Christine Cox

Archive for the ‘Metalsmithing’ Category

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.

Sponsored by:

Volcano Arts

www.volcanoarts.com

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Metalsmith: Antique Tools

A typically occasional series by Christine Cox

I’m sure that if I had been a seamstress I’d save meaningful bits of fabric, or if I had been an engineer I’d collect antique slide rules or something similar. The fact is that I’m a metalsmith and a bookbinder. I collect antique tools made for those trades.

They’ve come to me in various ways; purchased in antique stores, given to me by a doting grandfather, found on garage sale tables. What they all have in common is that they are functional and that they wear the patina of time.

What to watch out for:

Avoid rust, or be prepared to clean it off (a nasty job that can yield great rewards)

Check that nothing is loose.

Wooden handles don’t last well. If the wood is dry and cracked, walk on by. The tool won’t be safe to use.

Because they are antiques, they often aren’t up to their original jobs, but metalsmiths are nothing if not flexible. I was once the honored recipient of an ice pick that had rusted, but the pick’s pedigree made it a worthy acquisition. I cleaned off the rust, but the underlying metal was pitted. It wasn’t up to picking or poking anymore, but perfect for stirring, and that’s its new life. I think the original owner would be pleased that it’s still being used.

I’m sure the file pictured with this article was sharp and robust at some time in the past, but now it’s teeth are worn. I use it as my “fine” file and smile every time I do. The beautiful file is now reserved for only the lightest finishing strokes on a piece and it’s exactly the right tool.

Keep your eyes open. They’re out there!

Sponsored by:

Volcano Arts

www.volcanoarts.com

Metalsmith: Cushion Behind a Stone

There are times when a jeweler needs a cushion behind a stone or enamel that’s being bezel-set, whether to raise it higher, or to even out an unevenness such as in the case of a warped enamel. One solution is to use fine sawdust between the piece and the bezel. Some people like to use an old credit card. On a larger piece, like the enamel in the accompanying photos, I like to use a piece of a plastic lid, as from a can of coffee or something similar. They come in different thicknesses, and this little safety measure gives me a lot of peace of mind when working with a bezel roller later.

Sponsored by:

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

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.

Sponsored by:

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

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

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