Tag Archives: silversmithing

Mandrels and Mallet

In My Jeweller’s Workshop IV

A day (or two) in the life of a jeweller! First some mandrels and my mallet. (I was creating a set of palm bracelets and I needed to make them uniform, hence the texta markings on the mandrels.)

Jeweller's Bench 15-09-23

A sneak peek at a very special birthday present in the making! More on that to come.

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Me, setting a stone in a ring using my engraving ball.

Jeweller's Bench 15-10-15

The end of a productive session!

In My Jeweller’s Workshop III

I know how much I love seeing people’s workspaces, so I’m pleased to show you a few more photos of my own little workshop!

15 May 2015

15 May 2015

I see in the photo above this rhodochrosite pendant, these seaglass and cuttlefish cast pendants, and this gorgeous custom moss agate ring. On the left is a box in which I keep all the gemstones that are works in progress – there are some that have been in there for some time, I know. I’ll get to them all eventually, promise.

29 May 2015

29 May 2015

Under my bench in this photo is the page I use to bend ring shanks to size when they are not going to be a complete ring, for example when they are going underneath a cabochon setting. I can see some of the pieces from my new extraterrestrial collection, and the work in progress on this divine custom chrysoprase set – one of my favourites, I confess!

30 Jun 2015

30 Jun 2015

There is a sheet of silver over on the right rear, and I see the beginnings of some drusy earrings and this lapis ring – and a few other goodies, too.

30 Jun 2015

30 Jun 2015

And here am I, working away. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy what I do!

14 Aug 2015

14 Aug 2015

A sneak peak at some upcoming treasures for you here – and as always, tea. A nice cup of tea’s what keeps me going sometimes. How about you?

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!

 

In My Jeweller’s Workshop II

Following on from my previous post in which you’ll find the first batch of workshop shots, and bringing us up to the minute, I’m visiting my workshop space in space and time. You can sometimes catch me posting more of these snaps on my Instagram page and my FaceBook page – I’d love to see you there!

Silver Forge Workshop 14-09-24

24 Sep 2014

This was obviously a busy time for rings – I see a ruby zoisite, an orange titanium coated drusy, a faceted black onyx, a malachite, a piece of labradorite, a brown drusy and a howlite ring all in the creative stages. And some of my domed pieces, too!

 

10 Oct 2014

10 Oct 2014

Here, I’ve come along further with some of those previous pieces, and added this rest of the faceted onyx set and green mojave turquoise ring to the mix. That is my pair of nylon jaw flat nose parallel pliers on the right – fabulous for holding components that are too tiny to be held with fingers while I saw or file or emery, without leaving marks on the metal! Also, a little batch of jellyfish earrings in the making on my soldering block.

6 Nov 2014

6 Nov 2014

The storage expansion continues.. and while it has been there for a while, I draw your attention to my tree stump, kindly provided by a neighbour. It is extremely useful as an ‘anvil’ base, and I’m pleased that even though a tree had to be chopped down, I could salvage a piece of it for a good purpose!

9 Nov 2014

9 Nov 2014

Bead obsessed, much?

21 Nov 2014

21 Nov 2014

Amongst that mass of tools, I see this pendant on my bench peg, and I am still working on that crazy creation underneath!

8 Feb 2015

8 Feb 2015

A couple of repair jobs in the front, some pairs of earrings, a shattuckite pendant and this mojave green ring are all works in progress here! It’s so satisfying to have a number of jobs on the go at once – there is a fair amount of downtime while you’re waiting for things to cool and pickle after soldering.

Silver Forge Workshop 15-03-04

4 Mar 2015

I quite often have things on my bench waiting for inspiration or the right time to strike – some seaglass is in the process here! Also a bunch of forget-me-nots, which I will post more about another time.

1 Apr 2015

1 Apr 2015

Beads for the beginnings of my Ceramic collection are on my bench this day, as well as a number of stones waiting to be set – including this rhodochrosite pendant! The forget-me-nots are all on my soldering block. Stay tuned.

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!

Regency Rose Plume Agate and Sterling Silver Pendant

Regency Rose Plume Agate and Sterling Silver Pendant

Regency Plume Agate and Sterling Silver Pendant

 

I created this for my bestie’s birthday. We had been laughing about how I’m not a fan of mustard coloured things. She is! 🙂

 

Regency Plume Agate and Sterling Silver Pendant

 

And it will be divine with her colouring, too.

 

Regency Plume Agate and Sterling Silver Pendant

 

Happy birthday, dearest Morgan!

smithing – 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 – 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!

smithing – handcrafting a sterling silver and gemstone ring

I love seeing other people’s processes, so I thought it was time I shared the process that goes into creating one of my gemstone rings with you!

