Sunday, 25 April 2010

New Adventures in Metal

One of my biggest faults is that I try to take shortcuts.  Sometimes it works and more often, it screws up a really good idea.  This was one of those times and I can only hope to learn from it.
An idea for a flower floated into my head at the tail end of a nap and I couldn't wait to try it, even though there really wasn't enough time to do things properly.
I drew the flower freehand on a piece of card stock and traced it onto the copper with a sharpie.  Set my new bench vice up on the kitchen island (did you know those things were packed in a ton of grease?) and after cleaning it up, put the bench block in and sawed the flower.  Then I made my first mistake.  I half-arsed measured for the centre and eyeballed it as a check.
Second mistake - my dremel is set up for my Koil Kutter and instead of taking it apart and putting a diamond drill bit in to do the centre hole, I decided to do it with a nail on a block of wood.  Big nail, big hole and off centre.  Duh!   It didn't look nearly as bad until I put the LOS on.
Missed a step - taped some brass braided wire to the inside and hammered a dividing pattern.  Used a flat hammer for the petals and a dapping punch for the inside.  Third mistake - didn't take enough time taping the wire and it's off centre as well.
One good thing is that I had found a $9.99 crock pot  for my copper pickle and it was perfect.  Holds about two cups, big enough for a bracelet cuff to fit inside and heats fast.  So the annealing and pickling was much faster, making it easier to mark and shape.
Next step was my first use of the dapping block and dapping punch to cup the flower.  Fourth mistake - hurried again and when I got a few folds I thought they'd add to the look, forgetting that they wouldn't match the placement of the petals.
I used a couple of the different sized holes in the dapping block, going from biggest to smaller and got a reasonable, if slightly off-kilter cup.  The nail hole  spread and split with the dapping, making it look even worse.  Then I took my bent-nose pliers and bent the petals back.
I like the way the dapping punch made a pattern on the back of the flower because the copper was so soft.
So it was not a bad idea and I messed it up trying to hurry.   Great learning experience though, and aside from avoiding the four mistakes, I think round-nosed pliers would have made a better curve on the petals.  The frustrating thing is that I'm getting into my really busy season and this might be my last chance to play like this until fall.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Pleasant Surprise & Sevens

Cristina, a very smart lady from Portugal, and one of the nicest I've "met," sent me an email this morning telling me that I was one of the seven blogs she gave the Beautiful Blogger Award.  Well, THAT'S a nice way to start your day! Thank you very much, Cristina! 
Cristina is a very talented artisan and you can see her work at
For receiving this award, I must reveal seven unknown things about me, and pass the award along to another seven bloggers. things....okay:
I'd rather learn something new than work on something I already know how to do.
I'd rather live with dogs than people.   I like my people in small doses. (I'm going to be a hermit when I grow up).
I hate housework.  (But anybody who knows me already knows that.)
My sense of humor is very warped.  (ditto above.)
I've always wanted to write a book.  (Has anybody ever become a best-selling writer in their 60s?)
I can't throw away or give away clothes.  Some day they will all fit again.
I love to sing and am incredibly tone deaf.  Which is another reason it's best that I live alone.
There, that's me.  Now, the important part, which is giving the Beautiful Blogger Award to another seven people.  The hard part is sticking to seven.

My first four are amazing women who are not only very talented, they are very generous and giving and share their knowledge of jewelry with anybody who is interested. - Pearl has a wonderful blog full of fascinating historical tidbits and helpful tutorials. - Rena Klingenberg sends a newsletter out weekly with marvellous tips and stories about the business of selling jewelry. - I've just recently discovered Beth's blog and she's another who is generous with her knowledge and talent. - Hadar Jacobson makes and sells copper, bronze and steel clays and her blog was originally to help her customers, but she has gone far beyond that and has some wonderful tips and techniques for metal clay artists. - Cindy is an amazing artisan, a rape survivor and a recovering alcoholic.  Her jewelry has become secondary on her blog, which is often gritty and disturbing, but it's a tribute to the courage of one woman in an adversarial world. - Absolutely nothing to do with jewelry but Dianna Linder lets her personality shine through her writing.  It's a great view of our Island through the eyes of an ex-pat American. She has a beautiful 4 star B & B on PEI, a gourmet restaurant and if I'm nice, she might keep feeding me. - I follow this blog just because I enjoy it and like the way Jen writes.

