Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Enough with the Cold Already!

There just isn't any other way around this thought. Things here are busy and I'll post soon.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

CG Beadroller Giveaway

For those of us who love a great giveaway here is one for you: I just love my CG Beadrollers for beads and they are having a giveaway to celebrate their 5th Anniversary so just click here and you can get the details and how to enter.  You don't have to blog about it - just re-post on Facebook.


Friday, January 17, 2014


It must be my week for repeating great information.  I love turning everyone on to great techniques or places to get great information.  In this case the info came from the newsletter - Jewelry Making Daily.  It's another one of those great places to sign up for continual tips and info.
Here are some of the tips they listed from Helen Driggs DVD on Riveting and Cold Connections.
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1. When hammering rivets and other cold connections or just hammering metal in general: Try to keep one side of your bench block smooth and let the other side ding as it may. Or keep a smooth block and a rough block so you have two options. The marks on any steel tool will transfer to the metal you are hammering, so dings and dents will show up on your piece unless the surface you are hammering on is mirror smooth.
2. It might seem like a no brainer to say this, but anneal your wire before you make rivets! Soft wire is easier to make a head on.
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3. Start practicing with scrapbooking eyelets. Many of them are aluminum, brass, or copper, perfect for use with jewelry--just make sure to get long ones because the regular ones, made for paper, are pretty short. Some eyelets may or may not have colored or anodized coatings that will scrape off with rough treatment, so read the packaging and make sure you've got the right diameter, length, and metal. The process for using eyelets is the same as for regular tube rivets, except you're halfway there because you already have a rolled end. Position the rolled end on the top of your piece and flip it over; a few taps on a ball dap will roll the back of the eyelet cleanly.
4. When measuring wire to make a wire rivet, the thickness of a fine-line Sharpie mark is usually a good amount of metal to leave for a decent sized rivet head. If the wire is very thick, leave a bit more metal by cutting to the outside of your marked line. A good rule of thumb is to allow about half the thickness of whatever rivet stock you are using to form a rivet head.
5. When creating a rivet, saw the wire, don't use nippers or cutters. You won't get a clean rivet head unless the wire end is a circle, so saw it. If you must use nippers, allow a little extra wire and file off the beveled end until the end of the wire is a clean circle.
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6. Make a Wire Gauge: This is a handy device to throw in your pocket before you go to a supplier or show. How many times have you wavered on buying a strand of beads because you weren't sure the wire you wanted to use would fit through the drilled hole? It's also handy when purchasing drill bits, tubing, or manufactured rivets. Just label the tags (purchased or handmade) with wire gauges and attach them as shown.
These tips are from the DVD and frankly I have not yet purchased a bad DVD from Interweave. In fact, I have one on way right now and setting techniques from Ann Cohoon on gem setting.

This is the DVD from Helen Driggs and it looks great!
Have a great weekend and make art!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Someone else is talking soldering surfaces

This piece of information was pulled directly from Anat and Joe Silvera's newsletter.  If you haven't signed up for it you should.  I've taken several of Joe's classes at Bead and Button and they are outstanding.  If you are on the west coast of the United States I'd definitely go to their school and sign up for a gazillion classes.  Since we were talking soldering and I made my nifty rotating soldering station I just knew you'd enjoy this info from the newsletter.  Now go and sign up so you can get all of this delicious information directly.

