May 252009

Thanks to my friend Vicki Cook, I’ve discovered fold forming…taking a sheet of metal and making lovely designs by annealing, folding, unfolding, tapping a bit with the hammer…and then starting all over again in another spot.

The results are really cool.  Of course, every piece is completely unique, and the possibilities are endless.  So far, I’ve made a couple of pendants, a pin, and two pairs of earrings.

If you are comfortable with a torch, it’s easy to get started.  Basic instructions are:

  1. Cut a small piece of 30g copper sheet.  About 1 1/2 to 2″ square is a good starting point.
  2. Anneal the copper sheet using a torch.  Wave the hottest part of the flame over the sheet slowly and evenly, watching for the color to change.  I anneal for about 30 seconds.
  3. Let the sheet cool slightly, then pick up with a pliers and quench in cool water.
  4. Here’s where the folding comes in…I use a small vise, placing the sheet in the jaws of the vise and folding to a 90° angle.  Remove the sheet from the vise, and continue to fold it over until both sides are folded against each other.
  5. Using a rawhide or rubber mallet, gently tap the crease until it is tight. (Think about when you crease paper with a fingernail so that you can tear it straight…same concept!)
  6. Open the fold from the back.  You may find it easier to use a thin piece of metal (Vicki suggests using an oyster knife, which I think is brilliant!) to unfold the piece.  I also use a pair of flat nosed nylon jaw pliers to pull the fold apart.
  7. Gently tap the crease and unfolded sheet on either side of the sheet.  You’ll want the fold to continue to be a bit convex, but the sides should flatten out.
  8. Repeat from Step 2, creating a fold in another spot.  Experiment with crossing the folds over each other – you’ll be amazed at the results!

Fold forming is a lot of fun, and after you’ve created a sheet, the possibilities are endless.  Sheets can be punched out with a disc to make circles, cut with a saw, or just drilled and hung from ear wires!

Apr 172009

Got a question from someone on one of the jewelry forums about soldering jump rings. I know there are many methods, but here’s how I do it. If you have pointers, please share!

1. Close jump rings completely. Hold them up to the light, look at them from every direction. The join must be PERFECT!

2. Line up rings on a fire block. I do 25-30+ at a time, depending on size, 5 or so lines of 5-6 rings in a line. When you are placeing them, VERY CAREFULLY ensure you have all the joins at the same position – I like to have the join at the top (12:00) of the ring. Because you have done such a good job in Step 1, you may not be able to easily see those joins, so it helps to have them all in the same place.

3. Flux the join for all rings. (Doing this now ensures the flux dries before you apply the torch.)

4. Cut solder. I use easy level wire solder for jump rings. I don’t use a pick, although I’ve heard that’s even simpler to do.

5. Place solder on each jump ring just outside the ring using a tiny paintbrush that you’ve put some flux on.

6. Turn on the torch (I just use a baby butane one) and keep your flame fairly low.

7. For each ring: Heat the inside of the ring just until the solder flows. I actually sort of heat the fire block and let the heat “bounce” back into the ring. Pull away the heat immediately after the solder flows and move to the next ring. You’ll find that as you move through the lines (I go bottom to top, left to right) you’ll get the additional benefit of the heat on the block from the last ring(s) and it will go fairly quickly.

Occasionally you might want to take a short break and let everything cool down just a little. Depends on how far apart your rings are from each other, and how many you are doing.When I’m done with the entire block of rings, I place them in a container of cool water, then drop into pickle until they are shiny and pretty. Tumble for a bit to harden, and voila.

Nov 072008

Early holiday gift to myself is more time…for the last several years, I’ve managed to save enough vacation time from my day job to take off one day a week during December. This year, I somehow finagled it so I began working 4-day weeks in November!

Of course, jewelry making is at the top of my list – two more shows to go this year (one tomorrow, one in two weeks), some commissioned pieces that have been ordered, and a to-do list that seems to grow over night.

Today I’m taking out my little torch. Have some fusing and soldering projects that I’ll work on. This week I’ve been building inventory for the shows – earrings and rings that are priced less than $20…great stocking stuffers and impulse items.

Happy Friday…off to fire up that torch!

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 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.