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 001
First, I cut a strip of .6mm sterling silver sheet to form the bezel for the gemstone.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 005
I file one end of the strip flat.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 002
I heat the strip to the point that the metal ‘relaxes’ and the molecules line up so that the metal is malleable. This is known as annealing.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 003
After it cools, I immerse the strip into a slightly heated 1/10 sulphuric acid/water mixture. This mixture is known as pickle, and cleans any oxidisation, dirt, or flux from the metal.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 004

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 006
After a good rinse and dry, I bend the strip to conform to the shape of the stone.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 007
I cut the strip to the correct length.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 009
I file the other end of the strip flat, so that there is a seamless join where the two ends meet.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 010
I solder the strip together to form the bezel.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 011
After another bath in the pickle, I hammer the bezel on a mandrel to form the correct shape, and flatten the join.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 012
I check that the gemstone fits well inside the bezel.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 013
I emery the bottom of the bezel flat.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 014
From a sheet of 1.0mm sterling silver, I cut a plate to form the base of the bezel.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 015
I make sure the bezel and plate fit smoothly together.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 016
I coat the silver with flux (borax), and place paillons of solder inside the bezel.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 017
I solder the bezel to the plate.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 018
After it cools, the soldered parts go through the pickle procedure again.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 021
Once the bezel setting is clean and dry, I cut the excess material from the base.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 022
I file most of the excess metal from the bezel setting.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 020
I anneal a strip of metal around 1.0mm-1.2mm thick to form the ring shank.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 023
I bend the ring shank to the correct size and shape.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 024
I cut the excess metal from the shank.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 025
I file the top of the shank to fit snugly against the bezel plate.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 026

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 027
I solder the shank to the bezel plate, and pickle again.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 033
I stamp 925 and my maker’s mark into the shank.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 028
I file the remaining excess material flush with the bezel base.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 030
I mark the bezel.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 031
I file the bezel down to fit the stone.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 032
I emery the top of the bezel.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 029
I emery the entire ring with coarse emery.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 035
I emery the entire ring with fine emery.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 034
I place the gemstone inside the setting.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 036
I place the ring in my engraver’s block.

Handcrafting Sterling Silver Drusy Ring 037
Using my setting hammer and a punch, I set the stone.

Minty Green Drusy Agate and Sterling Silver Ring
A final cleanup and a polish with tripoli and then rouge using my flex drive (which I haven’t shown you here), and the ring is ready to go to a new home!

Tool of the Month – Soldering Torch

Silver Soldering Torch

One of the most important pieces of equipment a jeweller needs is the soldering torch. I use an LPG gas torch. LPG is a mixture of propane and butane.

Nearly every piece requires some amount of soldering. Soldering is the process of joining two pieces of metal together by heating them, using a material of another similarly coloured and structured alloy metal with a lower melting point than the metal being joined.

Silver Soldering Torch

There are three types of silver solder commonly used:
Hard solder – the highest melting point of between 745-778⁰C.
Medium solder – melting point of between 720-765⁰C.
Easy solder – the lowest melting point of between 705-723⁰C.

As sterling silver melts at 893⁰C, the solder will reach melting point before the silver and fuse the two pieces together.

Silver Soldering Torch

Flux is painted onto the surfaces to be soldered to prevent oxidization and firescale and ensure that the solder will fuse to the metal. I use borax, which you can see in the dish at the back of my heat resistant blocks.

Silver Soldering

Paillons of solder are positioned so that they touch both pieces of metal to be joined.  The entire piece is heated evenly with the torch to the melting point of the solder, causing the solder to run and join the pieces of metal together.

Once the metal has cooled, the piece is placed in a sulphuric acid solution (which is known as pickle) until it is a white silver colour to remove any oxide and flux, then it is rinsed in water and dried.

Swirl Ball Cuff Ring

This ring is an example of a piece that required soldering. The ring itself is soldered together at the bottom. The swirls and the balls are all soldered individually to the top of the ring.

One of the many joys of silver is that no matter how many times it is heated, melted, beaten, bent, twisted, cut, it maintains the same qualities and substance, so can be repurposed over and over again. I’m proud to say that the supplier I source my silver from manufacture right here in Australia using reclaimed silver wherever possible, so that no unnecessary mining takes place. This recycled silver is refined and tested to ensure that it is 100% pure sterling silver. The planet thanks us!

Blacksmithing

When I first started silversmithing, I hadn’t made the connection, but I came to realise that I had become part of a family tradition of shaping metal with hammers and fire. There have been smiths in my family since the 1830s. My great-grandfather, great-great-uncle, and great-great-great-grandfather were all village blacksmiths in tiny villages in Kent and Sussex, England.

Horton, William (Bill) -  in the Forge, Brede, Sussex

Great-Great-Uncle Bill Horton working in the forge c 1900 – Brede, Sussex, England 

My grandmother, who is now 97, remembers her dad working at his forge first in Guestling Thorne, then in Icklesham, Sussex, making horseshoes and farming implements. He made the gates for Rambledown House in West Chiltington, West Sussex, where my Great-Auntie worked, which I believe may still be there.

Great Grandad's Trivet

Trivet made by Great-Granddad Robert Horton

Great-Granddad also made this gorgeous trivet (I presume for my Great-Granny), a horseshoe with little boots as the legs, which is one of my most treasured possessions.

Smithed Hook

   Hook made by me

A few years ago, I did a weekend blacksmithing workshop at the railway yards in Ipswich. The first thing I smithed was this hook, and I am very proud of it. Building the forge fire using coke, maintaining it, heating the straight iron rod to red hot, and hammering it with a big hammer on a huge anvil was very exciting. I had to adjust to the idea that the metal had to be glowing red, as if you heat silver to that state, it means it’s melting! Although I got covered in black coke dust, and was pretty worn out by the end of the weekend, it was immensely satisfying and something that I mean to do again some day.

I wonder what my great-great-great-grandfather would have thought of my endeavours? I hope he would have been pleased!