Tag Archives: copper

“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 21: Fluttering in the Dark

I mentioned in my last post that we’d had a visit from my Cousin Adelene and her husband, Jon.  They have a business called Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies UK which I know is do to with moths and butterflies (and bats too, I think).  When they were here, they suggested I make a piece of jewellery like a moth – and as I had more time today to make something, that’s exactly what I did.

I’ve had a small piece of silver in my scrap box for a while – it was originally thick  silver wire but I had hammered it flat for some reason (I’m sure I was trying to see what I could do with a hammer instead of using a rolling mill – sadly, because I don’t have a rolling mill yet…).  Anyway, this little odd piece of silver was just perfect for the body/head of the moth.  I filed a notch in either side to delineate the head from the body and rounded both ends (it was already tapered at one end).

The wings I made from copper sheet.  I looked in a book for a picture of a moth and drew something similar (okay, it didn’t turn out a perfect moth, it’s more of an impression of a moth) onto paper.  The finished piece would be about 5 x 2cm.  The basic wing shapes were cut out with a scalpel and the outlines were traced onto the copper sheet with permanent marker (I do normally prefer scribing my cutting lines but, sometimes if the metal is really shiny, the lines can be hard to see), then cut out with tin-snips.

After a bit of filing to get all the edges smooth; I soldered the bottom wings on first and then soldered the top ones, overlaying them on the bottom wings slightly.  At this point I had cut small pieces of silver wire for legs but then decided to make this a brooch and needed room for the brooch pin.  Also, having legs on the moth would have been at best, a good detail but hidden – and at worst, a nuisance and snagging hazard.

The antenna turned out to be problem enough.  First, I used a single piece of silver wire bent in the middle but this didn’t lay flat and wouldn’t solder to the head – the solder kept to the wire as I couldn’t get the head to the same temperature without risking melting the solder on the wings.  I got round this with sweat soldering the solder to a couple of cut-off head-pins and then soldering these to the head.  It seemed that two ends of wire was easier to solder than a length of wire which I wanted to solder in the middle (I also think that the heat dissipated along the length of the long wire which didn’t help).

I now put the moth in the pickle and then (after neutralising the acid on the piece by dunking it into a solution of bicarbonate of soda) filed off any excess silver solder from the copper wings.  A good deal of polishing later (to get rid of any grooves that were added when I filed off the excess solder) and it was ready to patina.

If you’ve ever heated up something with a torch (or used a copper pan on the stove) – you’ll have noticed that there is a colour change in the metal when it is heated.  To get the patina I wanted, I heated the moth very slowly with a soft flame (less oxygen and less gas than a flame for soldering) and watched as  the metal’s colour changed from it’s polished coppery-gold, through orange, red and then it started to just turn bluish in places.  Copper continues to change colour, even after the heat is taken away and until it’s cooled.  As I didn’t want it to become totally blue or black, I removed turned off the torch and (picking up with tongs) placed the moth on a cool soldering board (the one I had used when heating the moth would still hold some heat for a while and would help continue the colour change).  As it air-cooled, the patina showed as a beautiful bronze with blue -green areas.

A quick polish of the silver areas to get rid of any fire-scale colouring and then a wipe-over with Renaissance Wax to seal the colour, and to protect the wearer from going green!  The wax is wonderful but the colours do dull a little – not a problem here as I didn’t want my moth to look too colourful.

As an after-thought, I decided to curve the wings a little bit to give the moth a bit more interest.  I did this by holding each side of the moth, in turn, on my doming block and pressing the wings into the curve with my fingers.  It didn’t damage the finish and looked quite effective.

I name this moth the Clifton Copper-wing!

“One-a-Day” Recycling Challenge – Day 19: Learning Something New Everyday

Today, I found a piece of 2mm round sterling silver wire that had tucked itself behind my tool holder on my workbench.  At 6cm long it’s not strictly scrap, but I can’t actually remember what I originally cut it to size for and by using it, it gives me a chance to try a technique I’ve been itching to do for ages.

I’ve got a couple of great technique books by Stephen O’Keeffe (I can’t recommend them highly enough if you want to do make some jewellery for the first time or just want to learn some new techniques), and today’s piece is from one of them (Practical Jewellery-Making Techniques: Problem Solving).

The technique I wanted to try out is making a compression setting for a stone in a ring.   The book made it sound so easy: solder a length of 2mm wire into a ring and planish (hardening the metal and creating a surface texture) before sawing through the original join with a piercing saw (it would weaken the ring if I sawed through at any other point – doing it this way keeps the rings integrity and strength which is needed with this ring).

The next part was to open the ring sideways to be able to drill into the flat ends. Well, so far, so good – but here’s where things went a little off from the instructions.  I don’t have a chuck for my rotary drill that’s small enough for the 1mm drill bit – I use a pin vice or Archimedes drill – and so I need to make a dent in the wire to help the drill bit bite in the right place.  For this, I use a nail that has been sharpened to a good point which works as a pretty good punch.  Trying to get it dead centre on a 2mm diameter wire isn’t as easy as it looks, and then trying to get the drill to stay in the centre isn’t easy either.  Well, both holes were mostly in the centre, and it probably doesn’t show in the finished product, but the perfectionist in me did a bit of silent swearing at this point.

