z-beads sterling stuff, august 2012
But I completed almost everything I started! As I’ve been obsessively toiling away on these pieces, a realization dawned yesterday… has it been almost an entire WEEK since I took a bath? Gross, but probably not quite as bad as you might think, since the weather has been unseasonably pleasant. Thank goodness I haven’t had anywhere to be.
After I excitedly cleared the glass off of my main work table for my soldering supplies, I proceeded to cut pallions of easy solder into my hard solder container. Bah.
Then I decided to go ahead and try soldering copper and brass to sterling. I’ve read rumblings here and there that it was difficult or impossible, brass in particular, so I did a little e-digging and found a few articles, all of them advising to use easy solder. I’m not a fan of easy solder, especially on the first join. The problem with easy solder is that it gets brittle and eventually cracks if you heat it more than twice. I was reminded of that on the first experiment, which was the copper. So I decided to go ahead and try brass (nu gold, actually) with hard solder, and it worked just fine. It seemed to take a little longer than usual, but maybe I was just nervous. I was joining two flat pieces, so I sweat soldered the top piece (brass), then joined it to the bottom piece (sterling) and it didn’t fill the edges in all the way so I hammered those down and put small pieces of hard solder on the edges. Worked like a charm… maybe you’ll see the results of that next time. I got distracted by something and promptly forgot about it.
Let me tell you about this ring…I’ve been dreaming of this ring for a while now. I love scarabs and this is the perfect vintage lapis color – sort of a periwinkle backdrop with deep lapis spots, likely a Czech revival piece. I used a James Avery band I already had (from a previous, er, weirdness, and that’s all I’ll say). I sawed it, stretched it out a bit, and that made a nice wide shank for a rather large cabochon. It’s sort of heavy, but quite comfortable! This imagery takes me back to my younger years… Dad likes scarabs too, and I think he likes scarabs because his parents may have had a bunch of Egyptian revival stuff around when he was a kid. In fact, I think they knew one of the guys associated with the raiding of King Tut’s tomb, but don’t quote me on that. Grandpa played saxophone in big bands in New York and they met all sorts of interesting people. Including Russel Stover. The story in the family is that Mr. Stover was so charmed by Grandma that he gifted her a 3lb box of chocolates. Don’t quote me on that, either. I don’t necessarily believe everything I hear. My folks on that side of the family tell vivid stories. I do know I can take or leave Whitmans, but I might die without Russel Stover chocolates at least once a year.
I was hoping to get around to buying a guillotine shear before my next metal go-round, alas, I didn’t. One of the things I’ve struggled with, as I’m sure most budding metalsmiths have, is getting a clean, tight join on my bezels. Sometimes I use pre-cut strip, but when I can’t, it would sure be nice to be able to have a very straight strip of metal to work with. This time it occurred to me to use my cutting mat – duh, it’s covered with perfectly straight lines!
For the pre-cut strips, the ends are the all I need to worry about. Metal curls up a bit when cut with snips, so after the lengths were cut I made sure to hammer them completely flat, paying close attention to the edges. I have a tiny plastic hammer that works very well for this. At this juncture, I lay the strip down on the cutting mat and often find that the ends are not perfectly straight. Then I can conservatively snip and file, saving myself a good bit of time and waste less metal by just eyeballing it. (Eyeballing works just fine with glass, and I’ve grown too accustomed to being able to do that.) If the top and bottom edges of the bezel are a little off, I can true them up with a file.
Another aspect of glass that I’ve grown too used to is the instant gratification. How many hours is too many hours to spend on ONE piece of jewelry? Really, do you know the answer to that question? I’ve already picked up some speed with practice, but geez louise. Surprisingly, rings are a breeze and one of my favorite things to make. Stone setting is one of my stronger suits (at least I think it is, after measuring my expectations of difficulty against the actual results) but I could still use a good bit of practice on that… Perhaps you have noticed that I have mostly limited my stones to glass. I don’t mean to do that, it just happened that way. I have a nice selection of natural stone I’ve collected over the years but haven’t really used too many of them. I think maybe I just like glass… and I know that if I screw up one of my beads or a vintage cabochon, I could probably replace it fairly easily.
And pendants. I’ve put off many of my ideas due to the lack of a way to set the stones. But I found this stuff called Jett Sett… this stuff is remarkable. For about $30, you get a decent sized can full of plastic pieces that are shaped like Tart N Tiny candy. You put them in a dish, boil up some water, pour it over them and they melt and form a glob. Then you can pick it up with a spoon, pull pieces off and shape it any way you like. It hardens as it cools and forms a very firm plastic, but it takes a while to harden up so you have plenty of time to mold it. It’s also good for making protective tips for your delicate tools… just be sure to apply a thin layer of oil to the tool first, or the plastic could get stuck and cause a momentary nuisance. And Jett Sett is reusable! So maybe next time I’ll have a pendant or two for you. And I hope next time is sooner than 6 months from now…
one of the many, many things Jett Sett is good for
Get a load of my new flex-shaft kozy! (or is it spelled cozy? whatever, anything this silly deserves to be spelled wrong.) This is probably one of my most frivolous whims and Mom was kind enough to humor me. Instead of putting it away in a box for long term storage, I thought this would be a fun way to keep the house dust out. It has a little slit in the back to allow for the power cord. When the tool is in use you can just pull it up, away and let it rest further back on the hook. Tell me, do you need a muu-muu for your Foredom?
mom made a muumuu for my flexshaft!
I also updated my website gallery! Start here. If you have a hankering for something, you know what to do… I’m planning a Superstars sale for next Thursday August 30th. I spent more time on the jewelry than I originally planned to, and still didn’t manage to make everything I wanted to make… so wish me luck on getting some good bead sets made.
Thanks for reading!
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