Silver Clay Pendants: How I Make Them

This was my little fundraising project a couple of months ago when I was raising money for El Hogar, the organization I worked with when I brought my students to Honduras for a volunteering trip in February. They’re made of silver clay, and my wonderful friends stepped up to support the cause.

silverpendants

My ‘customers’, or rather Facebook friends who put up with my fundraising statuses for a couple of months, could choose the shape (heart, circle, flower), size (large or small), font, and initial(s). One friend gave me an order for 10 different pendants, getting a lot of her family’s birthday shopping done for the year in one fell swoop. We were both glad she could accomplish this knowing all the proceeds would be supporting a great charity.

Silver clay pendant

If you’re not familiar with how metal clay works, it’s basically MAGIC. Silver clay can be manipulated pretty much like any other clay (you can roll it, shape it, texture it, carve it, etc.), then you let it dry out and fire it with a torch or in a kiln, and voilà — like medieval alchemy you suddenly have a silver piece. (Alright, it’s definitely more complex than that but you get the idea.)

Silver clay initial pendants

Here’s a brief explanation of how I make these pendants. I have left out a lot of detail that would be important if you’re trying to learn this on your own…if you want the long version, complete with explanation of tools and more detail on the procedures, feel free to get in touch, or check out some of the tutorials available online. I learned how to do this from Jenn at Metal Clay Atelier, who gives metal clay workshops in Oakville and Toronto; check out her website, too.

How to Make a Silver Clay Initial Pendant

Step 1: roll out the clay to desired thickness. With my hands lubricated with olive or coconut oil, I roll the clay into a ball then roll it on non-stick surface using an oiled rolling tool. I use Art Clay Silver but there are other brands of metal clay available as well.

Here's the ball of clay rolled out flat. The plastic slats at each side allow you to roll the clay out to a specific thickness.

Here’s the ball of clay rolled out flat. The plastic gauge slats at each side allow for rolling out the clay out to a specific thickness.

Step 2: Cut out the desired shape. You could use a knife or clay cutting tools to do this freehand but it’s easier and more precise to use a shape cutter like the one below.

Here I've used a flower shape cutter from XXXX. The edge of the cutter should be oiled with olive or coconut oil to prevent sticking.

Here I’ve used a flower shape cutter by Kemper Klay Kutters. (I like K’s as much as anyone but that’s a bit annoying.) The edge of the cutter should be oiled with olive or coconut oil to prevent sticking.

Klay Kutters

I have a variety of shape cutters in different sizes.

Step 3: Add a hole for the jump ring and stamp the initial.

I use a toothpick to create a hole for the jump ring

I use a toothpick to create a hole for the jump ring

silverclayprocess3a

I have a selection of letter stamps that I use for the initials. The stamp must be well oiled.

Studio G alphabet stamp set

These are great, inexpensive stamp sets that come in different fonts to use on metal clay. I have found some at Michael’s as well as from suppliers on Etsy.

Step 4: Allow the piece to dry — it must be completely dry or it can crack during the firing proces

Silver clay pieces drying on a mug warmer

You can let the piece dry by leaving it overnight, or set it on a mug warmer as I have done here for about 30 minutes, depending on the size of the piece. I leave them on the non-stick sheet they were rolled out on so I don’t mar the wet clay by trying to lift and move it.

Step 5: Sand and refine the dried pieces. I use various nail files and sanding pads to make sure there are no rough edges, scratches, or irregularities. This is the stage where it’s important to make the piece as perfect as possible, because it’s much harder to file out scratches after it’s been fired and turned to solid metal. The dry clay is fragile at this stage, so care must be taken not to break it.

Metal clay sanding tools

Filing & sanding tools. I do all the sanding in this little plastic tray, so that I can collect the silver clay particles and reuse them — too precious to waste!

silverclaydrill1

I have a little manual drill bit to make sure the hole for the jump ring is uniform. It’s important to do this on a spongy surface (polishing pad) so as not to break the dry clay piece.

