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Newbie Questions


#1

Hello, I am teaching myself metalsmithing, mostly using books and
videos, and there are a couple of questions I have that these sources
don’t quite address. I am somewhat embarassed by the fundamental
nature of the questions, but here goes. I am working on a few
different things and need input on the following:

  1. I am hand polishing and I have need to use some bobbing compound.
    Up to this point I have been able to get away with different grits of
    paper and then on to a rouge cloth. I am going to use chamois on a
    stick for the bobbing compound and in the book Jewelry: The
    Fundamentals of Metalsmithing, Tim McCreight suggests using lighter
    fluid with the compound to let you rub it on the stick. None of my
    other books address hand polishing. I have some water-soluble
    compound and was wondering if the same suggestion would apply, or
    could I simply wet it with some water (is this obvious?) to apply it
    to the chamois? (next on my list is a flex-shaft but as of now I’m
    using my hands).

  2. I am doing a bracelet and each of the sections is to have a
    different texture. Would I be better off texturing the metal first
    and then cutting out the pattern or vice versa? I have come across
    pro’s and con’s for either way and I was wondering what is the
    "correct" sequence?

  3. When doing a piece (a pierced piece, for example) that is not
    going to be further work hardened (no hammering, etc.) how can I
    harden the metal? I am interested in techniques that don’t require a
    torch (don’t have one of those yet either)(are there any?). Along
    this same line, I have come across “spring-hardened” sterling that the
    manufacturer recommends for etching, but was wondering whether it
    might be good for these kinds of pieces.

  4. Finally, I realize that this is probably a matter of preference,
    but when doing, say, a pendant or flat segments in a bracelet, what
    guages (or range of guages) metal do you prefer? I started working
    something in 24 guage sheet, but to me it doesn’t “feel” right. It
    just seems to come across as cheap/not well-made. Any thoughts?

I really appreciate this list and those of you that are so willing to
share your time and experience! TIA,

Carrie Otterson


#2

I am just responding to one of your questions, the one on hardening
your metal. if its a pierced piece as you mentioned you can buy the
metal pre hardened (sheet), actually its bet to have it this way as
it much easy to saw when hard, annealed stick a little when sawing. if
you need to solder after it will get soft again but only were the
metal get red hot, you can then harden it with a burnisher and
polish. Heres a tip for hardening earring wire after soldering grip
the wire with a parallel pliers and twist it clockwise or anti
clockwise one revolution, you wont see the twist as the wire is round
in diameter. Its also possible to heat harden with a kiln. I have
never done it but I know it works. Hope this helps Ed Dawson making
models for the trade Maine Master Models


#3
    3.  When doing a piece (a pierced piece, for example) that is
not going to be further work hardened (no hammering, etc.) how can I
harden the metal?  I am interested in techniques that don't require
a torch (don't have one of those yet either)(are there any?).  Along
this same line, I have come across "spring-hardened" sterling that
the manufacturer recommends for etching, but was wondering whether
it might be good for these kinds of pieces. 

Your various metalsmithing books should have about heat
(age) hardening. I’ve been using my burnout oven for this.

Different books will list different temperatures and times required.
McCreight offers 523F for sterling silver, I think, and hold it for
two and a half hours, then air cool.

I’ve also read 640F and hold for an hour, then quench.

I’m no super expert, but I’m more inclined to air cool my pieces when
heat hardening, rather than quenching. Kretchmer uses a patented
technique when he forms his spring metals, and this involves slow
cooling at a rate of 10F/minute, so I think slow cooling is probably
the better approach (Kretchmer is my hero).

I’m not aware of any other techniques other than work or heat/age
hardening. Doesn’t mean they don’t exist, I don’t have a lot of
experience.

  • darcy

#4

Hi Carrie, Glad to see you here!

    1.  I am hand polishing and I have need to use some bobbing
compound. Up to this point I have been able to get away with
different grits of <snip> to the chamois?  (next on my list is a
flex-shaft but as of now I'm using my hands). 

I don’t do much hand polishing so I’ll let someone else who does
answer this one. But as to flex shafts, if you are short on funds I
would suggest a Ryobi. Several years ago my Foredom “died” in the
middle of the Christmas season when I was swamped and needed
something immediately. A jeweler on this list (ringman, I think) had
just suggested the Ryobi as an inexpensive alternative so I went to a
local big time hardware chain and bought one. I love it and am still
using it, although I have replaced my Foredom. What I especially like
about it is the handpiece because it is lightweight and narrow - easy
to hold. You would want a Foredom, Phingst (sp?) or one of the others
if you can afford it, but if funds are low the Ryobi is a great
interium tool.

