Friday, 18 July 2014

Making A Copper Link Bracelet : It's A Bit Harder Than I Thought!

To make a change from making bangles I decided to make a copper link bracelet recently. Since I've learned to solder I haven't attempted one yet and thought it would be a fairly easy, quick thing to make.
It probably is if you're not me..................

I started with 2.6mm copper wire and cut several lengths in two different sizes. I annealed the wire and bent it to form rough D shapes which makes it easier to join the two ends. My first idea was to solder and shape the links into rounds, texture and finish them then cut half of them open again and resolder to link them all together. Looking at how they lay when they were linked together I then thought the wire was probably too thick for this idea and the links might not sit very well when the bracelet was worn so I now needed to think about how to join the large links together in an interesting way.........

After some time thinking design thoughts {faffing about with copper wire in other words} I came up with a link design featuring a piece of wire balled at both ends which were then hammered and the wire bent over so the hammered ends touched and could be soldered together.

Soldering the small links.
I took this photo holding the torch in one hand and my camera in the other which is why the flame is miles away from the copper link {I can only concentrate on one thing at a time!}
Once all the links were done I hammered them with my mallet to flatten and elongate them and decided that putting two together facing different directions worked quite well and made the bracelet look a bit different.

I stamped a circle design on the ends of the links too and started connecting everything together. I liked the pebble shape of the large copper links so decided to leave them as they were. I then had to think about how the bracelet would fasten. I have a strange love/hate thing with fasteners and have never enjoyed making them despite making my own findings. I decided on a simple bar/toggle style fastener for the bracelet which could fasten with the copper link on the other end of the bracelet. It was simple to make - a length of copper wire with a loop soldered in the middle.

Once the bar was made I also made a small link to attach it to the last copper link on one end of the bracelet. I carried on with the hammered ball theme and made the small link by balling the end of a piece of wire, hammering and stamping then folding the wire into an oval shape and soldering the ends together.

So once everything was a ready I could start to solder the big copper links closed.

 After soldering and pickling and before cleaning up the excess{ive} solder!
 I started cleaning up the solder with a file and emery sticks then quickly changed to the much faster method of using abrasive bullets with my Dremel! The length of the bracelet at this point is about 8.5 inches so I need to shorten it by using my mallet to make the links wider. I also hammered them to flatten slightly and added some hammer texture to parts of the links
Incidently - has anyone noticed the mistake I've made yet? I realized my mistake just as I was about to put the finished oxidized bracelet into my tumbler.
The end link is too big for the bar......................bugger! I had a few options - make another longer bar, change the shape of the end link to make it thinner but this would also make the bracelet too long, or remove the end link and replace it with a smaller one which is what I did. I also had to use my torch to remove the liver of sulphur oxidation and clean up and finish everything again.

So here's the new version with smaller end link and a shiny copper finish again. Just why did I think making a link bracelet would be quick and easy?

Here's the finished oxidized and tumbled bracelet taken on my bench with my phone camera and experimenting with different settings which is why the photos all look slightly different.

I was pleased how it turned out in the end and I've learned what to keep in mind for next time! It was a prototype of sorts so the next one I make will hopefully be a lot easier and faster to make and will probably look a bit different to this one. I will post a couple of "proper" photos of it soon.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Felt Balls, My Jewellery Shed And More Organizing

Any of you who read my blog regularly will know I moved my jewellery making stuff into a garden shed earlier this year. I'm well and truly settled in now but every so often I'm struck with how I can improve the way my shed is organized. One of the things I'm limited by is the fact it is a garden shed that's been clad so I can't just stick things up on the walls willy nilly. The cladding is attached to battens so if I want to put anything on the wall I have to screw it through the cladding and into a batten. Which obviously stops me putting things anywhere I want. This means I have to find other ways to attach things to the wall sometimes. I bought some magnetic strips on ebay a while ago with the idea of using them to hold some of my small metal tools. They also proved really useful to use with fridge magnets to hold bits of paper {all with very important things written on them of course} within easy reach when I'm working. This idea then made me think I needed some more fridge magnets and a look on ebay and Etsy and being surprised at the price of some of them made me think about making my own.

So I bought some disc magnets and combined the magnets with another thing I had a strange urge to possess for no apparent reason....... felt balls. I bought them in different colours and glued the magnets to them to make my own felt ball magnets!

The felt ball magnets that aren't being used live on my cabinet until they are needed. They are very well behaved and don't need much looking after. They do enjoy listening to a bit of the Stone Roses occasionally {quite loudly and from the 2nd album preferably}. They are quite sociable and form their own family groups although their colour coordination skills leave a lot to be desired. The two at the bottom are getting on very well.