Step 6: fire the clay pieces. They can be fired in a kiln, but small pieces like these can also be fired with a butane hand torch. These pieces generally take about 2 minutes of steady, even heating, constantly moving the flame around so the piece doesn’t overheat and melt. I don’t have a picture of the firing process for you — sorry! I’m pretty sure it’s a big safety hazard to be wielding a blow torch and taking a picture at the same time. 🙂

Metal clay pieces on the firing block

The pieces on the firing block. The one on the left has been fired and the other two haven’t. You can see how the clay shrinks a bit during the firing process if you compare the size of the fired and unfired heart.

Step 7: Marvel at the magical alchemy! When the piece is cool, I use a brass brush and water to remove the white coating that formed during the firing and discover that the piece has turned to fine silver! This is *always* cool. I will never get tired of this moment.

Brushing away the white coating to reveal silver!

Brushing away the white coating to reveal silver!

Step 8: Polish the finished piece. I usually tumble the pieces to work-harden them, then I use emery papers and polishing papers to bring the piece to a shine. This is a boring part so I don’t have pictures. 🙂 I also apply a little silver-blackener (Jax) to the initials to darken them and give contrast.

silverpendants3

Ta-da! Some cute, customized silver clay necklaces.

It’s a time-consuming process but a lot of fun, and I managed to raise a good chunk of money to donate to a great cause. Win-win-win all around, I’d say!

Silver clay initial pendants

2015 Prediction Comes True: 3D Printed Jewelry Was, In Fact, In My Immediate Future

In my 2014 round-up post I predicted that 3D printed jewelry was in my immediate future, and I was right!

Ok, it’s true that as the person actually planning to make the 3D printed jewelry, I did have some insider information…so don’t go recommending me to friends seeking a future-predicting oracle. Unless, of course, they’re gullible and have lots of money.

As part of a fundraising initiative, I was involved in the design and manufacture of these cool little 3D printed pendants.

3D printed TNT molecule pendant

3D printed TNT molecule pendant

Dopamine_molecule_3Dprintednecklace2

3D Printed Dopamine Molecule Pendant

I’m taking a group of my students on a volunteering trip in a couple of weeks to Honduras, the second-poorest country in the western hemisphere. We will be volunteering with El Hogar, a home and schools for orphaned and underprivileged children who might otherwise be living on the street or involved in gangs. In order to raise funds to donate to El Hogar, we planned a couple of fundraisers including selling these necklaces at school. Dopamine is the chemical that activates the pleasure centre of the brain, and TNT is, well, dynamite. We also made them in glow-in-the-dark blue!

3D printed glow-in-the-dark dopamine molecule!

3D printed glow-in-the-dark dopamine molecule!

In addition to pendants, we made wooden keychains using our laser cutter. Being a media school, I thought depicting the sound waveform of various phrases would be a hit, and it was. We had keychains with the name of our department, as well as some that said “I Love You” and, in honour of our Spanish-speaking destination, some that said “Te Quiero”.

RTAkeychain_woodlasercut1

Our group managed to raise about $900 for El Hogar over the course of four days of selling these in the lobby of our building at school. Overall, we’re getting very close to our goal of $2,500.

If you’d like to know more about our trip and our projects, check out rtahumanitarianmedia.wordpress.com.

My next prediction: lots of marking papers as well as dithering about what to eat for dinner then finally ordering pizza is in my immediate future. I’ll let you know if that comes true. 😉

2014: A Year of Living Creatively

Was 2014 a creative year for you? A handful of years ago I remember making a list of what I thought were the primary areas in life that were important for happiness & well being. Something like this:

Relationship/Marriage
Family
Friends/Social Life
Health
Career
Creativity
Learning
Spirituality (although I’m not a religious person, I still consider spirituality to be an important factor)

There were probably a few other things on the list that I can’t remember right now. Anyway, I rated each area out of 10. At that time, I rated Creativity as one of the lowest of all — probably 2 or 3 out of 10. I’m happy to report that’s not the case anymore; my Creativity Index has shot through the roof over the last few years, and it’s made quite a difference to my overall happiness & well-being! (In many ways, it’s made quite a dent in my wallet, too, but that’s another story.) It’s amazing what can happen when you take stock of who you are and where you’re at, and think about what you’d like to do or change to make a positive difference.

