Christine Cox

Archive for April, 2018

6th Century: Biblioteca Capitolare

Books, Miniatures, Writing and Supports (Timeline Project)

Early 6th Century – The Biblioteca Capitolare is one of the world’s oldest libraries, established as a writing workshop for the cathedral. Probably the oldest European library still in existence. (Verona, Italy)

This post is part of an ongoing series on books, miniatures, writing and supports since the year 1. Please consider it a kick-start for your own private timeline and a springboard for further research. See my blog for the rest of the series.

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Torch Comfort

Most metalsmiths set up their torch like thisI set mine up like this

Most metalsmiths hold their torches differently than I do.

Others set up their torch head so that the tip is opposite the control knob. Check out the first photo accompanying this post. Setting up the torch tip this way means that adjusting the flame requires a deft little move involving the joints of your thumb and your index finger. It takes a little getting used to, especially since you’re using your non-dominant hand (or at least you “should” be).

I like to set up the torch so that the control knob and the tip are on the same side of the torch head (see photo). This way I can adjust the control knob with the tips of my index and thumb, and it feels quite natural.

The beauty of working in your own studio is that it’s up to you. Try my way. You may find it more comfortable.

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Volcano Arts

Metalsmith: Breaking the Rules

As a silversmithing instructor, I spend a lot of time explaining to students how to get the perfect solder join. “Clean the metal. Use flux. The join must be perfect. Solder must touch both sides of seam. Both sides of seam must reach soldering temperature at the same time. Capillary action. Supports are heat sinks. Solder follows heat. Blah, blah, blah!”

On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed a scrap piece of metal to do a quick demo for a student, explaining all the while that my solder might not flow because the metal isn’t clean or the joint isn’t aligned or whatever, only to have the little dear solder perfectly.

The rules are there to help us achieve success, to set up the most likely scenario for the solder to flow. The rules keep the frustration levels down and the success rate high, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be broken.

Recently, I ran into a dilemma and I have to be honest, this is one of those “cheats” that I didn’t expect to work, but work it did, and it was a life-saver.

I had a large, springy flower shape made from fine silver bezel wire. It took quite a while to form to the exact shape of the enamel it was meant to cradle. T-pins held the shape together, but I needed them to be perfectly aligned and the bezel wire was just too light and springy. A smaller shape made from thicker wire would have had the tension necessary to hold the 2 ends together for soldering, but this didn’t. What to do?

I reached into my drawer of doo dads (a technical term), pulled out a 2″ x 4″ x 1/8″ piece of scrap steel and slapped that puppy down onto my flower shape. Voila! Instant tension.

But, what about the “large supports are a heat sink” rule? What about the “you must bring the whole piece up to temperature at the same time” rule?

As you can see from my setup in the accompanying photo, I placed the steel back from the soldering point and it created no problem at all. Since the wire was so light and thin (28 gauge), I didn’t need to heat the whole thing. I was able to just heat the portion visible in the photo.

I still follow the rules for the best success at soldering, but it’s liberating to know that sometimes success lies in breaking them.

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Volcano Arts

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