Friday, February 25, 2011

It Stoned Me to My Soul

In keeping with the Aspiring Metalsmiths blogroll I'm going to post my stone collection. After going through this I realize I don't have all that many and really ought to start buying more. dear me dear me! Lets start with one I've been sitting on for almost two years:
This is a huge amethyst. I cant count how many times i've carved a basket out of wax for this piece. Once as i was finishing up on a beautiful basket I dropped the wax and STEPPED on it! I was about to sprue it up...alas, it has, mishap after mishap, remained unset. Hopefully soon. Next

One of two ammonite slices. Its mate is still waiting for the setting to come together and be set. I have a grand idea for this piece, just need some pitch and a sandbag.

This is an interesting aquamarine. I had trouble getting a good shot of it, but the cut spirals to the center. Its such a unique stone I'm waiting until the right idea comes along.

These are my lovely garnets. Their setting is waiting to be finished...My design was beyond my skill level, so now it sit waiting to be perfected. A set of gravers would help immensely

These are some of the few beads i like. Garnet nuggets like the ones I used for this piece. The feel so good between your fingers. Maybe I'll do something else with them soon.

Opals in the process of being cut. Need 600 mesh diamond, then the final polish.

A pale morganite and tanzinites. Some of my first stones.

Two lovely rubies. sometimes I just sit and stare at this pair.
A recent aquisition. Montana sapphire with interesting cut.

My collection of yellow sapphires. Some have a very nice quality, other are so-so.

The rest of my sapphire collection. I do like sapphires because of their strength and many colors.

Turquoise and opal, these are meant to be together. Waiting for the third stone to appear.
Well, I have my eye on a few stones at a few shops, and a few more pieces i had trouble scrounging up.  Lots of pearls too, but my computer refuses to let me upload them. I have a few up here. Plus the jar of beach rocks and agates i have which deserve a page unto themselves! hum...maybe i'll go do something with those right now...

Dont forget to check out the other stoner collections from the Aspiring Metalsmiths team

Thursday, February 24, 2011

End Product

So here is my inspiration:
The connection: 
The rabbit in a handmade silver clasp (note the tail is the release for the clasp):

The end product:
No pun intended.

Anyone else ever make a piece based off a pet? How do you incorperate humor?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Pretties

Yesterday I took a little trip to the pearl dealer and got me some sweet pearls. lovely stuff. I went in to buy this:

Nice chocolate pearls. Really nice. I just finished making the clasp for the piece and it will blow your mind. But until then, check out my little splurge:
Nice natural pink teardrop shaped pearl. yumyumyumyum. What to do with it, though. Oh. maybe I should see what it looks like with my conganc diamond I have in the bank.
My word! It's amazing! Well, at least in real life. THAT'S what the congac has been waiting for. This will become a masterpiece. Until then, back to the bank.

I had to share my little goodies. fun stuff.

Monday, February 21, 2011

How To: Use a 1892 Cast Iron Waffleiron

This is something totally different from my jewelry work. I love to cook, and breakfast is one of my favorite meals. Anyone out there every pick up one of these babies from the antique store, or find one in Grandmas garage?
Meet my waffle iron:

This is one of my favorite cooking items partly due to novelty partly because it works so well. Its got a patent day of May 2, 1892 on it. So specific!  
Its a real beauty with turned wood handles and a cast iron holder. But it took me a while to figure out how to use it. As in I would try and then my waffle would get stuck and i would have to clean it out with a toothpick. Because I love all of you and want you all to be able to enjoy your old waffle iron. Make sure its clean of dust and grossness first, then heat up both sides of the waffle iron on the stove. Because the waffle iron is so heavy i add the egg yolks with the liquids and then beat the eggwhites to stiff and carefully incorperate into the batter. It adds extra air and fluffiness to the batter.

I always brush on a light layer of vegtable oil. Even though it is seasoned at this point, I never ever want to pick waffle out with a toothpick EVER again. Plus, it makes it crispier.

Before adding better toss a few drop of water on the iron, and if it splatters away it should be warm enough. Pour in your batter and you should hear it sizzle.

Take the other side of the iron, put it on quick and turn the waffle right away.
Flip it back over after a minute or two. Sometimes I have to flip it a few times before its cooked-but i like mine crispy on the outside. I wait until the steam is mostly gone.

Sometimes I add a slice of raw bacon to the batter before I close the iron.  The waffles stay much crispier than your usual teflon coated waffle irons create.

Bacon waffles? omnomnomnom

 Or, add peaches frozen during the summer, chopped walnuts and a bit of whipped cream.
See? This is what good food (and old fashioned waffle irons) make people feel:

Anyone else have a favorite archaic kitchen utensil? My other favorite is the meat can make a mean cranberry relish with hardly any effort.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How To: Make a Holder for Bur Bits

If there is one thing I have learned from metalsmiths it is that you make what you can, buy what is not worth your time. Many tools I have made on my own including my bench. However, I can't make burs on my own. I tend to buy a few at a time, or be given a couple by someone who doesn't need them anymore so I dont have one of those nifty little bur holders that you get when you buy and expensive set. Having your burs seperate is pretty important especially if you are using a set for wax carving and a set for metal, you dont want to contaminate your wax with bits of metal (you CAN use your burs for wax once they become too dull for metal, but clean them up and save the scrap off them for refining).

