Tag Archives: silversmithing tools

Flex Drive

Tool of the Month – Flex Drive

Flex DriveThat long hanging thing in the middle of this picture? That’s my flex drive. The first flexible shaft was invented by the famous Scottish engineer James Hall Nasmyth (1808-1890), who is best known for his later development of the steam hammer.

Flex Drive

The motor is this part the top, which, through a long spiral shaft, drives the little piece at the end. If you’re thinking ‘dentist’, you’re absolutely right! These are used by dentists, too. They’re like a tiny drill at the end of a long hose.

Flex Drive

There are endless variations of bits you can use with your flex drive.

Flex Drive

My favourites are a particular diamond burr, kindly given to me by the lovely Bill from my Goldsmithing class (I use it all the time!) and my slotted mandrels (for emery paper – that’s one you see on the flex drive head in the picture above this one). I have so many other very useful attachments for this great device! I use my flex drive on just about every piece I make. Thanks, Mr Nasmyth!

 

Chenier Cutter

Tool of the Month – Chenier Cutter

Chenier Cutter

A tool that I don’t use very often, but when I need it I’m glad of it, is my chenier cutter.

Chenier Cutter

Chenier is fine hollow tubing, which can used to make various parts such as hinges and bails, or be used decoratively as I have in this ring:

Carnelian and Sterling Silver Power Station Ring

To cut the chenier to the right length, and/or to file the ends of the chenier flat, it’s much easier to clamp it in this cutter.

Chenier Cutter

The cutter has various spaces to cut at both 90 degree and 45 degree angles.

Chenier Cutter

It’s great for cutting wire, too!

Chenier Cutter

Tumbler

Tool of the Month – Tumbler

Tumbler

 

One of the useful pieces of equipment in my workshop is my tumbler.

 

Tumbler

 

It can be hard to get a shiny finish on small pieces and pieces made from wire, so popping them into the tumbler with some steel shot, water and a tiny bit of dish soap does the trick!

 

Tumbler

 

The lid is cleverly made to seal completely, and bolted on tightly.

 

Tumbler

 

The base of the tumbler rotates the pot around and around, which rubs the shot against whatever you place inside, polishing it beautifully.

 

Tumbler

 

The tumbler I have is actually sold as a gemstone tumbler, but works beautifully for silver as well. Not that you can see in this last picture, but twenty minutes sees the finished product looking shiny and great!

 

Tumbler

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 – 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 – Pump Drill

Pump Drill

I was all set this month to write about what I was taught is called an Archimedes drill. While researching it online, I discovered that this tool is actually called a pump drill and an Archimedes drill is something different! So, no interesting information on Archimedes to be found here today. He was pretty amazing, though, worth researching if you can find the time.

Pump Drill

The pump drill is composed of a long drill shaft with a collet on one end, a handle with a hole through the centre, a weighted flywheel, and a length of cord. The flywheel is attached near the bottom of the shaft and the handle slides over the top. The cord is run through a hole near the top of the shaft and affixed to either end of the handle so that it hangs just above the flywheel. To use it, the correct size drill bit is inserted in the collet, one hand is placed on the handle while the other hand turns the shaft to wind the cord around its length, raising the handle near to the top of the shaft, where the cord becomes tight. Holding the drill upright and placing the drill tip against the material to be drilled, a smooth downward pressure is exerted on the handle causing the drill to rapidly spin. Once the bottom is reached, the weight is relieved and the drill allowed to rebound re-winding the cord around the shaft and the process is repeated. It is a simple concept but a skill that takes practice to master.

Ruby Ring - Raw Ruby and Sterling Silver Cocktail Ring

The pump drill is a variation of the bow drill, which has been in use for at least seven thousand years. As well as drilling holes, the bow drill can be used to start a fire using friction. My occasionally burnt fingers can attest to the heat that can be generated by a drill spinning – silver is a great conductor of heat, and I have not only heated my fingers but made burn marks in my bench peg by drilling a piece of silver before now! As well as my pump drill, I sometimes use my flex-drive with a drill bit attached for drilling holes – there is something far more satisfying about using the lovely, simple, ancient pump drill though!

Tool of the Month – Jeweller’s Files

This month, I thought I’d show you my jeweller’s files. As with most smithing equipment, there are a vast array of files, and I have just a few.

Smithing Files

The largest file I have is a good old half round file, and the smaller files are barette, half round, pillar, round, three square & square needle files.

Smithing Files

Files are mostly used to shape and remove excess metal, so you can imagine there’s a lot of that going on! The larger files move more metal, of course, and the smaller needle files are more delicate and precise.

Smithing Files

After you’ve filed a piece, there will be file marks left in the metal. That’s where emery paper comes in. With each stage, you remove the marks that the last stage left, so the file marks are taken away with a coarser emery paper first.

Emery Sticks

Emery, not to be confused with sandpaper, is mostly corundum, which is a crystalline form of aluminium oxide with traces of iron, titanium and chromium.

Emery Paper

I use two grades of emery: a coarser 400 grade, and a finer 1200 grade. I use it wrapped around a metal stick, or a needle file, or just by itself in a small sheet, depending on what I’m emerying! Sometimes a piece looks great just left at this stage – it can provide a lovely matte surface. Most often, though, I brass brush after the emery stage to leave a great satin finish, as you can see on these butterflies. I really love the softer shine this gives the silver.

Twin Butterfly Sterling Silver Pendants

There are more steps after this used to create a polished finish, but that’s for another day!