Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Having Fun With A Tucker Tool Shot Plate

I first came across these cool Tucker Tool dies in a Soham Harrison video on YouTube a while ago and immediately loved the decorative balls you could make with them. Then I realized you could only get them from the US and they were a bit hard to get hold of. seemed to be permanently out of stock and another site I found that stocked them didn't reply to my email asking if they posted to the I sort of forgot about it for a while.

Then I noticed did have them back in stock and in a moment of over-indulgence ordered one knowing full well the postage was going to be quite high and that I'd have import VAT plus Parcel Force's stupidly high {even higher than Royal Mail's} handling charge on top. So it worked out to be a pretty expensive bit of metal.

You may have noticed the scratches on the plate in the didn't arrive like that - they were caused by me and a ball burr. But more of that later.

I started by melting some bronze scrap into balls and merrily hammered the first one in one of the holes on the shot plate.

It got stuck....
 So I tried using a fine silver ball to see if that worked any better. That got stuck too. It's recommended that you hammer a nail set or something similar into the back to prise the ball out. I used a centre punch but it wouldn't grip the metal and came out again. I hammered it in again and again but it just wouldn't stick into the metal. I then cut the excess off with a saw {which is why the back is flush with the plate in the photo} and tried heating the whole plate in the hope the silver and bronze would soften and I'd be able to get it out that way. That didn't work either. 

I was now beginning to think this purchase may have been a very expensive mistake! I decided to have another go and yes that ball got stuck too! 

                        The two holes in the back of it are from the centre punch in an attempt to get it out.

 My next attempt did work. The bronze ball was a bit mishaped to begin with which is why it's not perfect and there's a bit of a dent in the top but I'm just grateful it worked!

 I didn't hammer it as hard this time and it came out all by itself. I tried adding a bit of oil to the plate to help and things did improve as I got used to how hard and how many times to hammer the balls. I did manage to produce a few in bronze and fine silver that are usable. 

Then I watched a great YouTube video by Leslie Villarreal that shows how to use the shot plate and how to get the bloody balls out afterwards - I really wish she'd posted it a couple of weeks ago :D 

After watching it I feel more confident in what I'm doing and will have my oil and nail set ready for action next time I have a go!

Copyright © 2015 Cinnamon Jewellery. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015


The week before last I spent a few days in lovely Northumberland. I have relatives who live in Ashington {about 18 miles from Newcastle} and although I wish we didn't live at opposite ends of the country it is nice to be able to visit such a beautiful part of the UK to see them.

One of the places I wanted to visit was Seaham in neighbouring County Durham, as it's a beach that's known for its sea glass. It's about half an hour from Ashington and the first thing we saw when we arrived was a beautiful steel sculpture of a WW1 soldier called Tommy on the seafront. It's by Ray Lonsdale and shows the soldier reflecting on the sheer horror of World War One shortly after peace is declared.

The detail and texture is stunning and the rust coloured patina reminds me of the Angel of The North. It was originally meant to be a temporary installation but the residents of Seaham raised money so they could keep it there permanently.

So.......the seaglass. Well I wasn't expecting to leave with a bucket load but I didn't find a lot of seaglass and definitely none of the gorgeous coloured stuff you see if you Google Seaham sea glass!
There are several beaches at Seaham and we tried two of them but I just found a handful of small but still lovely pieces. I managed to find more glass on the beach at Whitley Bay in about 20 minutes than I found at Seaham in a couple of hours. The Seaham glass is more rounded and pebble like compared to the Whitley Bay glass though.

Seaham sea glass. I did find one small yellow piece and some mint and yellow milk glass.

Flatter and less smoothed Whitley Bay sea glass. The pebble with the hole was found at Seaham. The hole is definitely man-made but how old it is I just don't know.

I also found this...

I first thought it was fossilised "worms" but after a bit of investigating on Google I discovered it's fossilised coral.

We also visited the Northumbrian Hedgehog Rescue Trust where my uncle volunteers one morning a week. He helps to clean out the cages and weigh the hedgehogs. I've never been as close up to one before!

Uncle Barry not smiling...I'm sure the hedgehog is though... 

We also visited Durham where we wandered around the shops for a while then went into the cathedral. 

You weren't allowed to take photos inside unfortunately but I noticed some of the columns were made of a black stone full of fossils and were beautiful. I've since found out it's Frosterley Marble, a black limestone similar to this photo.

Photo: Iain Biggs

We also drove up to Kelso in the Scottish borders, ate 99's and a mountain of fish, chips and mushy peas. I'd been looking for some fudge to bring back with me and hadn't managed to find any until we got to Newcastle train station on my way back home where there were a few stalls selling handmade stuff and fudge! It was made by a company called The Northumbrian Fudge Parlour and I tried the Chocolate and Caramel flavour. It was the most delicious fudge I've ever tasted. Sadly they don't seem to sell online or I would have put in a bulk order!

Copyright © 2015 Cinnamon Jewellery. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

New Torch Enamel Project In Making Jewellery Magazine

I was on holiday last week but just before I went away to the land of beautiful sandy beaches and castles - Northumberland in other words - I had another step-by-step torch enamel project in issue 81 of Making Jewellery!

The magazine came out on May 28 and this time the theme for our projects was "tropical".

I decided to go for a colourful combination of orange and seafoam opaque enamel colours and make a hoop style earring with turquoise jasper bead decoration on the earwires. As we have to provide three pieces I also made another pair of earrings with turquoise jasper dangles and a pendant with {you've guessed it!} turquoise jasper bead links.

I've done a few projects for magazines now but I still get a little thrill every time I see one of my projects finished and published!

