Tag Archives: halloween

“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):

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“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 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 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”: