Fused Glass Ring

I got to spend a good chunk of last weekend happily playing around in a glass & metal studio. Squeeeeee! I ended up making this ring:

Glass Fused Ring with Silver bezel

I made this! 😀

It’s made of fused glass with a sterling silver bezel and ring band. And it’s a BIG honkin’ ring. I can’t help myself!

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I took a workshop at Nanopod, which is a funky little metal and glass studio on Harbord Street in Toronto. (Nanopod also offers taxidermy workshops in which participants learn how to stuff mice and birds and set them up in their own happily-ever-after little dollhouse-like dioramas. I took a pass on that one.)

Nanopod studio

Nanopod studio

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Some fused glass goodies in the foreground, and sheets of glass, frit, and glass paint in the background.

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Some glass fused goodies

Tosca Teran is the owner and resident metal and glass artist. She taught us how to cut glass and let us play around with sheets and rods of glass as well as “frit” (ground up bits of glass in various degrees of coarseness) and glass paint. It was super-fun learning about a new creative medium and experimenting with it. By the end of the Saturday session, our experiments were ready to go in the kiln for fusing:

glassfusing_before

My glass experiments, clockwise from top left: clear glass square with coral and pink frit, a corny experiment with a dolphin decal, a ginko leaf made using a stencil and some sparkly green frit, a “let’s see what happens when I stack some very thin rods on top of each other”, an oak leaf, another ginko leaf, an experiment with cut glass rods stacked on a clear base, and a bullseye motif that I hope will become a ring.

I joked with long-suffering husband when I got home that it’s possible I was bleeding to death without realizing it because I was probably covered with microscopic cuts, and I was sure invisible nano-particles of blood were exiting my body at a likely fatal rate. (Did I ever mention I’m a hypochondriac?) Anyway, presence of micro-cuts confirmed quite clearly later as I squeezed a lime for salad dressing. YIKES!

On Sunday (yes, I did survive the night; thanks for your concern), here’s what we found after Tosca had fused the pieces in the kiln for us:

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I think my favourite is that pathetic shriveled orange thing up in the top right…so much for the thin glass rods experiment! None of them turned out particularly gorgeous but it was interesting to see what happens after fusing.

Glass bullseye: before and after fusing

Glass bullseye: before and after fusing

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The band ring has been formed (I never was good at perfect circles) and the bezel for the glass is in progress.

Tosca demonstrating how to solder the bezel. She didn’t want to be in the photo which is too bad because she’s got a ton of interesting tattoos.

Ta-DA!

Ta-DA!

There are a couple of tiny skull and crossbones on the back of the ring. IRL there is no pink on the ring; that's the reflection of the flowers in my garden where I was shooting these pics.

There are a couple of tiny skull and crossbones on the back of the ring which you can’t quite see cuz they’re out of focus. IRL there is no pink on the ring; that’s the reflection of the flowers in my garden where I was shooting these pics.

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And here’s the lovely Jill, who was also taking the workshop, with her ring creation

I really enjoyed playing around with glass (despite almost DYING in a freak lime juice accident), and would love to go back to try some more glass fusing now that I have some idea of the results to expect. Tosca is REALLY talented at it…I couldn’t believe the jellyfish pieces she did that look so realistic they’re like paintings, only she made them with GLASS. Which blows my mind. You can see one of them here in the Nanopod Etsy shop.  Also, do not dare miss out on looking at these SHOES. Shoes! SHOES! made with glass and reindeer hide featured on Nanopod’s homepage.

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!

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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

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

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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. 😦

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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

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

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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.

Casting class: my giant heart shaped ring

I love it! I had been searching for a ring just like this on Etsy but to no avail…so I made it myself!

Ta-da! My lovely new heart ring.

Ta-da! My lovely new heart ring.

This was my final project for the jewelry casting class I’ve been taking at Jewel Envy here in Toronto. I posted previously about carving the wax model and the casting process. Here’s what happened in the last two classes.

Below are the ring pieces after dissolving the plaster mold in water. It’s nerve-wracking fishing the casting out of the murky water because you are just praying that the casting process worked ok, otherwise it would be back to square one and hours of carving another wax model. You can see that both the ring band and the heart piece were done in the same mold. They’re attached by “sprues”, which are tubes that allow the molten silver to flow into the mold.

The ring pieces right after casting.

The ring pieces right after casting.

Both the ring band and the heart were cast in the same mould

Both the ring band and the heart were cast in the same mold.

Next, the casting gets tossed into warm “pickle” (an acidic bath) to clean it off, and then I sawed off the sprues:

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The casting after pickling

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The sprues are sawed off

Next it’s hours of grinding away the bumps and polishing the surface, starting with a metal file or grinder and then using emery paper, starting with the coarsest grit and repeating with ever-finer grits.

Grinding away the sprue edges.

Grinding away the sprue edges.

Next I soldered the ring band to the heart piece.

Soldering the ring band to the heart piece

Soldering the ring band to the heart piece

Soldering causes some kind of chemical reaction that turns the silver various colours.

Soldering causes some kind of chemical reaction that turns the silver various colours.

So then it’s more hours of sanding the surface to remove all the dirt and discolouration with emery paper, until finally it’s ready for a buffing with grey stone polishing compound and lastly rouge polishing compound.

Polishing with a greystone buff.

Polishing with a greystone buff.

The finished ring.

The finished ring.

I just love my one-of-a-kind ring!

Jewelry Class: casting a ring

I’ve been taking jewelry-making classes at Jewel Envy, a jewelry studio that recently opened up just around the corner from me. They bought an old house in desperate need of renovations, gutted it, and painted the whole house a vibrant shade of blue (at which point they certainly had my attention). Inside are two floors of studio space for independent jewelers/metal smiths, and some gorgeous display cases full of lovely hand-made jewelry.

The lovely blue house of Jewel Envy

The lovely blue house of Jewel Envy

Look at these super-cute display cases.

Look at these super-cute display cases.

I’m just finishing up the 8-week casting workshop, where I learned how to do the lost-wax casting method. This is the first ring I made, out of sterling silver:

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Lost-wax casting involves carving a ring (or a pendant or some other piece of jewelry) out of wax and creating a plaster mould around the wax.
This is my wax carving for the second ring I’m making. I seem to be stuck on a heart theme, for some reason.

Separate wax carvings for the band and the big heart

Separate wax carvings for the band and the big heart

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The back of the heart

The plaster mould is then heated in a kiln which causes the wax to melt away, leaving a cavity in the shape of your carving. Next, you place the plaster mould into a centrifuge, and using a blow torch, silver pieces are melted in a crucible attached to the mould. As soon as the metal is completely molten, you let the centrifuge spin around which sucks the liquid silver into the mould.

The plaster mould and the crucible full of silver are placed in the centrifuge.

The plaster mould and the crucible full of silver are placed in the centrifuge.

Melting the silver with a blowtorch.

Melting the silver with a blowtorch.

Let 'er rip!

Let ‘er rip!

Sometimes this part of the process doesn’t work properly–the silver doesn’t completely fill the mould, for example, and it’s really “heart”breaking (see what I did there???)–because your wax carving that you worked so hard on has been destroyed, so there’s no do-overs.

A few minutes after the centrifuge stops spinning, you dunk the mould in water, allowing the plaster to dissolve away and you’re left with a silver casting, which then needs to be cleaned, sanded, and polished.

Tonight is the last class in the workshop, and I’ll be soldering the heart ring together and sanding and polishing it. Fingers crossed! I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out.

Have you ever tried lost-wax casting? What did you make?