Copyright © 2015 Cinnamon Jewellery. All rights reserved.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

It's Been A Bit Of A Bronze Week

I managed to get a couple of pairs of bronze earrings finished last week that I photographed at the weekend and I also had a custom order for some bronze stacking bangles so it definitely has been a bit of a bronze week.

The bronze stud earrings above are made by melting bronze wire into pebbles then flattening the pebbles to create off-round and oval organic-looking shapes. After forming them into concave bowl shapes I tidied up the edges then paired them up and soldered them together with a fine silver ball for decoration and contrast.

I oxidized these then cleaned them up a fair bit so the dark areas are just in the crevices.

I also made some simple oval bronze earrings with an etched pattern and a turquoise jasper bead added to the earwires for a bit of colour.

I still find bronze a bit unpredictable compared to copper where liver of sulphur is concerned but I do love the golden brown colour you get when it does behave nicely and oxidize evenly :D

I also made a set of skinny bronze bangles with stamped letter disc dangles.

These were for a custom order and the initials stand for the names of the customers children. Not my usual thing as stamping letters in a straight line isn't a natural gift for me {!} but I can manage one letter!

I'm planning on making a set of leaf vein texture bangles using flattened 3.5mm {7g} wire very soon. My bronze bangle selection is a bit limited at the moment and needs more variety and as I'm getting more used to working with bronze and it's little quirks I feel a lot more confident in adding a few new designs. Watch this space!

Copyright © 2015 Cinnamon Jewellery. All rights reserved.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

New Copper Bangles - Stamped Designs And Leaf Vein Texture

My recent sterling silver bangle-fest where I made quite a lot of silver bangles for hallmarking in various designs made me want to make something similar in copper. I really enjoyed making the stamped silver bangles on the right in this photo...

I hadn't done any stamping for a while and it reminded me how much I like doing it. When I say stamping I mean creating patterns from mostly circle and line stamps rather than the inspiring words/phrases/childrens names that are so popular. I can't stamp letters in a straight line and making that style of jewellery has never appealed to me at all. So I stick to making patterns.

I also made three copper bangles with a leaf vein texture using leaf skeletons. I used some 4mm {6g} round copper wire which I annealed then ran through the rolling mill a few times to flatten it.

After annealing the flattened wire again I ran it through the rolling mill with the leaf skeletons, holding them in place with my fingers as they go through. I left a gap between each leaf skeleton for a bit of contrast on the bangle and I reused the leaf skeletons as you only flatten a part of them as they go through the rollers.

The wire was now pretty wavy in both directions so I annealed it again and used my mallet and steel block to flatten and straighten it. You need to do this in order to get a straight cut on the ends.

I then cut the wire to the right length for medium size bangles and used my mitre block and file to make sure the edges were straight for the join.

Using a mitre block gives you lovely straight edges on your join making soldering very easy.

After soldering the bangles I rounded them on the mandrel, sanded the join and checked they were the right size.

I decided to add a few silver balls to one of the bangles. The gaps I'd left on the copper between the leaf vein texture were ideal places for the balls.

I prefer to apply flux and heat it to dry it first before I add anything else. Once the flux is dry I placed the solder and balls in position and soldered them on. That way I didn't have to fiddle with repositioning things that had moved due to the flux bubbling.

After pickling I sanded the inside of the bangles then cleaned up the outside with steel wool.

Then they went in the LOS {of course!}I haven't had chance to photograph them properly yet but I took a couple of quick photos in my shed after they came out of the tumbler.

I textured the stamped bangles in the rolling mill with sandpaper before stamping the copper. The stamped designs took a while to do but I enjoyed making up the patterns.
 Did I tell you I had a thing for circles?......

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Friday, 1 May 2015

An Eventful Morning And Silver Bangles For Hallmarking

What was supposed to be a quick half hour trip out in the car yesterday morning to post an order and pop into Tesco turned into an hour and a half and ended with me walking home........

As I turned into the car park at Tesco the car made a very loud bang and there was the smell of burning rubber. After checking under the car and staring at the engine for a bit - I had no idea what I was looking for but it seemed like the right thing to do - I ended up at the garage via a nice roadside recovery van man being asked if I'd gone over a pothole. I hadn't when it happened but all the other potholes that I hadn't managed to avoid in the past had obviously done their worst and cracked the front coil springs. I must have hit a little bump or something and the springs both snapped causing the car body to drop onto the tyres at the front. Luckily the tyres weren't damaged. I was really impressed with the service I received and the speed that everything was fixed and I now know what coil springs do...... :)

Anyway...enough waffle about cars and that sort of stuff. I mentioned in my last post that I was in the middle of making some thicker gauge sterling silver bangles that would be sent off for hallmarking. I've been a bit reluctant to make heavier sterling items because of all sorts of things - the higher cost, the faff of having to get them hallmarked and how complicated the hallmarking pricing system was but as you can see from the photo I've now got over that! Some help from fellow jewellery maker Claire of Dragonfly Lane has made me see it's nothing to worry about and the London Assay Office has simplified the pricing for hallmarking which also helps.

I've made 18 bangles of various designs and even got my stamps out! They aren't completely finished yet as some of them will be oxidized once they've been hallmarked but it was really enjoyable just making new things without any limitations in weight or design. I'll be sending them off next week and then avidly waiting for them to get back to me so I can see what the hallmarks look like. That might sound silly to some people but I'm sure there's a lot of jewellery makers who understand my excitement at seeing those small but very important stamped marks on my jewellery for the first time.

Copyright © 2015 Cinnamon Jewellery. All rights reserved.