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Day 34 How to Modify Your Tweezers

Happy 4th of July!! I wish I had a patriotic lesson for you today, but all I could dig up was an old picture of a piece I did years ago.

Eagle Head Pin

Today we will talk about refining the edges on our tools, namely our Tweezers. Most people don’t think about it, but many of our tools are an extension of our hands, and the better we prepare out tools, the easier our tasks will be. Heck, I even prep my nails with a #2 Flat Hand File once a week, but that is for another day…..

In soldering, setting, filigree work, and many of the intricate tasks in jewelry making, nothing is more frustrating than picking up a small piece of solder, or a stone, and having it “flick” out of your tweezers into the great unknown. There is nothing that will stop this from ever happening again, but today I will show you how to keep it to a minimum.

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When we buy a new set of tweezers, even a quality pair, the tips will look somewhat good and clean, but if you look close, they look something like this:

Tweezers New

When you think of tweezers, you think that you want the tips to come to a point at an angle to be able to pick stuff up, like fingers. Well in my experience, I have found that if the tips come together more parallel, the “flick-rate” is much less and they seem to pick up stuff easier. Also if the inside edge is flat and the very tip is flat, they work much better as well.

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I usually file the edges with a used up #4 Flat Hand File to get the edges close, then I will run a Snap-on Sanding Disc over the filed surface to get rid of the deeper scratches. Last, I rub the edges of a piece of 400 Grit Sandpaper , flat on my desk to finish the edges flat. I also place a piece of sandpaper inside the tweezers, close them, and pull the sandpaper out a few times to make sure the two surfaces are parallel to one another.

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I hope this helps you reduce your “Flick-rate” (my made up word of the day) and you can spend less time on the floor with a flashlight, and more time admiring your beautiful handiwork!

Now, go have a wonderful 4th!

Doug

Day 31 Back to Soldering Basics

The great thing about putting together this JewelryMonk site is all the people who have visited it in the past month, over 12,000 visits! This blows me away and truly humbles me.  I have had comments from some you and so far I seem to have hit a note with quite a few of you, and all different levels of jewelers from beginners to experienced masters. Yeah, that’s right, I have been doing this “Blog-Thing” for a month now. I am amazed because I have never blogged before and I have realized what I have been missing all these years. I have been making jewelry for close to 30 years and I have accumulated a whole bunch of jewelry tips, tricks, and nuggets of knowledge, and it is a joy to share some of them.

THANK YOU ALL for pushing me forward, and I promise I will keep it up and make this site better and bigger. Ok on with today’s lesson.

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Today let’s talk about some basic soldering techniques. Like I said earlier, there are all levels of jewelers visiting this site, and some of you have never soldered, or have done some very limited soldering. I want help you get over your hesitation of getting into the soldering world, and assure you that you can do it. First if you haven’t read Day 5 on Safety and Torch Setup, I suggest you start there.

Here are some tools I can’t solder without:

Mini Torch and Tanks, Tungsten Soldering Pick, Soldering Tweezers, Soldering Spring Tweezers, Third Hand, Soldering Board.

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For starters, I learned a “trick” very early in my soldering that I notice not many people do. I am right handed, and I learned early that it is easier to hold the torch in my LEFT hand, so I can use my soldering tweezers and soldering pick in my right (dominant) hand. This just made sense to me, because I need a steadier hand to hold pieces in place, to adjust solder, and control the piece I am soldering. I would suggest learning this way if you are new to soldering, or if you haven’t gotten a soldering habit formed. (if you have a habit formed already, keep refining your skill) Also always try to steady your right hand on your bench pin, or bench, or something to steady it or you will be shaking like crazy.

I will go through this lesson kind of quick, so follow along, or ask questions in the comments section.

First I cut a piece of sterling silver stock 4mm X 1.5mm and a little over 60mm long for a size 10 ring. I anneal the shank (see Day 9 for annealing tutorial)

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I use a “Stepped Mandrel” to round the shank because it keeps the inside of the shank straight, not tapered like if you rounded it on a regular tapered mandrel, but this can be worked around if you don’t have a step mandrel.

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I cut the shank, round the ends with a pair of Flat/Half Round Pliers, tap the shank with a Rawhide Mallet,  and file the ends of the shank with a Equalling Needle File #4, then a Escapement Equalling File #6.

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I bend the shank past center to reverse the spring in the shank, (so the tension forces the ends together instead of away from each other), then bend the shank until it matches as close as I can get it.

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Next I coat the entire soldering joint with Handy Flux and add a piece of silver solder to the top of the joint.

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Now, light your torch and get a good flame, not too sharp (pointy blue) and not too bushy (fluffy yellow) and point the torch UNDER the soldering area. You want the flame to be under the shank, to allow the heat to melt the solder, not the flame. Solder follows heat, and if you heat from the underside of the shank, the solder will be pulled “Through” the solder joint. This will make a strong solder joint with less chance for pits. Always remember that solder follows heat, and you want heat to melt the solder, not the flame. If you melt the solder with the flame, you are adding oxygen to the melting solder, adding more chance for pits.

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We will get more into soldering in future posts, but I want you to get comfortable with the idea of being someone who can tackle this hurdle if you have never soldered, or get into good soldering habits if you are new.

