Wednesday, November 14, 2012

designing and fabricating "elan"

Last week I was contacted by Deb N. a customer on etsy to see if I could make her a pendant with a clear angel face, similar to one I had already listed on etsy that had a red angel face. I said sure! After we decided on a design she asked if I could take some photos during the creation of her pendant. I thought that was a great idea - a wonderful way to chronicle what happens in the fabrication of a piece. So here is the "story".

She had pointed me in the direction of a piece I did that she liked and then after a few more conversations back and forth she sent me this drawing - also saying that she liked peacock feathers. I love to get something like this - it really gives me a direction to go in:

This is the design I sketched from her drawing and another piece beside it that Deb said she liked.

 Here are all the stones that will eventually be in the piece sitting in their bezels. At the top is a simulated white opal, a clear frosted glass face with mirror backing, two 5 mm round pink CZs and at the bottom an 8 x 10 mm simulated pink tourmaline.

 Shown above with a roll of fine silver bezel wire.  I cut the wire to the correct length and then solder the edges together for the bezels. Usually I have to do adjustments to the heights of the bezels - especially for faceted stone bezels.

 Above, a bezel is shown just before soldering. It's being held steady in a pair of tweezers and there is a small square of solder in place on top.

 Some of my favorite and most used hand tools. From left to right: 2 bezel mandrels (for making the bezels a perfect round or oval shape after they are soldered together), chain nose pliers, metal shears for cutting bezel wire, the round white base of a magnifying glass on a movable arm, assorted sizes and shapes of files, a small plastic headed mallet and a larger one with a plastic and a rubber face - at the very top are rolls of bezel wire.

Drawing the design onto tracing paper.

Ready now to cut the pieces apart and glue onto the sterling sheet.

 Here the tracings are glued onto the sterling sheet. The body of the pendant will be made from 22 gauge and the feathers will be 20 gauge.

Sawing one of the feathers with a jewelry saw. Below the sawing area is a bucket to catch small pieces of sterling that fall - I don't want to waste any.

Close-up of how fine the saw blade is.

 The sterling parts are now all cut out (they still have the tracing paper on them) and I put them in place with the stones and their bezels just to see how everything looks together.

 I use metal stamps to put detail on the feathers after filing the edges. I bevel the edges so it will be smooth to the touch in the final piece.

 Stamping the name, "Elan" and my wood thrush studio maker's mark and a sterling mark on the back.

This shows the letter stamps and the hammer I use. After this stage I also file all the edges smooth on the base piece and sand everything.

 This shows the back of the feathers with solder squares in place for "sweat soldering". First the solder is melted onto the backs of the small pieces, then they will be put in place on the back plate and heated again till the solder flows and joins the top and bottom pieces.

 The solder after being melted into place.

 The feathers are put in the pickle - pickle is the name for the acid that is used to remove oxidation from metal after soldering. The oxidation has to be removed before they can soldered again. Solder will not run on dirty metal.

 My soldering set-up. From left to right: the soldering blocks and fire bricks that I use to support things that I am soldering - they are on a lazy-susan type base which makes it easier for me to get the torch's heat into the right places, behind them you can see the yellow mapp gas canisters that are attached to the torches I use, the "pickle pot" -which is actually just a small crock pot, a bowl of water to rinse the pickle off, and in front of that a torch sparker and assorted tweezers.

My two torches - a pencil torch which has the torch tip on a hose so it is easier to get into small places (I use it for tiny jobs like jump rings and making chain links) and on the right is the bigger torch that I use for everything else.

 I'm ready now to solder the feathers and bezels down. See the little pieces of solder beside the bezels. When the solder gets hot enough to melt it will flow into place and seal the gaps between the base plate and the bezels. Hot solder likes to flow into crevasses. I have put clear flux on the piece to retard oxidation while it is being heated but you can't see it in the photos.

After soldering.

 In the pickle.

 Nice and clean - ready to bend the bail back and solder it in place on the back. After that it is pickled again and then re-oxidized with "silver black". This is a step that I forgot to get a photo of. You will have to take my word for it that everything that looks so nice and white became nice and black after I brushed the oxidizing liquid on it. Next I sanded the black oxidation off of the high areas and did a pre-polish.

 The pendant is shown now with the stones ready to be set in it. I cut pieces of gasket material to fit in the bottom of the cabochon bezels so the cabochons can be brought up to the right height. Inside the faceted stone bezels (the 2 round bezels at the tips of the feathers and the large oval at the bottom) there are shorter bezels that hold the faceted stones inside up to the right height.

 I am pushing the bezel over a stone edge to hold it in place.

 This shows the "bezel pusher" tool. Just one last stone to set - the oval at the bottom.

Final polish done and finished! I think it turned out quite nicely. I like the delicate pink colors Deb choose to go with the angel face for this.