Choose your soldering surface 
Your choice of solder surface can to help you solder or stop it cold. 
In general, choose colder surfaces to slow it down , hotter surface to speed up heating. For example, for small jump rings, soldering on heat reflective charcoal can make soldering go faster, or make it easier to melt them! If you move them to the solder board, the heat will be dissipated a little, slowing it down enough to work more carefully. 
Hotter surfaces: charcoal, fire brick, honey comb, solderite 
Colder surfaces: ceramic solder board, transite, Silquar
Always place soldering surface on heat buffers--tiles, sheet metal, or concrete backer board-- to prevent burns.
Soft charcoal/Hard charcoal
Charcoal blocks create a reducing atmosphere and reflect heat back on the article being soldered, making the flame more effective.
Pros: Very inexpensive, soft enough to secure pins in for holding workpieces, can mold surface for shaping metal balls,
Cons: Can crack- bind with wire before using. Will wear down over time. Black charcoal powder is messy. Needs to be ground down on a hard surface like concrete or coarse sandpaper. Wear a dust mask! 
Honeycomb block
Contains no asbestos, lightweight block reflects heat. Perforation holds pins (18ga.) to keep your work in place while heating. 
Pros: Lightweight, asbestos free, inexpensive
Cons: Solder can fall through the holes
Solderite, Kiln Brick
One of the benefits of these materials is that they can be drilled or cut as needed for your soldering projects. Solderite is made as a solder board, but was developed as a synthetic substitute for charcoal. It's reflects more heat back at your work than most solder boards. Kiln bricks are readily available from ceramic suppliers - they're used to build kilns. Buy K23 bricks, which are soft enough to cut or press in pins, etc.
Pros: Economical, formable, easy to clean up
Cons: Solder can fall into the large pores of the kiln brick. Kiln brick is softer than charcoal and pins can come loose during soldering. Solderite can be burned and pitted by the torch, which means the boards can wear out faster than other solder boards. Flux can harden on kiln brick, making it hard to sand back to a usable surface. Try pouring boiling hot water over the brick into a bucket or utility sink to remove flux before sanding. 
Ceramic, Silquar, Transite Solder Boards
I'm always surprised to see any jewelers who don't use a solder board, using only charcoal or fire brick instead. Solder boards offer a reliable, easily cleaned surface for soldering, preparing your solder and more. These hardened materials can withstand the intense heat of the torch,  but they dissipate heat quickly. 
What does that mean for soldering? Let's say you have a bezel setting and you're soldering it directly on the board. The sheet metal base will be cooled by the solder board, and so the solder won't flow, or it will flow up and onto the lighter, easily heated bezel wire. One trick I use for bezels, other than using a tripod to raise it so that I can heat from underneath, is to preheat charcoal. I'll heat the surface to cherry red and then place the fluxed and prepared setting to solder on top. The hot charcoal heats the work from underneath as I continue to heat from the top.  
Pros: Tough surface, easy to clean with boiling water in a utility sink or bucket. Highly recommended. 
Cons: On the pricey side for Silquar, but in general inexpensive
Lump pumice & annealing pan
Volcanic pumice reflects heat beautifully, and it's nice to be able to rotate your work as you solder or anneal. But this set up is a nightmare for small detailed pieces - anything that can get lost in those pebbles!
Pros: Good for annealing large workpieces, can custom position pieces, rotating pans allow for quickly changing position of piece.
Cons: Pumice must be held in a container for some sort. Pieces and solder can get lost easily in the pumice. 
Magnesia Block
These lightweight blocks are a lot like kiln bricks, but easier to press pins and parts into for soldering. The surface is very powdery and things can get a bit messy quickly when using magnesia.
Pros: very soft material can be pinned into or press objects for solding into surface. Very inexpensive.
Cons: Difficult to clean. Needs to be ground down on a hard surface like concrete or coarse sandpaper. Wear a dust mask! 
Not appropriate for soldering directly on: 

household clay tile, red brick, stainless steel, wood.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


I love hoop earrings and with my short hair they are probably about some of the best things going so I don't look like a guy when I'm all bundled up for winter.  LOL

Hopefully these and a few other pieces might be listed soon. 

These were made with a nice thick sterling wire - soldered and flattened.  Add holes for balled wires and a great handmade earring wire and you are in business.  The hoops themselves are just over an inch in diameter and the total length is 1 3/4".  Not huge but prominent enough with that heavy chased wire to make a statement.

Then there is the photography.  Nothing looks as good as paper towel under something you just oxidized - Hahahahaha.   I'm a serious jeweler and professional in my technique but quirky on the inside and it escapes - a lot. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

About that DIY Bezel Pusher

What the heck - I showed you a picture of pushing the thick bezel down so I ought to show you the DIY bezel pusher.  You pick up one of these nails from the hardware.  I'm sorry I can't tell you what type they are but probably any good size hunky steel nail ought to work. You might have to get a box of them but they're cheap and you can give them away to friends or make all kinds of punches to pattern your metal.  They won't be hard tempered - unless you want to go through that process but for what we are using them for they are fine and you've plenty of nails to make more.  But, it's unlikely you will need to make too many - I've had my original ones for about 15 years.

