Jul 312008

When I started thinking about Red Hot, the OT theme for July, I of course began with the obvious. Red beads, red stones, red wire.

Then my little brain started going in another direction…after all, I’ve been playing with fire a lot lately, and what’s hotter than burning things?

The materials for this project are pretty simple…all you need is some 14g fine silver wire and a small butane torch (available at any hardware store, or even some of the “big box” discounters like Wal-Mart.)

Because you are working with super hot temps, you MUST follow some simple safety rules. Keep in mind:
Have water handy “just in case”
Use a fire-proof surface designed for withstanding high temps.
Use adequate eye protection – that flame gets bright!
Ditto ventilation – you don’t want to become overcome by fumes.
And if you have long hair, tie it back. Ixnay on the long sleeves (it’s SUMMER, for crying out loud, you’d best not be wearing long sleeves anyway!)

Here we go. Have fun playing with fire…..

Fine Silver Toe Ring

Materials and what else to have on hand:
14g fine silver
Butane torch
Heat-resistant pliers
Fire-proof surface
Small container of clean water
Ring mandrel or dowel large enough to make a ring that will fit on your toe
Cutting pliers
Tumbler or burnisher

Determine the your toe size. You can use a small piece of tape, wire or string to wind around your toe. Find the right size on your ring mandrel (mine was around a size 4) or a dowel that will be big enough. Wind the 14g wire around the mandrel or dowel, ensuring the ends will meet. I made several rings, so I wound the wire around the mandrel 4 times.

Cut the rings using a flush cutter. If the ends aren’t perfectly flush, that’s okay…you’ll be melting them, so the neat join you need to solder isn’t necessary.

Clean the rings, and slightly separate the ends. If your circle gets distorted a little, it’s perfectly fine. The key is that you don’t want to fuse the ends together, so they can’t be touching.

Set the rings on the fire-proof surface, and start up your torch. Work on only one ring at a time. You’ll want the entire ring hot, but only the ends need to heat enough to melt and ball up. Keep your torch moving slightly over the surface, focusing the tip of the blue part of the flame on the ring ends.

Soon you’ll see the wire start to turn a dull white, then it will begin to glow red (RED HOT, get it?!). Very soon after this (don’t look away or blink!) the ends will start to turn a shimmering silver and ball up. One end may do this before the other, don’t worry…you can move to the other side after you’ve finished one.

Watch the ball carefully – don’t let it get too big! When it’s about the size of a BB, pull away the flame. Heat the other side of the ring opening if it didn’t melt and ball up.

Once both sides of the opening are balled, turn off the torch, and pick up the ring using a heat-resistant pliers or tweezers. Drop the ring in the water, and let it cool.

If the ring was distorted, you can put it back on the mandrel and carefully hammer back into a circle.

The silver is likely a dull white-ish color at this point, so burnish using a brass brush or burnishing stick. Better yet, drop the ring in a tumbler with some stainless steel shot, water and Dawn dishwashing detergent and tumble at least 6 hours. The silver will anneal while you are working with the torch, causing it to become really soft. Tumbling will harden it, and it’s less likely to lose it’s shape.

There you have it! A Red Hot toe ring that will look stylish and fun all summer long!

Now it’s time to check out what the other Ornament Thursday gals have been up to:

Art Bead Scene ABS Editor Cindy Gimbrone Goes Red Hot Crazy!
Cindy Gimbrone aka Lampwork Diva Trendy, Popular and Red Hot!
Katie’s Beading Blog Check out Katie’s Red Hot faux coral necklace! It’s a punch of color with a summery feel.
Savvy Crafter Hotsie Totsie Plexi-glass Flower pendant over on Candie’s blog!
Strands of Beads The heat is rising, and Melissa is making a Red Hot Firecracker necklace!
Too Red Hot Our own Michelle Zimmerman has been hard at work this month sculpting a devil of a project for your enjoyment.
That’s it for this month’s exciting Ornament Thursday…next month’s theme is Acadamia – publish date of August 28. 

Jul 302008

One of the fun things about making jewelry in the 21st century is belonging to online groups who share interests, knowledge and sometimes challenge other members!

In addition to several other online jewelry message boards, social networks, and groups, I am active on the Michaels message board. I’ve gotten to know a terrific group of beaders there, and we hold a monthly challenge, which anyone is welcome to enter!

July’s challenge was especially fun. Each member assigned a three-color combination to another member, and the challenge was to make a piece of jewelry using those colors.

My challenge came from CrazyKat, an energetic and fun beader who asked me to make something using pink, purple and blue. Not my usual color combinations, but I was up to it!

I decided to use Swarovski crystals in the three colors, and keep the overall design very simple. Fine silver headpins, and a fine silver link that was fused and hammered. The overall design was organic with some bling, and I was pleased with the end result.
If you’d like to join the Michaels message board and one of the challenges, go to the Michaels website and click on the Beads tab, and then on the message board link (bottom of the page). You’ll need to sign up (free) to post comments.
Jul 282008

So if you’ve been keeping up with my Westfair stories (what do you mean you have your own life and don’t spend hours following mine?) you know I had an unusual request from a couple of the entertainers.

