, I decided to make a pin brooch/badge instead.

I drew out the basic bat shape on the silver and cut it out with the hand saw.  It measured about 2.6cm (1″) wide by 0.8cm (3/8″) high.  I also cut out an oval for the body and a head shape.  After I drilled two eyes in the head, I layered the two pieces on the main shape and soldered them with hard solder.

To make the wings 3D, I decided to use thin silver wire.  I cut them all to shape and then had to decide how to solder them on.  It seemed that sweat soldering (where solder is melted onto one surface before both surfaces are heated and put together, where the solder will melt again, soldering the two surfaces together) would be the easiest method, but it didn’t turn out to be!

I fluxed and soldered the main piece so that when I added the wires, I could then re-heat everything and the wires would be soldered without melting.  I even used my wire mesh on my soldering tripod, so that I could heat the piece from underneath. (Heating from the top means that the wires would get hot before the thicker underneath and would be more likely to melt before the solder would.)  In theory this would work perfectly – in practice, it didn’t quite go to plan.

The solder flowed to one wing more than the other (probably due to me not heating the piece evenly) and swamped the layers and fine detail.  After quenching in cold water; I had to file away as much of the excess solder as I could, just to bring back some detail in the wings.

Also, one of the wires didn’t solder on right and I had to heat again -first to melt the solder and move the wire, and then to resolder the wire in place.   Fiddly, when the item is so tiny!

The next headache to come was when I added the pin at the back.  I thought I’d got some already made in my findings box, but non – so I had to find a piece of round silver wire the right size.  Well, it seems that I had got a little tired by this time (about midnight, I think it was) and after I cut the piece of wire, I actually picked up a different piece and soldered the wrong wire to the back!  I didn’t notice my mistake till after I had filed the end to a point and was putting the notch in the end for the pin back to catch on.  Aggghhhhh! So I took a deep breath and cut off the pin and filed the back flat again.  I picked up the right piece of silver (I suppose it serves me right for working at a messy bench!) and went through all the processes I just described, to get it to be a proper pin.

After pickling and giving it a preliminary file/polish – it was time for a trip in the tumbler.  This was when I decided to leave off making for the day (night!) and tumble it with my next day’s piece when I made it the next day (which would save money as well as not waking anyone up!).

I like my little bat, even though he’s not as perfect as I wanted him to be.  I was going to call him Stan (don’t ask me why!) but I’ve called him Pete because it was my friend Pete’s birthday when I made this.  So, say hello to my bat “Pete”:

 

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 15: Amethyst Stud Earrings

Last night, I had a great idea for a pair of earrings; and all day I’ve been trying to snatch an hour or two, here and there, to be able to get them done.

I drew out my design this morning and worked out what materials I would need to use.  Today, I made everything in this design from scratch (except the pair of cabochon amethysts and the earrings posts/butterflies for the back) using only scrap pieces.

First, I had to make the bezel mounts with solid backs (so I had somewhere to add the earring posts) – I didn’t want to use a purchased setting.  The cabochons are pretty small (8x6mm) and I didn’t have thin enough flat bezel wire, so I used my dividers on the stones to find out how thin the bezel wire should be.  I transferred this onto the bezel wire by holding one point of the dividers at the edge and scoring along the wire with the other.  I then cut down the scored line with my tin-snips.  The cup of the bezel (which will hold the gem) was made by soldering the bezel wire into a circle and then shaping it round the oval gem.  This was then soldered (using hard solder) to the small scraps of 0.4mm silver sheet (by putting it all on a wire mesh and heating from underneath so not to melt the bezel) and the excess cut away and then filed smooth.

Next, I needed to make the ball-ended wires.  I found enough wires in my scrap box and then created the ball at one end of each wire by holding it pointing downwards and heating with my blow-torch till the end started to melt and drew up into a ball.  Each one was dropped into water to quench it – they cool quickly, but can still be hot even when they look cold on the surface.  I didn’t want any burned fingers!

The wires were shaped with round-nosed pliers and fingers to fit the design and then cut to size.  I had to remember that one of the pair would be a mirror-image of the other, meaning that each wire on that earring would have to be placed back-to-front, or  both earrings wouldn’t look like a pair.

I didn’t solder all the wires on at the same time.  First, I soldered the two wires that went around the bezel setting.  Only once they were looking right, did I solder the other wires on.  This helped me keep the wires looking the same on both earrings and minimised any movement – as light pieces (such as these wires) can either be blown around by the heat of the blow-torch or slide away when the solder melts.

After quenching again, I turned the earrings over and stamped “925” on each one.  The earring post was attached by a technique known as “sweating”.  This meant that I melted solder onto the earring post and let it go cold. Then (after fluxing the earring to help the solder flow), the earring post was held upright (with heat-resistant tweezers) against the back of the earring and the earring was heated.  As the earring got to the right temperature, the earring post was heated too and as the solder melted, it was drawn to the earring and soldered the two together.  (It helps to know that solder will travel towards heat; and that grease, gaps, and fire-scale all stop solder from flowing, so that flux is needed for successful soldering.