Felt balls at work holding my print outs for orders. The magnetic strips have an adhesive strip on one side so I can stick them to the wall. You can just see a bit of the magnetic strip at the top of the paper.

These three {nice colour grouping!} normally hold up a sheet of paper that I scrawl ideas and things to do on.
Thankfully none of my cats have noticed the felt balls yet because I dread to think what would happen when a cat tries to play with felt balls with magnets attached to them.........

My slightly nomadic pliers have now found themselves a permanent home too. The problem wasn't what to put them in or on it was the lack of space available to put whatever the pliers were in or on {hope you're following this....}. They now reside on the plastic pliers holder under my work bench.

They sit in the cardboard drawer that serves to keep my emery papers under control and it works as I know exactly where to reach for when I need them! I got rid of the ledge shelf thing that came with my bench and sat on the runner you can see to the left of the pliers in the photo as it was a bit useless and got in the way of my hammers and things.

My needle files have a permanent home too - good old magnetic strips strike again! The files have made it very clear they are not prepared to share their magnetic strips with any of those weird felt balls though.........

Here's a photo I've taken of me "working" at the bench just to prove I don't spend all my time glueing little magnets to felt balls. I'm going to get round to doing my "About" page for my Etsy shop soon so took a few photos for that today.
There is a little blue felt ball in this photo though. Can you see it? 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Metal Shapes, Enamel Colours and New Earrings

The more you do it the easier it gets {unless you play football for England that is.....} That saying is definitely true when it comes to using a jeweller's saw. From really not enjoying cutting metal with a saw and using shears if it was at all possible, I now love using my saw and wielded it almost like a pro {almost} to cut out some cute shapes recently.

 I'd downloaded a lot of shape silhouettes from a graphics site that had a 7 day free trial a couple of weeks ago and I chose a frame shape and a five petal flower shape to start with. I resized the shapes in Word then printed them out and stuck them onto the metal. The flower shape was a bit trickier that the frame shape but I got there eventually.
I domed the flowers and bezel set a London Blue topaz cabochon in the centre. It's the first time I've used the LB topaz and I must say it is a beautiful sky blue stone. Keeping with the blue theme I set turquoise and sodalite cabochons on the copper "frame" earrings and did another new thing which was to solder the hanging loops closed on the earwires on both pairs for added security.

Continuing with the shape theme I was asked recently if I could do a square version of my enamelled discs for a customer who had a necklace made from green enamel squares and wanted to make herself a pair of earrings to match.

The copper squares cut and holes punched.


Counter enamelling done and the first two squares given their colourful enamel coats in lichen green

Finished! Mint, lichen and pea green :D

I have new colours! Thompson enamels from EnamelSupply in Denmark {not the speediest of service but faster than ordering from the US}
The new colours include opaques in willow green, mauve purple and bitter green which is a shade I've seen used and really liked but have only just gotten round to ordering and transparents in geranium pink and woodrow red which I'll need to wash if I want to use on top of an opaque. I also topped up with seafoam green which is a lovely colour and very popular. 

I can feel an enamelling session coming on.......

Friday, 13 June 2014

Copper Bangle With Ceramic Bead Tutorial

I've been meaning to make some copper bangles with ceramic beads for a while now. I bought some pretty pinkish and green ceramic beads a while ago and they've sat in my bead box patiently waiting for their moment of glory. It has now arrived!
I decided to photograph how I made the bangles in the hope it will inspire someone/anyone to have a go. It's an easy project and as long as you use ceramic or lampwork beads or anything that has been kiln annealed you should find the beads behave themselves during soldering and don't explode.

The most important thing to consider before you start is to make sure your bead hole is big enough for the wire you are going to use. The holes in these pink ceramic beads were a little bit smaller than the 2mm wire I used so I made them bigger using a round needle file. I tried various methods for enlarging the hole - using a drill bit and ball burr with my Dremel but they didn't do a lot so I stuck with using the file.

Form and solder a bangle as normal - I made the diameter slightly bigger than the normal diameter for a medium sized bangle to allow for the bead. Shape and texture the bangle to the finish you want. If you hammer texture leave a gap over the the solder join as it will be easier to clean up the join after resoldering. Use a saw to cut through the solder join.

Use your bracelet mandrel and mallet to shape the bangle so there's some overlap at the ends - this creates  some tension when you put the ends together and helps to make a better join for resoldering.

Open up the bangle sideways so you don't distort the shape and slide the bead onto one end. Slide the bead round so it sits opposite the join and manipulate the two ends so the join is tight. Soak in pickle for a few minutes. The beads are unaffected by the pickle.

