Monday, February 11, 2008

Recent Projects - Egyptian Spiral Necklace

I've been spending a lot of my time lately making items to fill web site orders. The only downside to that? I am most often recreating items that I have made before -- and doing so isn't particularly creative or stimulating.

Yesterday, however, I finally finished a new piece that I had been working on for the past couple months. It is a simple Egyptian spiral necklace with a pietersite clasp. The necklace is just under 20" long, and each link is shaped from 18 gauge sterling wire. Each link has been soldered for durability.

The clasp, which features a beautiful petal-shaped piece of pietersite, can be worn in the front or the back. The recessed areas of the silver chain have been patinated to a dark blue/grey to match the blues in the stone.

I had attempted to make the Egyptian Spiral chain twice before -- with less than impressive results. It is critical that the links be identical in order for the chain to remain evenly spaced. This type of chain is (unfortunately) extremely unforgiving in that way. The couple years additional experience that I have under my belt this time made a difference. I finally have an Egyptian spiral chain that is wearable!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Quick Change Handpiece

"Nice to Haves" turn out to be "Must Haves"
I once bought a pair of digital calipers thinking I would rarely use them; strangely, I seem to use them all the time. Same thing with a laser printer that was to be used only when printing resist sheets for etching metal; I use that printer every day. It's a nice surprise when that happens -- offsetting some of the other tools that may be sitting somewhere neglected (see the kiln sitting under my bench as an example).

A quick change hand piece for my flexshaft turned out to be the biggest surprise. I got one as a Christmas gift (a nicer version than I had asked for, I should add), and I can't believe what a difference it has made. No more searching for chuck keys, or avoiding that last finishing task because of the effort needed to change out mandrels.

A simple swing of a lever, and you can effortlessly switch out the buff, sanding tool, rotary file or whatever else you have been using. The duplex spring model allows you greater flexibility than the standard handpieces. Not only is it easier to use, it is far more comfortable.

Try using one if you every have the chance. You too might become a convert.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Protecting your metal

Quick tip:
As silver prices continue to rise, I don't need to remind you that your metal is an investment.
To protect sterling sheet from scratches, I cover each side of any new metal with low-tack masking tape. Now, as I cart the sheet to and from a workshop, or drag it across my dirty bench, I'm not generating additional scratches that I will need to remove later.

Easy sanding tools

Quick tip:
Use nail files from a beauty supply store to sand your small pieces. The emery boards that have the four assorted grits on one file are perfect to move your pieces through the various finishing stages.

Non-marring pliers for jewelry making

Last night I saw a print ad for "Wubbers" in a jewelry making magazine. Wubbers are positioned as pliers that "won't mar your wire the way other pliers do."

This was one of those little reminders that there are some tips and tricks that become second nature to experienced artists, but aren't always shared with folks new to the craft. I had taken classes for a couple quarters before an instructor mentioned in passing that the edges of any new hand tool need to be softened (or "dressed") so that you do not leave marks in your metal.

Eureka! That was quite an epiphany. Once I dressed the edges on my bezel pusher and bezel rocker, I no longer had chewed up looking bezels. Once I polished the edges or my pliers, I could do wire working and sheet fabrication without marring everything I touched. So much better!

Now when I get new pliers, I sand the sharp edges with a sanding stick (or nail file), and then polish the metal with the flexshaft & steel polish to a smooth finish. No more marks!

My assumption is that the Wubbers just do that finishing work for you.