Category Archives: Smithing Tools

smithing – creation of a teardrop shaped gemstone and sterling silver ring

I love seeing other people’s processes, and I thought it was time to give you all another look into what goes on in my workshop. I have blogged before about how I create one of my signature big chunky rings, and after my lovely customer Jane asked me for progress shots of the ring she commissioned me to make for her, I was prompted to examine that process again. Here’s how I do it!

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Firstly, an appropriate width strip of sterling silver sheet .6mm thick is selected.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

This is curved by hand using a pair of half round pliers to fit the gemstone.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Next, the strip is cut to approximately the right length on my bench peg using my jeweller’s saw, leaving a small extension for soldering against.

In this video, you see me prepare and apply the borax, position the solder (not usually quite so fumbly, I had a bit of stage fright!) and solder the bezel together.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Once the metal is cool, it goes into the pickle to be cleaned. An explanation of pickle can be found in my previous blog post.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

I trim the excess bezel metal away from the solder join.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

I check to make sure the bezel is a good fit.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

I emery the bottom of the bezel so that it is completely flat and will make a good join with the base plate.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

I select a piece of 1mm thick sterling silver sheet to fit the bezel.

I solder the bezel to the backing plate. Here you see me applying the paillons of solder with borax, and soldering the join. Then it’s back to the pickle.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

After rinsing and drying, a bit of a check to see how it’s looking!

Now, I saw the excess metal from around the bezel setting.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

After filing the edges of the bezel setting, I start creating the ring shank.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Using the appropriate width of 1.2mm thick sterling silver plate, I bend the shank to the right shape and size.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

I trim the shank to the right length.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

I hammer the shank with a mallet to get it perfectly round (this shot is for explanation only, I actually have the mandrel hard up against the bench to absorb the force when I’m really hammering the ring!).

Emerying the inside of the shank with my flex drive makes life easier.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

After more filing and emerying, I stamp the inside of the shank with my maker’s mark and 925, which marks the metal as being sterling silver (the 92.5% is the fine silver content).

I solder the shank to the bezel setting assembly.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ringSilversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Then it’s time for plenty more filing, and coarse to fine emerying to bring the ring close to it’s finished state.  (Zen or tedium, you decide!)

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Next, I head over to my trusty engraving ball to set the stone.

Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring Silversmithing - creating a bezel set ring

Plenty of gentle hammering with my setting hammer later…

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And my work, bar some tidying up, is done!

Bright Orange Drusy Agate Teardrop and Sterling Silver Ring

There it is, a beautiful drusy agate ring. I do so love what I do!

Tool of the Month – Disc Cutter

Disc Cutter

 

I have a very lovely mum and granny, who sometimes give me cash for birthday and Christmas presents with instructions to buy myself smithing tools. I have a little wish list (of course!), and one of the items on it was a disc cutter.

 

Disc Cutter

 

I use a lot of circles in my pieces, (being a fan of the ellipse!) and cutting them out by hand is a lengthy and sometimes tedious process.

 

Disc Cutter

 

The disc cutter is made from two steel ‘wheels’, bolted together, with various sized circles (in this case from 3mm to 32mm) cut in them. You slide a sheet of metal in between the wheels, tighten the bolt, and use the appropriate matching punch (which are made from special tool steel, hardened and ground) to cut through the metal.. The ends of punches are sharpened at a slight angle to enable them to cut through metal up to 1mm thick as if it were – well – butter!

 

Disc Cutter

 

You can see the sheet of silver I’m cutting here has already seen some disc cutting action.

 

Disc Cutter

 

The end result is a perfect circle, every time. I do love my disc cutter ~ thank you, lovely family!

 

Sterling Silver Matched Domed Sphere Pendants

Tool of the Month – Ring Sizing Equipment

Ring Sizers

In order to create rings that fit my lovely customers, I need to know their ring size. I’ve written a post about measuring your own ring size, however  the best way of finding out your ring size is to have your finger measured at a jewellers – this is the easiest and most accurate way of fitting a ring.

Above you can see my ring sizing gauges. The rings are for measuring fingers, and are graded in sizes – here in Australia we use letters of the alphabet (which are followed by numbers), so these go from size H up to Z, and then on from 1 to 6. The stick is for measuring the size of rings, and has different measurements, including the alphabet system, millimetres, and US sizing.

Red Drusy Agate and Sterling Silver Ring

If you’re in Brisbane, I’m always happy to measure you up for one of my custom made rings!

Tool of the Month – My Jeweller’s Bench

Ruthie's Jeweller's Bench

 

A jeweller is nothing without a jeweller’s bench! As you can see, my bench is a busy place – I even tidied it a little for you here. My bench was made by my silversmithing teacher, Elmar – it’s robust, utilitarian, set up just how I need it – and I love it.

 

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One of the most important parts of the bench is the jeweller’s peg. This is the wooden piece that juts out the front of the bench. It is used to balance and stabilise whatever you’re working on – great for sawing, filing, emerying – anything that requires gentle force to be applied to metal. I leave most hammering for my large tree stump however! You can see the scars of filing and sawing on my peg – as time goes on, you develop your own comfortable nicks and dents for holding wire, filing rings etc. Eventually your peg wears away, and it has to be replaced – though I think mine has many more good years left in it yet.

