Mistakes Happen

13 12 2010

I enjoy doing custom work – but I hate when I mess it up! A few months ago, I made a simple heart pendant with the name of a friends daughter stamped into the surface. I started in the middle to center the name, and worked outward, but unfortunately, I messed up the next to last letter by stamping it too far away, and not leaving me room for the last letter – so poor “MERCEDES” wound up “ERCEDES” on my first try!

Almost MERCEDES!

I eventually created another one (which came out just fine!), and just threw this into my recycle pile. But I’d much rather reuse, than recycle, so in the back of my mind, I had the idea to rework it with a copper heart, but I wasn’t too sure what to do.

Heart on Heart...

The first thing I realized is that I had to reshape the copper heart to be closer to the shape of the silver one. So I traced the heart, and did a bit of grinding and sanding to make the heart more rounded, like the silver shape.

Shaping My Heart

You can see how I reshaped the bottom to make the sides a bit rounder, and I filed the separation at the top, to exaggerate the shape a little. Once I got the copper done, I needed to do something to the silver, and I decided to do a simple texture using a polished ball pien hammer, working on the back, Once the texture looked good, I laid it on the copper heart, to see how I wanted to proceed.

Two Hearts are Better than One

Not bad…! I really like how the copper base highlights the textured silver, and although I originally thought I’d drill some holes on each side and add jumprings, instead, I think I’ll make a bail in the center. I was also going to rivet the 2 hearts with some brass rod, but I like the solid look of the silver, so I’m going to just solder it up instead.

My Messy Heart!

I did a simple sweat solder join between the 2 pieces by just soldering the back of the silver heart, then laying it over the copper heart, and reheating. Unfortunately, I was concerned that I wasn’t making contact across the whole disk, and I reheated it a bit too much – you can see how the solder flowed out the edges on the sides (sorry I didn’t take a photo before I antiqued it!). I also curved the hearts before soldering them together, so that I didn’t warp the top silver disc, and added a center bail. Then I did a little clean up, oxidized the pendant, and buffed it up with a satin finish.

The Back Counts Too...

When possible, I try to keep the back clean and in the same style as the front – this shows the curve, the patina, and the clean solder of the bail. I only wish the silver heart was as cleanly soldered onto the copper as the bail!

My Heart Belongs to..... Me?

Well… this is not sell quality, but I love the look. So I’m not sure if it’s mine (feels a little strange giving myself a heart!), or if I’ll gift it to a friend. And lucky for me, I’ve got another mis-stamped silver heart in my recycle bin, so I can make another one, which I hope will come out a bit better!!





Oxidizing With LOS

22 11 2010

If you like to create mixed metal jewelry like I do, you’ll soon discover that oxidizing the pieces really give them some depth and enhance the texture. Last week I got an order for a a bangle bracelet that a customer liked, but needed made smaller, so I figured it would be a good time to write up a tutorial on how to use liver of sulpher (LOS) for oxidizing. LOS is great for creating an antiqued look on copper and silver  – it works on brass too, but has a weaker affect.

One Oxidized, One Shiny!

Here is the original bangle, oxidized and “aged” to a beautiful warm patina, shown with the “brand spaking new” bangle I just finished. You can clearly see the difference in the finish – the oxidized bangle (top) has the detailed texture and stamping highlighted, whereas the new one I made doesn’t show the depth.

In Rock Form

I use the solid LOS – I’ve been using it for years, and I’m pretty used to it, but you can also buy liquid form and gel form, which is easier to use, but has a shorter life span. Solid LOS comes in rocks, and the container is cloudy to protect from direct light. It is very, very, very important to keep LOS stored in a way to keep moisture from getting into the container – moisture will make LOS useless. I always tighten my container, put it in a ziplock bag, and place that into a brown bag – protecting it from light, and moisture. To use, I take a small rock, and put it into a glass bowl, then add very hot water.

Dissolved...

Make sure not to use a metal bowl or it will contaminate the solution, and mess up the bowl too!  The LOS will dissolve in the hot water, becoming a greenish yellow color. Please note – LOS is a chemical – it STINKS like sulpher (duh…), and some folks are sensitive to it. I don’t have any issues, but I try to keep it off my skin, and use a piece of copper wire as a hook to dip items into the LOS.

Like Magic!

I just drop the bangle in, and very quickly, the bangle turns black. It only takes a few seconds (really!) to completely change the copper and silver. I always make sure that I use a copper hook, so I don’t need to fish it out with my fingers!