    2.  I am doing a bracelet and each of the sections is to have a
different texture.  Would I be better off texturing the metal first
and then cutting out the pattern or vice versa?  I have come across
pro's and con's for either way and I was wondering what is the
"correct" sequence? 

Hmmm, so many variables here depending on how the bracelet is
designed, the size of the links, the type of texture and the process
you are using to put the pieces together. I suggest you think each
step through very carefully and then determine what will probably
work best for your design.

    3.  When doing a piece (a pierced piece, for example) that is
not going to be further work hardened (no hammering, etc.) how can I
<snip> I've never used the spring hardened sterling but someone who
has will probably have a good answer for you. 
    4.  Finally, I realize that this is probably a matter of
preference, but when doing, say, a pendant or flat segments in a
bracelet, what guages (or range of guages) metal do you prefer?  I
started working something in 24 guage sheet, but to me it doesn't
"feel" right.  It just seems to come across as cheap/not well-made. 
Any thoughts? 

You are right, this is a matter of preference and many jewelers would
agree that only heavy jewelry is well made. But, for me and many of
my customers, it is a preference of the weight of the piece. I don’t
wear heavy jewelry because it annoys me and I end up taking it off,
but many people (customers) don’t think the piece is well made unless
it is heavy. Of course, it has to be heavy enough to with stand the
wear and tear of the piece. Rings and bracelets should be heavier
gauge then say a pendant or earring. I use metals in 24g up to 10g
depending on the type piece, the design, the weight of stones used
and the potential (or actual) customer.

You last question could start a whole new thread on the merits of
light or heavy jewelry and I’m looking forward to the comments.

Nancy
Nancy Bernardine-Widmer
Bernardine Fine Art Jewelry
http://www.bernardine.com
nancy@bernardine.com


#5

Work hardening. I work harden earring posts by twisting them. I work
harden some earring designs in the tumbler with stainless steel shot.
Best of luck. Batya


#6

Hi Carrie,

 But as to flex shafts, if you are short on funds I would suggest a
Ryobi.  

I think you’ll have a hard time finding a Ryobi motor tool. I think
they’ve discontinued making them.

However, there’s a very good replacement available at a good price.
Black & Decker, who’ve been in the power tool business for lots of
years, have come out with a new model (RTX) of motor tool. They’ve
got 2 models (RTX 1 & RTX 2) of the RTX available. The only
difference between the models is the accessories that come with it.
If I remember right, it goes from 3000 -20,000 rpm. It’s got full
torque at all speeds.

The info with it indicates the unit accepts all Dremel accessories.

They’re sold by Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes & lots of other
retailers. When I looked at a Wal-Mart, the price of the basic unit
with a case & a number of tools was $54.

Dave


#7

Nancy, you said to Carrie "Your last question could start a whole new
thread on the merits of light or heavy jewelry and I’m looking
forward to the comments. "

I think this would be an interesting thread to pursue. For bracelets
I tend to like heavier gauge and usually work in 20 ga and heavier,
but for earrings I definitely stick to the lighter, making lots of
hollow forms, cubes, triangles, etc.using 24, 26 and even 28 ga
because I don’t like heavy earrings and find my customers likewise
prefer lightweight earrings - especially if, like me, they had to have
their ears re-pierced because the previous piercing stretched from too
heavy jewelry. I like to fuse for texture and I find stacking the
lighter metal gives the look of heavy without weighing down your ears.

Pendants can be made to create the look of heavy but actually I
prefer light weight again for a comfort matter and use mostly 22 ga
but again if I’m using a lot of stones, chances are I’ll go heavier…

Anyone else care to share their views?

Kay


#8

Nancy, I think I will bite here on weight of jewelry. I personally
prefer heft. when I first began to collect Zuni, Hopi and Navajo
jewelry, all were solid pieces and weighed accordingly. After the
Native jewelry craze began, I tried some of the newer pieces and found
they were hollow and very light weight. I did not feel they were
"real."

I have not changed my opinion over these years. I wear heavy in
weight Squash necklaces and feel no strain on my neck at all. I have
had many friends tell me they cannot stand weight pulling on their
neck and go for lighter weight jewelry.