 

 

There are so many different tools that help a jeweller – I try to accumulate only the ones that I really need and will use, but the temptation to collect is great! Pictured above are: my tri square – useful for making sure the ends of ring shanks are exactly square before bending and soldering, and for getting exact square angles on pieces I’m cutting out; a scribe and a pushing tool – The scribe is great for scoring silver before sawing it if I need a long straight piece i.e. if for cutting my own bezel, and as a general jiggery-pokery thing. I confess I don’t often use the bezel pusher, and never for bezel setting – but it’s a piece I made at a tool-making workshop I did, and I’m fond of it!; dividers – very useful for scribing a circle, or transferring measurements from one piece of metal to another; and my scraper – great for the occasional removal of pesky burrs.

 

Messy Jeweller's Bench

 

An my bench – ok, confession time, it usually looks a bit more like this! With every piece, there are periods of time where you’re waiting i.e. for the metal to cool after soldering, or to pickle, so I work on a number of different pieces at once.

 

Cloudy Blue Sky

 

Ah, my workplace – a very zen space, where the sky’s the limit! If you’re interested, you can see more posts about my silversmithing tools here.

Handcrafting a Sterling Silver Spiral Chain

The process of creating is sometimes more intricate than you might think when looking at the final object, so I thought we’d take a look at how chain is handmade.

 
To start, I use some lengths of wire (which is made by rolling a block of silver repeatedly in the same direction through a rolling mill, until it is thin enough to draw through a draw-plate down to the right dimension).

 

Making a sterling silver chain

 

After annealing the wire (a process where the wire is heated to a dark red to line the molecules up, making the silver malleable), I pickle it, by placing the metal in an acid solution to remove any oxidisation, dirt, or flux.

 

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 003

 

I then wrap it around a steel post of a suitable diameter (this tool is called a jump ring maker, and comes with steel posts of varying widths).

 

Making a sterling silver chain

 

Once the wire is wrapped into shape, I remove it from the steel rod.

 

Making a sterling silver chain

 

I saw each link with a jeweller’s saw.

 

Making a sterling silver chain

 

Each link is individually created.

 

Making a sterling silver chain

 

After a tidy up of the links if required, I join them together, in this case in a specific mathematical combination. (I love how science, maths and creativity collide!)

 

Making a sterling silver chain

 

Once all the links are joined, I make sure the chain is the correct length.

 

Making a sterling silver chain

 

Then I solder each link closed. Yes, each and every link! In this case, that means around two hundred and eighty links to be made, joined and soldered individually.

 

Making a sterling silver chain

 

Once that is complete, the final links are added which join the chain together in a specific way to create the spiral effect. Then it’s back in the pickle for another bath, followed by some time in the tumbler, to polish and harden the chain. (I’ll post about my tumbler another day, I promise!)

 

Sterling Silver Twisted Chain

 

The finished product is quite spectacular, IMHO. You can see more pics of this twisted spiral chain technique being used here and here. I love what I do!

 

Tool of the Month – Engraving Ball

Engraving BallThe engraving ball (also known as the engraving vise) is a steel ball with a slot cut out of it, and a vise clamp across it. It is seated in a cup (in this case, a leather donut, lubricated with graphite) which enables it to be rotated 360 degrees around, and around 180 degrees side to side.

Engraving Ball

Used most often for engraving (obviously!) the ball gives you a full range of movement so that as you are cutting, you can spin the piece around for ease of access.

Engraving Ball

Although I have a set of gravers, and understand the principle of engraving (and of faceted stone setting which also requires gravers), I don’t practise those disciplines. Instead, I use my engraving ball for another of its purposes – setting cabochon gemstones.

Engraving Ball

The same principle applies, in that you can rotate the piece so that you can approach the setting from all angles.I love my engraving ball, and use it all the time – I’d be lost without it!

Drusy Agate Ring Rainbow

 

Tool of the Month – Jeweller’s Stamps

Jeweller's Hallmarks

When creating jewellery and tableware, precious metal is usually stamped  to mark both the chemical composition of the metal and the origin of the piece.

There are many variations on this theme, based on what country the piece is from, and in which era it was made. There are thousands of stamps. Here in Australia, the following symbols are used to denote the composition of precious metals.

Fineness Marks

Fineness Marks (with thanks to The Gold and Silversmith’s Guild of Australia)

Because I work in sterling silver, the stamp you will find on my pieces is 925. This denotes that the content of the metal is not less than 92.5% pure silver. You may be wondering – the other 7.5% is copper. Sterling silver is used because fine silver (100% silver) is very soft and malleable, and won’t retain its shape properly when worked.

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Stamps are applied to the metal by holding the stamp onto the metal, and giving the end of the stamp one blow with a large hammer! The crooks in the handle of the stamp are there so that you can get the stamp inside rings.

My maker’s stamp is one that I designed myself, and was lucky enough to have my teacher at Goldsmith’s School create for me. I wanted to incorporate some of the many things that I am always drawn to, find beautiful and am inspired by, so the spiral and elements of the ocean are both prominent in my mark.

The Silver Forge Logo

The history and intricacy of maker’s marks and hallmarking makes for some interesting googling, if you have the time. I wonder if many years down the track, some buff on the Antiques Roadshow will be shown one of my pieces, and wonder who created it?

Next time you are looking at jewellery or tableware, see if you can find the hallmarks, and work out what they mean!