Christine Cox

Archive for the ‘Metalsmithing’ Category

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.

 

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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: 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

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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.

Metalsmith: Polishing Inside a Tube

polishinsidetube

Metalsmith: Polishing Inside a Tube
(A typically occasional series by Christine Cox)

Need to polish inside a tube? Use a piece of rouged jute and a small vice. Run the tube back and forth a few times and you’re done.

Amazing Awls

Besides being one of the first tools created by humans, the awl is amazing for its usefulness. The earliest were made from wood, stone, obsidian and bone. Before that they were probably used as found in nature, in the form of talons or teeth.

Grotte de Tarté

A few uses:

  • Punch holes in the pages before sewing a book
  • Check the depth of etching on a piece of metal
  • Push eyelets into tight holes
  • Dig small items out of tight spaces
  • Precisely scratch off resists
  • Sgraffito in enamels
  • Untie knots in threads
  • Push “reset” buttons on small electronics
  • Clean out a seam before soldering
  • Scratch words and designs into polymer clay and PMC
  • Point during demonstrations
  • Poke holes in leather
  • Hold jump rings in place while making chain maille

Sooner or later the question becomes “why don’t you own one.” You’ll need one for every room!

lda-tube
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Historic photo of awls by: Didier Descouens – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10880610

Metalsmith: Kitchen Tools in the Studio

Metalsmith
(A typically occasional series by Christine Cox)

The sweeps drawer under my bench used to be a mess. I had tools mixed in with metal scrap, used sandpaper, leather pieces, broken saw blades, and lots and lots of metal shavings from sawing and filing. It was a major undertaking to clean it and a job I avoided. At a local store I found a metal mesh drawer organizer. Now my tools all have individual homes and all I do to clean up the drawer is to lift the organizer out, dump out the sweeps and put the organizer back in. The mesh organizer is a great holder for my most-used tools too.

Silverware holders are also wonderful for organizing tools in drawers. Mandrels, sanding sticks and other hand tools will stay in their assigned slots without beating up their neighbors.

Metalsmith: Triangles and Squares

Metalsmith: Triangles and Squares
(another installment in a typically occasional series by Christine Cox)

templateA fast way to accurately mark 3 or 4 corners on a piece of work is to use a drafter’s template. For example, let’s say you want to put 3 tiny feet on the bottom of a round box. It can be difficult to line up 3 points that look good. Simply lay a triangle template over the bottom of the box and then find the triangle that is closest in size to where you want the feet. Mark the 3 corners with a Sharpie marker and you’re done. If you want the feet in a perfect square instead, simply use whichever square template is the correct size.

2012-05-2in

Bookbinding, Metalsmithing and Stained Glass

 

 

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