Welcome to my blog, random stuff about me and where I live, plus some bits about my jewellery.

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Tuesday 26 October 2010

The next bit

Ok, this is where I give away my darkest secret. I don't use pickle to clean firestain off silver! Shock! I use cream of tartar, I expect loads of people know that you can use this to clean metals, silver certainly, copper just goes green! I mix the powder with either water, or water and lemon juice if I'm in a hurry. Just until it's a thick paste, too runny and it won't coat the piece properly. If it get's runny add more powder. It comes in a tub for about 30 or 40 pence in a supermarket baking section.

I don't always clean the wire after I've heated it, sometimes I ike to keep the darkened look. I leave really black stuff in at least over night, rub the cream of tartar paste into the piece the next day and you should see a nice clean piece of silver.
You now need to mark the silver for drilling. You need to measure the holes drilled in the stone so that the holes in the silver match up. You can mark with a fine steel point through the pebble's holes, or if you are very clever or have a suspension unit for your drill, you can drill through the pebble into the silver, I don't recommend it though as the silver can easily slip out from under the pebble and you can end up with a hole where you don't want one. I use a good pair of dividers and a rawhide mallet. Measure the distance between the centres of the two holes as accurately as possible with the dividers, then place the points on the silver in the right place and tap with the rawhide mallet to mark the silver slightly. Make sure you are not too near the end and in the centre of the strip, also remember, you need enough space above the pebble for a chain or leather thong to thread through once the bail is bent in half! In other words don't put the holes too far from the end of the silver strip. Once you have the marks at one end mark the other end, trying to keep the same distance from this end of the bail. Hopfully you have measured your wire properly before you started, to fit on the pebble comfortably with a sensible loop above it when you are finished.
 Now make the rivets, cut short lengths of silver wire, around .6 - .8mm thick, make sure they are longer than the thickness of the pebble. Melt the end of the wire in a torch flame until a small blob forms at the end. Hold the wire at the hottest part of the flame, just beyond the point of the blue section of  flame. When it's in the right place a bright orange flare will appear behind the wire, watch closely and when the wire melts and runs into a small blob remove it from the flame and cool.

At this point either clean the prepared rivet as before, or leave it as it is if you like the oxidised look. The next step is to form it into an actual rivet. To do this properly you need a drawplate, a flat bar of steel with a variety of holes through it. They can be expensive but I got mine from an engineering firm and it was very cheap, I searched the internet for it. Put the prepared wire through the appropriate hole in the plate and hammer the end flat,
melted wire in the drawplate

Here's the rivet head,flattened, in the draw plate, top left corner. Make another.

All that's left is fitting it all together. You'll probably find that the holes need to be juggled a bit until the first rivet is in place. Place the pebble on a flat metal surface with the unfinished end of the rivet uppermost. If necessary trim it until only a short piece sticks out beyond the silver bail. Now carefully hammer this end flat. This is tricky, you need to ensure that the already flattened end of the rivet is firmly against the surface, with a natural pebble this is not easy, but if this isn't happening the rivet will just fall back through when you hammer it. You're aiming for a flat end rather than a bent over one, although as long as the rivet is firmly flat against the bail surface and you like the way it looks then that's ok. Once both rivets are fitted and properly flattened, file any rough or sharp edges smooth and there you are. Thread the pendant onto a chain or a length of thonging to complete it.

Here's one I made earlier.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Pebble Jewellery 2

Here's how I make the silver bail to mount the pebble. First take a short length of silver wire, obviously the length depends on the size of pebble, I had a photo of the wire before working it but for some reason it's corrupted, I'm sure you can all imagine a piece of wire. I use 1mm diameter sterling wire, the stuff I bought is soft, which is ideal as it can be worked straight away. Cookson Gold sells all their silver wire in this condition, I don't always want soft wire  but in this instance that's exactly what is wanted. The wire will get a little longer when worked as you are going to hammer it flat!

Here you can see the small flat faced hammer I use, it's a craft hammer with interchangeable heads but you can use any good small flat hammer. A ball pein hammer produces a different effect, you get ripples along the edge. The second image shows the beginning of the flattening process. It takes practise to get a flat straight length of silver, but I think the slight quirks are part of the style of these pieces; as the pebbles are natural the silver doen't want to be machine perfect. Watch your fingers, and make sure you're not hammering over the edge of the anvil, stay in the middle and work gradually down the wire.

Here's the finished length of silver, as you can see I haven't mastered perfection by a long way, the edge is uneven and the thickness is a bit variable but I like it fine like that. (Hmm gone a bit Scots there that's the influence of music, Wild Mountain Thyme playing on the CD!) You can see the original wire lying on the anvil. I bought this anvil and bench peg from Cookson's (see above) quite small and very cheap! You can use any bit of flat steel to hammer on but make sure that it is flat and smooth or it will mark the silver! I must point out that my silver smithing is very basic and self taught.
You'll need to anneal the silver now as it gets very hard when you hammer it and won't bend properly. To do this heat it with a small gas torch, at a push you can use a domestic gas stove, takes ages though! The silver must glow pale pink for 30 seconds to be softened enough to work it further. Check out this site for really good advice about annealing http://www.silverstall.com/annealing-silver-jewellery.html

Next time I'll talk about drilling the silver and making the rivets.

Monday 4 October 2010

Pebble Jewellery

This is the first of a short series about making a pendant from a natural pebble
First of all you have to find a suitable pebble, of course. I'm lucky enough to live by the sea so I have a good source, I only take one every now and then, this is not something you can do a lot of as beaches need their pebbles.

Here are a couple of pebbles waiting to be turned into pendants. You can also see the multi tool I use to drill holes in the pebbles.

The pebbles have two holes drilled through them using a diamond burr, depending on what kind of stone it is it can take quite a while to drill through. Choose thin flat pebbles so that you don't have to spend too long drilling, I also have  a limitation in that my diamond burr has 'shoulders' so where the drill widens is the limit of the depth I can drill to. I make pilot holes with a hand drill before using the electric one otherwise there can be problems with the bit sliding off the smooth surface.

This picture shows the hand drill with the diamond burr fitted. 

Here's the pebble with the pilot holes drilled.  The holes are quite shallow, just enough to give the motorised drill something to sit in. I use a light oil like 3 in 1 to lubricate the hole, and help keep it a little cooler. You have to stop frequently to remove the waste from the hole and add a little more oil.

Here's the first hole completely drilled through.

Starting the second hole, It's probably quite foolish to hold the stone by hand, More recently I used a lump of plasticine to hold the pebble, unfortunately the stone gets quite warm so the plasticine melts a bit, it's a safer way to hold the stone still, just remould the plasticine occasionally. I cheated this shot a bit, I needed my husband to photograph me so we took the stone to his work where there's a LOT more space. I work under the stairs in our tiny cottage so not much room for photography!

The next bit is making the silver bail. See you then.

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