I used an old file and then a cut off wheel on my Foredom to shape the tip.  After that I used course and then finer silicone wheels to polish it down.  Finally, I used a polishing wheel to bring it up to a nice shine so it won't mar the bezel when I tap it down. 

Do note though that if you do this you need to make sure you "break the edges" of the punch when you make it.  That means that none of those surfaces you created should be pointed edge sharp.  All of them are rounded.  They might look sharp in the photos but I carefully made sure that those edges are "broken" in all directions like the drawing. 
Now go forth and make really thick bezels!!!!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Heavy Bezels

Several readers have asked about the gauge of the bezels I’ve been creating.  Often jewelers will use fine silver in a 26 or 28 gauge for a bezel.  It’s beautiful to work with and folds over the stone like butter.  I like them when I am doing a pendant that is just pretty much the stone and without a lot of other flourishes.  Since the bezel has to go down before the decoration can go on you can take the chance of melting a delicate bezel while you adhere other “goodies” to the back plate or go with a heavier bezel.  And we all know I even melted a thick one – not once, but twice on the same piece.  What a “cluster” that was.  It was just NOT my day.  You have to learn to walk away from those! 
So, generally I tend to use a thicker bezel than most people.  I often cut my own.  I use pointed dividers and set the depth that I need the bezel by measuring it along the stone and run them down a piece of silver scoring a line.  At that point you can (1) saw off the bezel following the line and true it up on sandpaper held down on a flat surface like a clip board (2) use a mechanical cutter to cut off the bezel at the line – think guillotine cutter/ or cheap paper cutter (3) Use a pair of scissors capable of cutting down that line (I have Fiskers and Joyce Chens I use).  No matter what you use you will have to true up that edge and flatten /anneal that bezel.  It works great.  In the case of what I’ve been doing I happened to have some rectangle wire here that I’m using.  Since the oval cabs are pretty standard the height of it is working for me.  Rio Grande Jewelry supply carries several depths of wire so I decided to try it out.
I’m sure you are wondering why this was my choice of bezel – its sterling silver and heavy.  Well, I like heavy.  But, the catch is you can’t generally use a nice bezel roller to get the bezel down nice and tight. 
This is what I use:
...and a chasing hammer.
You can use any kind of chasing tool that is nice and polished up without obvious hard edges.  My favorites are nails I bought at the hardware.  I filed the tops down to have nice rounded edges and then I polished them on my wheel to a fine finish.  They are a good length so they don’t slip easily on the bezel or when I tap it with the hammer.  I tape the piece to my steel block or my table so nothing moves.  That table I work on is an old steel desk model and it took four men to carry it into the house - grunting all the way.   I tape the stone top too – I mean why go to all of this trouble to scratch that stone.  I’m pretty good but not infallible. 

Tape down the work on your steel plate. The tape is rolled up behind it. The stone is covered.

Then, it’s tap tap tap.  One side to the other in the usual pattern you would do to push any bezel down.  Granted, it takes a little longer.  But, consider this.  After your bezel is down you have plenty of leeway for cleaning and polishing.  On a thin gauge you have to be careful or you can go right through that thing.  It’s better to have that thin gauge bezel cleaned up and pre-polished (scratches out as much as you can) before you solder it to your back plate.  I've seen plenty of photos lately in magazines by people who say they know how to solder and yet I see gaps in bezels or places they should have used a file to take out some scratches.  There is even one person who has a DVD out on the topic.  How they can do that is beyond me.  I'd never want something on a cover to represent me that was like that - can you tell it makes me crazy?  Yes, a few things will always inevitably slip by anyone and be really viable pieces - beautiful pieces, but don't put them on the cover of something you're going to sell.
These are two of the hand positions I use for tapping down that bezel.  And I turn that steel plate around as I need it so I can get the best possible leverage.  I am not tapping hard but trying to be accurate.

Don't panic as you are tapping that bezel down.  It's going to look wobbly just like any bezel....just keep taking down the slack with your well placed taps.  And if the stone still moves just keep going, eventually it won't and you will know you are there.

