Saturday, February 9, 2013

Playing with fire

As I said before, I have been wanting to try out new jewelry techniques so that I can expand my shop. So I finally got around to ordering a huge shipment of fine silver and soldering supplies. Then I went crazy with my new butane torch. And it's so fun!!

Here's my little setup on my desk with my mini-torch, heat proof surface (a ceramic tile I found in the garage), soldering pad, quenching bowl, and flux. I crack open the window above my desk for a little bit of air flow and I have a mini fire extinguisher in the room in case of a disaster. I went with a low tech and cheap option for pickle to remove firescale - hot vinegar and salt - it smells horrible, but it works very well and is totally non-toxic (I also do that in the kitchen where the smell won't linger as long).

First I tried out fusing fine silver. Fine silver is a bit more expensive than sterling, but fusing it is so easy without having to deal with flux and solder and pickling. I started out making ring bands from heavy gauge wire. I also ordered a steel ring mandrel so that I can hammer the heck out of the ring bands to texture them. Which is very satisfying... Here are some of my first creations.

I made myself a new (temporary) replacement wedding band set, with two plain and one textured band (because my fingers have gotten a wee bit too fat for my actual engagement and wedding bands.) I left them as three unconnected bands and I kind of like being able to twist them around - it helps keep my hands occupied when I'm feeling fidgety.

Wow, my hand looks wrinkly close up...

I also made a whole bunch of simple thin stacking rings and listed them in my shop.

Available here in my shop.

Also available here in my shop.

And that pretty much depleted my new order of fine silver, so I ordered more, a lot more. And moved on to soldering sterling silver.

Now, I'll just say upfront that I definitely subscribe to the notion that you have to make mistakes to learn. And luckily, with all the disastrous mistakes that could occur when holding a 2000° flame in your hand, all I managed to do was accidentally melt a balled headpin. Still, the abstract spatter that occurred when it hit the ceramic tile was interesting. I rolled with that, and melted that spatter into a ball and soldered it onto my first little tiny sterling silver ring.

And then I tried my hand at soldering a copper ring. I used some scrap sterling to make silver balls to cover up the silver line where I soldered the ring together. It's a little rustic, since I still haven't exactly gotten the hang of making pretty silver balls that don't have pits and dents in them.

Having gotten the hang of soldering, I made a pair of earring out of various size rings (and that is also listed in my shop.)

You guessed it! For sale in my shop.

I'm really glad I took the plunge and learned how to solder. I still really enjoy wire wrapping and I will keep making new wire wrapped jewelry, but soldering will open up new forms of jewelry that I can add to my shop. Next up will be sheet metal, and learning to make bezels for cabochons.

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