Mar 102008

I’ve been doing quite a bit of soldering lately, and I think I’m starting to figure out what I’m doing. A few things I’ve learned:

1. You can make your own pickle (what you soak the quenched pieces in to remove any oxidization that occurs during the heating process) from vinegar and table salt. Keep the pickle hot – I know some folks who get small potpourri crockpots for their pickle – I’m using a Mr. Coffee mug warmer with an old coffee cup on it.

2. Don’t leave anything in the pickle when it’s not heated or it will discolor. 🙁 (Now I get to re-clean a pendant!)

3. Less is better with solder and flux – I was using too much, but just a tiny little pallion (square) of easy solder works perfectly well. You can always add more in subsequent spots. Flux – just paint on a little in the areas where you’ll be joining, don’t dip the whole piece in the flux.

4. Copper and silver heat at different temps, and it’s definitely more challenging to solder them together! Heat up the copper first, then add the silver.

5. Overheating causes big blobs in the worst case scenario, and reticulation (bubbles and deformities) in the best.

6. I’ve been using the following process for small pieces (clasps, wire pendants): paint flux, place a tiny piece of solder, use the torch to warm the piece (just until the flux starts to bubble), then spot concentrate heat on the section to be soldered. When the solder flows, quench immediately in cold water, then drop in the pickle. It does seem to be working well…not perfect, but I’m getting the process down.

Soldering is definitely addictive – yesterday I made up about a dozen clasps (S hooks, variations on Swan clasps) and once they were soldered I couldn’t wait to do another piece!

Jan 252008


After reading SBS Jewelry Workshop the other night, I had decided I really HAD to try out some of the techniques…and why not try something that involves toxic chemicals, fire, and sterling silver (currently hovering over $16/oz yeeks) for starters???

So after working out, spending an hour finishing up the book Sybil at the dojo, and cleaning up the house after I got home, I decided to make a ring.

The results weren’t perfect, but I’m pleased. I purposely made it big, for my pointer finger or thumb, and I love it.

I used 12g sterling silver wire, silver solder (purchased from my Local Rock Shop today), and hammered the wire for a nice texture. Before the flux (also purchased from the LRS) was painted on the ring and solder chip, I made sure I had my jeweler’s tweezers, a small container of cold water (for quenching the ring) and pickle (made from a bit of vinegar and salt and heated in the microwave), and a wooden popsicle stick to pull the ring out of the pickle.

After three tries (I had to work at where to place the solder, what point of the flame to use, and how long to leave it on the solder before I did get it to work), I had a very good solder…there is a slight line where the ends of the ring meet, but the ring is solid and it’s not going anywhere!

If you haven’t guessed, I had fun doing this, and I plan to do more soldering in the near future. I’m really excited that I have finally tried it out!!!

Jan 032008

Time to set goals for the new year!

In 2008, I plan to:
1. Get more proficient with PMC. I did make a couple of pieces yesterday and today, and they turned out okay for first attempts. I had a LOT of fun firing them…not scared of the torch anymore (but I still respect it!). So this year, I’d like to continue to work with the medium, and produce some pieces good enough to sell. 🙂

2. Work with that torch. Yes, it’s just a little baby butane torch, but there are a lot of things I can do with it. Soldering, making my own head pins, just for a start. I have some really good resources for soldering, and this will be the year I learn to do it!

3. Grow my jewelry business through higher end and more personal showings. Craft shows are good and fine, and I have a few that are still my “bread and butter”…but I’d like to work at developing a broader audience for my work. That means checking out art shows, working with some guilds/organizations, and being choosy in where I take my work.

4. Create one piece per week. No stress here in meeting a published deadline, but if I can create one quality piece per week, I’ll be miles ahead by next holiday season! Also, I want to create some jewelry that’s “mine”…but if it’s for sale, I need to photograph it, list it, and market it!

5. Finally, I’m setting a goal to write one article/project/review for Beading Help Web per week. I want to inundate you with new things to read about and try! You can help me out by letting me know if there’s something specific you’d like to read about…just email me at!

Your turn…what do you want to learn or improve on in 2008? What are you looking forward to…a beading trip, taking a class, starting your own business? I’d love to hear your plans for the coming year!