Christine Cox

Archive for the ‘Metalsmithing’ Category

Metalsmith: Mini Anvil

Metalsmith
(A typically occasional series by Christine Cox)

Need to hallmark or center-punch your piece of metal? It’s such a simple job when your piece is flat. Just lay the metal down on a flat, hard surface and whack away.

But what if the piece isn’t flat?

As long as there’s enough room underneath the piece to set it on an anvil, you can stamp or center-punch at will. Here’s the secret, anything can be an anvil, as long as it’s up to the job. I have a corner in my bench drawer devoted to small “thingys” made of steel in every shape.

One of my favorites is the little steel dot made for setting rivets I got somewhere, but I also have knife handles, hammer heads, ball bearings and more.

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Bookbinding, Metalsmithing and Glass
We have the tools and supplies you need for your projects and classes
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Metalsmith: Binding Wire Wizardry

By Christine Cox

Spinner rings – Fidget rings – Worry rings – Meditation rings

It’s a beautiful design, a ring bound by another ring, which spins freely. They’re great for people who like something to fiddle with, and, it’s a fantastic design element.

Whatever you call them, when one breaks, it can be a challenge for a jeweler to fix, especially if what fails is the solder on the inner ring.

Thus was a repair job that was brought to me a few months ago. The solder on the inner ring had broken, but not the solder on the outer ring. The problem was that there was no way to get the outer ring off so that I could solder the inner ring.

Let’s back up a little. The way one of these rings is made is by shaping and soldering the 2 rings separately and then sliding one onto the other. The inner ring is then flared open (or separate rim pieces soldered on) so that the outer ring can’t slide off again. Unfortunately for the jeweler who has to make the repair, the flared edges of the inner ring cannot be un-flared to allow the outer ring to slip off again. The ring has to be repaired as a whole.

Binding wire to the rescuebraidedring

For this repair I needed to clean up the old solder joint, reshape the inner ring into a fully closed circle, and then hold it closed as I soldered, all without accidentally soldering the outer ring to the inner ring and causing it to stop spinning.

If you look at the process photo carefully, you’ll see that there are 3 pieces of binding wire on the ring. Two are around the perimeter of the inner ring, holding it closed.  I put one wire at the top and one at the bottom of the ring to hold the solder joint together along its entire length (the ring was a heavy gauge and wanted to spring open). There was no room for manipulating the metal to get the tension needed for it to hold itself closed (a trick that every ring maker learns early), so the binding wire would have to do that job.

spinnerring_smThe third piece of wire was used to hold the outer ring up and away from the inner ring so that they wouldn’t be soldered together. I fed the wire between the 2 rings and then oozled it around to a position near the seam, but not close enough to accidentally solder the wire to the ring. The thickness of the wire was now giving me the distance I needed between the 2 rings and I was ready to solder as normal.

Everything went swimmingly, my client was pleased, and the ring spins like new.

Sponsored by:

Bookbinding, Metalsmithing and Glass
We have the tools and supplies you need for your projects and classes
www.volcanoarts.com

Metalsmith: Studio Use for Metal Planters

By Christine Cox

You never know what you’ll find at the nursery or a thrift store that will be perfect in the studio. These metal planters are a great solution for storing heavy, sharp sheet metal. They’re durable and some have handles that make transporting heavy metal from one place to another much easier.

I’ve used mine for years and years, and they’re still in great shape (even after a cat peed in one of them and “patinated” both the planter and all the metal in it). If you buy the type with handles, make sure that they — and you — are up to carrying a lot of weight.

If they ever get a little rusty, you can sand the rust off and then use a sealant (brush or spray) to prevent the rust from returning. Some come with plastic liners, though they won’t last long when storing sharp metal.

You wouldn’t want to store precious metal this way, but for non-precious alloys, it’s a very good solution.

breadpans

Sponsored by:

Bookbinding, Metalsmithing and Glass
We have the tools and supplies you need for your projects and classes
www.volcanoarts.com

Spraying Polyurethane

I’ve been using spray paint for years, but I’ve avoided polyurethane sealant spray. It’s a whole ‘nother beast and I could never quite get it laid down right. It’s thicker than spray paint so my efforts tended to look spotted or to have drips. Unacceptable!

I recently spent 2 days practicing on small pieces of metal, and, sisters and brothers in art, I’ve done it! I now feel very good about my polyurethane spraying abilities.

