Sunday, November 2, 2008

Jewelry Tutorial Part I

I am asked all the time how I come up with the designs for my jewelry. Then there are tons of questions on how it's actually made. Therefore, today and Tuesday will be dedicated to showing you how I do it.

It all starts with a concept drawing. This particular idea came from doodles I made during a meeting at work (sorry Doug!)

These are all the tools and materials I anticipate using for this project. I've never made these before, so as I'm photographing, you'll see that not all are used, and the end product ends up looking slightly different than the original design. The square is used to measure the wire (14 guage sterling). Starting from the bottom left, there's the ring former pliers (one side is curved, the other flat to help curve wire evenly), chain nose pliers to make the bends, wire cutters, parallel pliers, forming hammer and steel block, the coil of wire, and needle nose pliers and another set of junker wire cutters that I don't mind cutting larger gauge wire with since they are already messed up.

Next, I measure the wire into 3-inch (7.2 cm) lengths, and cut them with the junker wire cutters. 14 gauge wire is right there on the border of being too thick for nice wire cutters - you don't want the blades to get nicked (like the ones on these cutters!).

Then, I start bending the wire, using the drawing as a pattern. I bend the top with my chain nose pliers, and the main curve at the bottom around a Sharpie marker. I have found that all curves should be bent around something to make sure they are smooth. I've used nails, drill bits, pieces of wooden dowel, welding rods, and whatever else is lying around my garage.

Once the shape is set, and they both match each other to the best of my ability, then it's time to hammer out the curves. I make sure to hammer the mirror images, so that the indentations from the hammer will be seen on the correct side. Just like with calligraphy, the widest part of the curve will be flattened to make it wider. This hammer has two heads. I use the flatter, metal forming head to do the initial shaping. Starting on the outside of the curve, I hammer, working toward the bottom of the curve, making sure to bring the follow through of the stroke in the direction of what will be the widest part. Once the shape has been established, then I use the rounded side of the hammer to create the texture that gives the final product a sort of sparkle, similar to faceted gemstones. Be sure to hold the shape with your other hand, because curves have a tendency to widen as they are hammered. And as metal is formed, it will harden. All this means that you can't rebend a curve once you've finished hammering.

The next step is soldering. This photo shows the earrings with the jump rings lying on my soldering pad. If you look closely, there is a blob of flux at the junction. Using my titanium soldering probe and acetylene torch, I will slowly warm the metal from the earring side, since that is the thickest metal, and will absorb the heat the slowest. Once the flux melts, it will act as a sort of glue, holding the two pieces together.

In the next blog (day after tomorrow), I will show you the soldering photos along with the polishing pictures and the final product. Once you make it through the soldering, the rest is just standard procedure - in other words, nothing will go wrong (although I have bent stuff during polishing with the lathe...!)

Until tomorrow,
Pastel (and whatever) Guy - pastel paintings - jewelry like this for sale

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Very interesting blog.I like to do handwork much.Let me try this and let you my feedback.I enjoyed very well while reading your article.Thanks!

dished ends