Helen, I've order another set of needle files and will endeavour
to learn how to use them properly (right now, I seem to sharpen
metal sheet, especially higher gauges, to a nice sharp knife-like
It’ll come. Just try to make sure you don’t get into bad habits. Make
sure you’re supporting your work against your bench pin, and file on
the push stroke. If I want to “file” the edge of a piece of sheet (or
bezel top), I place the appropriate grade of sandpaper face up on a
really flat surface, and move the work in a figure of eight motion on
the sandpaper. I used to use files for this, but the sandpaper does a
much neater job. This is also a great method for filing the bottom
edge of a bezel when making it perfectly flat for soldering/ fusing
onto a back plate. The back plate can also be hammered onto a flat
surface to make sure it’s not domed at all, and the top surface
lightly sanded so that the two pieces will join really tightly.
I was trying to fuse round Argentium wire, 14 ga and 16 ga, and
then had a go at fusing 22 ga sheet (about.5 inches in width, for
rings). The ugliest round wire seams were from trying to fuse
twisted 18 ga wires, which is obviously too advanced for me.
Yes, maybe work on getting the more standard seams to work for you
first, then move on to more complicated things. Are you making coils
of rings, using a dowel of some sort, and then sawing through them?
This should produce neat ends for fusing. We need to try and
identify where you’re going wrong.
I found that for the sheet, by the time that I had finished
buffing like a mad woman (read, grinding bits off with my dremel),
the metal had become dangerously thin at the seam.
Okay, herein lies one of your biggest problems. As I said yesterday,
I too made that same beginner’s mistake, of using my Dremel to grind
away anything I didn’t like. I even went clean through some bezels
in the early days! I think you need to completely change your mindset
with regard to clean-up. Use your Dremel for other things. Switch to
your new files, and think about removing as little metal as
possible. Conserve your silver wherever you can.
I used to use a thinner gauge of sheet and wire, and grind the heck
out of it! I found that it didn’t form as nicely as thicker metal,
and I was trying to neaten it up by removing metal. Now, I spend
longer forming things as perfectly as possible, getting nice, tight
joints, soldering/fusing them and then using files and sandpaper to
remove as little metal as possible, to achieve a neat finish. I
think I was just impatient, and I thought that using the Dremel would
speed up the results I wanted. It didn’t, it just gave me a really
When I tried soldering, it was a bit better at hiding parts of the
seam, but I usually used too much solder (and then had to file
like a mad woman, metal became dangerously thin again).
When filing a seam, follow the profile of the metal - let it guide
you. I think you’ll also find that with your new, better quality
files, you won’t need to “file like a mad woman”. They just work
better, and will allow you to only remove what really needs
removing, then stop when you’ve gone far enough. Look at the metal
and how light is playing on it. Move your work round so that the
light moves across a surface. You’ll see any discrepancies as light
not moving smoothly across it. It will change direction if it goes
over a bump or dip. This will highlight any areas which need filing
more. Do a bit at a time and check again. Stop when the light runs
across the work smoothly. When you’ve done this with your files, move
on to a finer grade of file, or sandpaper, to eliminate the marks
from the previous file/sandpaper, until it’s at the pre-polishing
(don't get me started on the sanding wheel for my dremel - I'm sure
that I saw sparks fly - maybe not, but it sure did chew into the
See above about rotary tools not being the best thing to use for
I wish you lived locally to me, as I’d happily show you what I’ve
learned for myself (with the help of other Orchid folks), whilst
overcoming the same problems.
Don’t worry about asking questions - keep 'em coming. We’ll
hopefully help you work out what’s going wrong, so that you can
progress to the point of being happier with what you’re doing - and
maybe your daughter will approve too!