Archive | Metal Working

Day 55 Bezel Making Project

I was digging through my bins of stuff I haven’t looked in for a while, and I found a rectangle shaped Tiger Eye stone, so I said to myself, “Self, let’s make something with this stone”. So that is what I will do for the next project, try to turn this stone into a project.

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The first thing I am going to do is build a bezel for the stone. I have some sterling that I want to use for the stone setting, so I first roll it out to .8mm thick. I have a Digital Caliper that I usually use, but the battery quit working, so I will use my old stand-by Dial Caliper. It is a good idea to have backups for stuff like that, because if you are dependent on technology, at times it will fail you, you don’t want to be stuck not be able to work. On a bezel, it is not as important because you can always judge by eye the thickness you like, but there are times when exact measurements are required.

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I anneal the silver I just rolled out for the bezel with my Mini Torch and quench it in my heated pickle, I use Sparex. (If you want an explanation of annealing, See my post at I anneal the setting base as well, but I let this air cool because I want the dark color to remain because this shows my scribe lines better when I layout the stone shape. Next I file one of the edges flat with a #4 Flat Hand File, add a small piece of soft wax to the base and press the stone into the wax. This will hold the stone firmly in place to allow me to scribe a line around the stone.

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Next I grab my Saw Frame with a # 3/0 Saw blade. Here is how I load a saw blade into my frame. I first put about 1/2″ of the saw blade into the clamp that is closest to the handle. I make sure the teeth of the blade are pointing towards the handle and tighten. I place the handle against my chest and the other end against my Bench Pin. I add a little pressure to the frame, line up the blade in the other clamp and tighten. I have the frame length set about 1 inch shorter than the saw blade length and seldom adjust this screw since all saw blades are the same length.

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Now I start to cut the piece on the outside of the scribed lines. Here are a couple of tricks to doing this, first I have a small piece of Bees Wax that I run my saw blade through to make cutting easier. What this does is adds a little wax in between the teeth of the saw blade and lubricates the cutting process. I also have an old tooth brush that I have handy all the time on my bench. As I am cutting, sometimes I need to clean the area I am cutting so I can see the scribed line. I want to get as close to the line without touching it. This makes for less filing to get the stone base to shape.

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Now I use my #4 Flat Hand File to file to the scribed lines. I now have the base for my bezel setting. Come back and we will see what we can make out of this stuff I have found.

Bezel Making (17)  Bezel Making (19)

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Have an Awesome day!


Day 44 Still Time to Unwind

Last day of Vacation!

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Well I feel refreshed from a quick four day get away. I am away from my studio and my work still, so I apologize for not having much of a tip or anything today, but I did find a picture that I can use for somewhat of a tip. This is a tip most people already know, but we have all levels of jewelers visiting, so here is what I got:

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A file only cuts on the forward stroke, not on the back stroke, and actually if you “drag” the file over the piece with pressure on the back stroke, it makes the file dull prematurely.

Well that’s all I got for today, I have always said “This site isn’t for everyone, but it is for someone Everyday!”

Have a great rest of the day!


Day 38 Making Round Beads or Balls

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At some point in your soldering, you will want to make little silver beads or balls. This isn’t as easy as you might think. If you have tried this before, you might have gotten frustrated with deformed balls with flat sides and pits.

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Well, I will try to help you get less frustrated. Start with silver wires cut the same length. You will have to experiment with different lengths to get different size balls. If you have Pure Silver as opposed to Sterling Silver this will work much better and give you less pits. (I used Sterling here) Melt the wires into balls on a Soldering Block. Use a little Handy Flux to help in this first stage. After this, the balls are not round and are fairly deformed.

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Now you will want to make little “Divots” in your soldering board, or better yet, if you can find a Honeycomb Soldering Board made for melting balls. Use a bushy flame and melt the balls slowly, you don’t want to use flux this time. Once the ball starts to melt, slowly move the flame away and let it solidify slowly. (again, Pure Silver works better for this) I use my Mini Torch for this.

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In this instance I am going to solder a post onto the balls and make earrings. I dip all the parts in a mixture of Denatured Alcohol and Powdered Boric Acid. I mix about a tablespoon of powdered boric acid to about 1 ounce of denatured alcohol. Then I solder a post onto the balls.

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Next, polish and enjoy!

Have an awesome day and make sure to pause and enjoy it!


Day 32 Shaping a Band

There are always quick ways to go about most jewelry techniques, with all the Foredom tools available, sanders, grinders, shapers, etc. but truthfully, I find “therapy” in working a piece of silver or copper by hand into shape. In fact, I think before you grab a sanding disc or a mechanized grinder, you should master working the metal by hand, or at least get a good understanding of it. Today we will take a look at shaping a piece of shank into a beautiful dome ring.

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After the soldering illustration we did yesterday, we were left with a square shanked band. I use a #4 Crossing Needle File to take off the extra solder on the inside of the shank. When I soldered it together, I made it about 1/8th of a size shy of a size 10 to give me room to round and file the inside so it would come out at a size 10. After rounding it on a Steel Mandrel, I sand the inside of the ring with 400 Grit Sandpaper, then 800 Grit Sandpaper.