...And 10 Seconds Later...!

Once I get the coverage I want, I remove the piece and rinse it in cold water. You want to be sure that you don’t leave it in the LOS too long, because if you “over” oxidize, the black will actually solidify, and flake off. The LOS will continue to work in heat, so it is important to rinse in cold water, and dry completely.

Yuck!!

You can really see how black it gets when you compare the bangles! It’s hard to believe, but in just 15 minutes, these bangles will look like twins! But to get there, we need to get down and dirty…

Take it off, take it off, take it all off!!

There are several different ways to remove the excess surface black. Basically, you need to gently scratch it off, to expose the surface underneath. These are the three products I used for this bangle: 3M Scotch-Bright green scrubbies (for some reson, generic scrubbies just don’t work!), a fine sanding sponge block (you can get these from the hardware store), and 3M Crocus Cloth, which I get from jewelry suppliers. First I use the green scrubbie  and rub it over the surface, getting as much black off as I can. The sanding block can be a bit scratchy on the surface, so make sure to practice using this on scrap metal to get used to it. I also use the green scrubbie to get the inside cleaned up, and then I use a strip of the crocus cloth to buff it up and soften any scratches. Crocus cloth is a denim material with a fine sandpaper paint on one side. It will dissolve and make a big mess if it gets wet, so make sure your piece is dry.

Just like the other one!

And here’s the final “twin bangles” – the original is on the bottom (you can see the word “DREAM” on the inside back), and the new one is up top. It is still a little bright – it will take a few days for the copper “pink” to age and take on a beautiful warm color. I will rub a little oil onto the surface, which protects the piece a bit, and adds to the patina. Over time, the new owner will need to occasionally rub  the piece clean with a green scrubbie, because the copper will continue to oxidize naturally.

I rarely make 2 items like this EXACTLY the same. I usually stamp a different phrase or texture, so this was a great chance to compare all the steps in the process with the final bangle. I hope this helped to show folks that using LOS is pretty easy, and the results are great!





Bye, Bye, Halloween!

31 10 2010

The Halloween Season is Over!

My very favorite Halloween activity is watching the special Halloween themed sitcom marathons…. especially the episodes of “Roseanne” – no one does it any better! And now, before we start the massive end of the year retail blitz, I’d like to say goodbye to Halloween, and show off my favorite holiday projects:

Eeeek! Caught in My Web!

A little web, and a little sparkle – this crystal “spider” always gets noticed. I was so disappointed that this class never got filled – maybe I’m the only one who thinks it’s cool???

Bat with a Heart On!

Yeah…. I know, but really, what else could I name this piece?? I love etching, and  always have great fun teaching it… next year I’m gonna have to get more of these bats!

Blood Lust... Bite Me!

It could be True Blood, or maybe it’s Twilight, but all of a sudden “Bite Me” means something totally different than I remember…! I always love wearing stamped saying pendants (mine says “Runs with Scissors”), and this one seems to be pretty popular….  I’m thinking as long as movies and books are focusing on fangs, this will remain a favorite!

So it’s time to put the spiders and bats away – Hannuka Harry and Santa Claus wanna come out and play!





When Mistakes Work

11 10 2010

Do What I Say…. Not What I Do!

This weekend I taught a fun new class which combined basic metal work with stamping and soldering, to create a personalized heavy gauge ring. I don’t always get to create a complete project in class, because I am focused on working with my students, but for this project, I had to demo every step, so I was able to make a ring of my own.

Caffeine.... Sorta!

So I decided that the chemical compound for CAFFEINE  (C8H10N4O2) would be kinda cool. I showed the class how to line up the letters, and I even told them that they need to watch for the direction of the stamp, so that no letters were upside down. So what do I do?! I proceed to stamp the “O” sideways… obviously I needed a little bit more coffee before class started!

So this became a lesson in “organic design” – sometimes you just need to accept your design, flaws and all, and love the uniqueness of what you create. And… the class decided that my representation showed a quirkiness that works!

Letter Stamps

Some letter stamps come with a scratch, or a mark on them, indicating the side that faces you when stamping, so that the letters line up correctly (example above left). The stamp set I used for my C8H10N4O2 ring didn’t have any markings, so basically you need to check each letter before stamping. Obviously, I got it wrong!