I wonder what the dynamics are. I am not particularly athletic, slump
a bit maybe even more, but never feel weight. Is this real, or have
some been convinced weight can cause pain?

In the past when there was a discussion about jewelry designed for
the “larger” woman, I also wondered about hype vs. reality. For a
larger neck, of course 16 inches will not do, so a few inches are
added for fit. Where a pendant hangs is also to be considered, but
that is so for the under as well as over endowed person.

Lighter and hollow weight jewelry began to show up when silver and
gold prices were at their apex, that is not the case now.
Structurally, I cannot see how a weighty necklace sitting properly
puts too much weight on the neck.

I have been really disappointed when I see a great appearing chain
necklace, pick it up only to find it could float. This is not
something that could be buried with you and eons later be dug up and
still be intact. I think of burial pieces, and the treasures brought
up from sunken Spanish ships. Teresa


#9

Hi Carrie,

Don’t be embarrassed to ask these questions! Those of us who don’t
have the benefit of learning by watching others need to ask questions
to fill in the gaps! Standard disclaimer… these are only my
opinions, and others are sure to have a different perspective.

  1. I would consider tripoli rather than bobbing compound. It’s less
    aggressive, and will allow you to get easier and better results when
    you move to the rouge. Then again, you may need to use what you have,
    in which case, I would use water as the solvent, since it’s water
    soluble. You may also be able to rig a sort of buff using a mandrel on
    a drill, mounted in a vise. If you try this, put some sort of enclosure
    around it to catch dust, debris, and possibly your work if it goes
    flying. Make sure the buff is rotating toward you, and only work on
    the lower 1/4 of the buff. Use a dust mask or respirator, too, if you
    try this.

  2. Texturing after sawing may (will) distort the metal somewhat,
    depending on technique. Hammering more so than less “violent” methods.
    If you want good crisp and clean lines, I’d texture first, then saw.
    If you want a more primitive or rustic look, texture after sawing. You
    can also touch up cut edges to blend in with pre-existing texture.
    Another part of the question is, “What comes later in the
    construction?” This may have some bearing on the decision of when to
    apply the texture. I don’t believe there is one correct answer for
    most questions I’ve encountered… most depend on the variables of the
    piece, the resources available to me and personal
    preferences/experience.

  3. It seems others have already responded to this question, so I’ll
    pass.

  4. Depends on what the function is of the piece. Of course, the
    lightest metal saves cost, but will it be durable enough to withstand
    regular use? Earrings aren’t subjected to as much abuse as rings, for
    example, and you don’t want earrings to be too heavy. On the other
    hand, belt buckles are subjected to a great deal of stress and must be
    made of heavy stock. Aesthetic considerations are secondary… and
    there are subtle techniques you can use to make a piece appear more
    substantial to the mind’s eye. Soldering an edge/border/frame to a
    piece of thin sheet not only gives a “finished” look, but also leads
    the mind to apply the edge thickness to the entire piece. Forming also
    adds depth and strength to what might otherwise be a flimsy piece of
    sheet. Forging has the same effect on wire and rod stock.

Side note: Forging and forming are at the same time similar and very
different. I did a presentation on this in April at the Mint Museum
of Craft + Design. If you would like to read the documentation you can
find a hyperlink at the bottom of this page:

http://www.sebaste.com/studio/extreme_craft.htm - Feel free to look
at the photos, too!

Hope this give you some food for thought!

Dave

Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)
dave@sebaste.com


#10
    I wonder what the dynamics are. I am not particularly athletic,
slump a bit maybe even more, but never feel weight. Is this real, or
have some been convinced weight can cause pain?

Oh, intolerance of heavy neckpieces is very real. The dynamics have
very little to do with athletic prowess, and much more to do with the
condition of the neck vertebrae. Disc problems, arthritis, old
whiplash injuries…can make some people’s necks very sensitive to
varying degrees of weight, and induce headaches , sore neck muscles,
or just plain old discomfort A fairly heavy neckpiece can be
designed so that weight is not concentrated at the back of the neck
but more evenly distributed to avoid pressure on the cervical spine.
Nobody wants to wear jewelry that’s painful, so for the sensitive
customer, your alternative is to make comfortable stuff that gives a
big look without the weight. It’s a challenge. Dee