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Friday, 23 January 2015

Experimenting With Liquid Enamel


 Something that's been on my to-do list for a while now is trying liquid enamel. I had a few weeks "break" over Christmas {not really a break as I was making new stuff!} so at long last I got round to ordering some of the liquid enamel powders. I got a few basic colours and a white so I could mix different shades. I also bought a white crackle base powder to experiment with.


I mixed up the colours with distilled water in totally unsuitable containers - too tall and thin and I've since bought some wider pots - and started painting. I applied the liquid enamels to a base of cream opaque and on two of the pieces I fired a layer of white crackle base before applying the liquid enamel.


Lumps in the enamel means I didn't mix properly!


Once I'd finished painting I set the copper pieces onto a warmed soldering block to speed up drying. When they were dry I started scratching designs {I use that word in the loosest possible context} into the dried enamel using a wooden skewer.


I then fired them using a torch. In my excitement I forgot which two had the crackle base. The effect you should get when you apply a liquid enamel on top of a crackle base and then fire it is the crackle base pushing through the top layer and creating a cracked effect but as you can see it didn't work very well on the two pieces I tried it with.


I did get the start of a crackled effect on the bottom corners of this piece but I did read it needs a larger area, in other words a bigger piece of copper, to work properly.


I liked the effect mixing the white liquid enamel powder with the other colours gave - a kind of speckled effect which reminds me of ceramic glazes. The "straight" colours with no white added came out a bit patchy in comparison but that may be because I got the mix too runny.

I then etched them all for a matt finish.


I still have work to do but it's a fun thing to try. I think it works better when you go with the flow rather than try to be too exact and it seems you can get different results with the colours depending on how long you fire them for - the oranges I mixed came out a bit on the pink side the first time I tried them then more orange the second time....

I did make a few pairs for sale but I feel the need for more practicing {and some more colours!} 

liquid enamel earrings



Friday, 16 January 2015

New Handmade Bronze Jewellery Findings

I  became intrigued with bronze a few weeks ago and decided to try using it to make some findings and bangles as a change from copper. Bronze is widely available in the UK but you do have to search a bit for the thicker gauges if that's what you're after. I found a lot of the thinner gauges at wires.co.uk for reasonable prices although it is more expensive than copper.

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin but is also mixed with other materials like phosphor, zinc, aluminium and silicon which alters it's properties depending on what the bronze is to be used for. I think the bronze I have is phosphor bronze and I did expect it to behave very much like copper when heated. It does behave a lot like copper but it does have it's quirks too.......

Quirk #1  When you form a ball on the end of the bronze wire the heat causes the copper content to rise to the surface giving you in effect a copper ball end.


The first photo shows the bronze wire straight after forming the {copper} balls and the second photo shows the headpins after oxidizing and cleaning up with the return of nice bronze balls!

Pickling didn't make any difference to the balls and I found the only way to get rid of the copper was to scrub the ball vigorously with wire wool or a brass brush which is a bit too time consuming. The copper did disappear on the ball ends after the wire was oxidized in LOS and cleaned with wire wool though which was very handy {and a bit strange}.

Quirk #2  I had planned on making a shiny version of the ball end bronze findings but the ball and the wire near it doesn't clean up well after heating to form the ball as mentioned above so I didn't manage to get a lovely shiny version.

Quirke #3  The oxidized effect from using LOS doesn't seem to "stick" as well to bronze as it does to copper and therefore it only needs a quick 10 minutes in the tumbler to polish it up a bit. Otherwise you end up with oxidized bronze findings that are just too bright!

Quirk #4  The LOS seems to effect the bronze differently depending on whether the bronze wire was heated or not. The finished oxidized versions of the ball end earwires and the hoop earwires {where I used the wire without heating it in any way} are completely different. The ball end version has a darker finish and hints of purple whereas the unheated hoop version is fairly uniform in colour and a golden brown tone...


The ball end earwires were pickled clean before oxidizing but the surface colour was changed by heating which effected the end results of using the LOS. It looks like the copper rises to the surface when the bronze is heated. I should imagine heat patina-ing the bronze would be quite successful {haven't tried that yet}.
I'll be listing my bronze findings in my Etsy shop over the next week or so.

Bronze v Copper

The main differences I found between copper and bronze is that bronze is harder and has a lower melting temperature. It doesn't take as much heat to solder as copper which is a good thing. 
Looking at my photos the oxidized bronze looks very similar to oxidized copper but when you put the two side by side you can see the bronze is more golden brown compared to the red brown of copper.

I've made a few bronze bangles in 7g, 9g and 12g {3.5mm, 3.0mm and 2.0mm} which turned out fine. Working out how long to tumble them after oxidizing so they didn't come out too light took a couple of attempts though! I also have some bronze sheet that I will be experimenting with soon - probably some etching and also having a go at creating a heat patina. 
Stay tuned!


Thursday, 1 January 2015

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye - It's 2015!


2015: Happy New Year from dickdavid
Photo: Richard Wezensky on Flickr {Creative Commons}

First things first - Happy New Year!! Here's hoping it will be a good one for us all.

