Christine Cox

Posts tagged ‘jewelry’

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.

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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.

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Bookbinding, Metalsmithing and Stained Glass

 

 

Metalsmith: Filing in Tight Places

barrettefilebarrette

Metalsmith
(A typically occasional series by Christine Cox)

For filing in tight places where adjoining areas could be damaged, use a barrette file. Only one side has teeth and the other edges slope away from them. They come in several sizes and every coarseness you could need. They are even included in most needle file and mini-needle file sets.

Needle and mini-needle file sets are available from Volcano Arts
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Metalsmith: Sweating Solder onto Findings

Metalsmith
(A typically occasional series by Christine Cox)

Sweating solder onto findings: Dig little holes into your charcoal block and then bury tiny findings (butt-side up) into the holes. This protects the little dears while melting the solder.pinbackscharcoalblock

Metalsmith: Graphite for Alignment

graphitesoldering

Metalsmith
(A typically occasional series by Christine Cox)

When soldering a pin back onto a brooch, use a piece of graphite (you know, for mechanical pencils) to ensure that catch and joint are lined up. The graphite will take the heat of your torch while your pin back stays straight.

Bird brooch available in my Etsy store

Metalsmith: Old Gold

I love a new challenge and this one was a blast. My friend Lauri and I decided to take some old gold jewelry and turn it into sheet. I had a couple of pieces of 14k gold jewelry that I knew I’d never wear again so we studied up, melted it down and rolled away. What started out as a very ugly nugget bracelet and an old wedding ring are now 2 small 23 gauge sheets of gold ready for my creative vision. We learned a lot through the process.

There was definitely a learning curve on the adventure as neither of us had ever melted down anything in a crucible, only silver on a charcoal block. We set up a little kiln using firebricks. This would allow us to hold as much heat inside the crucible as possible. I had a brand new crucible (a ceramic dish made to take the heat) so it needed to be prepared ahead of time. The crucible needs a glaze inside to prevent the metal from sticking or being absorbed into the ceramic. We had read online that it could be done in an oven so we assumed that we could do it in the kiln at no more than 500 degrees or so. Bad assumption. We chose a mix of borax and boric acid, neither of which melts at 500 degrees. The powders kept getting harder and harder inside the kiln. No signs of liquid to swirl around and glaze the crucible.

We decided to be brave and use a torch (MAPP gas because it was handy). We got it unbelievably hot: so hot that the crucible was glowing orange! I kept expecting it to blow up and kill us at any second, and then lo and behold we saw that the borax and boric acid were melting! Suddenly we had another problem in that our crucible tongs were absolutely the wrong type for the job. We couldn’t swirl the borax mixture around to coat the inside of the crucible. A quick trip to the kitchen and one pasta server later, we had a great little tong setup that made us feel like maybe we weren’t going to drop the whole mess and melt my floor. Sometimes my kitchen is the best supplier of metalsmithing tools.

Crucible seasoned, we started experimenting with pieces of the old bracelet. We figured out early on that one torch wasn’t enough so we put 2 torches to the task. Lauri held the torches while I stirred the gold and borax mixture with a graphite rod. Hotter and hotter it all became until the gold melted into a little glowing orange blob. I poured the gold into a graphite ingot mold while Lauri kept the torch on the crucible to prevent oxides from forming.

We felt like amazons! There were problems, but we forged ahead (PTP) to the rolling stage. I rolled the ingot into a tiny sheet, but because it wasn’t as homogenous as it should have been it started to develop air bubbles as I rolled. We had a feel for the process now so it was a no-brainer to melt it all again and start over. Besides, it was really fun. Given all the heating, I’m pretty sure that my 14k gold is more like 18k now.

This time we added the rest of my ugly bracelet and the wedding ring and melted down the whole shebang in 2 batches. It took a lot of heat to melt down .87 oz of gold! The keys to getting the perfect ingot were to add more borax as we were heating, to stir well with the graphite rod in order to burn off any impurities, and to follow the crucible with the torch all the way through pouring into the mold.

Once the ingot was made I started rolling, annealing, rolling, annealing until the sheet was down to 23 gauge, which is where the project is now. I just love my little sheets of gold, and the fact that they are made from old jewelry is wonderful. After we were finished Lauri and I searched our jewelry boxes for more gold to melt down! I have an old herringbone necklace that is in serious danger.

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Inspiration in a Box

Jewels

I got a great box full of inspiration in the mail Friday. It’s a wealth of riches; lovely, lovely books!

At the top of my box of treasures, Victoria Finlay’s Jewels; A Secret History, (originally published in GB as “Buried Treasure; Travels Through the Jewel Box”).” I bought it because I had read the author’s previous book Color; A Natural History of the Palette, and because I heard Ms Finlay on RadioLab (an awesome show that you can podcast through iTunes). I’m about half-way into the book now and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Both of Finlay’s books are travel journals. In both she chooses a personal reason to investigate a jewel or color (depending on the book). Each chapter is a brief but colorful (PTP) history of colors or gemstones and how they were discovered, mined or produced. It’s fascinating stuff, full of unusual characters, beautiful but deadly places and nature’s mysteries.The books are very personal and the author tells us of her failures, as well as her successes. She’s a very brave woman and gets herself into situations I wouldn’t try, like sliding down into ancient emerald mines.

Jewels is arranged by the Moh’s hardness rating of the particular stone: amber is first, diamonds are last. For a woman with a seemingly casual interest in gemstones, the book is full of information that any jeweler would love. It’s also chock-full of ancient history, so history buffs will love it too.

Next in my box of goodies is The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean. Mr Kean’s last book The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements was a really lively history of the discoveries and people around the periodic table. Boring? Absolutely not!!! I got poor marks in high school chemistry, and I just can’t tell you how much Kean’s writing style kept me interested and curious. I got so much out of this book that I use in the studio every day. Oh, and I also learned how electricity works (turns out it’s not magic after all). Unlike a bad movie sequel, I’m not afraid to read “The Violinist’s Thumb.” I have faith in Sam Kean’s writing. I’m sure it will be excellent.

Next up in my haul of books is Mixed Metal Mania by Kim St. Jean. A student recently brought a copy to class and I just had to own it. Ever since watching Harold O’Connor’s DVD on fold-forming, I’ve been on a folding tangent, and Ms St. Jean’s book has several fold-formed projects. Though the photos are small, they’re of excellent quality and there are a lot of them. I’m looking forward to the inspiration I’ll get from St. Jean’s techniques.

My last book is Handmade Photo Albums by Tami Porath. Books on how to make album-style structures are few and far between. The projects in this book look simple and fun and will take a lot of the guesswork out of my future photo albums. I especially like the idea for a folding drawer for folding the edges of papers. I’ll have to give that a whirl.

Now I’m off to the studio to take my inspiration out for a spin and see what it can do today.

 
 
 
 

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