I made another ring last Monday when I couldn’t turn the kiln on, thanks to the lightning storms. It is a rainy day kind of ring. This time I squeezed in every technical element I possibly could: 3 solder jobs, filing, stamping, forging, drilling and stonesetting. It took forever, but I’m sure I’ll step it up with practice. I’m not exactly thrilled about this ring, but it was great practice and for my first try, I’d say it turned out pretty good. It’s big, and I like that.
Now that I’m no longer afraid of that little torch and understand the stages of flux and how to come at it with the heat, soldering the bezel went without a hitch. The bezel fit the stone a bit too snugly – I couldn’t easily slide the stone out both ends – so I rolled it ever so slightly on my steel block with a mandrel inside of it, and that stretched it out just enough. Soldering the bezel to the back plate was a bit more of a challenge. Even though I checked the fit numerous times and was satisfied, I think the metal moved a bit from the heat on the first try, leaving the smallest gap that the solder wouldn’t fill. Then I had a bright idea – I tapped the bezel down just the slightest bit in that area with a small hammer, it didn’t need much – then I re-fluxed and soldered again, and it filled in beautifully. I used the tripod/mesh screen for this particular solder job, and was quite certain I burned the heck out of the silver, but nope – it came out of the pickle very clean.
Then there was the task of soldering the ring shank to the back plate. That was not easy, even with two third hands. I opted for heavier gauge round wire for the shank, and offset towards one end, so that I could wear it with my other ring on top. I forged the ends for a larger surface area for the join, and it was a bear to get the ring shaped around the mandrel, and then filed flat enough for a clean join. That solder job took me a couple of tries as well, but I finally licked it. I’m thinking that the next ring will have a rectangular shank, and I can use binding wire and might have better luck with a good, flat joint.
The piece of labradorite isn’t the finest cut, but it was nice and big and the price was right. It has a vague seafoam/pink/peach flash that can only be seen from certain angles, so I was sure to set it at just the right angle for the best view. The stone setting was a challenge, but went better than I anticipated. It’s the slightest bit loose, but you have to really fiddle with it to get it to move at all. It doesn’t rock, it turns side to side just a hair. This stone is not calibrated – for those who don’t know, it’s not exact or perfectly round. I think it turned out as well as it did because I had John Cogswell’s Creative Stone Setting as a reference. Even for beginners, his instruction is easy to understand and covers just about everything you would want to know about stonesetting, and a few other things you didn’t know you needed to know. I could not live without that book, I’ve decided. It was the only one of the several books I purchased from Amazon that was not reduced in price, and it was worth every penny.
I love this process. So far, I’m squeezing it in on the weekends. It’s much less flame intensive than the glass, so it’s something productive I can do when it gets really hot or really cold. I’ve been able to use my left hand for holding the torch more efficiently than I expected, although the use of both hands equally when making beads has prepared me for that. I’m not ready to start selling anything quite yet. I don’t think two rings under my belt is enough. I’m test driving these for comfort and durability, and they pass the comfort test for sure, even though I’m not accustomed to wearing any rings other than my wedding band. Time will tell on the durability.
I don’t know what I’ll do about a hand model. Since I rely so heavily on my hands, they get pretty scuffed up and dried out. Right now, I have a monstrous blister on my index finger from an unpleasant incident involving dop wax. Glass has never done me that badly…
Thanks for reading!