Well, that's my seven.  And as I said earlier, it was very difficult just to stick to seven.  There are so many interesting people writing blogs now but a person wouldn't have time for anything else if they read them all.  Hope you enjoy looking at my Beautiful Blog winners!

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Leaf as Pendant

The leaf has found a new purpose in life, as the focal of a copper necklace.  The chain is antiqued copper, the clasp is hand-hammered copper, the leaf is hand cut, formed and hammered copper and the semi-precious gemstones are amazonite and rhodonite.  The little blossom cupped in the leaf is lucite.
The price of the necklace is $50.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

In the Grips of an Addiction

My name is Susan and I'm a beadaholic.  Also metal, wire, crystal, glass, jewelry books and tools.  Please, advertising people at ArtBeads, Shipwreck, Rings N Things, Aunties Beads, Thunderbird...quit sending me emails about your fabulous sales.  Just for a week or two, at least until I use some of the stuff I just got from your last sales.  But don't leave it too long, because if the craving gets too strong, I  take a quick peek at eBay.  Ha! 
I've started to feel withdrawal pangs if a day goes by that Canada Post doesn't leave me something. 
Fellow artisans, please feel free to add to my list of excuses:
#1  You never know when that might come in handy! (From the look of my stash, about 5% of the time.)
#2  You can never have enough of .............(fill in the blank)  (self control?)
#3  The shipping is cheap (or free), I'll just order one thing. (LIES!)
#4  The Canadian dollar is so high right now, I'm actually saving money.  (MORE LIES!)
#5  That is so pretty (useful, different, unusual) that if I don't get it now, it probably won't be available when I want it.  (Apparently one side of my brain thinks the other side is really stupid)
#6  I've only got 5 feet of ....gauge wire left, if I don't order it now, I'll need it, be out and have to wait two weeks to get it.  (that same side is also a con artist)
#7  I need that book for my library, so I can learn something new.  (and then have to do a flurry of ordering so that I have the necessary material to make what is in the book.  Works for me.)

Have some fun and see if your excuses are better than mine.  Just don't comment and tell me that you have self control and only ever order exactly what you need, when you need it.  Nobody could be that perfect.  Could they?