In any case, 2014 continued to be a big year for both Creativity and Learning for me. Here are some of the highlights.

  • took Intermediate Fabrication from Jewel Envy where I made a silver necklace and this ring

Silver Curlicue Ring with Amethyst CZ

  • I took a course on enameling from Jewel Envy (click the link to see what I made)
  • I took a 4-week course on making rings with metal clay with Jenn Jevons of Metal Clay Atelier (post about these rings coming soon!)

silver metal clay rings

  • I set myself up with a small jewelry workshop at home (cripes, tools are expensive!)
  • Following on from 2013, I took a second course on Wearable Electronics and built a motion-activated, light-up skirt!
  • I took another course on casting from Jewel Envy, where I made the silver & pearl ring pictured in my favourite makes of 2014, below

I didn’t have a bad year in knitting, either, considering I get a good chunk of my knitting done during meetings at work. (This says more about how many damn meetings I have to go to than about the speed of my knitting.) I knit:

  • 3 cardigans
  • 2 hats
  • 5 scarves
  • 3 cowls/neckwarmers
  • 2 pairs of socks

knitting projects Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 8.04.51 AM

Biggest fails of 2014

Vogue 8825 dress

The Grocery Cart Dress

zipperneckdress3

The This-Fucking-Fabric-Is-A-Fucking-Nightmare Dress

My favourite makes of 2014

diagonallinesdress sparkleskirt

silver&pearlsring neonhat

Creative Goals for 2015:

  • 3D printed jewelry is in my immediate future. I can feel it.
  • I hope to learn how to take better pictures, especially of jewelry.

Thanks for supporting me in my creative endeavours and sharing yours with me through this blog! May your 2015 be very creatively fulfilling. Make it happen! Cheers!

Thanks, I made it! Cast Silver Ring with Black and White Pearls

I’m feeling pretty chuffed with myself at the moment: I made this pearl ring from scratch and I think it turned out pretty well!

pearlring_finished4

Cast Silver Ring with Black and White Pearls pearlring_finished3 Cast silver ring with black and white pearls Cast silver ring with black & white pearls

I made the ring using the lost wax casting method: carve the shape from wax; create a mold of ‘investment’ around the wax — sort of like immersing the wax in plaster of paris; heat the plaster mold up in a kiln so the wax burns away leaving a blank space in the shape of the wax; then pour molten silver into the mold by using a centrifuge, and hope it works!

The wax carving of the ring

The wax carving of the ring

casting1

Heating up the silver in the crucible, which is attached to the plaster mold

casting_molten

The silver is now molten and ready to be spun into the mold

Let the centrifuge fly!

Let the centrifuge fly! The centrifugal force causes the molten metal to fill all the empty spaces in the investment mold.

The ring after casting. Ive soldered wires in place which will hold the pearls.

The ring after casting. I’ve soldered wires in place which will hold the pearls.

I had a bit of disaster along the way…when I was soldering the wires that will hold the pearls in place, I accidentally melted a big gouge out of the ring itself. There was much cursing and a whole evening spent feeling sorry for myself. 😦

pearlring_disaster

Thankfully my casting instructor Ellen at Jewel Envy was able to solder another piece of silver into the hole which could then be filed & polished to match the rest of the ring. The repair is completely invisible from the outside of the ring. Yay!

There’s no doubt I’d change a few things about this ring if I were to do it over again (and I’d spend more time polishing out the scratches from the file & emery papers — sorry, Jillian), but every new piece I make is a lesson from which I take away some new skill or knowledge along with wisdom about what to change if I did it again. Overall I think this ring is pretty damn cool and I’ll definitely be wearing it proudly!

Cast silver ring with black and white pearls

Enameling Class

I can’t keep myself away from my neighbourhood jewelry studio! I’ve taken a few classes at Jewel Envy: Introductory Fabrication, Introductory Casting, Intermediate Fabrication, and recently I completed an 8-week course on enameling. I must admit, the look of enameled jewelry is not really my first choice for pieces I’d like to wear, but I just love being in the studio and learning new techniques so I thought, what the hell, let’s try enameling.