Michelle and Alissa are lumberjacks. Lumber JILLS actually. Chicks with Axes. I watched them working with chainsaws and axes and was absolutely amazed at their talent, power, and ability to not cut off body parts. In addition to their talent with those blades, they are just nice people. If you ever get a chance to check out Timber Tina’s Lumberjills, please do!

On Thursday, they spotted my copper and sterling “scrap” pendants and asked if I could make something with an axe on it. Why not, I thought…I’m up to a challenge!

I worked on a couple of prototypes and didn’t really get what I wanted, so I changed my approach and started hammering 14g wire into “blades” to wrap around a “handle” (also in 14g).

Next up, I roughed up some copper plates to solder the axes to. In the meantime, I started looking at the blades on those axes and thinking about soldering them, and getting a little nervous. Better have an extra on hand, just in case I turned it into a blob of melted silver, eh? Plus, I have to admit, I had a lot of fun making those little axes.

So I created a little double bladed “executioner” style axe. Again, just 14g wire, hammered then filed. I used some 26g wire to attach the blade to the handle.

I took them home that night, said a little prayer to the Gods of Metal, and just touched the torch to them. Miracle of all miracles, no melting…not a single one. All three attached to their respective pendants with nary a speck of stray solder, even. Tossed them in the tumbler, and took them out in the morning. Dan examined them and was amazed “Those aren’t going anywhere, are they!?”

I took the pendants to the fair, and the girls LOVED them. They ended up picking out the two that look alike, so I have an extra double bladed axe, but I don’t care. I had so much fun making these, I just giggled to think about them!!

All I can say is “thank God they didn’t want me to make chainsaws….”

LOL, thanks for reading my little story…it was definitely the highlight of my fair week!!!!!


Jul 272008

I am having a wonderful time at Westfair this week. Today is the last day. It’s always a little sad to pack up, but life goes on!

A great idea from Rena Klingenberg that I’ve used at the last couple of shows is to “showcase” my older stock to move it along.

I’ve really moved a lot of my older bracelets, earrings and necklaces using this little tool. I left the old price tags on the items, so customers can see what a bargain they are getting!

Finally, Michelle and Alyssa of the LumberJills asked me if I’d make them some pendants with axes on them. I was up to the challenge, and worked yesterday on designing prototypes and finalized the pendants late last night. It was an unusual request…but I had so much fun doing it! After I get pictures of the finished pendants, I’ll post the “work in progress”. Hopefully you’ll get as much of a kick out of them as I do.

Off to the fair!!

Jul 242008

First off all, I had a big “DUH” moment this morning. I was in a panic to post my Ornament Thursday project and happened to open an email from Michele in the OT group.

OT is NEXT Thursday. <—smacks self across head

I am only vindicated by the fact that several others in the group also thought it was this week. 😉 Tee Hee, I guess I will just tease and say that my “Red Hot” project is REALLY hot! Watch this space next Thursday for the final instructions on a project that’s red hot AND perfect for summer.

Back to fair week….my big county fair is this weekend. Jeremy and I spent Wednesday setting up, and then he took off to investigate all the “bad” fair food and watch the queen coronation.

Congratulations to Kerrie Denning of Neola on her coronation as 2008 WestFair Queen! Wonder if she needs any new jewelry…..

I am quite pleased with my set up for this fair – I used some artistic license and moved a HUGE shelf unit from behind my booth, covered it with black fabric and it’s perfect for my cash register and other Point-of-Sale type things. I’ll get some pictures of the booth later today and post them Friday.

One thing I changed this year – I added a sign with my business name, some graphics, and HANDCRAFTED JEWELRY to my booth. I constantly have folks who seem surprised that I make everything…so I want to capitalize on it! I think I will have a banner or sign professionally made…this one was just printed on my computer at home and isn’t as big as I’d like. (Funny conversation last night: Customer: “Oh this is such nice jewelry! Who are you associated with?” Me: “I’m associated with me…I make all of this”.)

Nothing wrong with promoting handcrafted. 😉

Jul 192008

Yesterday, I posted photos of making headpins. It’s really quite an easy process, and sort of fun (DH thinks that I’m goofy to think it’s fun, but I’m easily amused….)

You’ll need:
Fine silver wire (I use 22g for most headpins)
Cutting pliers
Heat-resistant pliers
Butane torch (get them at any hardware store, just the little one!)

Clean and straighten wire using a polishing cloth.

Cut several lengths of wire in approximately the same length – I like to cut about 2″. It seems to be about the right length to give me enough wire to work with after I’ve “balled up” the end, without too much waste. I generally do at least 2 dozen headpins in one sitting…since it takes very little time, I will even go up to 100.

Prepare your working area.
Keep safety in mind – tie back hair, wear clothing that won’t accidently fall into the flame, protect your eyes, and have some water nearby!
You’ll also want to have a small cup of clean, cool water to quench the headpins in after they’ve been torched.
I have a firebrick under my work area, just in case I drop a headpin or heaven forbid, the torch falls over.

