Wednesday, 20 August 2014

My First Torch Enamel Project In Making Jewellery Magazine!

Issue 71 of Making Jewellery magazine comes out today {21st Aug} featuring lots of fab projects including my first torch enamel project for a magazine. I've done several wirework step-by-steps for Bead magazine in the past but never anything involving enamel so it was a treat to do it.

I was emailed by Sian the editior of Making Jewellery a few months ago asking if I'd like to contribute a project. I said yes {of course!} then immediately wondered if I was going to be asked to make a wirework piece. I don't make much wirework jewellery these days so was really pleased to be told I could do a project using torch enamelling as they hadn't had any torch enamelling projects in the magazine before.  

After finding out the theme for the issue was going to be "autumn" I decided to go for a copper leaf enamelled in a blend of lovely autumn-ish colours and made a pendant as the main piece and a pair of earrings and bangle charm as the two "extras".

That isn't a photograph of me by the way! {I think it's Abby Clancy, I was busy that day.....}

I took some photos of the pieces I made before sending them off to the magazine to be photographed and made a collage......... because I like making collages :D

I was pleased to see Kristen, a fellow jewellery maker whose blog K S Jewellery Designs I follow, also has a project in this issue! She went with the leaf theme too and made a very pretty silver and bead wirework necklace and pendant.
It's nice to be in good company!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Enamel Experimenting And Gold!!

This week I have mostly been playing with enamel. 
I've been wanting to try using wire to create "cells" along the lines of cloisonne but nowhere near as exact {or skilled}.... no, I went for a slightly more rustic approach and used 16g {1.2mm} copper wire which I formed into jump rings then placed onto the partly fired second layer of opaque enamel and fired until the rings were fused into the enamel.

I pickled the copper rings beforehand to make sure they were nice and clean before placing on the enamel. I wanted them to stand a bit proud as I was then going to fill them with wet enamel.

I filled the rings with wet enamel then let the enamel dry naturally before firing.

They worked ok. There was some firescale on the surface of the enamel that pinged off the copper wire as it cooled but I think that adds to the rustic style. Next time I might try a thinner gauge wire but I do like the texture it gives the enamel in my first attempts.

I also spent some time teaching my friend Nicki how to torch enamel. She enjoyed herself and a few hours later went home with these pretties.

No, I haven't gone all Spandau Ballet on you, I'm referring to the simple gold studs I made recently after an order for gold ball earwires didn't go quite as planned. A customer asked if I could make her some gold ball earwires and I said yes of course I can and ordered the 9ct yellow gold wire. When I started to ball up the wire I discovered that it doesn't like balling up very much and quite a bit of it just shrivelled and turned black. I managed to get three out of the ordered five pairs of earwires made which my customer was happy with and then refunded the difference for the missing two pairs. 
Which left me with lots of mangled looking gold wire and a slightly annoyed feeling because I was quite a lot out of pocket..........until my brain clicked into gear and I remembered I have a rolling mill! Meaning I can melt the gold wire and put it through the rolling mill to make a small piece of gold sheet that I can then do things with!
So that's what I did and after adding a leaf vein texture to the gold sheet I made three pairs of simple studs.....

The studs have sterling silver posts and scrolls as I wasn't going to go as far as buy gold versions and gold solder. I'm very much still a silver girl at heart  
I still have a tiny amount of gold left so watch out for a silver pendant with a small gold ball somewhere about its person coming soon{ish}!

Friday, 8 August 2014

New Etched Copper Findings

I decided to put my shops on holiday last Saturday for two weeks which obviously means I'm on holiday too! It's nice to have a break from made to order findings and bangles and just have time to potter and to relax and think about all the stuff I need to do without having anything that must to be done by a certain date for posting.

I do have lots of things I want to do jewellery and shops/website wise and I am slowly getting round to them. I'm also spending some time doing another thing I enjoy - buying things online! I saw some Ball mason jars on Etsy and just had to have one of them. They were looking so nice as vases, candle containers and painted in pastel colours then sanded for a vintage look that I completely bought into the "I need one but I don't really know why, they're just glass jars...but they're so pretty!" reasoning..... After lots of searching {all part of the fun} I found a UK site called where you can buy the mason jars in singles for £4.99. And so I bought three of the blue version...........


I haven't filled them with an artistic arrangement of wild flowers/stuck a tealight in them or painted them with eggshell paint yet. They are just sitting in my shed, but looking very sweet as they do it, waiting for me to have a "I know what I can do with them!" moment.....

Apart from internet shopping I did also get some copper etching done. I was out of etched copper findings in my Etsy shop so I spent a pretty sweaty afternoon in the shed getting annoyed because my black Stazon ink had dried up and the brown one I had was too wet. I left it uncovered in the sun for a while and it's fine now. The results of my labour in a shed that felt like a sauna it was so hot are in the photo at the top. I used a swirly detailed Indian style stamp on most of the shapes and a leaf design on some copper oval shapes I had which I love the look of :D

Medium and small size etched copper discs

Small leaf shapes with the same Indian pattern stamp design

Handmade copper washers with slightly off centre holes {still good for dangling though!} with the same Indian style design

And my favourites - the leaf stamp design on copper ovals. 
It was nice to get that job done. I have some new earrings designs in the making including some gold {yes gold!} stud earrings and I'm going to do some experimenting with enamelling too.
'Til next time.....

