MD6 Better Bezels

Today was better. I was able to fix the one bezel from yesterday even though it has a slight curve where I filed the seam smooth, and I set that stone. That’s today’s picture.

I started completely over with the oval bezel for the opal. Cut a new strip of silver, got it to the right size, soldered it closed, sanded down the edges, refitted it to the stone for the correct shape, & soldered it successfully – no gaps!! – to the back. Which was also newly created.

Practice and commitment. Tomorrow I might even get the whole thing put together.

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MD5 One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Practice makes better. This is why commitment is important.

Today I attempted to solder the bezels for my stones to the backs that form the piece. I knew this could be a challenge, because there are a lot of things that can go wrong when soldering bezels. It’s been a long time since I set a stone. How many mistakes did I make?

1) I started with too big of a flame and actually melted one corner of the back of one of the pieces – that was a new one.
2) On the other one, the solder didn’t flow all the way around, so there was a tiny gap. I managed to fix that one without undoing the rest of the solder, yay!
3) But I also managed to make a tiny gap in the solder of the bezel seam, which can’t be fixed. IF I don’t just start over, I’ll have to file it down a little.
4) I did this on my honeycomb soldering board, which is wonderful EXCEPT for work like this because it makes a pattern of little dots on the back that I will have to polish away. I had forgotten about that.

So. This will definitely be one of MY pieces, not for sale. Unless I decide to redo more of it than I think I’m going to.

But it was a good (re)learning experience, and I have been reminded of a number of things I had forgotten. Tomorrow I’ll decide how much I want to redo and go on from there.

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Apples Fractal is Half Done!

Moving has certainly put a big dent in my spinning practice. It’s only the last couple of weeks that I’m anything like “normal” in that regard.

At any rate, I’ve finally finished the first half of the Apples fractal

spinning project that I’ve been working on, oh, forever. This was the part where I spun one half the braid, split longwise, in one go. That is how you get the longer color changes that create half of the fractal effect.

The other half has been split (also longwise) into 4 pieces, so the colors will change 4 times quicker. When you ply them together it’s beautiful!

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MD4 Stones & Bezels

Today’s project is more ambitious. I decided to set a stone, most likely for a pendant. When I looked at my stones, I really liked the way two of them look together, so I am going to make a piece that uses both.

One is a rectangle of chrysocolla, beautiful teal green/blue. The other is an oval opal – Mexican, maybe? It’s a lovely clear fiery orange.

The main exercise for today was making the bezels. You can buy bezel wire, but I like to cut my own out of sheet metal (26g fine silver) that’s a little heavier than the bezel wire you can buy. It took some practice and “oh, yeah, that’s how that works” to get the first one right, then the second one was easy.

Now I just have to think about how I want the actual piece to be arranged. I have some ideas, but I’m going to let it percolate overnight.

The stones aren’t actually set yet, that’s the very last thing that happens. In this picture they are just resting in their bezels.

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MD3 Jump Rings

Today’s project was not glamorous. It was making useful components for other stuff. Specifically, sterling silver jump rings.

Wait, can’t you buy those? Yes you can, but I’d rather not. I like making my own, not least because it’s a useful skill to have. As long as I have wire I can make whatever jump rings I need.

What do I do with them? For one thing, I make chains out of them that I then use to make bracelets and necklaces. See my gallery page for some examples! I also use them for the ends of chains where you attach the clasp, and in general anywhere I need to connect two things together.

The process to make the jump rings is simple but requires care. The first step is winding wire around a dowel of the desired size, and it needs to be tight. Today I used 18g sterling wire around a 4mm brass tube. That coil then comes off the dowel and gets annealed with the torch. Then back on the dowel to get tightened up again, to ensure the results are uniform. After that, I use my Jump Ringer to cut right down one side and end up with usable rings. At least in theory, right? Turns out the saw blade in my Jump Ringer is pretty trashed, and left burs on the first coil I cut. They can be filed off, BUT. So I ordered a new saw blade and when it gets here I’ll cut the rest of the coils I made today.