Enameling is really just coating metal in melted glass by applying powdered, pigmented glass in fine layers and firing the piece in a kiln until the powder melts and fuses into a smooth, glossy coating.

This is the chevron necklace I made.

Copper & enamel chevron necklace

copper & enamel chevron necklace

I’ve currently got a thing for turquoise blue and red in combination, apparently, as I used it for two of the pieces I made in this course. For the piece below, we were learning the cloisonné technique, in which fine copper wires are fused perpendicularly onto a copper base to create ‘sections’ into which different colours of enamel can be applied. The word cloisonné actually means “partitioned” in French. As it turns out, bending wires into shape is harder than I thought (which is actually a pervasive theme running throughout my entire experience learning how to make jewelry — *everything* is harder than it seems). Those triangle sections could be more uniform and even, but whatever – I’ll leave uniformity and evenness to machines and factories.

Cloisonne pendant

Enamel pendant using the “cloisonne” technique

Below are a few practice pieces I made in the first couple of weeks of the course. The purple heart key ring is for my young niece, and I made it using a technique called sgraffito (from the Italian word meaning “to scratch”. Bonus to taking this enameling course is that I have added arcane vocabulary to my paltry European language skills.)  I applied several layers of pink enamel and fired each one, then applied a sparse sprinkling of purple enamel and scratched away some of the purple to form the initials, then fired again. The black & yellow cedar leaf outline was done using the stenciling technique: I fired several layers of yellow enamel, then I applied the ‘stencil’ (in this case, a sprig of cedar) and sifted black powdered enamel over top, removed the stencil and fired in the kiln. I seem to have been playing with just adding a fine sprinkling of enamel on the last layer in these pieces; looking at them now, I should’ve gone for the gusto and put a full coating of colour on for the last layer — that might have looked better. But these were all first-time experiments.

Enamel pieces

The blue and yellow piece is kind of interesting, in that I accidentally produced a piece that showcases the three different finishes it’s possible to achieve with enamel, depending how long you fire it for. The smooth, glossy finish you see in the other pieces takes the longest firing time, but before it reaches that stage the enamel goes through two earlier stages: ‘sugar’, where the enamel particles just start to slump and fuse but they still have a powdery, crystalline texture (see the white bits in the close-up below), and then ‘orange peel’, where it starts to melt even more but hasn’t quite smoothed out fully and retains a slightly pitted surface like an orange peel. My instructor said she’s tried to get a sugar finish but has never been able to pull it out of the kiln in time, as the enamel only stays at the sugar stage for a moment. For me, it was just accidental luck, as I was underestimating how much time the piece should be in the kiln for fear of scorching/oxidizing the piece. I used a combination of stenciling and sgraffito on this piece, starting with several layers of blue fired to gloss, then stenciling on some yellow, scraping some lines away and firing to orange peel, then finally sprinkling some white on top and scraping lines away, and firing to a sugar finish.

sgraffito enamel: sugar & orange peel finish

I love the vibrant colours you can achieve with enameling but I can’t help but think that my pieces just look like made-in-China baubles. I don’t mean to be all self-denigrating but truly, I haven’t seen all that many enameled jewelry pieces that look like “fine” jewelry to me. Maybe it’s because we are used to enameled things that are made in factories and available for cheap? Or maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough. I’m not sure. What do you think?

The final piece I made in the enameling course is a double layered pendant: the bottom piece is enameled and the overlay is a silver geometric cutout.

Silver & enamel medallion

It’s a riff on the bracelet cuff I made in another class:

Silver Geometric Cuff

The bottom layer started off purple, and then I decided to add a sort of gradient sprinkling of fine silver powder for the final firing. What I didn’t know was that the purple enamel somehow reacts with the fine silver when fired and turns yellow! Here’s a pic of the underpiece when it was purple (it looks quite red in this pic, but it was actually more plum-coloured), as well as the silver overlay in the early stages of piercing & cutting.

silverenamelmedallion1

Here’s what the purple piece looked like after firing with fine silver particles:

silverenamelmedallion3

I think the unintended yellow is actually alright — it’s a nice neutral, understated tone. The fine silver powder would’ve really popped against a purple background, but the universe was not going to allow for that, so who am I to argue? The universe wanted a yellow necklace!

silver_enamel_medallion2

Now that the enameling course is over, I’ve signed up for another lost-wax casting course. (You can read about the jewelry I made in my first casting course if you’re interested.) Stay tuned for the results of my attempt at creating a silver-and-pearls ring in a few weeks (*fingers crossed*). Thanks for reading!