See, I told you we'd get there...it's nice and tight on that stone.
This is it!  The bezel is down nice and tight and I've begun polishing it down with my foredom and a fine silicone polishing disc
And just so you can see how fat a bezel can be and still be laid down easily with this method I've included this example.  It's old and dirty and I got it out of my example box.  The total length of that bezel is 3/4".  The stone is a hematite cab and the bezel is square wire.  It was good and annealed and made into the bezel shape to go around the cab.  After it's soldered down and the cab put in you use the same bezel punches I've showed you and tap around it at an angle and push the wire into the cab.  A quick polish after and it's great.  It traps that cab the same way rubbing a thinner bezel over the lip of the stone works.  Comparatively that bezel on this is huge but it does the job and would look way cool on a ring or on an accent stone on a broach.  You could even pattern the face of the bezel with stamps.  The only draw back to this heavy duty bezel is that you have to pick and choose what kind of stone to use.  There is plenty of tap tap tap with a hammer on the punch to go around and I would never use a stone that couldn't handle the pressure.  For example - skip opal, chrysocolla, labradorite, or anything with a hardness scale that isn't high on the scale or that is prone to splits or cracks.


Anyway, that’s my method for a thick bezel and I hope it answers any questions everyone might have about it.  Will I ever do a thinner bezel – absolutely.  I’m just about out of that wire, LOL, and it might be time for a few changes in designs.  We’ll see.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Making Better than Just Do - Do it Yourself

I'd really like to buy one of Lexi Erickson's soldering stations.  They look pretty indestructible and I loved the idea of the turntable top.  You can not believe how much easier it makes things to solder when you can turn the piece, especially if you are soldering around a large joint.  Once the initial heat is applied the flux works like a glue and you can move that turntable around to make sure you've got heat applied everywhere and check to make sure the bezel is down.  That's near to impossible unless you are working on a turntable.  Components will shift and otherwise  make your life miserable after you've set them up if you don't have one. 

I just can not afford one of those stations at the moment.  I'm also not sure I could deal with feeling confined to an area and the soldering station has a lip on it - its a slob kind of thing but I tend to put certain things way out to the left or right.  You know - soldering pick on the left/ magnetic torch catch to the right....and so on.  Maybe I'm just to old to change certain habits but that turntable was too nifty to do without.

Here is my solution to the dilemma.  I went to the place with the helpful hardware people (ACE) and bought a 4" ball bearing turntable.  They had them in much larger sizes but I didn't really need anything larger.  It's jewelry - how big do you need? 

4" turntable (a whooping $5.00) and a 6" square solderite pad (well used!)

I thought I better include this picture because it has the name of the turntable.  It sounds like from Google it's a very common kind.

And here is the final product.  Both the solderite pad and the 3/4" pine board are attached with screws.  It turns like a champ and is nice and steady, level, heavy, and it rolls easily.  I soldered 3 more bezels on it today.  I even laid some heavy duty mesh wire on top of it from my tripod when I used some reflected heat to heat the back plate behind a bezel without having to use the tripod.  I can move it out of the way when I don't need it - let's hear it for portable!

Hurrah for DIY but it sure doesn't mean I won't lust after whatever new gadget Ms. Erickson comes up with...she's the bomb.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

On The Bench Today

I tested the Blue Lace Agate in the setting today and worked the edges down to where I wanted them.  Now it needs a good polish, clean up, and to have that stone set.  Do you like the dental floss?  It's how you test the stone and then you can pull it back out to do some extra cleaning before it's put in permanently and the bezel folded down on it.  I guess I could have used something besides my good mint floss, huh?

I also decided on a few other stones and made the bezels to go around them.  Two agate types and a quartz with the flicker of gold inclusions.   The bezel on the far left will use on of the cast sticks from the casting pile above it.  They look awful until they're cleaned but they'll look great soon. Right now the bezels look a little battered up too and things are really dirty from the soldering and all.  
Have a great Sunday and stay warm!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Never Give Up

This is a piece I have worked on off and on during the holiday.  Things don't always go right for me either.  This is no where near finished.  I just took down the sides with a foredom and now I can polish the little bugger and get the stone set.  Whew, that's all I can say after all the trials with it.