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The next thing I do is to flatten the ring by placing the ring between a Steel Bench Block and a Chasing Hammer and flattening it by hitting the chasing hammer with a Rawhide Mallet.

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Notice how I have shaped my bench pin, on one side, there is a notch on top to place pieces against it to help support while I file. I flatten the side of the shank with a #2 Flat Hand File, then a #4 Flat Hand File. I finish the sides with using my Aluminum Sanding Sticks (400 grit and 600 grit) that I demonstrated in the Day 24 Blog post.

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Also the other side of my bench pin is a notch to hold rings to help support when filing the outside. Here I I again used a #4 Flat Hand File, and my Aluminum Sanding Sticks.

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Now we have a beautifully crafted clean, square shank….. but we will not leave it here.

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Now I will try my best to describe how to use a bench light and the reflection from it to shape this square shank into a domed shank. Using the reflection from my bench light is something I do automatically and is kind of hard to explain, but I will try to do my best. As I am grinding, filing, sanding a piece of jewelry, I am constantly holding it at my bench pin and rotating it and watching the reflection from my bench light. This is the best way I can see the true shape and form I am working with. It is hard to explain, but you have to keep working the metal and checking the shape of it in the light. Sorry for the bad explanation but look at some of the images in this lesson close, if there are blemishes, the light won’t lie.

On the Square shank, I use a #4 Hand File to take the edge off the corner, trying to keep the same angle. After I have done this on both sides, I take the next edge off of both sides of the new surface created, (so I have 3 new surfaces) then repeat again. (so I have 5 new surfaces) The only way I know to do this effectively is to use the light and see where the file is working the metal. Sometimes I cover the piece in a black sharpie so I can see the new edges better. Again I am sorry for the bad explanation of using light reflection to shape your metal.

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After I have the new surfaces filed, usually 5 – 7 new angles on each side, I take the ring and a piece of 400 grit sandpaper and blend the edges. I place the ring on the bench pin, hanging over the side, and roll the sandpaper over the surfaces, blending the “facets” until they flow together. I do this on both sides. Then I take the sandpaper and blend the scratches the opposite way, sanding with the shank. After I am satisfied with the blending, I repeat the same thing with 600 Grit Sandpaper, sometimes using water on my sandpaper as a last step. Polish if you like and it will be amazing, or leave as is.

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There you have it, the best Therapy I can give you. Again there are quicker, more efficient ways to get the same effect, but I believe until you work the metal by hand and understand what you are looking for, getting the feel, using your eye and the reflection of the light, all the tools in the world will never give you the results you can get by working with your hands.

Now, go work that metal!


Day 27 Pendant Clean-up and Stone Setting

Well, I dug up another project to spend some time on. It is a raw sterling silver casting and over the next few days I will go over how I clean it up, do some prep work to it, go over some polishing with compound types, brushes and wheels, and do some channel and bezel setting. With all that said, lets dive in.

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First I have my raw casting. With a raw casting, the surface is usually a little rough. Even if the wax is cleaned up very well, the “skin” on the casting has the surface texture of the investment used. Although it is “smooth”, it is “gritty” and the color is white.

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This casting had 2 sprues/gates attached to the bottom. They have been clipped and there is a little excess left. For clipping off the casting tree, you want a good set of Strong Cutters. You don’t want to clip the piece too close because it will mar the piece and possibly distort it from the cutting tool. I file the excess off with 2 files, the first is a #4 Barrette Needle File and I use it on the “convex” shape of the design. I also use a #4 Crossing Needle File for the other side since it has a “concave” surface.

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I gently file the surface with both files to remove the casting “skin” or the white surface. on this piece, the inside edge next to the marquise setting is a little rough. I have a Surgical Blade that I have modified the tip to get into tight areas like this. I mount it on my Scalpel Handle and “shave the inside edge until it is smooth. This blade can also be polished on a piece of paper with Yellow Rouge on it like the examples in the blog entries of Day 3 and Day 8.

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I have also made miniature “Split Mandrels“, out of a piece of brass rod, sanded down to 3/32′ (2.35mm), the same thickness as most burs. I carefully cut a slit down the middle to hold the sandpaper about 10mm long. I can load this with a variety of sandpaper grits, but I usually use 320, 400, and 600. I have many of these laying around in different shapes and sizes.

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I also go over areas with a Fine Aluminum Oxide Snap On Disc. I have many different sizes of these as well. I cut and sand these so that when they are rotating in your Foredom, they do not vibrate. This allows you to run the edge of the sandpaper along an edge of the jewelry without marking it.

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Go over the whole piece and get any scratches or defects cleaned up.

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Now I place the piece in a Magnetic Pin Tumbler to polish and burnish all the areas that are hard to get to. I set it for approx 30 minutes.

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That is it for today, tomorrow we will pull it out of the tumbler and go after it with rubber wheels, brushes, and different polishing compounds.

Enjoy your day, now go make something wonderful!