Yarncore!

Yesssss! I’m a nerdy badass. Or a badass nerd. (Or, ok…I’m prepared to accept I am just a nerd.)

Yarncore screenprint

Screenprint by Kat Gomboc

I purchased this lovely 11 x 14″ screenprint by Kat Gomboc at the Trinity Bellwoods Park Outdoor Art Show & Sale (part of the Queen West Art Crawl) in Toronto. I love the contrast of the skull motif and the French country toile fabric.

Now all I need is a jean jacket to sew this to the back of. And maybe accessorize with a little something nerdy yet badass like this:

Problem is, I’d find a way to work some yarn onto those needles and then people would *really* look at me funny on the subway.

Fabrication class: creating hollow shapes with die forms

I’m taking an Intermediate Fabrication class at Jewel Envy. In the last class we learned how to make a die form to create hollow-form shapes. After 3 hours of intense, focused work, I brought my work home to show my husband.

“Want to see what it took me all goddam class to make?” I asked as I walked through the door. THIS:

coppertrianglepuff

coppertrianglepuff2

“That’s…it?” said Dave. (Now don’t get me wrong, Dave is amazingly supportive and encouraging husband, but both of us are pretty pragmatic and cynical, so we were both on the same page on this.)

Yep, that’s it. It’s a lame little triangle of copper, with one side slightly puffed out or domed and the other flat, and it’s hollow inside. Dave said, “I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t pay 10 cents for this.” Which is Dave’s slightly nicer way of paraphrasing Justin Halpern’s father (of Shit My Dad Says fame) when he said “Listen, I don’t want to stifle your creativity, but that thing you built there, it looks a pile of shit.”

Fair enough! Agreed. I don’t think I can even tart this thing up into a reasonable pendant for a necklace or something — which was the original intent…here’s my sketch; the drawing at the bottom right is what I had in mind:

sketch

Nonetheless, here’s what this ‘pile of shit’ copper puffy triangle actually represents…

I learned how to make a die form. This involved sawing a rounded triangular shape out of a sheet of brass then gluing the brass to a wooden block and, using a drill press, then a saw and files, creating a hole in the block the same shape as the triangle.

dieform

dieform2

Having made the die form, I can now make as many puffy little triangles as I want! So if I wanted a whole necklace, say, with a matching pair of earrings, of little puffy triangles, I could do that. I could also create the triangles in other materials such as silver.

To use the die form, I placed a sheet of copper on top and put it into a hydraulic press. The extreme pressure in the press causes the copper to get pressed down into the hollow triangle of the dye form. The higher the pressure, the puffier the triangle, but you have to be careful not to put too much pressure or it can blow a hole through the copper. Then I cut the puffy triangle out of the copper sheet with a saw and filed the edges smooth. Next I soldered the triangle to another flat piece of copper, sealing all the edges, then cut the piece out and filed the edges smooth again.

Even though this first attempt is what Sam Halpern might call a pile of shit, it does mean I’ve learned a new technique for metalsmithing and jewelry making. And in the hands of an experienced artist like Barbara Bayne, this technique results in some gorgeous jewelry. Look at Bayne’s amazing pieces created using die forms:

Die form necklaces by Barbara Bayne

Or this piece by Judith Neugebauer:

jewelry by Judith Neugebauer

Or this cute Copper Puffed Heart Necklace from Michele Grady Designs on Etsy:

Copper Puffed Heart Necklace by Michele Grady Designs

As for me, die forming definitely isn’t my favourite technique I’ve learned so far in my jewelry-making classes, but, as always when I learn a new handcrafting technique, it certainly makes me appreciate how much work goes into creating the tiniest pieces that most take for granted.

