Porcelain and Bronze Make Jewelry

I’ve been fooling around with colored porcelain components for a while, and usually make them into pendants or earrings.   Here’s my first ring which might not be a practical application, but it was fun to try.  The metal is bronze, my current favorite.

diagramI decided to go with a prong setting in bronze.    The basic diagram (not to scale) is above.  I cut a piece of wire, soldered it closed with hard solder and shaped it with a round mandrel. Then  I laid out the prongs in the 2, 4, 8, and 10 O’clock positions and soldered them on with hard solder.  (The red dotted line is an estimate of the size of my ceramic focal  so I could be sure that I cut the prongs long enough.)    Then I cut, shaped and filed the shank and soldered it on with  medium  solder.   Here’s a tutorial that shows something similar to what I did.

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I cleaned up the ring and bent the prongs around the focal so I could measure where to cut them before balling them with a torch,

 

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I didn’t use easy solder on the ring because I didn’t want to detach a prong when I balled it.
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Shaping the prongs around the focal and making sure it is centered on the ring
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I tapped the prongs very lightly with a hammer to tighten them.
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View from underneath
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Definitely not a ring for everyday wear!

I now have a small kiln that fires to cone 6, so I expect to be making more ceramic components in the future.

A Cheap and Easy-to-Make Jump Ring Tool

I have been on a quest for an inexpensive and easy method for making jump rings. I like to make my own so I can choose whatever metal, gauge, and type of wire I need at any given time. Sometimes I cut jump rings with flush cutters, but I always find myself filing the ends. I like my unsoldered rings to look soldered to the untrained eye and for me, this means I have to saw them.

I made myself a jump ring cutting jig a few years  ago.  I like that it’s portable but I struggle to find a  comfortable way to hold the jump rings in place while I saw.  Sometimes my hand cramps and if I’m interrupted or my saw blade catches or breaks, it’s difficult to pick up sawing on the same line,  since this method has you sawing from the inside of the coil.  (If you have trouble using a jig like this, try turning it backwards so you can hold the coil snug with your thumb as you saw. See picture below. This worked well for me for awhile.)

Sawing with commercial jig

 

I needed a better solution. I watched a ton of videos on cutting jump rings: I watched videos where people held their coils in miter vises, like this one. I haven’t had much luck with vises. My coil slips around and I am afraid of crushing the coil if I tighten the jaws of the vise  too much.

I watched videos on using jump ring cutting pliers.  Not a good solution for me.  To cut jump rings with this method,  you have to hold the pliers at an angle with one hand, and support them on a little rod that protrudes from the bottom while you saw with the other hand. I would have a hard time sawing like this.

I saw some wonderful YouTube videos including this one on how to make a jump ring cutter. by Pocket 83.   I found it particularly inspiring because Mr. Pocket (or is it Mr, 83?) explains why he takes every step and does not assume knowledge. I was considering trying to make a variation of his cutter until I saw this video by Elizabeth Honeysett who demonstrates  cutting the jump rings off a wooden dowel.  That got my attention. I could do that! But not before I made some modifications.

First, I needed my cutting mechanism to remain stationary. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to use a wonky, wobbly tool. (sharing a bed with a fidgeter runs a close second.)

Elizabeth’s dowel-cutting method addressed my second requirement: I needed to be able to see what I was doing, which means cutting the rings from the outside.

Third, I needed an easy way to push the coils up to the saw in a manner  that did not cramp my hands, and allowed me to concentrate on the sawing.  I made a  few different tools based on the dowel cutting method.  I am sharing the best one with you.

The  tool is simply a dowel with a large washer that enables you to push the coil up to the saw as you cut the rings. The washer gives you something larger to grip and you can easily compress the coils so the individual rings stay in place as you saw until you move them up the dowel to meet the saw blade at diagonal cutting point.   The rings are easy to control and you can see what you are doing.

Experiment number 2-note dowel is in a vise

I secured my dowel in a vise when I first tried this method.  Don’t.  I found that the act of sawing made the dowel constantly change position. Aggravating!  A shorter dowel didn’t  help. I simply could not get the vise tight enough to keep the dowel in place  for the whole sawing operation.

Wood dowel in vise shiftingdowel

The solution was simple. I ditched the vise in favor of two household clamps that hold the dowel like a rock.  Find a clamp or two that works for you.

Success clamp not vise

The tool is a snap to make.  Grab a wood dowel in the diameter you need,  drill a hole one one end so you can secure the wire for winding, and cut a diagonal notch on the other end to guide your saw blade.

Wind your coil tightly around the dowel and trim off the end in the hole so you can move the coil on the dowel.

Position the washer behind the coils and begin to saw into the top of the coil on the diagonal using the notch as a guide.   Use the washer to gently push the coil and keep it snug  as each ring is cut through and falls off the dowel.  Lubricating your saw blade really helps.

Experiment number 2 sawing

The modified dowel works pretty well.  No more fighting to control my tools and materials.

SawingJR from Dowel 2
Sawed jump rings falling off the dowel
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The finished product

While there are faster and more efficient ways to make jump rings. (Jump ringer, jump ring making tool) the modified dowel method is  an easy, inexpensive option.  Dowels and washers come in so many sizes that you won’t be limited.  And now that you know an easy way to saw round jump rings, what about oval jump rings?  They’re harder to make because  oval coils like to twist and change position.  But I think I’ve  found a solution.   Coming up in a later post.

Some Great Articles and Videos on Finishing Metal Jewelry

Andy Cooperman wrote a terrific series of articles on how to use the flex shaft which you can read here.

And there is a great series of how-to videos from Martha Glennie who is a professor at George Brown University in Canada. 14 videos on cover every aspect of finishing metal jewelry. You’ll want to watch them all.