The title of this post is from a song by Soft Cell from 1981. That was the year I left school and it was one of my favourite songs of that time. It made me think of seeing in the new year and saying farewell to the old.

I've been looking back at my posts through 2014 and I think one of the biggest turning points concerning my jewellery making was the decision to put a garden shed in what was already a pretty small backyard and turn it into my workshed or "shed of wonders" as my friend Nicki describes it.


This photo was taken shortly after I moved in to the shed in April 2014 when there was sunshine and it was warm enough to leave the door open.....At the moment I'm using an electric radiator in the shed which is ok and does take the chill off but it can get pretty cold in there at times, although a spot of soldering soon warms the place up and I have been known to turn off the radiator and open the door at times even when it's cold outside

It's changed slightly inside now as new tools and other stuff have appeared - a flexshaft to replace the Dremel, a new disc cutter, things have been attached to the walls so I can hang other things from them, another of those red Ikea storage drawer units.... I also replaced the small very rickety table I used to make my findings on with a proper desk which is so much better. The plant in the photo {on the shelf} couldn't cope with the cold and kept dropping it's leaves like confetti when I was soldering so it's been replaced with a cyclamen which does likes the cold. I've just about used up all the space in there on the floor and walls so I don't think I'll be adding anything else very soon. Although......

And so what will 2015 bring jewellery -wise?
My word of the moment is bronze. It's not a metal I've taken much notice of when it came to making jewellery or findings but after whipping up a few bangles using 2mm round bronze wire yesterday I was delighted with the result. The natural shiny colour of the bronze is beautiful, similar to rose gold in my opinion and nothing like that ugly yellow tone you get with brass. Apologies to any brass lovers but I just don't like it for jewellery.



{Bronze bangles in their natural shiny state - the pink colour reflected in the metal is from my bright pink camera! Must buy a silver coloured one next time.....}

I'm very much a lover of oxidized copper and silver but I do really like the colour of the bronze in it's normal shiny state. I made these bangles to find out how the bronze behaves when soldering and being shaped and hammered. I'm glad to say it's very much like copper but needs a bit less heat for soldering. I haven't attempted to oxidize it yet but I do know it takes LOS just like copper which is good to know.
After a bit of research on Etsy I've found that there's not that many people selling handmade bronze findings which got me thinking.....and ordering some 20g bronze wire!

I'm planning on adding bronze bangles and findings to my Etsy shop in the next few weeks. I'm currently having a break from my shop and website so I can catch up with things and get some new stock made. This time of year always makes me want to get organized and act on ideas I've had but never had the time to get round to actually doing. So despite the cold weather and chilly shed working conditions I'm really looking forward to what 2015 will bring


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

All Bangled Out!




Yes it really has been a bangle-tastic very busy run up to Christmas in my Etsy shop and website with my copper and silver poppy bangle sets and singles proving to be the most popular choice with my buyers. Every time I checked my emails there would be one or two more bangle orders! I don't know what was going on but it certainly kept me busy for what felt like weeks. I counted up my bangle sales and discovered I'd made 103 bangles between the 1st November and 16th December. That together with made to order findings and earring sales {the earrings already made thankfully} I was starting to feel a little bit frazzled. And I still needed to do some more Christmas shopping and start writing my Christmas cards and do the ironing and lots of other very important stuff.....

As it got nearer to the cut off dates for Christmas posting to the US and within the UK I remembered what happened last Christmas with a few buyers wondering where their items were/could I make and send their order in the same day {yes, just!} and one bangle that was frantically ordered over the phone two days before Christmas. It was a scramble but thankfully everything arrived. But I just didn't want to do that again this year so I deactivated the bangle listings in my Etsy shop on the 16th.  Then the following evening I got a message on Etsy wondering what had happened to them I explained but then gave in when the buyer politely asked if I could just do one more for him....... He was very grateful but that was definitely it and I then put my Etsy shop on holiday and removed the shopping basket from my website.
  And heaved a sigh of relief.


This silver bangle with coil decoration was another popular choice this Christmas

I had planned on closing on the 24th for a couple of weeks to have a break and make some new stuff but I started to feel that if I saw another order for bangles I might just climb up onto the roof of my shed and throw myself off. Have no doubt I am so grateful for all the sales but I really need a break!!

So now I have some time to myself. I've got my cards written and the presents bought and went out for a boozy lunch with my friend. I've done those boring chores that needed doing. I also had time to unpack a little treat I bought myself recently. It had been sitting on the dining room table for about a week while I was still in the midst of my mad bangling session. It's this.....

PepeTools Premium Disc Cutter Kit 1/8" - 1" 412-445

The Premium Pepe disc cutter. Quite expensive {say it quietly} compared to the economy versions I already own but it's a real beauty and it came with a set of centre finding punches which means I'll be able to make my own washers. I haven't got round to trying it yet but soon will!

