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!