Tag Archives: patina

“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.

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“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!

Oxidisation – The Joys of Working with Liver of Sulphur

Only once have I used Liver of Sulphur (LOS) inside the house. It was the day I got it in the post and after extensive reading on the internet and in my jewellery books, as well as opening every window possible, I heated some water and added the LOS (in liquid form).

Well, all I can say is the smell didn’t seem too bad at first but even after I cleared everything away, the smell lingered on, and on, and on. I didn’t really do much with the solution that time as I was so aware of the smell going round the house!

So, I set up a table in the garage. Out there I have a couple of chipped mugs and a shallow glass dish dedicated to LOS, as well as disposable gloves, a roll of toilet tissue (in case of spills or to dry the silver when needed), bin bags, tweasers, brass brush, washing up liquid (enviromentally friendly brand) and an old apron.

To start with I make sure the silver pieces (I usually do this with pieces made from PMC) are polished and clean from all grease and any other desposits. Use rubber gloves so you don’t put any more oil from your hands on the clean pieces – also, it means you don’t forget to put your gloves on later (it saves you having stinky hands, and the first time I forgot, I was also wearing my silver wedding ring which went black really quickly!).

I pour some not-quite-boiling water into one of the chipped mugs and add the silver pieces to warm up in the water (I’ve got no heating in the garage so the water cools quite quickly). By the time I get out to the garage, the silver has heated up and is ready to be oxidised. In the other mug I have really cold water and I add some washing up liquid to it – my personal preference, as well as stopping the reaction, it also washes off the LOS ready for either another application or for taking indoors.

I have the liquid LOS and have found it easiest to brush it on – I can choose where to put it and how much to add. Then I either hold it between my thumb and first finger (it keeps the heat better that way – remember, no heating in garage) or place it in the shallow glass container. Sometimes holding the piece whilst oxidising means that hot-spots are formed and the colour is more random. Using the shallow glass container lets me see the colours changing and it’s also easier to pick up the item quickly (if the colour starts going too dark) when the container is shallow. Also it allows me to oxidise more than one piece at a time.

Also, using a brush means I have less clear up to do and hardly any chemically by-product to dispose of.

When the colour is how I want it, the piece is dropped in the cold water. I dry it off and if it needs another go, I gently use a brass brush on the piece before painting it again with the LOS. If the colour isn’t developing enough (maybe the piece is getting too cold), I put on the LOS quite thick and dip it in the hot water for a second or two at the most. The thicker layer of LOS isn’t washed away but the heat from the water will give a much quicker, and normally darker, result.

As each piece is coloured to my satisfaction, I drop them in the cold water so that they stop darkening and are ready to be taken inside. The gloves are either left there in a plastic bag (washing up type of gloves) or binned, if they are the disposable type. I’ve just remembered that I always tie my hair back and sometimes even wear an old hat because, as well as being a safety hazard, the eggy smell of the sulphur seems to cling on to my long hair if I don’t.

I worried about how to keep the patina from either fading or scratching off (LOS oxidisation is a surface treatment only) and had researched this on the internet. I worried that the beeswax and naptha mix wasn’t good to have in a house with a curious toddler (I keep all my chemicals and soldering equipment locked away but you can never be too careful) but have found an excellent wax called Renaissance Wax from KernowCraft. I found that they were really helpful and my order arrived really quickly.

Anyway, the wax works brilliantly and although it did change the colours slightly (I’m sure it did warn me on KernowCraft’s website), I’m really pleased with the end result.

Well, that’s how I use LOS. It may not be the most scientific or efficient method, but it works for me and I’m having fun with it.