Let's talk about the never give up part.  This was the piece I was working on when the torch handle blew out.  BAH!  Compared to the frustration of the bezel on this one the torch was NOTHING.  Lest you think soldering always goes easy let me tell you I fried the first bezel - I melted the edge of it.  Since part of it was soldered down I had to use the saw and cut it off.  I redid the base plate and soldered up a new bezel.  I generally do not have this kind of issue.

Okey Dokey - bezel #2 went down and then zip zap.  I drew the torch across it and cut this nice slice with fire right down it.  I'm not much a tantrum kind of person but WTF crossed my mind.

This was getting bad - I cut it off one more time and this time I caught the base plate with the saw and put one to many score marks in it so that was now a loss as well.

Right after that the torch hose blew.  That was it for that day.  I figured the way it was going the next thing that would happen is I'd trip on the step and break the other ankle  Enough of that I thought, got a glass on wine and turned on the TV.  I kept mulling the whole thing over in my head.  I had this base plate I couldn't use again.  That was bad enough.  But, I also had this filigree and a silver ball I had patterned soldered down to it.  They were too cool to waste but they were on that plate - dang it all.  Have another sip of wine...

So, there it sat (and me too in a huff, when it came to mind) -  I hauled the old smith air/ace torch upstairs and created the third bezel after a couple of days and got out a new piece of silver for the base plate.  But I couldn't get over that filigree and patterned ball.  Then the light bulb hit me.  I had been drawing in layers for other pieces so why not cut the good part out of the lost back plate and use it.  It could be sweat soldered down as a whole and add a distinctive layer.  I drew it out. 

I have to add - bezel #3 didn't go down all that easy either.  It was the one I blew the hose on too.  The back plate I chose for it was a scrap from something else and I did not check it well for being flat.  It was NOT and it took three times at the torch to get that bezel completely down and attached appropriately....it's like a curse, no? 

That is where the determination just came in.  This bezel was going down or else (or else what I don't know) but the third time was the charm.  And when I set up the balls and double layer filigree to go down - well - zappo - down they went.  It was anti-climatic and I was so glad for that.

I sawed it out and then have used grinding and coarse polishing discs on the foredom to take the edges the rest of the way down to what you are seeing.  See the filigree piece and patterned ball in their separate layer?  Now it's into the tumbler and some final polishing and maybe I can set that stone.  It's a blue lace agate.  Keep your fingers crossed that it goes easily.  I'll take all the good thoughts I can get on this piece.

Never give up.  If nothing else you will learn what not to do.  LOL, boy did I do that!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Onward and Upward in 2014

I was thinking - pondering if you will - all of the great posts I have been reading on others blogs.  You know, a whole lot of people have been putting thought into special words for the new year or making resolutions for themselves. There are even some pretty cool plans out there.   It seems to me that as I reflect on those types of things I have a very difficult time deciding on what I could "promise" to do that would have some meaning to me.  Also it would be nice if it were something that I wouldn't fall flat on my face trying to accomplish (especially if I'm going to post it).  To that end I am hoping that 2014 can be a bit of a wake-up call.  I used to just plow into things.  That isn't exactly a bad way to accomplish quite a bit - but for a long time I've stood back and taken time to assess situations and have felt like a turtle with crutch who just keeps walking in a circle.  Hmmmmm, that's no way to feel.  And, it's no way to move forward.  Forward requires action (and a lack of crutches).  When I saw the minion (he's so damn adorable) I felt like he was giving me a slap in the head.  Thwack Sharon - wake-up!  It's 2014 and you have got to quit wasting time. 

Then I ran into this on someone else's blog.  It was back a ways in their posts.  Maybe the universe is conspiring to send me a message...or at least I think maybe it's a fair probability I'm ready to take a look at the reality of it.  If not now....when?
So what are you waiting to do?  Why haven't you done it?  What's the "action plan?" I bet you are wondering what mine is too.
Me too!
I know today that there needs to be one.  I know it involves being willing to accept being less than absolutely perfect and being less than completely organized for it to happen.  It may mean having to punt rather than going for the touchdown. 
Oh crap - am I ready for this commitment.  I better be or I'll be going in circles a little while longer. First step to fixing a problem is recognizing you have one.  I procrastinate and don't finish enough things.  There, I've said it. 
Onward and Upward...