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Experimenting With Copper Wire Solder

I recently had a query through my website about copper wire solder asking if I could give any tips on using it. Apparently it is very hard to cut and it wasn't flowing properly when heated. I do a lot of copper soldering and as I've only read about copper paste solder and never actually tried the paste or the wire I thought it would be a good idea to get some and give it a try myself!

The copper wire solder is available on ebay and Amazon and is fairly inexpensive. I bought 2 ft of 18g {1mm} hard solder for £1.98 plus postage. It looks very much like copper wire as you can see from the photo above but it is very hard to cut. It's recommended that you use memory wire cutters to cut it but I didn't want to fork out £15 at Hobbycraft so I used the DIY store heavy duty metal snips I sometimes use to cut thicker sheet.

I could have done with Hercules himself to help me to be honest but I did manage to cut a couple of small pieces of the wire solder that immediately pinged off on their own little journey into the unknown {landing somewhere in my shed in other words}. I'd recommend cutting the solder wire inside a plastic bag so you can catch the pieces :D

So I decided not to bother cutting the solder wire and soldered a practice bangle of 2mm copper wire by just touching the end of the solder wire to the join when the copper was the right temperature.

I've never soldered this way before so did end up with a bit too much solder on the join but the wire solder flowed easily. Some websites say you don't need to use flux with the copper wire solder but I used it anyway out of habit.

This photo shows the soldered join a bit more clearly. A couple of small balls formed as I was soldering which popped to reveal a lighter colour. You can see one of them on the top to the left side where there is a slightly lighter round area.

This is the join after pickling. The colour of the solder is a pretty good match to the bright copper colour of the wire but you can see the darker spot where the ball of solder popped to the left of the join.

So being me, who doesn't like to see excess solder on joins, I decided to file the join to see "what lies beneath"...

And I was a bit disappointed to see a thin grey line appear as I filed the excess copper solder away. There are two other grey patches on the copper bangle where I haven't cleaned all of the solder off. It's such a shame the copper colour of the solder is just a thin coating on top of a dirty grey colour. It would make me worry that leaving the solder join as it was then hammering a bangle may end up with patches of grey showing through the copper coloured solder in the join area. That's an experiment for another day.

Next I experimented with the copper wire solder and how it took to being oxidized with liver of sulphur.

I flowed some of the copper wire solder onto a piece of copper then pickled it.

Pickling shows up some grey areas within the solder which made me wonder if it would oxidize ok.

After dipping in liver of sulphur.
 I washed the copper first with Fairy Liquid and water and as you can see it oxidized evenly.

After cleaning up with steel wool.
 The area of copper covered in the copper wire solder oxidized really well and the colour match with the bare copper after cleaning up is excellent I'd say.

So............will I change to using copper solder?  At this time I don't think so. I'm a neat freak who likes to tidy up solder joins where possible as they can be a bit lumpy and spoil the look of the piece and the neat thin line of silver you get with silver solder looks infinitely better than the neat thin line of dirty grey you get with copper solder on a cleaned up join. I do think it has it's uses though - jump rings for one - as the colour match is very good as long as you don't break the surface of the solder.
I will get round to testing what happens when the solder is hammered and report back soon {ish}.
Til next time......

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Garden Greenery And New Enamel Earrings

It's a bit of a colour explosion on my blog this week - courtesy of enamels and the wonderful world of plants.

I've been flexing my sawing arm and produced these frame/moroccan style shapes from copper sheet which I then enamelled in a blast of green and turquoise opaque and transparent enamels.

I also cut some {much simpler} drop shapes that I enamelled in a mix of foxglove purple, mauve and bitter green. The last two colours are recent purchases and I love them! 

A couple of days ago I used my phone camera to take some quick snaps of my "garden" which is a really a small back yard {now even smaller thanks to my jewellery shed} which has a few pots in it. The plants are looking nice at the moment so I thought I'd capture them then play around with the photos on Fotor......

Beautiful nasturtium leaves - no flowers {or blackfly} yet but I do love their shape and the pattern of the veins.

Pretty pink geranium flowers

An osteospermum with a beautiful moth taking a rest on it's petals. It looks a bit like I've added the moth afterwards but it really was there.
Here's a close up of the moth...

I think that's enough of the flora and fauna for now, much as I love it. Here's a couple of photos of my cat Tuppence helping herself to some tuna straight from the can. She was too impatient to wait for me to put it in her dish. The photos are a bit blurred as I was laughing and they were taken at night so the light is bad.....

Til next time......

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.