A simple tip… if your letter set does not have any directional indicators on them, then I suggest marking it yourself. I use a little nail polish (example above center) which shows up and withstands a bit of abuse. Because if you leave your stamps plain, like the one in the photo above right, you will surely create some “organic” designs yourself!





Math and Jewelry

8 09 2010

When you make a ring, it’s always a little tricky figuring out how much material you need. For some techniques, such as wire wrapping, or riveting, it’s easy… and you can always make small adjustments. But when you’re making a soldered band, you need to know how long the strip should be.

I will be teaching a rings class in a few weeks that requires being able to figure this out… that’s where math comes in!

A Perfect Fit... Message Rings

I love these rings… but then again, I love stamping and heavy metal!! It can be tempting to buy a prefabricated band and just stamp a pattern or message on them, but it is too easy to stretch the ring a bit when stamping. If you create the pattern on flat stock, then cut it to appropriate length and solder, you are guaranteed a good fit. And this is really really important when making a custom ring!

The length of the stock metal sheet will vary, depending on how thick the metal is. A ring made with thicker gauge metal needs to be longer than one made with thinner gauge to accommodate for the matching of the cut ends. So what is the magic formula used??

(diameter x pi) + (thickness x pi) = metal length

You remember “pi” don’t you…. from high school?? Well, we will only need to use pi two places out to 3.14. It is much much, much easier to use millimeters (mm) instead of inches, since mm are smaller, so the sizing is more exact. So here is an example using 18g metal (1.02mm) in a size 7 ring (17.35mm diameter):

(17.35 x 3.14) + (1.02 x 3.14) = 54.48 + 3.20 = 57.68mm length

Really, the formula is easy, and it’s not difficult to do – just cut metal a little longer (ie: 59mm) to get started, and stamp your design across the band. Re-measure and mark the metal to be as close as possible to 58mm (I always round up), then cut. file and sand the edges flush, so that when they meet, they do not have a gap. Fold the metal ends gently together, then solder and finish off as usual.

Formula Works for All Band Styles!

For this ring, a strip of silver was soldered to one end of the copper disc. The overall length was determined using the formula above, and then the measurement was marked on the metal, including the radius of the disc into the length – easy!!

Or, if you prefer… you can always download a table online with the sizing already figured out!





I’ve Been Booked!

18 07 2010

I have a great library of jewelry making books – wirework, metalwork, resin, beading… even polymer clay! I get inspired looking thru them, and I love learning and applying new techniques, and developing my skills.

So I’m thrilled that some of my pieces will be in the gallery section of a new book from Lisa Niven Kelly, the creator of the online Beaducation workshops and website. Lisa is a great designer, and a great teacher, and much of her work involves stamping and cold connections – just my kinda thing!.

Stamped Metal Jewelry by Lisa Niven Kelly

Her new book has some great projects – if you have any interest in metal work, you will love this book! And check out her Beaducation website for videos, tools, metal blanks, design and letter sets – everything you need for stamping projects!

Stamped and Riveted Bangles (StudioDax)

The “LAUGH” bangle above, and a few other similar ones I made, are in the gallery section… I love, love, love, using mixed metals, and rivets are just such a cool design element, in addition to being functional.

"Seek Love" ID Style Bracelet (StudioDax)

The “SEEK LOVE” bracelet is also in the book, at least I think so…. this was a “maybe” so I’ll find out when I get my copy. It’s a favorite of mine, with heavy link chain, Thai Hill silver heart charm, and copper rivet accents… what’s not love?

If you ever get a chance to take one of Lisa’s classes at a bead show, make sure to sign up, you’ll be thrilled with both the skills you pick up, and the project you create!





An Oldie but Goodie…

7 05 2010

Ok, So Maybe I'm a Little Defensive....

I have this stamped bracelet that I made many, many years ago when I was first starting to do metal work. The original clasp had a small wrapped lampwork bead, which I replaced with a simple hook when the bead eventually broke. I’ve made a lot of cool bracelets since then – wireworked, hand made chains, some with etched copper panels – all sorts. But THIS is the bangle I’ve been wearing 4-5 times a week lately -  I kinda feel a little naked without it.

As a jewelry designer, like other artists and craftspeople, I am always looking to expand my skills and learn new techniques. But this very simple and easy stamped bracelet is like an amulet to me now – it represents my start in metalworking, and I always feel a little creative when I feel it on my wrist.

I’m sure I’ll eventually swap it out for something else, but for now, I’m a little superstitious, and I think I’ll keep it on








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