 

 

Jewel Envy Student Exhibition

I’m actually pretty excited about this. Jewel Envy is having their annual Student Exhibition, showing pieces made by people who took classes there, and I’ve got three pieces in the exhibit. Woot!

Jewel Envy Student Exhibition 2014 postcard

That’s my blurry silver cuff there on the bottom left of the postcard. But check out that ring second from the left. I’m told that guy made that ring in his first class. How annoying is that? I love it! It reminds me of a ring I fell in love with about 20 years ago, but never bought, by a guy named Ivaan who had a small shop on Queen West with a sign out front that said “Getting Married? Come in here before he buys you a slice of pipe with a rock in it.” Yessss. He made really cool rings, one of which indeed became my wedding ring and it looks nothing like a slice of pipe. But the other ring I loved was a large calla lilly with a shard of purple amethyst crystal nestled inside as the stamen. It seemed far too delicate and fragile to actually wear. But Dirk Ave’s (Dirk Ave! — even his name is cool) has made a version that seems really wearable.

Anyway, here’s a better picture of my silver geometric cuff:

Silver Geometric Cuff

I made the cuff in a Beginner’s Fabrication class from a sheet of silver from which I cut out triangles, half circles, and a rectangle. I love wearing this piece.

The other two pieces I’ve got in the show are my Queen of Hearts rings (yeah, I know…they made me give them names when I entered them in the exhibit 😛 ) were from my Beginner’s Casting Class, in which we learned how to do the lost-wax casting process. I blogged about making these pieces here and here. I really enjoyed lost wax casting…something about pouring red-hot molten metal in a process that could go horribly wrong and destroy all the hard work you did carving the form makes me feel all bad-ass Lord of the Rings-ish. Lucky for me, these two rings came through the casting process really well.

Queen of Hearts rings

So Friday’s opening night should be a fun opportunity to hang out at the studio and have a couple of drinks and admire all the amazing work the artisans and students at Jewel Envy create. Come by if you’re in Toronto! Or, feel free to vote for your favourite piece. Do check them out! Lots of fantastic designs.

 

 

Crystal drop pendant

My dear friend Tawnya had a birthday last week and I made her a long pendant as a gift. Tawnya is a gorgeous natural beauty with thick, wavy reddish-brown hair and green eyes, so I chose crystals with that colour scheme in mind.

Crystals & heart pendant

The heart is a neat little pre-fab item, from Arton Beads in Toronto, that opens up on a hinge so it made a perfect container for some crystals. There’s something about filling a vessel with little beautiful things that makes them seem more precious, as if instead of wearing them ‘open’ around your neck you need to keep them safe in a lovely container.

Crystal & heart pendant

I used various crystals from 4mm to 8mm in shades of brown, yellow, green, and purplish-brown. The technique is simple: just put each crystal onto a headpin and using round nose pliers, form a loop. Attach the looped crystals to a short length of chain. At the bottom of the chain, use a jump ring to attach the heart pendant.

It’s so nice to be able to give a personalized, hand made gift to someone you love. Of course, there’s always the worry that they won’t particularly like it but feel obligated to say how much they love it. However, as a maker/crafter/knitter/etceterer you do develop a sense of who would appreciate something hand made. Tawnya has always purchased her clothes from local designers and stays away from big corporate clothing chains, out of a strong sense of not only great style, but also social justice and environmental protection. So no worries there! — I know she’d much rather have a hand made gift than something made overseas and purchased in a big box store. What an awesome woman she is. I’m so glad she’s my friend. Funny to think that I met her and her partner quite randomly many years ago on a canoe trip to the Toronto Islands. We met as we were getting our canoes ready to go in the water, joked around, had fun paddling across and exploring some off-the-beaten-path parts of the island, and decided to go for a beer after we returned to the mainland. We’ve been friends ever since.

crystalpendant2

So happy birthday, dear Tawnya, and many happy returns!