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Adventures in Metalsmithing

The copper cuff in the previous post was a great learning experience and the tools were calling, but I wanted to try something different, learn something new.
I've used my jeweler's saw for cutting wire and jump rings, but have never actually cut a pattern with it.  I knew the basics but putting it into practice was interesting.  I drew the pattern on a piece of copper with a permanent marker, put the blade in the saw tightly enough that it twanged and then tried to put the wooden cutting block on my kitchen island overhang with a little vice.  The island was too thick for the vice, so I ended up gripping it to the kitchen table.  My table wears many hats.  When I took the picture, since I only had two hands, I had to let go of the saw to hold the camera and it swung to the left, but I was actually sawing straight up and down and straight forward.  
I thought it was a pretty good job!
The hole at the top was either lucky or smart, whichever way you want to look at it.  This piece of copper was the one I had out and cut the bangle from and then did my designs on and it was sitting on my anvil.  I had also tried whacking it with a nail to see if it made a hole, and it did.  When I cut the piece off for the leaf, I arranged the pattern around the hole, because I am basically lazy.  
The filing took a little extra time and having done it, I would definitely decrease the number of points on a leaf if I do another one.  Speaking of lazy.  But I got all the sharp edges filed down.  Then I annealed it with my butane torch and firebricks on the kitchen island, pickled it and scrubbed it clean with steel wool and had some fun putting lines on the leaf with wire and a scribe and then bent it in half lengthwise and hammered both sides.  It needed annealed again and pickled, and then I opened it up and did some fancy folds and twists.
It didn't look bad without a patina, but the copper chain I have is antiqued, so I got out my bottle of Liver Of Sulphur.  Because it's such incredibly stinky stuff, my usual method is to get my bottle of really hot water and plastic spoon ready, shake a pea-sized lump into my hand and dump it in the bottle as soon as I get outside.  It sits on my barbeque on the outside porch while I dip into it and the cold water bath.  Then I just let it sit there until the water turns clear and dump it in the bushes. 
It took me a year to get Liver Of Sulphur because all of the American suppliers had premixed LOS and it was considered dangerous goods to ship.  None of the Canadian suppliers I tried had it, until I finally found the powdered form at Lacy Tools in Toronto.  It would probably last me for years, but today, when I took the bottle out of the sealed plastic bag, I decided to give it a good shake to break down some of the bigger lumps.  Either the bottle was weak or I've been eating my Wheaties, because the bottom broke and glass and liver of sulphur flew all over the kitchen.  Of course Dewey thought it might be edible because it was stinky, so it was a flurry of holding dogs, yelling at dogs to stay and trying to clean up the stuff before the dogs realized that they never listen to me anyway.  Heaven only knows how long my kitchen is going to smell like rotten eggs.  And the stuff I rescued and repacked in a vitamin bottle (double bagged) is full of dog hairs.  It might make a very interesting patina - add a pinch of Jack Russell to your mix. 
Got the leaf done, though, and the adventure continues.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Update on Coral Conservation

From a press release from:
Too Precious To Wear Website

From USA Today:
Coral were the latest species taken up at the on-going meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Doha, Qatar. The proposal to protect 31 species of red and pink coral, first discussed during the previous CITES conference over two years ago, was voted down Sunday. A proposal to protect Bluefin tuna was voted down Thursday.
Coral are harvested for jewelry and souvenirs. The catch of red and pink coral has dropped by more than 80% in the last 50 years, according to Oceana, an ocean conservation organization.
"Vanity has once again trumped conservation. Today is yet another example of CITES failing to protect endangered marine species," said Ocean's David Allison.
SeaWeb, a group that's working to protect the coral, is urging consumers to avoid buying items made from the endangered corals through its Too Precious to Wear campaign.
Representatives from 175 countries are at the CITES meeting in Doha from March 13 to 25.
 The vote would have put the 31 coral species on CITES Appendix II. Such a listing would require the use of export permits to ensure that the species were caught by a legal and sustainably managed fishery.

Coral are long-lived, some reaching more than 100 years of age, and grow less than one millimeter per year. Coral colonies are fragile and easily vulnerable to destruction.
From the e-letter from Too Precious To Wear:
But the fight for meaningful coral conservation is not over. Now more than ever, red and pink corals need the support of conscientious consumers like you. Refusing to purchase any items made from red and pink coral is key, as there is no guarantee that these species are being sustainably used or well-managed. We continue to receive the support of high-profile jewelers and designers who have pledged never to use real coral and are raising awareness of this important issue. Designers who have recently joined our efforts include Dana Lorenz of Fenton/Fallon, Ileana Makri,  Irene Neuwirth, Kara Ross, Nak Armstrong of Anthony Nak and Robin Renzi of Me&Ro. To find out how you can also be a conserver of coral, contact Jackie Marks.

As always, thanks for your continued support.  If you haven't already, sign our pledge supporting greater protection for corals worldwide, and strengthen your voice by forwarding on this e-mail and asking your friends to sign our coral pledge. For more regular news and updates from the Too Precious To Wear team, be sure to follow us on Twitter and join our Facebook group.


SeaWeb's Too Precious To Wear team

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!