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MD2 Simple Mother-of-Pearl Earrings

Today’s project was a simple pair of earrings. I got my torch hooked up today (Smith Little Torch, oxygen & propane) so I wanted to use it.

I took 20 gauge sterling silver wire and cut several 4.25″ lengths, then used my torch to bead up one end of each & make head pins. My old paste flux was completely unusable, but I have some Batterns which is better anyway so I used that. That just helps make sure there’s no firestain on the end result.

Then I have these gorgeous mother-of-pearl beads – they are just over a half-inch across. I put one each on two wires and then bent them gently into an earring shape. I love that look! To strengthen the wires, I then put them in my Lortone tumbler with mixed shot & burnishing compound for 45 minutes. I wasn’t entirely sure the beads would hold up to that…but Yes! They did.

The end result is simple, elegant, and lovely.

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MD1 Copper & Brass Pendant

In my last post, I talked about my exciting new studio space in my beautiful new house. And how just like I committed to 100 days of spinning back when I was learning to spin, I’m now committing to 100 days of metal work – jewelry making – to get myself back in the groove. I’m keeping myself honest by blogging what I do each day, so MD1 = Metal Day 1. It’s been a while, so I’m starting simple.

My new work area is not completely set up yet, but luckily I have a lot “parts” that I can start with.

Today I took a piece of sheet copper and a disc of etched brass. I had put the copper through a tube wringer twice; the second time was at 90 degrees to the first pass. I etched the brass in acid, using a sharpie as the resist.

The pendant was made with a cold join using sterling silver, and the bail is also sterling silver.

Copper and Brass Pendant

Copper and Brass Pendant

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Where Have I Been???

I just realized it’s been almost two months since my last post. Wow.

My excuse is that I’m in the process of moving – we built a new house on the opposite corner of the greater Columbia area from our old house and have been slowly moving our stuff.

The exciting part is that in our new house I have a 400 square foot studio where I can exercise, do all my fiber stuff, AND have my workbench for all my metal/jewelry work. Finally.

So to get myself back in that metal-work groove, I’m committing to 100 days of work, and blogging about it to keep myself honest. That worked really well when I was learning to spin.

So those posts are coming, starting later today after I work on today’s project. Of course, I’m still spinning & knitting, almost halfway through the spinning for the “apples” fractal I talked about in my last post. That work has suffered too, in the move, but I’m getting back on track there too.

The Jewelry Work Corner of my Studio

The Jewelry Work Corner of my Studio

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Time for Fractals Again

For my next spinning project, I am going to spin a braid using fractal spinning. Briefly, this means I’m spinning and plying the yarn to get specific color changes that look lovely when you knit it up. This time I’m using pure merino, purchased from Apothefaery Fabrications at SAFF last year. The colors remind me of apples!

I’m doing this as a 1-to-4 split – in other words, I split the braid in half lengthwise, then split one of those halves into fourths (also lengthwise). One half of the 2-ply will be the “whole” half, spun in its entirety. The other half of the 2-ply will be the skinny 4ths, spun end to end. So you get long color changes and short color changes mixed together.

I’ve spun a little sample to knit and be sure I’m happy with the result. I’d like to end up with a lace-weight yarn (~18 WPI), so fairly thin. It’s very springy, which I like. But springy wool shrinks & fattens with finishing, and my sample came out at 16-18 WPI after the wash. So care will be required when spinning to keep it thin.

Here are my little fiber “nests”, ready to spin.

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Catching Up

I’ve finally finished spinning my 3 yummy fibers that I wrote about last – the Alfalfa Green, Deep Sea, and South Pacific Yak/Silk blends. The finished yarns are 2-ply fingering weight, perfect for shawls and wraps. Those are what I’m into knitting these days, so these will go into my yarn stash for future projects. They are light and soft, with a beautiful drape.

As you can see, the colors are gorgeous.

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