I decided that the bezels looked a little plain (as well as still being a little too high for my taste), and so used my triangular file to file notches all the way round each bezel.  After rounding off any sharp bits, it gave the bezel a pleasing scalloped edge.  Checking the stones in the bezels (using dental floss laid behind the stone and over the bezel edge, so I could get the stones back out!), I decided to raise them up a bit and so added an oval of 0.8mm square wire inside each bezel for this purpose.

A good half-an-hour in the pickle and then a preliminary file and polish by rotary-tool was all it took to get them at the stage I could throw them in the tumbler for about an hour or so.  I did remember to first neutralise the pickle on the earrings by dipping them in a solution of bicarbonate-of-soda, and also to give them a good wash & brush after using the silicon wheels.

All that was needed now was to set the amethysts – made much easier by having those notches cut in the edge – and here they are, fairy-tale earrings:

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 14: Pretty in Pink

I haven’t had much time to do anything today; what with my other half working, playing with my daughter, and looking after (medicating and keeping up fluids) my poorly Frodo.  I didn’t have much energy to create something totally new, so I decided to dip into my scrap pot for old filigree and spiral pieces.

I placed all the chosen pieces on my soldering board and started to move them around, seeing which pieces fit well or looked good together.

When I was pleased with the design, I soldered everything together with hard solder; adding the silver balls where the design was physically weaker or where there were joins.  I also added a bail made from a coil of round 0.8mm wire which I had soldered closed to strengthen it.

After pickling and an hour or so in the tumbler, I sat looking at the piece and decided it looked quite feminine in it’s shape and feel.  So, I got my pink box down (all my gems/crystals are stored or labelled by their colour) and sorted out a CZ gem, Czech crystals and Swarovski® pearls in baby pink.

Okay, today was not a day for pushing my skills in either designing or fabricating, and the end product may not be my most original that I’ve done in this challenge – but it’s a pretty little piece and I have found that pushing myself, even when I’m not in the “zone” for jewellery making, has meant that I’ve created something today when it could have been nothing.

And here it is …

pink swarovski crystals & pearls with cz gem

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 13: Bold Ring

I did make a new piece of jewellery yesterday but didn’t manage to write the blog post till now – so here it is …

Quite a while ago, I made a PMC heart with twisted filigree curls; which was to become a pendant.  I didn’t like the way the patina turned out and the design wasn’t as pleasing in real life as it was on paper.  Well, the first thing was to take the patina off and get the PMC back to the just-fired state (white).  Not really thinking about it, I took up my torch and heated up the piece … Wow! What a smell!  Liver of Sulphur patina smells even worse when you burn it off than when you add it originally. Rotten egg smell and smoke everywhere!

After opening all the windows and retreating for a cup of tea, I returned to my bench.  A lot of the filigree had softened and was in danger of breaking off due to the reheating.  Using my tin-snips, I took off any bits that didn’t look secure and then filed any sharp bits back.  The bits of filigree that were left, I curled up to the right side of the heart.

In my scrap box, I found a ring (two pieces of 1mm round wire, twisted together and the outside edge hammered slightly flat to make it more comfortable to wear), and after depletion gilding it (there is a brief description of the technique here), soldered both it and the filigree to the PMC heart with hard solder.

The ring was now looking a bit better, but still a bit plain.  I had a lovely purple, square-cut glass gem which I thought would suit the ring perfectly.  Usually, I only use CZ’s or precious/semi-precious stones in my jewellery; but in the spirit of recycling, I wanted to rescue and re-use some of the beautiful glass “gems” that had been part of broken jewellery.  I made a bezel and notched it all the way round; giving it both a pleasing scalloped edge and also making it easier to set the “gem”.  After deciding where to put it on the piece, I drilled a pilot hole and used my hand-saw to cut away a square in the heart so that the light would shine through the “gem”.  I then soldered the bezel over the hole, ready to set the “gem”.

Looking at the piece again, I decided it needed something more.  There were a couple of the filigran silver balls on the filigree already, so I added more all over the piece clustered in groups.  A small silver PMC heart that had been floating around my bench, also made it onto the ring.  Then off to the pickle pot to remove any firescale from the soldering.

The PMC heart, which makes up the main body of the ring, needed a lot of filing and polishing smooth due to some reticulation (there is a brief description of the technique here) happening when I originally fired it. Even after a spin in the tumbler, I needed to use my polishing wheels to be able to get a good polish in-between all the balls and round the bezel.

Lastly, the glass “gem” was set and the ring was finished.

Ta-da! Here it is:

And a photo of it on my hand to show it in context: