Wednesday, 7 April 2010

This is Just the Beginning!

I get a great magazine called Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, full of great metalsmithing projects and beautiful things to make.  And it drives me crazy, because I never have all of the stuff necessary to even practice making anything.  And I really, really want to.  So slowly but surely, I've been picking up stuff as I can afford it - a hammer here, bezel wire there, dapping punches, some decent files...and the piece de resistance...a piece of silver sheet!  When it came in the mail, I just about cried.  A little, tiny piece of 20 gauge silver about 2 inches wide and three inches long and with the shipping, handling and customs fee, about $40!  No practicing on that! 
This past weekend, somebody in the store told me about a place nearby that sold copper sheet.  It didn't take me long to find it and the poor fellow had to drag about 10 pieces of metal off the shelf to find and sell me about 3 pounds of scrap copper sheeting.   But oh bliss!  I can play to my heart's content and not worry about wasting silver until I know what I'm doing.
My first project was to anneal, bend and texture.  This cuff was strictly experimental and not meant to be beautiful.  The first test was to clean the copper, and lemon juice and salt did the trick.  The second test was to see the difference in texturing between my new hammer and my new dapping punches.  Good so far - the hammer makes nice soft dents and the dapping punch can follow a design, so long as you don't mind it in dots.  I learned to file the edges and make a nice, smooth rim that won't cut skin.  The bending was a little trickier, because I was using a ring mandrel instead of a bracelet mandrel, but with a little patience and a vitamin bottle, it worked and made a pretty good cuff shape.  My pickle is in a pint mason jar and the next step is to find a bigger pickle pot, because I'm going to need it for bigger items like this cuff.  Soap and water cleaned the cuff this time and my liver of sulphur mixing jar is also pint-sized so I had to dip one end at a time.  Worked, though, and when the cuff was sanded, it looked pretty good, even if the initials made it look like a jailhouse tattoo.
Today's playing resulted in my amazing (and cheap!) discovery.  I wanted more design options than little round dents or the alphabet and had seen a line engraved on copper with a piece of wire.  So I sacrificed a couple of sterling designs I had lying around, taped them onto a piece of (unclean) copper and hit them with a hammer.  Whoo hoo!  Look at that braided design!
Now my problem is that it took square wire to get that braid, the only square wire I have is argentium and I ain't gonna use it to pound into copper for practice.  I've got a roll of steel round wire and if I can figure out how to twist it together in a I have to play with my drill. 
Perhaps I should have called this post "Metalsmithing on a Budget."  I could have probably put my kid through college with all the money I have invested in tools and findings at this point and I don't want to spend any more until I have a little proficiency, so necessity has to be the mother of invention for anything else.  But stay tuned - this is just the beginning!


  1. Hey Susan! Watch out for that copper -- it'll get in your blood you know. ;) I really enjoyed this post and will come back to reread it when I need inspiration. Meanwhile, when you write your blog (or maybe a book!) Metalsmithing on a Budget, please let me know!

  2. You're going great guns now, sister! I'm living vicariously through your metal-bashing. Great to see you having so much fun.