 

 

What’s on my Table

The days are flying by. We are now into week five of social distancing and I could use some nice warm weather and some sunshine. I have been working on the family genealogy and sharing what I find with family members on a Facebook page we set up for that purpose. I read David Copperfield and my new life goal is to be as wise as Betsey Trotwood. I ordered some Fairy Lights to brighten up my basement workshop. The Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild had its first online meeting and it went so well we are going to continue. I am baking bread having had the foresight to order 40 pounds of winter wheat berries (and two pounds of baker’s yeast by mistake; I could start a black market business) which arrived before the pandemic.

Here’s what’s on my work table right now:

I thought it would be fun to combine galvanized steel wire with vintage Swarovski crystals. I love making funky asymmetrical chains and I have a bunch of gorgeous crystals from old necklaces I snatched up at house sales. This is what I have so far:

I like the look, but I have to get motivated to to more. Here are some polymer beads. I am waiting for them to talk to me and tell me what they want to be (and if they want to be back filled first.)

polymer

I have been experimenting with different methods of cutting jump rings.  I prefer sawing to cutting because I always have to spend time cleaning up the ones I’ve cut, even though I use good flush cutters.  Too fussy I guess.  But sawing has its own problems.    For a long time I was using a jump ring jig I made myself.

jrholder

The problem is how to hold the coils in place as you saw them.  The jig I made was small enough that I could hold the coils with my thumb as I sawed.

Here’s one great solution-using a wedge of wood rather than your fingers to hold the coils in place as you saw.

But there are other ways of sawing perfect jump rings and I continue to search them out.  I will share my favorites here.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Bohemian Style Bracelets

 

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I learn more stuff from blogging than I ever would have guessed.  Case in point: I am obsessed with the trendy bohemian style.  I know that the region known as Bohemia is in Central Europe.  I know that people labeled “bohemian” in this country are supposed to be individualistic, eccentric, artsy-fartsy and have a flamboyant sense of style.

 

BohoB (5)What I did not know is that the hippy, beatnik bohemians got the name from the French who associated with this type of personality and style with Gypsies to wit, the “roving Romani people they called “bohemians” because they were believed to have arrived from Bohemia.” (Think La boheme). We don’t know there the Romani people originated, but medieval French referred to the Romanies as Egyptiens from which we get the English word Gypsy.

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So, to recap, a real Bohemian is likely to be Czech.  An individualistic, eccentric, artsy-fartsy person with a  flamboyant sense of style is a bohemian and would have probably been known as a romani (small “r” because not referring to an ethnic group)if people had been more familiar with geography.  But hey!  There have been periods in European history where people went to bed in one country and woke up in another. (If they were lucky enough to wake up.  Watch this video to see what I mean.)

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I am fascinated with bohemian-style jewelry and the opportunities it gives for layering chains and ribbon and cloth and metal with charms, beads and Milagros.  For these bracelets I have pulled out some ceramic beads I made years ago and have combined them with lamp worked and polymer beads and other components I have had lying around waiting to be used.

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You can add as much or as little wire work as your like and make custom clasps that integrate nicely with the designs. For a tutorial on making the clasps you see in these bracelets press here.

And last but not least, two links to share:  my favorite blog for all things bohemian style, ThatBohemianGirl.  And here’s a find!  Watch Lynne Merchant demonstrate how to make a perfect wire spiral here. 

A New Spoon Bracelet

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Bracelet

I’ve had spoon parts banging around in my  leftovers box ever since I made  some earrings  from the end of the spoon handles.  “Too short for  bracelets,” I told myself.   Then one day, just fooling around,  I put one of the spoons through the rolling mill to see how  how it looked. Interesting but still too short for a bracelet.

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I threw the piece in with a batch of copper scraps and rusty pieces and it sat for a few more months until one day I decided to apply a  verdigris-like patina on the bowl part.    I liked how it looked.  I had to make it into something now!  Even though it was still too short for a bracelet, I knew it was meant to be  a bracelet.  So here’s what I did:

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I drilled a hole in the tip of the spoon bowl, in the middle of the spoon bowl and on the end of what remained of the handle.  Then I  balled the end of two pieces of 14 gauge copper wire.  I dropped one of the pieces of wire through the hole of a drill bit gauge with the balled end sticking out of the hole.  I hammered the end flat and sanded it smooth .  I repeated this with the other wire.  Then I used a plastic mallet and a bracelet mandrel to hammer the spoon and handle into an oval bracelet-like shape.    I cut one of the pieces of wire to about 1 and one half inches and flattened the other end and filed the tip smooth. Then I  threaded it from the back of the bracelet through the hole in the tip of the spoon and used a pair of round nosed pliers to shape a clasp.

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I  fashioned the two pieces of figaro chain and jump rings  to  clear the tip of the clasp and hold the bracelet closed by tension.  There’s not a lot of play in the closure and you have to squeeze the bracelet slightly to release the chain from the clasp.  The bracelet isn’t tight fitting, however, so this is easy to do.

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Why did I use two pieces of chain  instead of one?  I thought it looked better!  One figaro chain looked too delicate for this bracelet.

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To make the focal piece, I  threaded the remaining piece of wire through the center hole,  a rusty washer,  a  Danish 5 kroner coin and a piece of drilled tumbled glass.  Then I cut it close and made a small loop in it.  This was a challenge to do without breaking the glass!   I finished the bracelet with a dangle  attached to the loop.  All the parts  fit snugly.  I made sure I  filed the riveted ends of the wire inside the bracelet until they were smooth;   I hate to wear anything that’s not comfortable.  I coated the spoon and washer with Renaissance Wax to protect the finish before assembling the bracelet.

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Here are some basic directions on how to make the bracelet.  I would be thrilled to receive pictures from anyone who tries it!

New Spoon Bracelet Directions