Notes from the field:

  • Use a raking light so that you can watch the polyurethane land on the piece. You’ll be able to see the wetness of the spray as you apply it, allowing you to spot fix anything missed. Watching the spray hit the piece will also help you judge the correct distance and speed.
  • Ignore that 12″ to 14″ instruction on the can. For the small pieces I just finished, spraying from 8″ was about right.
  • To get rid of dust, use a can of pressurized air on the piece right before spraying the polyurethane.
  • The room needs to be 70 to 90 degrees (and well-ventilated). This helps the polyurethane self-level. I rigged up a little heat lamp over my spray station.
  • Wearing an OptiVisor is a necessity when spraying small pieces. Tiny surfaces mean no room for errors.

Happy spraying!

By Christine Cox

Sponsored by:

Bookbinding, Metalsmithing and Glass
We have the tools and supplies you need for your projects and classes
www.volcanoarts.com

Metalsmith: Avoid Sanding Low Spots In Ring Rims

Metalsmith: Avoid Sanding Low Spots In Ring Rims
(A typically occasional metalsmithing series by Christine Cox)

There’s a point in every metalsmith’s early career where they realize that they are tired of compensating for their mistakes, tired of making something that is the best they can do, but still not quite what was pictured. There’s a desire to make a piece from beginning to end, exactly how it’s pictured in the mind – but a small gap in technical skills gets in the way.

Here’s an example of a tiny technical error that affected my work. The worst part is that I knew better.

If you’ve ever sanded a ring of some kind, whether a bezel, a finger ring, the side walls of a box, or even the rim of a domed disk, chances are, you’ve had to deal with having sanded a low spot. There’s one particular low area that prevents the entire edge from being even. Since metal is stubborn and won’t grow when we need it to, the only solution is to file the entire edge down to the height of the low spot, which can have an effect on every aspect of your project’s design from that point forward. You start compromising on your original vision.

How much better to prevent the low spot to begin with? See the photo at right showing the two bezels? I was sanding the edges to make them the same height and I got lazy. I started sanding back and forth, as we’ve all done when we haven’t been taught otherwise (and some of us, even when we have).

Do this little experiment. Picture a large figure eight on some flat surface near you and slowly rub one finger along it, noting the shift of the pressure on the pad of your finger from front to back and side to side as you complete the course of the symbol.

The same situation happens when you’re sanding. If you sand in a figure eight pattern, you subtly shift your weight from one point to another as you sand along the shape, and therefore the rim stays even. If you just sand back and forth, you’re going to sand a low spot into the rim because you’re putting weight on only limited areas.

It’s such a small change in work habit, but realizing that the change needs to be made is exactly the point where we reach, stretch, and become better smiths and produce better quality work.

 

Volcano Arts

Bookbinding, Metalsmithing and Glass
We have the tools and supplies you need for your projects and classes
www.volcanoarts.com

Metalsmith: Ferric Chloride Exhaustion

For decades, I’ve been etching copper, brass and nickel-silver with ferric chloride (FeCl3), an industrial ferrous salt normally used in water purification and sanitation.

If you’re using ferric chloride, you may wonder how you can tell if it’s exhausted. How often you etch, which alloys you etch, and how large your metal pieces are all affect how long the etchant will last.

The first clue that the etchant is approaching the end of its usefulness is that the pattern you’re etching will be shallow, meaning that etching process will take longer and longer as the ferric chloride gives up the ghost. Nickel-silver presents an interesting side effect when the ferric chloride is exhausted. When you pull the metal out of the etching tank, it will be coated in a brown film. This film acts as a resist and the piece will never etch without the coating being removed, and then re-etching the metal again in a fresh tank.

Of course, we don’t want to waste a piece of metal and all the time to prepare it only to have our exhausted ferric chloride let us down. Another good way to test the ferric chloride is to judge the color. From the accompanying photos you can see that new and exhausted ferric chloride look very similar, but study the pictures closely and you’ll note that there is a slight difference in the overall yellow tone. The new liquid is a reddish/yellow, while the old, used up liquid is a greenish/yellow.

 

The cup on the left contains new, unused ferric chloride. The greenish/yellow liquid on the right is headed for the dump.

New ferric chloride (reddish/yellow)

Exhausted ferric chloride (greenish/yellow)

Bottles of ferric chloride that have been neutralized and are headed for the dump

Sponsored by:

Bookbinding, Metalsmithing and Glass
We have the tools and supplies you need for your projects and classes
www.volcanoarts.com

 

Metalsmith: Mandrel for Tiny Jump Rings


Mandrel for Tiny Jump Rings
(A typically occasional metalsmithing series by Christine Cox)

Use a piece of steel tie wire as a mandrel when making tiny jump rings. It doesn’t bend as much as copper, nickel-silver or brass so it’s a lot easier to wrap the jump ring wire around it. I like to capture both the tie wire and the jump ring wire in a small vise and then use a pair of flatnose pliers and my fingers to manipulate the jump ring wire around the tie wire.

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