Jewelry Fabrication Class: the hammered band ring

No, that doesn’t mean I was hammered while making it. Drunk knitting? No problem. Drunk metalsmithing with blowtorches and sharp tools? Definitely not. 🙂

You may have seen my posts about the wax casting classes I took at Jewel Envy. I enjoyed them so much I signed up for a jewelry fabrication workshop. Here’s the difference: in casting, we learned how to carve things like rings or charms from wax or cuttlefish bone, which were then cast in metal. In fabrication, we’re learning how to cut/shape/connect jewelry from sheets of metal or metal wire.  So we started off practicing drilling, piercing, and sawing metal, along with the processes used to shape and polish. We also learned how to solder two pieces of metal together, or to connect a ring cut from a flat sheet of silver.

Practicing piercing, sawing and soldering on copper sheet metal

Practicing piercing, sawing and soldering on copper sheet metal

Our first project in this class was a band ring which we worked on over the course of a couple of classes. You start by determining what ring size you need to end up with and how wide you want the band to be and based on that and some math you figure out what size rectangle of silver sheet to cut. Then it’s a million years of filing to get each end of the rectangle to be an exact right angle to the long edge, so that when you bend the rectangle into a ring shape the two ends will align perfectly, which will allow you to make a seamless solder connection. Before you can bend the metal into a ring shape, you have to anneal (soften) the metal by heating it in a blowtorch flame. After it cools you can use pliers to bend it into a D-shape to make soldering the seam easier.

Sawing the silver sheet metal to size

Sawing the silver sheet metal to size

pixiedust

It feels kind of glamourous to be covered in silver dust!

The D-shaped ring, ready to be soldered.

The D-shaped ring, ready to be soldered.

After soldering the seam, reshaping it into a perfect circle by hammering it into shape on a mandrel (a solid metal cylinder used for sizing rings), and cleaning & polishing, I needed to stretch the band a bit bigger to fit. They say it’s better to make a ring a little too small rather than too big, as it’s much easier to stretch it after the fact than to reduce it in size. Funny, my previously-uninformed instinct would have told me that it’d be the other way around. Anyway, there’s a neat little machine that you can put the ring on to stretch it, only after stretching mine a bit a crack appeared at the solder seam. So I resoldered it, and cleaned and polished again. Here’s what I wound up with:

The silver band ring

The silver band ring, before adding a textured finish.

I’m pleased that you can’t tell at all where the solder seam was.

On a side note, while we were all working away on our rings, the woman who runs the place told us she’d had a group of women in for a workshop as a kind of hen party or stagette or maybe as a thank you event for a bridal party. She said that a large number of the women were initially afraid to try sawing the metal. AFRAID. To touch a saw. And when I say saw, I don’t mean a 7,000 horsepower chain saw like a lumberjack in BC might use — we’re talking a little jeweler’s saw with a blade on it the width of a piece of string (see pics above). I have a bit of a hard time understanding how a person — forget about gender — can grow to adulthood without ever having used a tool. I’m trying not to be too judgmental but — aw, fuck it, I’ll be judgmental. That’s disgraceful. It’s evidence of how far off the charts modern society has brought us that adult humans not only don’t know how to use a simple tool but could even be afraid of using a simple saw. I mean, what will these people do when the Zombie Apocalypse comes? Granted, metal smithing is messy work and maybe these women had just had manicures and didn’t want to mess up their nails. (Which is actually further evidence of the decline of modern society.) These are the kind of people I want to smear dirt on. Um, in the nicest possible way, of course. A-hem.

Back to the ring. Next I put the ring on a mandrel and used a ball-peen hammer to gently create texture on the surface of the band. If you hammer too hard, it will stretch out the metal and mess up the sizing of the ring. Hammering was one option for creating texture but there was also sandblasting, crosshatching or even imprinting a texture onto the metal by rolling it through a metal press (although this last one would have to be done at the start of the process, not at the end. Unless you want to flatten your piece into roadkill.)

Adding a hammered texture to the ring.

Adding a hammered texture to the ring.

The last step was to use Grey Star and then Rouge on the buffing wheel for a shiny polished finish. Et voila! The finished ring.

The finished band ring

The finished band ring

The finished band ring.

The finished band ring. There’s a tiny elf in the foliage just outside the frame admiring it!

The finished band ring

I’ll be making two more projects in this class. One will be a silver pendant and the other maybe a silver cuff bracelet…not sure yet. Will keep you posted with pics as I finish the projects.