Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Jewelry Tutorial Part II

In the last Jewelry Tutorial, the materials, cutting, bending ("forming"), and hammering ("planishing") were covered in detail. This time, we'll finish those bad boys and get them posted (by the way, they're already sold - they sold within 24 hours of being posted on Etsy, and are on their way to New Jersey!).

Here you can see how I use my acetylene torch to gently warm the metal from the earring side, since the jump rings are made from 18 gauge silver wire, and heat up much faster. Goodness knows I've melted many a jumpring trying to solder them on! Once the flux has finish bubbling, and had become the gooey mass that I use to hold the two silver pieces together, I use my titanium pick to pick up a piece of medium wire solder, which I then lay at the joint. If you do it right, the solder should melt right into place within about a second of you putting it down.

Once the soldering is finished, the earrings look like a terrible mess - all black and raggedy. So, they then go in the pickle pot - a cheap crock pot filled with pickling solution, which is actually an acid, I believe. If the solution is hot enough, then the fire scale and tarnishing comes right off. I took this picture as soon as I dropped them in, and they are already back to their silver color. Using copper tongs, I take them out and rinse them well in the sink. Next step is polishing.

However, before I started polishing, I notice that there's an unsightly corner sticking out where the ring is soldered to the body of the earring. Using my handpiece and a white rubber wheel, I take off the offending silver in no time. I find this to be faster and more efficient than a file, even though I think you're supposed to use a file. My years as a dental technician (where I was wedded to the darn handpiece!) made me prefer it over the more traditional tools.

OK, my handpiece is my tool of choice unless I'm polishing. Once I started silversmithing more frequently, I investing in this polishing lathe which I LOVE! It make polishing a snap, and was worth every penny. I use the black/fine final polishing compound so that I don't take off the hammering marks. It makes my fingers black, and it sprays up onto my face and head, but that's OK.

Once the polishing is completed, the earrings are looking like a finished product! All that's left now is a bath in ammonia, which dissolves the polishing compound. I swirl them around in there, fish 'em out with an old toothbrush, and give them a scrub. They're now sparkly clean!

The last step before they are wearable is to attach the earwire. Remember to open them sideways, keeping the shape of the circle intact. Otherwise, the loop will be (or could be) messed up when you close them. I use premade earwires, simply because it's easier. If I'm taking this much time to make a pair of earrings which I then sell for a wing and a prayer, then this is the corner I'm choosing to cut.

And there you have it. A unique pair of earrings that actually made that meeting worthwhile!

I hope you have enjoyed this little look into my studio, and into the steps that go into making the jewelry for sale in Studio 206. Please let me know of any comments, questions, or requests for future installments.

Remember, most of my work is one-of-a-kind, and so I love to do custom pieces. Contact me if you're having a wedding or big occasion soon!


Pastel (and whatever) Guy
http://www.matthewweld.com/ - pastels
http://www.studio206.etsy.com/ - jewelry for sale


magicmyst said...

Hi Matthew, I found your tutorial very instructive. Great to see how you work. I love your jewellrey pieces. How much to post to Australia? Kay

alankarshilpa said...

Hi Matthew,
I enjoyed reading your blog . You showed what goes in making those earrings. Sometimes people don't have a clue.
You mentioned about the polisher (It's worth every penny), I am interested to know where you get them. I am looking for a good choice of polisher.
Your work is beautiful and you inspire fellow jewelry artist like me. Good luck. Dita.