 Even though my shop is closed I can't quite wean myself off Etsy and have been spending a bit of time on the forum reading lots of posts from sellers about their buyers complaining their item hadn't arrived yet and wanting a refund and one seller with 80 open orders two days before the cut off posting date who seemed quite chilled about it {complete madness!} I am quite happy that I can forget about all of that stuff for a while....although there is a chance I might still get an email from a buyer in America wondering if her last minute order will arrive before Christmas.....

I like this time of year as a lot of my jewellery that's been around for a while does tend to sell so it always inspires me to come up with some new designs for earrings and bangles and I also want to make more of the sgraffito enamel designs that I haven't had time to do yet and try again with resin. Having this spare time is dangerous though as I find things online that look interesting and I feel the need to try. The latest is anticlastic forming and I already have a stake and set of hammers lined up to buy "soon"........

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Sweet Charlie



A different post from usual this week and a sad one too.
This is Charlie, my lovely 17 year old cat who had to be put to sleep on Monday. He became ill at the end of last week, and after several days of not eating and hiding himself away then struggling to walk I knew that this trip to the vet would be his last.
The vet could tell straight away from his eyes and ears that he was jaundiced and probably had a growth on his liver. There was nothing the vet could do to help so Charlie was sedated and gently put to sleep. And I've cried a lot for him.
Anyone reading this who doesn't have pets probably thinks that's a bit silly, those of you who do have pets will understand I'm sure.

He was the sweetest natured cat I've ever come across, born feral but very affectionate, miaowed when he wanted brushing {he loved being brushed} and had a bit of a rubber and bleach fetish. He also liked to chew any houseplant that vaguely resembled grass. The plant in the kitchen still bears his teethmarks.

He was loved and cared for and will be missed. Thank you for sharing your life with me Charlie






Friday, 28 November 2014

Jewellery Tools - In Praise Of The Mitre Jig


Like most metalwork jewellery makers I've developed a love of the tools I use and quite enjoy a browse in any shop that sells hammers and that kind of thing to see if there's something I could use. I sometimes come home with small toolish "things" that I don't even know the name of but think they look promising for use in my shed....

One of the tools that caught my eye recently was a mitre jig. A mitre jig or jeweller's jig is a small three part piece of steel that does some pretty wonderous things in the way of making a jewellery maker's life a lot easier!
I've come across mitre jigs before {but only from a distance} and knew they were used to get straight edges and angles on things and that joiners used them but it all looked a bit complicated and technical and precise which isn't a word that always applies to how I do things. But after watching a very useful video by David Wilson via Cookson Gold on how to use a mitre jig I realized I really needed one. After seeing the price of them at Cooksons {about £55!} I looked elsewhere and bought one from Cousins UK for about £27. The only difference is the Cousin's mitre jig only has one set of knurled {good word!} nuts on the top where the Cookson's version also has one of them on either side of the jig.

Enough about knurled nuts.....so what can you do with a mitre jig? You can do lots of very useful things in the way of getting a straight edge on wire, tube and sheet. I make a lot of bangles and where I previously would file the ends straight {which in my world meant not really that straight} by bracing the wire against my bench peg and filing I now use the mitre jig...


I undo the nuts {knurled} and feed the end of the wire into the relevant sized slot on the bottom section of the jig. This is the part you use to achieve a flat, straight edge to your metal. Tighten up the nuts and you are ready to file. I rested the jig on my bench peg with the end of the wire hanging down between the V slot on the bench peg. I then held the jig with one hand and filed right to left with the other hand until the end was flush with the surface of the jig. It takes seconds and gives you nice clean straight edges making soldering and clean up easier.



Filing the metal does produce a lip which you can see in this photo making the join look a bit wavy but you'll just have to believe me when I say there was no light between the ends when I held it up to the light and when it was soldered the solder jumped into the join with glee :D


Another good use for the jig is for filing a flat section on a ring band ready for soldering on a bezel. I usually brace against my bench peg to do this but as my bench peg isn't particularly level I normally end up with a flat area that tilts to one side so end up filing it several times before it's completely level. 
Using the mitre jig as a vice you can then file off a section of the ring band quickly and it will be totally flat so no more messing about holding it up and squinting at it to see if it's level which is what I tended to do.


You can also use the mitre jig to file a straight edge on sheet metal. If you know you already have one true straight edge you simply butt the metal up to the square notch which will make sure it's at the correct 90 degree angle then you can start filing. You can also use it to straighten up the ends of bezel wire {very useful!}, rings bands, etc, etc, in fact anything that needs a straight edge.



 You can also use your jeweller's saw with the mitre jig to remove excess metal or to cut tube if you don't have a tube cutter. It's so useful and I haven't even mentioned the top slot which does exactly the same as the bottom slot but at a 45 degree angle!

The video is worth watching but I was a bit puzzled at the part where he attaches the mitre jig to the piece of wood that can then be clamped into a vice. I couldn't work out how you would use it with the wood behind it as you wouldn't be able to feed the metal through from the back.....

I'm not affiliated with Cookson Gold or Cousins UK so this wasn't written to advertise their products..... I just wanted to share what a fab tool it was! And use the word knurled several times.