Thanks for making my first month of blogging an enjoyable experience.

Have a good day!

Doug

Day 30 Jewelry Tool Modification

As I was working on the last project, I was reminded of something I usually do, but forgot in this instance, and it “bit” me…… Let me explain:

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If you have ever gotten new “Screw Mandrels“, it is a happy day and there are so many tools that can be used on them, they are great! But today I will show you a quick tip that might save you some time, actually WILL save you some time someday.

If you look at the end of the screw mandrel, or the “screw” portion, you will probably notice there are some sharp edges and small “burs” on the screw. Now this isn’t a problem until this end comes in contact with the piece of jewelry you are working on while spinning. This will usually leave some pretty good marks if you are lucky, and take small chunks out of your beloved piece of jewelry if you aren’t so lucky.

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Here is the cure:

I have mentioned before the fact I hate to throw away old burs and such, well the same goes with old files. Take an old Hand File and while the screw mandrel is in your Foredom, rub the end on your file (#4 in this case) cleaning the burs off and rounding the edges of the screw.

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Now take a small piece of 600 Grit Sandpaper and hold it to the screw end while spinning in your foredom. This will polish it a little more.

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Now if you….. I mean WHEN you accidently touch the spinning end to your jewelry, it won’t tear it up so badly. It will still leave a little mark, but more manageable.

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Hope this helps.

Now enjoy your day and make something awesome!

Doug

Day 26 Using Polishing Brushes

Polishing is something that everyone that works on jewelry will have to do, and there are a few tools that will make your job a lot easier. Today we will look specifically at polishing brushes, soft, medium, and stiff brushes and when to use them.

First let’s look at applications for the brushes. You can get the either Mounted on a mandrel or Unmounted. I prefer the unmounted ones, because I use them on a Screw Mandrel or on a Polishing Machine Mandrel. They both work about the same, you can try them both, but I like the unmounted ones better, they are easier to store, (less bulky) and quicker to load and unload on a mandrel.

Med Mounted

Let’s look at how each one works:

Soft Brushes: Work good for rounded surfaces, areas with grooves, and areas where “crispness” is not an issue. I like to use these brushes with an aggressive compound on “organic” shapes to take out scratches and blend curves. If you think about how this brush works, you are actually using the side of the bristle to polish because when you apply it to the metal, it is soft and the bristles fold over easily. You can also use a Red Rouge Compound on these brushes and softly go over areas to bring back a bright shine.

Soft

Stiff Brushes: Work good for getting inside tight areas, like inside of gallery work and in between prongs on settings. These brushes work good at getting into sharp corners and inside edges. Use a medium compound on this wheel like a White Diamond Tripoli Compound or Graystar Compound. If you think about how these brushes work, the bristles are stiff and the ends of the bristles work better because they do not fold over as easy.

Stiff

Medium Brushes: Work good for all around areas. I like these for most applications. This brush reacts to pressure much better, if you need the soft blending action of a soft brush, use an aggressive compound and add more pressure. Add less pressure and it will get into tight areas like in between prongs and corners. Keep a couple of these around with different compounds on them, Gray and Red for pre-polishing and finishing. Do not mix compounds.

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I am sorry I didn’t get any good “at the bench” photos, but I hope you can understand. I will talk more on polishing at a later date.

Now go make something shiny!!!

Doug

Day 24 Aluminum Sanding Sticks

Making tools again today. To get a nice flat surface or a clean edge, a sanding stick works really well. I have used wooden sanding sticks and plastic sanding sticks before, but truthfully, I like a good aluminum one because it just feels a little more substantial in my hand, it remains flat and true, doesn’t bend like a plastic one, and it doesn’t “grove” like wooden ones can. Today I will show you how to make your own aluminum sanding sticks that will last you forever.

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All you will need is a trip to the hardware store, (or online) buy Aluminum Flat Bar that is 1/8″ x 3/4″ in a length that will be long enough to make as many sticks as you want. I have 2 of them for 2 different grits of sandpaper. The sticks are 12″ long (1 foot). You will also want to buy some sheets of Wetordry Sandpaper. I use 400 Grit and 600 Grit, but you can use the grit you want. I have used 320 grit and 1000 grit as well, but found out I didn’t use them very much. The 320 grit was similar to my #4 Flat Hand File, and the 1000 was a bit too fine, and I found I could polish after the 600 grit sandpaper.

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Place the sandpaper face down and place the aluminum stick along the edge and “score” or scratch a line along the edge, just hard enough to leave a mark in the paper but not all the way through the paper. After you score the line, bend the paper over to make the scored line nice and sharp. Fold over and continue. You could do this if you like your edges sharp, or you could just wrap the sandpaper around the aluminum stick. I make about 3 complete wraps, then trim off the excess with a Surgical Blade in a  Scalpel Handle.

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After I trim the sandpaper, I wrap the end with Masking Tape to hold it in place and write the number of the sandpaper on the tape, so I can identify it quickly. (4 = 400, 6 = 600)

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Again, the reason I like the aluminum is because it is light weight, inexpensive to make, long-lasting, won’t mark, grove or bend, and substantial feeling in my hand.

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Thanks for stopping by today, I hope my tool “Geekiness” is not boring you.

Enjoy your day and go make something outrageously beautiful!

Doug