Time to get started.
Once you are ready, go ahead and turn on the torch, using the setting to keep it running hands-free.

Using the heat-resistent pliers or tweezers, hold one headpin by the end. Place the opposite end directly in the flame, just at the tip of the blue part of the flame.

Very quickly, the wire will start to glow – don’t blink! You’ll see a tiny ball start to form at the end, and it will begin “chasing” down the length of the wire. When it’s the size of a small BB, remove the pin from the flame, and immediately drop in the cup of water.

Continue until you’ve done all the headpins…I hold about 6 in my left hand, sort of fanned out so that I can grab one as soon as I’m ready for it. Less butane wasted when you can move quickly from one headpin to the next!

Make them Superman Strong!!
After quenching, you’ll need to strengthen your headpins – they will be very soft (too soft!) after being annealed in the flame. I toss mine in the tumbler with stainless steel shot, water, and blue Dawn dishwashing liquid overnight. After removing from the tumbler, I straighten using a nylon-jawed pliers (hold just above the ball with a chain-nosed pliers, pull the rest of the headpin through the nylon ones). If you don’t have a tumbler, just pull through the pliers several times.

You now have some *fine* headpins!!!

Jul 182008

Ornament Thursday’s heating up with the July project teaser for our monthly theme of RED HOT….check out Lisa’s little snippet!

Today’s jewelry making activities included making about 60 fine silver head pins. I set up my camera on a tripod and attempted to capture the process…will check out the photos over the weekend. I’d like to put together a tutorial for making headpins using a small butane torch – it’s not hard, but a little intimidating until you’ve tried it. Will try to get that done this weekend as well!

Finally, my own Ornament Thursday project for July will be a little outside the box…can you guess what I’m going to focus on? 😀 Be sure to check back on Thursday, July 31 for the entire OT roll call.

Jul 172008

I love Rena Klingenberg’s site – Home Jewelry Business Success. I had the pleasure of interviewing Rena, and I must say her story is incredibly inspiring!

One of the fabulous things about Rena’s site is that many of the articles have been written by jewelry business owners, so I’ve found many times, the struggles that they’ve faced and the solutions they found are something I can use.

I submitted my article on creating a business rewards program to Rena earlier this month, and was thrilled to get an acceptance notice from her. The article was published in Rena’s newsletter and will have a permanent place on her web site. I’m thrilled to have been allowed to share my experiences to fellow jewelry makers!

Jul 142008

I’m working on some items that I think will be good for the county fair next week, simple things that are relatively inexpensive. I thought I’d share some ideas – I’ll update with some photos soon.

Silver-plated chokers from Fire Mountain Gems are a hard wire that you can add a pendant to for a quick necklace. I purchased two different styles, one has a ball that you can unscrew to slide on a pendant, the other has a thin chain to clip a clasp to, and it slides through a pendant bail. The only problem I’ve got with these is that the bail opening needs to be fairly large to accommodate the size of the wire, and I want to rethink that component before making too many more. Might do some dabbling in making some soldered bails instead of simple wrapped loop dangle.

I also made a bunch of discs from some of the re-purposed copper tiling I got from Mom & Dad and stamped them with metal stamps from Beaducation…I’ll use some of them for simple charms that can be personalized (using letter stamps from Contenti) and some for a couple of charm bracelets.

The discs are more labour intensive than you’d think – clean the copper (it’s got adhesive on the back, and some kind of coating on the front), cut out the discs, drill a hole to hang from, stamp, tumble, file, hammer, stamp…whew, I’m tired just thinking about it!

I’d gotten a new “Paw” stamp from Lisa Niven-Kelly (Beaducation) and made Rex a cute little name tag that he’s test driving. I think he likes the way it jingles against his other tags, LOL.

Finally, I made 6 copper bracelets using Beaducation’s bracelet blanks. Again, more work than you’d think just looking at them! I came up with 6 different phrases to stamp on the bracelets, figured out how to best lay out the text and stamped it. Filled in some design stamps, oxidized, drilled holes to attach clasps, made the clasps, formed the bracelets using a bracelet mandrel, and attached the clasp using jump rings.

Of course, this is only the start of the busy season. Thank goodness I have all of August to recover before the big shows start up!!!

Jul 092008

For those who just don’t have enough beading and jewelry making books….(and thanks so much Ami for alerting me to this sale!!)

From Interweave Press:
There’s an epidemic in the book world and only you can help. Every year, millions of lightly damaged and overstocked books are sent to their tragic end – pulped in a recycling center. These less-than-perfect-looking books may have a small ding or a tiny scratch – but they still have a lot of great instruction and inspiration to give to a worthy owner.

Our small warehouse in Colorado is home to books like those above – and we’d hate to see them…*gulp*…shredded. For a limited time, we’re reducing the price of these books 50% -75% off the retail price with the hope that you’ll adopt them into your family. This sale runs from July 8-18, 2008 or while supplies last. We have a very limited inventory, so act now. Save a book today.

Now, excuse me, while I run off and order my copy of my fellow Ornament Thursday buddy, Katie Hacker’s Hip to Bead. 😉