Saturday, 16 February 2013

Experiments with foil

Do you remember using the copper etching kits when you were a kid?  Maybe you have to be a baby boomer because I haven't seen them for years.  You got a box with a sheet of copper, tracing paper, a design, wooden sticks to emboss and repousse and a little vial of solution to darken the low spots.  Sound familiar?
They've been on my mind for some time because I wanted the copper.  Something light enough in gauge to be able to do the embossing and repoussing (is that a word?) to make some really interesting jewellery pieces.  No luck at all, anywhere, until John Rasmussen suggested Whimsie Studio, which has not only copper, but brass and aluminum!  Woo Hoo, success at last, I thought.  And then found out that Whimsie will not export.  So John stepped up and offered to be the intermediary, shipping-wise, which he did.  And because I couldn't order direct, instead of ordering small in case my ideas didn't work, I ordered a roll each of copper and brass.  I might be doing all sorts of copper and brass embellishments around the house.

First step was to cut a piece of copper foil about an inch-and-a-half square and see if it was going to be easy to do the stuff.  You know, the in and out stuff.  Embossing and that other word that spell-check doesn't like.  A pencil was perfect for drawing the design, the tools were little double-ended metal ball-type things that came from the hobby section of the dollar store.  I have no idea what they were originally intended for but they were just the ticket here for the rubbing.  I used the sharp end of a pair of compasses carefully over the pencil drawing to line the design.  The compass was pretty handy too, for making the double line even all the way around, even though this was just an experiment.

 Second step was to see if I could solder the foil sheet onto a sheet of heavier copper.  I wasn't sure if the heat required to melt solder would also melt the foil sheet and I'm a rank amateur at the soldering business so anything is possible. 

The first attempt, I used extra easy solder pieces and sweat soldered it onto the back of the foil piece.  I was using my mini-torch and it's almost out of juice so it melted the solder, didn't melt the foil but wasn't hot enough to heat the copper backing enough to make the transfer and hold the two pieces together.

Having learned the hard way that dirty solder will not melt and will not stick, I took my foil piece to the kitchen sink and scrubbed it with a piece of steel wool.  Unfortunately, I forgot that the heat had made the little piece butter soft and I scrubbed away part of my design before I realized what I was doing.

I used a piece of sandpaper (carefully) to finish cleaning both pieces and tried it again with a plumbers torch and some easy paste solder.  This time the two pieces soldered together, although on a "good" piece, I'd worry more about all the edges being perfectly flat.  Two big lessons learned here:  clean with sandpaper GENTLY and use less paste solder, further inside the top piece, so that it doesn't squish out when it melts.
The blacking was just done with a black sharpie with a quick sanding, just so that I could see what a finished piece would kinda look like. 

Conclusion?  This is going to open up some fun possibilities for me if I take my time and remember the lessons learned.  Copper backing will work and leather too, although that might be a whole different experiment! 

Kazuri Beads

 This post requires some thanks:  to Pearl, The Beading Gem, who introduced me to Kazuri Beads through her blog and Deb Thivierge of Karibu Beads ( who processed a very small order with great speed and great customer service most companies reserve for their very best customers.  Here's the Kazuri story from Deb's website and the Kazuri website:

Kazuri Founder - Lady Susan Wood was born (1918) in a mud hut in an African village. Her parents were missionaries from England in the Ituri Forest. Lady Wood was sent back to England to be educated and married Michael Wood, a surgeon. They came to Kenya in 1947. They were dedicated to making a difference and Lady Wood started a coffee plantation on the Karen Blixen estate, famous from the award winning movie "Out of Africa" , at the foot of the Ngon'g Hills, about 30 minutes from the bustling Nairobi city center in Kenya. Lady Wood was a visionary, an unsung hero of her time. She assisted her husband in founding the East African Flying Doctor Service, which expanded into the African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF) of which Michael Wood was Director General for 29 years. Michael Wood was knighted in 1985.

The beginnings of Kazuri Beads

Lady Susan Wood In 1975, Lady Susan Wood set up a fledging business making beads in a small shed in her back garden. She started by hiring two disadvantaged women, and quickly realized that there were many more women who were in need of jobs and so Kazuri Beads was created and began its long and successful journey as a help center for the needy women especially single mothers who had no other source of income. In 1988 Kazuri became a factory and expanded hugely with over 300 women and men. Here women are trained and apply their skills to produce these unique and beautiful beads and jewelry. The beads are made with clay from the Mt Kenya area thus giving them authenticity to their craft. The factory acts as a social gathering with the hum of voices continuing throughout the day. With unemployment so high, one jobholder often ends up providing for an "extended family" of 20 or more. Kazuri is a member of the Fair Trade Act

Kazuri Beads Today

Lady Susan WoodToday Kazuri, the Swahili word for "small and beautiful" produces a wide range of hand made, hand painted ceramic jewelry that shines with a kaleidoscope of African colors and Kenyan art that reflects a culture and appeal to a worldwide fashion market. Kazuri's beautifully finished products are made to an international standard and are sold worldwide. These standards are maintained through high training standards and a highly motivated management team.
In 2001 Mark and Regina Newman bought the company and their goal is to further increase the size of the company and to maintain the guiding philosophy ... to provide employment opportunities for disadvantaged members of Kenyan Society.

After reading about the Kazuri story and seeing the beautiful beads, I had to have some and as I said, placed a very small order.

I forgot to take pictures before I took the necklace to the store and grabbed a few while they were there so the quality isn't the greatest.  Although the quality is pretty well normal for me.  Don't you just love the giraffe?

The beads are beautiful and the two at the very top are donut beads saying "hope" in English and Swahili.