I find the 2mm gauge wire is prone to moving as it's hard to get much tension to hold the join firmly together so I use T-pins to hold it in place. I put the honeycomb board on top of a fibreboard block as I can push the pins through the holes in the top block and then into the fibreboard underneath. This way is much less messy than just using the fibreboard block on it's own!
Keep the bead opposite the join and hanging over the edge of the soldering block at the back. Solder as normal keeping the flame near the join and away from the bead. Allow to cool naturally as quenching could cause the bead to crack. Once cool pickle and rinse.

File and sand the join taking care not to push the bangle out of shape.

Once the join is cleaned up you need to texture the area over the join to match the rest of the bangle. Use the bracelet mandrel but hold the bangle so the bead isn't in contact with the mandrel as you texture over the join. You'll probably find the bangle has gone out of round slightly as you've resoldered and cleaned up the join. You can use the mandrel to reshape the bangle but again keep the bead away from the mandrel. I hold the bangle at a higher point than normal on the mandrel so the bead isn't touching the mandrel and use my mallet to shape the bangle as I turn it to get it as round as I can. You can also tweak it with your fingers. Thicker gauge wire is likely to hold it's round shape much better.

Use a mallet and steel block to flatten the bangle keeping the bead hanging over the edge to prevent it breaking. This will also help to work harden the wire.

Use a pan scourer and washing up liquid to remove any grease from the bangle then oxidize in liver of sulphur. Clean up with wire wool. Tumble to polish and work harden. I tumbled these bangles for over an hour which didn't affect the ceramic beads at all.

A simple project but I hope it's proved interesting! My next quest is to find some larger hole ceramic beads to use with thicker gauge wire. A good excuse to go shopping!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Give It A Twist - New Copper Bangles

One of my favourite jewellery makers to watch on YouTube is Soham Harrison. His calm manner and straightforward explanations make him very easy to watch. He posts new videos regularly and I caught up with some of them a while ago.
One of the videos showed how to make twisted bangles using round wire. I make a lot of bangles in copper and silver so I'm always on the lookout for new ideas and I really liked the look of them.

They are very easy to make and basically involve annealing a length of round wire before flattening three sections of it using a rolling mill or hammer. You then anneal the wire again, fix one end into a vice and grip the other end in locking pliers and twist. The whole piece of wire turns creating twists in the flattened sections. You then cut the wire to length and make a bangle as usual. A really simple idea with very pretty results!

Here's a few I made......

...with a single twist. This was my first practice bangle with just one twist and the wire left round but given a hammered textured with the round end of the ball pein hammer.

A triple twist bangle with two hammered textured bangles.

Triple twist bangles that I will be selling singly.

I'm currently in the middle of making a pair of copper twist hoop earrings with one twisted section at the bottom. You can see I'm really getting into the twist thing! I'll photograph those as soon as they're finished.

I'm also very pleased to announce that I've finally worked out how to use locking pliers correctly. I always thought you had to tighten the screw all the way for them to work and then wondered why they didn't grip anything properly when I did it that way. Now I know you tighten the screw just enough to be able to squeeze the handles closed and then they will grip things perfectly! {I had to watch a video on YouTube to figure that one out, oh dear :D}

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Add A Customized Search Box To Your Blog

Photo courtesy of Francesco S on Flickr

I thought recently how useful it would be to be able to search a blog to find posts that interest me and apart from the blog archive in the sidebar I didn't know how I could do this. Then I noticed the search box gadget on Blogger. Is this new? I've only just noticed it but knowing my powers of observation it's probably been there for quite a while!

So I added it. And was a bit underwhelmed to be honest. It's a search box that works's grey and just a bit boring. It didn't fit in with my blog either. I like tweaking my blog and enjoy customizing things to make it look a bit more interesting and colourful. So the grey search box didn't stay for long.

No, I added a customized version.

You can see it up there.

 It's quite nice isn't it? I think so anyway and it fits in with the rest of my blog.
Here's the code for it courtesy of Tweak Peak. It's fairly simple to do - just copy the code and add it to the HTML "Add a gadget" in Blogger. 
Tweak Peak has added some changes you can make to the code to alter the search bar in various ways too, such as text size, border thickness and colours. 

One thing I could not do though was to change the colour of the search box text no matter how many times I tried. The default colour is grey which I didn't like so I deleted the text altogether and made my own text graphic in Paint Shop Pro which I then uploaded to Photobucket. I then added the html code for the graphic to the beginning of the search box code and now I have my own tweaked search box {that works!} Anyone wanting to read more posts about a particular thing I've posted about previously just need to add their search words to the box and press Go! and up comes a page with the relevant posts.

I did find a really nice search box on another site but soon realized that while it looked great it didn't actually work......