Now, the task at hand: making a holder for your burs. very simple. Mine will be able to hold 4 sizes of burs: from 1mm-4.9mm.Take a piece of wood about 2-3inches wide and 5-6 inches long. My pieces of pine are actually recycled from under the steamed fishcake we used at the Japanese resturant I used to work at, use whatever you can find.

Take a compass and mark 4 lines lengthwise down the wood. My compass was set at about 1/3 inch. Then make 10 marks down width wise.

Where each of those lines meet make a starting hole for the drill. My wood was soft enough i just used the tip of the compass, but harder wood will require and awl.

Get to drillin' with a bit the right size for your burs. I have some burs that have a thicker shank than the rest of my burs. Just make sure its a sung fit.

It helps to drill with a piece of scrap wood underneath if you are using an hand drill.

All drilled through.

I gave mine a light sandpapering to get rid of splinters.

Then, go get distracted and wander your winter garden photographing dead flowers for a minute or two.

Alright, you good? Got your fresh air fix and another cup of coffee? Good. Now go through all of your burs and check the size of the bit. Spin it lightly to get a correct measurement of the burs size, and put them in your new handy-dandy homemade holder. The rows go by .1mm starting with, 1.1mm, 1.2mm..for fine jewelry these size differences are pretty big. Some may even like their sets to go by .05mm.

See, my set isn't complete. But its organized now and I know what sizes im missing!

My collection. Hart burs with hart burs, flame burs with flame burs, ball with ball...even my polishing supplies are together.

Yippe! Now we can look back and feel good.

One more tip about burs: when a bur tip breaks off, you can still use the metal shank for a new tool. Shape it for a small graver, or use it for a setting tool. Dont let good tool steel go to waste!

What have you guys made at your bench? Are any of your home-made tools your favorite?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How To: Make a Set of Rings

Hello everyone! I feel like sharing a tutorial with everyone today: how to make several rings at once from wire. I used this technique to create my Stacking rabbit ring. I am using 18 gauge square wire, but you can do this with most any wire. You can make a single ring by measuring out the needed length of wire, fileing the ends, and bending so the two ends meet. Or, you can use a mandrel. My wire is soft enough i can just bend it around the mandrel

 Dont forget to use soft wire or anneal your stock before doing this!
 If the wire is too this for thick for bending, use the rawhide mattle. Strike the metal next to the mandrel-not on it. Tap the wire around the mandrel. Its best to have the mandrel in a bench vise, but it works if you prop your mardrel against something sturdy. Just be careful about leaving knicks in it, i always cushion mine with a rag.
You should have a section of wire that has been wrapped at least once around the mandrel, I wrapped mine around three times. Take that section of wire and saw it right down the middle of all the rings.

When you've sawed through you should have several identical rings

If you need to, file the edged so they are flush with eachother
Hold the rings up to the light: see how one of these rings hardly has any space between the edgrs, and the bottom has lots of light coming through? (You may need to click it to see the bigger picture) The lower one will not sauder well, the top one is ready to go!
So, you ready for the torch? Bs sure to flux the metal, I use brush on flux paste, but there are lots of options out there. Next, add the sauder chips.
Try to start with hard suader: it is the strongest and if you have more pieces to sauder on, you dont want it to accidently flow and come undone while you are working on another section. Start off with hard and do as much as you can with hard before moving the medium. Many jewelrs avoid ever using easy, but sometimes you have to. Just remember: it is soft and weaker, dont use it for something that will get lots of strain.
Dont forget to flux the chip, too, or they will oxidize on the outside and refuse to flow!
Turn up the heat! Gently heat up the rings to burn off the water in the flux. If you heat too quickly it will bubbly and possibly toss aside your sauder chip. Once youve got the flux dry, heat the piece. You have two ways of telling when the sauder will flow: When the color of the piece starts to turn a a LIGHT red, hit the area with the sauder with the flame. Or, with paste flux when it moves from gross sticky brown to clear you should be ready to flow. Sauder flows to where it is hot and it doesnt jump gaps, so make sure your ring is nice and hot on both sides of the joint.
Let your pieces cool before going into the pickle pot. I have a bit of a odd set-up: I have a block of marble under a saudering board with a charcol block on top. Nope, it doesnt spin, dont have pumice, or a screen....or alot of things. I'm makeshift.
Drop them in the pickle pot, and you've got yourself some rings!
And, but wait, they are kinda a wonky shape, eh?  Wake out your mandrel again and lightly tap the rings down the mandrel with a rawhide mallet.

This same technique can be used to size the rings, if one is a little too small you can stretch it out by gently hammering it down the mandrel. Once you have your rings round and the right size, file off the extra sauder from the joints.
Once thats done, it is time to start polishing. One effective way is with sandpaper on a flat stick. Start with the roughest you need. This was a pretty clean piece, so I started with 400 grit.

From there I went to 600, straight to tripoli compund then fabuluster. be careful if you use polishing compounds on wheels: do not let your tripoli get on anything with a higher grit. It will contaminate the wheel or whatever. When you switch to a higher grit polishing compound wash the piece AND your hands clean so as not to contaminate. If you buffs or even your compound is contaminatd you will not be able to get that higher polish.

Also, use a breakaway grip. That means if your wheel catches your item, it wont take your fingers with it. Below is the three rings with varying degrees of polish.

From here you can do alot, plain stackable rings or hammer them on the mandrel to get texture without ruining the shap. I personally added stones. The finished product from these three rings:

Oh, you know you want to buy it. ;)

Everyone has their own special way of doing things. Anyone else have techniques to add?