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Getting started again

Folks, I took off several years from metalsmithing. I was an avid
enamelist, stone setter, metalworker in gold and silver. I want to
get back into my studio but am nervous. Not even sure I remember the
settings for my oxy propane torch or how to solder properly! I will
consult all of my notebooks, but wondered if you had any suggestions
for projects or tasks to ease my way in.

I’m living a little remote from any jewelry schools, so taking a
class isn’t really an option. I do have Brepohl, McCreight and some
other classics so I’ll read up, but for hands on, I’m just nervous!

Frankly, a recent gig as a juror for a show plus a brochure for this
year’s Yuma Symposium spurred me to get going again.

Thanks much!
Linda Stoloff Frueh

Hello Linda. Going back to jewelry making is like riding a bike: you
fall down alot. Continuing to make jewelry and never leaving it is
like riding

Tom Arnold


If you are concerned -at all -about setting up your tanks get a
welder to help, or if you want to go cheaper and more permanent your
natural gas company can install a line - its not as hot as acetylene
but beats propane in my opinion and its far cheaper in a years time
if you produce a lot or have a lot of torches going at once (i. e. a
crafts school, small studio that has too many Y connections and
chains in the gasses area !) or if your homeowner’s insurance will
give you a discount (call and ask anonymously if they give
’independent jewellers a discount for home studios).Sure there are
books that will instruct you in the proper pressure to run “x” gas at
with gauges, etc in place, but I have seen some blown o ut regulators
that had to be replaced on first use with people that claimed to know
how to install them - but in reality were winging it!.If you haven’t
used your tanks in a while get them inspected whilst you’re having
them filled- don’t use water and soapy solution- it encourages rust
around the necks of the tanks (All of you that will probably rave
because that’s how you test your tanks doesn’t make it right !).In
the case that the wet test is all you know how to do, remember to
rinse well and dry immediately and then coat the area with
micro-crystalline wax or refined beeswax (unrefined beeswax has
particles of propolis which prevents snug threading), or even a
product like a plastic/pvc paint on or spray type coating applied as
thin as is possible to protect the brass on steel, but not so thick
as it prevents the threads from gripping tightly when installing the
regulators, “y” connections - should you run two gasses and one O2
tank, and any other in line accoutrements (like auto-pilots, or
’always on’ burners) I use the paint on coating as I like that it
theoretically fills any gap -as microscopic as it may be - between
threads and forms a sort of “worm” gasket running the distance of the
threads on the tank necks, it doesn’t shred like teflon tapes used to
(I got rid of teflon tapes in the studio years ago because it has
been discerned that they are hazardous to handle) and if you should
change out a flashback arrestor , or add one after-the-fact, you can
easily peel away the coating and apply a fresh layer to the area.
Disposable tanks are notorious for rust forming around the necks. Any
O2 tank that doesn’t have an in-line drying filter will potentially
give off a small amount of vapour when you bleed the lines at the end
of the day and all those days add up - so I think protecting your
seal is as important as getting the threads seated correctly. I have
seen a studio after it went up in flames following a quite loud bang,
when propane that leaked from a tank intended for outdoor use came
into contact with a faulty electrical outlet. So it follows to make
sure that all of your outlets, lighting and other sources of sparks
are checked in the room that you keep the tanks in as well as where
the studio is set up, if different. If you aren’t handy have an
electrician check the wall outlets terminals, and make sure you have
a liner on the coverplates for insulation as well as to add a little
bit more protection. Have the light sources checked too- make sure
there aren’t faulty fixtures and the bulbs are screwed in completely
( you should check incandescent bulbs and sockets monthly as
oversized loads can shake a house and what’s in it loose by exceeding
the load limits of a given road particularly if there is heavy
construction nearby ! I use an electronic (piezo) torch lighter it
is perhaps the handiest tool invented in 50 years for jewelers- There
is no fumbling around with flint igniters, or wasting gas while
trying to get the damned thing to ignite. One touch to the device and
it’s lit. I recommend that before any other safety related product
gets purchased - other than fire extinguishers if you have synthetic
matting or flooring in your melt and pour area of the studio. Which
brings me to fire extinguishers- can never have enough of them if you
keep gas tanks indoors- and they should be checked at least annually,
at best, every 6 months. Some fire houses provide them to the public,
check in your area for give aways- as I said you can never have
enough! I used to have nice cushion-y matting around the entire
studio as the exposed surface or underlayment until too many students
"spilled" too much molten metal, and the beads would stray and melt
straight through the matting to the wood sub floor before they could
grab tweezers (“no - not those tweezers, but fibre grips that don’t
heat up”- a phrase heard frequently on first day of classes where the
students melted anything over 600 degrees!) to retrieve the beads of
red hot, or even black hot metal- Now I have tiles around any areas
where molten metals are handled. One can then put layers of material
under them to combat fatigue if you stand up at the rolling mill or
at a casting machine, anvil, etc. for extended periods of time - it’s
safer but no where near as comfortable as matting- but the trade off
is worth having to sit down a while and take a break! Anyway- think
about the potential dangers in your reclaimed space and address them
before you hook up your fuel tanks. . But Foremost, enjoy going back
to metalsmithing- combine it with your enameling and have fun- and
while getting back into it all take a look at Patsy Croft’s site as
well as Marianne Hunter’s for a bit of inspiration and the kind of
goldsmithing work using enamels that demands $3500 USD for a pair of
earrings! their work should get your design train-of-thought

I always recommend chain making as a good project for tuning up
one’s soldering skills, or even for learning them in the first place.
By the time you have soldered every link in a 16" or even an 8"
chain, you are ready for more involved projects. - M’lou