Not to be put off, I then shaped the ring back on the mandrel and made sure that the tension was right, that it would spring back to shape if pulled slightly apart.  I did have to make the ring slightly oval in shape, rather than round, because the stone is a marquise cut CZ and the gap needed to be larger.  This is where I wish I had an oval mandrel as well as the more traditional tapering cylindrical one – but I made do with forming it manually, with the hide mallet and with my fingers for the last adjustments.

In the book, Stephen has a tapered strip for ring sizing, which was perfect for sliding the ring along till the gap opened up wide enough for the stone to be positioned in the gap and seated in the drilled-out ends of the ring.  Not having a tapered strip, I looked around the house for a suitable replacement.  I found a softwood fork which came as a pack with wooden cooking spoons, the neck tapered down to the bottom of the handle and it was flat.  A quick minute of sawing the top part (with the prongs) off from the handle, and I was left with a pretty good alternative.

Before I set the stone, I filed off any fire-scale from the soldering (I decided not to pickle this piece as there was only minimal fire-scale) and polished with my rotary drill and abrasive-embedded silicon cylinders, to get a mirror shine.  The photos don’t show the polishing really well – it wasn’t till I was checking the photos out that I realised I had been handling the ring with mucky fingers (polishing does get the hands a bit black!) and had smudged the shine 😦

Setting the stone was easy, using Stephen’s technique and the finished ring looks amazing.  I think, in hindsight, I would make the ring more oval than it is, and also maybe use a stone with a flatter back (or keep it round and use a small stone which would only be as thick as the wire itself) so as to make it more comfortable to wear.

I’ve also now had an idea about making the ring so as to have another, complete band inside the first; so that the stone doesn’t touch the skin of the wearer.  I’ll have to do some sketches later.

Well, thank you to Stephen O’Keeffe for teaching me another new thing.  I can’t wait to see what I learn to do tomorrow.

cubic zirconia compression ring

“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 18: My Own Cheshire Cat

My boy Frodo is my own Cheshire cat.  Not only is he stripy and is a pale orangey-pink, he was also born in Cheshire and he has the cutest smiley mouth (it really does turn up at the corners and looks like he’s smiling).

Now Frodo has always been important but even more so now that he has CRF (Chronic Renal Failure or Kidney disease to the rest of us).  I’ve got lots of sketches of him as he is quite the laid-back kitty, and I decided to turn one into a brooch design.

As he is such a pale coppery pink, what better than to make his brooch out of copper.  I used the same technique as with yesterday’s bat pin but with silver wire on copper sheet.  I won’t go into the same details (go read my bat post!) but I will say that after cutting out all the pieces, I soldered the face first, the leg next and then soldered both to the body.

I don’t know if it was just me, but I had way more trouble soldering silver onto copper than copper onto silver.  I think that the melting point of copper is lower (don’t quote me on that until I can go check) but anyway it was a headache I could do without and I think I spent way too much time soldering and problem-solving because of it.

I don’t have any way of cutting tiny circles, except by hand, so I decided to take two of my silver beads (they were flattish rather than round to begin with) and hammer them flat.  I also filed into the middle to make the cat-eye shape I wanted.

The brooch pin was made by coiling silver wire around a thin mandrel about 4 times (you could use a thin knitting needle or a metal skewer as long as it’s cross-section was round) and soldering the last loop of the coil to the back of the brooch.  The unsoldered loops of the coil are then (as one) pulled 90° to the side (making sure the tail of the pin is uppermost) and then the pin is trimmed to size and the end filed to a point.  I don’t push the pin down horizontal to the back until after I have added the catch.  The catch was added the same way but the wire had only one loop which was soldered in place.  The tail of the wire was then cut to size and curled round, leaving a gap for the pin to tuck under and be held in the curve of the catch.

I wanted the silver to have a high shine but the copper to be more muted.  With this in mind, I  haven’t tumbled this piece but polished by hand and with silicon polishing wheels on the rotary “drill”.

As I type, it’s 1am and my Frodo brooch is still a little polish away from being finished.  I will post this and then add the photo tomorrow, when it’s all shiny and pretty.  I’ll also add a photo of the pretty boy it’s based on.

BTW, just in case anyone was wondering … Frodo was originally a nickname for him when he was a little kitten and we were trying to think of a proper name.  He has the hairiest, tufty-est paws I had ever seen (he’s half Maine Coon) and he ate at least seven breakfasts a day.  The name just stuck and forever after, he has been known as Frodo (but more often as Mr Frodo or Frodo Bun (short for bunny – a term of endearment, just not a species-correct one).

“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)