I Finished The Coin Pendant!

I started the story of my attempts to make a coin pendant  with a post a couple of weeks ago.   I am happy to say that I have finally made a respectable pendant which I intend to give to a friend whose story is much more interesting my story:  Friend got married and started a family soon after high school.  She got divorced and worked at several kinds of jobs before remarrying.  When she was down sized from a job, her current husband reminded her that she had always wanted to go to college and thought that if they looked hard enough, they could find some scholarship money.   She did, they did, they did and she enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania.   And emerged with a Ph.D in Anthropology in 2015.   Since her dissertation was in the field of Irish Studies,  I came up with the idea of setting an older (pre-Euro) Republic of Ireland coin into a pendant  for a graduation present, and I begged some coins from her obliging husband who is a little fanatical about Irish culture himself.   I am only 2 1/2 years late.  But after I got my brilliant idea, I had to learn how to execute it.  I could not find any new instructions (not that they would have helped.)  I finally got inspiration from two YouTube videos by Online Jewelry Academy on how to make a gallery prong setting.  You can watch the videos here and here.   And I got the basic instructions on how to make the bail from a Soham Harrison video you can watch here.

 

02.2

I milled some 14 gauge square sterling silver wire, measured and cut it and soldered it and formed it into a circle.  I wanted it to be the exact diameter as the coin so you didn’t see it from the front, and for there to be a frame on the back of the coin that did not obscure any coin markings.  I decided to have three prongs hold the coin in place and to make the prongs from 14 gauge half-round wire.  The picture above shows a notch I filed for one of the prongs.

03.3

Checking the fit of the wire.

 

04.4SolderSetup

Here is the assembly laid on the soft brick before soldering.  The ring is already soldered. The prong bottoms are pushed into the brick to steady them.  I had a few soldering failures until I made some changes that I think helped.  First, I laid out everything and then made holes for the prongs so I could get them right into the notches and up against the circle.  Secondly, I put a pallion of solder between the prong and the circle right in the notch.  Third, I bent the prongs inward slightly to be sure they were really hugging the circle. I also soldered the ring, quenched and pickled and then tackled the prongs with a softer solder.  I didn’t try to solder all four elements at once like I had done before.  It worked! I had total soldering success! 

05.4a before trimming

Here’s the assembly before I cut the bottom of the prongs flush with the bottom of the circle. 

 

06.5ProngsTrimmed

The cleaned assembly with the prongs trimmed.  They still have to be filed and sanded so they look good and don’t catch on clothing.  

09.7Markingareatobefiled

The coin sits on the circle and the prongs are folded over, trimmed, filed and sanded.  But the inside of the prongs have to be filed to allow the coin to sit perfectly flat on the circle.  So I had to mark the thickness of the coin on the inside of the prongs and then file-very carefully-so the coin fits in without a gap. It’s fiddly work; if you file too much you’ll weaken the prongs.  Too little and the coin will sit askew.   But it’s not really difficult.  

07.6AdjustingFit

Still need to file a bit more.

08.7BendingProngs

A perfect fit!  I start to bend the prongs over gradually.

10.8SolderingBail

The bail has a prong soldered on the inside front which feeds through a hole in the back.  I altered the bail a bit so it wouldn’t open.

11.9Front

 

01.10 Back

 

And here’s the finished pendant!  Still learning, but I like the way it came out.  Finally!

Pain and Soldering

Bezel Experiments

I have a friend who’s been a goldsmith for more than forty years.  She told me told me that she learned how to solder jewelry  by working with a plumbers torch over a pumice tray and crying a lot.   Hey, soldering can be frustrating to learn.    You can’t ignore the laws of chemistry.  Metals do not all have the same properties. Different varieties of solder flow at different temperatures and the flame must be hot enough to do the job. So, sometimes a micro torch will work and sometimes it’s just not hot enough. But the size of what you’re soldering affects things too.  If you are connecting one small wire to another,  a micro torch might be fine, but if you are soldering a bezel and need to heat a larger metal mass, the micro torch might not be sufficient. Or you might have to use two micro torches at once.  (Press here for a description of this technique.)   Solder flows towards heat which means that if you point the flame at the join, the solder will go everywhere but the join.   Solder will not fill gaps; the items you are connecting must sit as flush as possible.  And fire can be scary; you must respect it and take the appropriate measures to work with it safely.

I have been practicing my soldering.  As you can see from the bezels above, I’m a little heavy handed with the solder.  I am still working on getting my bezel soldering mojo and hope to improve on that in time.  Until then, it’s lots of cleanup.  But even with my limited experience, I have a few tips.

  • Take a class.  You, need to learn about lighting a torch and basic safety, but there is another important reason: you can read about soldering all you want but until you witness the difference stages of soldering  from the initial heating to when the solder starts to flow, it won’t make sense.  It helps when you see what color the metal should be, what the solder looks like right before it flows and how long it takes to flow.
  • Does your carefully laid out solder skitter as soon as you hit the metal with the flame because the flux starts bubbling?  Pass the flame over the flux to dry it before you place the solder.  No more skittering.
  • If you try binder wires, clips and tweezers to  hold everything in place, they will act as heat sinks and draw heat away from where it needs to go to get a sturdy solder join.  Charles Lewton-Brain wrote an article on soldering tips and tricks for Ganoksin where he gives instructions for making a thingy to weigh down pieces you are trying to solder together.


    Here is an idea for another thingy from the Etsy Metal Blog 
Yet another soldering thingy.
You can purchase this one from Wholelottawhimsey.

And finally,  you need to check out Lexi Erickson‘s videos on soldering.  I met Lexi when she was a guest speaker at the Main Line Bead Society and gave an entertaining and illuminating presentation  on creativity.    I thought she might be an  academic but I was only half right because  the next thing I knew, she had moved  to Colorado and was blogging, making jewelry, teaching and writing great articles for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

She drew on her years of experience as a goldsmith and university level metalsmithing teacher to  put together two videos on soldering that are full of practical information, including an explanation of the various types of torches used in soldering, tools, solders, and several soldering techniques.  The videos are well filmed which is vital in  a video about soldering.  You  really need to see  how the materials look during each step of the process before you understand what is supposed to happen when you are soldering properly.   You can buy the  videos  from Interweave.

Lexi’s videos are extremely helpful, she would tell you that you still have to practice, practice, practice.  Like throwing pots and making lampworked beads, the  more you make, the more skilled you will become.   As Malcolm Gladwell said in Outliers, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”