Sunday, October 30, 2016

How to Make Hammered Hoops

How to Make Hoops
These Hammered Hoops began life as a piece of sheet metal, but with a little texture, cutting and antiquing, they magically transform into earrings.

To make them:
First, gather the supplies you will need, these are the basics:
Sheet Metal-Here I used 22 gauge copper sheet metal

A steel bench block- You will need this for hammering the texture into the metal

A disc cutter-To make the discs. You can also buy them pre-cut if you don't want to invest in a disc cutter.

A Ballpeen hammer-You can't see it in the photo, but it has a ball shape on one end. This is the end you will use to create the texture.

Liver of Sulfur-I like the gel form. This is to create an aged patina on your jewelry. I use it on almost everything I make.

Metal File

Sand paper 

Fine steel wool "0000" grit

Polishing pad

Some of the Supplies Needed

Additional Supplies: 
If you want to add a curve to your earrings, you can use a doming and dapping set. I also used my rotary tumbler to smooth out the edges and remove the fine scratch marks. These are nice extras to have, but you can get a similar result without them.

Now that you've gathered, you're ready to begin:
Step 1: Create texture in your sheet metal
To begin with, you need to add texture to your metal. There are many ways to do this, but one of my favorites is using the balled and of the ballpeen hammer. Just place your metal on the steel bench block and hammer about a 2 inch section, depending on how large you want your hoops. 
Add texture with the hammer
Step 2: Cut the smaller hole using the disc cutter 
(Alternate option: Use pre-cut blanks and add the texture directly to them.)
After you have textured a section of the sheet metal,insert the hammered section into the smallest hole in the disc cutter that you want to use. You will cut the small opening first, then the larger hole around it. I used the 1/2 inch punch for my smaller disc.

Cut small hole first

Use a Hammer and ideally 2-3 firm strikes will punch it though. A brass mallet is best but I just used my ballpeen.

The first hole is complete-save the little disc for another project
Step 3: Cut the second disc.
Once you have the first opening, reinsert the metal into the disc cutter and center the smaller hole where you want it lined up, taking care not to cut it too close to the edge of the metal or it will tear.
I like to position the opening close to the top of the larger disc-not right in the center Once you have your position, cut the second, larger ring. I used the 7/8 size punch for my second cut.

You now have your hoop

Repeat the process with the second ring. If you're meticulous, you may want to mark where you want your discs cut so that the pieces are identical. I just eyeball it myself. To duplicate your first disc you could use a sharpie marker and trace the inner and outer circle on your sheet metal prior to cutting it, as a guide.

Step 4-optional-Add curve to your discs. (if you do not want to add the curve, skip to step 5)
If you want to add a curve to your metal, the doming block is perfect for this.

Just drop your disc into one of the larger cups and use the dapping tool to begin creating a curve on your disc by hammering the dap with a rawhide mallet. 

Place disc in the recessed area
Hammer the dap to create dimension
You'll now have some curve in your discs

Step 5:
Smooth out the edges with a metal file and sand paper, making sure to smooth out both the outside edge and inside the circle. A half-round metal file is helpful for this. 
File, then sand the edges with sandpaper
Step 6: Add Patina
Once smooth, it's time to add the patina to show off the texture you created. I use liver of sulfur in a plastic gelato container and fill it up about half way with hot tap water. I then add a few drops of liver of sulfur (follow the directions on the container) and drop in my discs for a few minutes, checking them periodically.

Drop the discs in a nixture of Liver of sulfur and water

They will come out looking like this:

Step 7: Buff and polish
Buff off the excess with a fine steel wool and then polish with a polishing cloth or drop them in a rotary tumbler after removing the excess patina to smooth and shine them.

Step 8: Add earwires 
and you have your finished product!

If you don't want to go through the trouble of making them, you can buy them as components in my Etsy shop.

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

You Don't Need a Fancy Torch to Make Great Jewelry

As my metalsmithing skills grow, I've been toying with the idea of buying a grown-up torch, but to be honest, I'm a little scared to keep it in the house. My studio is a second floor, extra-bedroom I've taken over and the thought of keeping something that could blow us all up when we sleep, is a little unsettling. 

A big-girl torch is not off the table, but for the moment, let me sing the praises of what I have been using.

The Micro-Torch, aka the Creme Brulee Torch or the Butane Torch. It's mini, but it's mighty. 

The Pros: It's inexpensive, low maintenance, doesn't take up a lot of space and is less likely to blow your house up then an oxygen/acetylene torch. 

The Cons: It's really best for small pieces, as in an inch diameter or less. For larger pieces you need more heat, although you can also use two micro torches at the same time for some things...awesome, I know.

Here are 3 things I have done and continue to do with my Butane Torch:

1. Enamel. You can enamel small pieces with your micro-torch. I started with pennies. Copper is a great metal for enameling. You clean it with Penny Brite, sift the enamel on, position it on your firing station and then use your micro torch to heat it from underneath. Here's a video from Stephen James, the teacher I learned from.

2. Fuse. I am obsessed with fusing fine silver and I've based a whole new collection on this technique. I've been making earrings, bracelets and today I began working on a necklace design. The Earrings at the top of the post are made from 16 gauge fine silver wire that is fused with a micro torch and then hammered, textured and adorned with crystals. You can find them in my Etsy Shop.

If you want to learn how to fuse fine silver, this is a great video:

3. Solder. Yes, you can solder with a Micro-torch. I particularly like to use it to create earring posts, but I've also used it for joining sterling silver wire and copper wire. Again, for larger pieces you may need two torches, but for my needs, I only have used one.
Here's a video on how to add posts to your earrings. The instuctor doesn't use a micro torch, but I have used the process she describes successfully with a micro torch:

There are many more things you can do with your Butane Torch, other than just browning the top of a dessert, but this is probably enough to digest for today.

Happy flaming!