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rockhammer-earrings

Earlier this year I was asked if I could make an extra long pair of my Rockhammer earrings. These were a leaving present for someone from her work colleagues.

On the day I started making them, we had a visiting photographer, Ben Boswell at Manor Oaks Studios. Ben took photos of my work in progress. I had already textured some Argentium silver ready to begin the earrings.

I began by drilling two holes in the piece of Argentium, while it was still flat. This is an Archimedes drill.

1-drilling

II used a piercing saw to cut out the individual leaf shapes for the earrings.

2-sawing

3-sawing

Next I filed the edges

4-filing

then sanded them smooth, using wet and dry paper in my pendant drill

5-sanding

The shaping was begun using an anticlastic raising stake, and a mallet.

6-shaping

Annealing the Argentium part way through the shaping, to make it malleable again after work hardening7-annealing

I work down each ‘valley’ on the stake to make the curve deeper until I am happy with it8-shaping

Once I am happy with the curvature, I twist each piece, remembering to make them curl in opposite directions!9-twisting

The first one is done, now to make the other one 10-one-leaf

Making a coil of jump rings, to hang the earrings 11-coiling

Sawing the coil into individual rings12-sawing

Attaching a jump ring. This was then soldered, and hung from an ear wire which I had already made. Then I polished the earrings using a brass brush and soapy water, to give a soft satiny finish.13-adding-jump-ring

Having Ben photographing each stage made me realise just how much goes into a pair of earrings. At first I felt a bit self conscious about being photographed, but after a while I just got into my making zone and almost forgot he was there.

Oh and the recipient was very happy with her present!

2014-03-22 16.53.46A couple of years ago I won the commission from Sheffield Assay Office to make the first piece of jewellery to be hallmarked at the new Sheffield Milan Assay Office. It had to be made in sterling silver, so this is the only piece I have made that is not Argentium for quite a while.

When the call for applications went out, the destination of the piece was still secret, and when I found out my design had been chosen I still didn’t know where it was going. It was all very exciting. My design was inspired by the rose which is the Sheffield Assay Office mark, and I chose to use dog roses in a necklace in silver with gold stamens.

 

I began by chasing the roses from silver sheet, to make them three dimensional. I stuck the silver onto pitch, and worked into it using punches and a hammer.

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The next stage was to remove the silver from the pitch, ready to saw out the individual roses with a piercing saw

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After cutting out the individual roses I soldered 18 carat gold stamens in the middle of each flower

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Five flowers for the front of the necklace, and two to go at the back to be part of the fastening, and have the hallmarks on.

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Coils of jump rings ready to be sawn up and soldered into a hand made chain

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The finished necklace in a box ready to be sent off to Italy

 

After a summer of travelling round the UK doing craft fairs, finally I am back at my laptop ready to do another blog post. I have been continuing my experiments with Argentium silver, first I did some etching. I stuck some Argentium onto some parcel tape and used stopout varnish to draw some linesImage

then I used 50% nitric acid to etch the designImage

then I used a brass brush with soapy water to polish it

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I used a brass brush and soapy water to give a satin finish.

 

Then I did some granulation, with Argentium granules onto Argentium sheet

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1 was successful granulation, as was 3, but 2 was where I got the granules too hot and they started to melt. I was experimenting using a firebrick and a charcoal block, didn’t seem to make much difference.

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This picture shows the granulation again, but also where I have sawn out some 0.5mm leaf shapes, and  have fused them onto some 0.5mm sheet. This went really well, and I have used this technique in lots of my new Argentium pieces.

 

Some of my next experiments will involve fusing 18ct gold granules onto Argentium, and more complicated fusing pieces.

fused rings

Some time ago I had a go at fusing a ring made from Argentium silver, but I was not happy with how it looked- I just didn’t seem to be able to get it hot enough to fuse properly. After doing lots of internet research, I tried fusing a series of rings, all from the same size strip,1.2mm thick and 6mm wide, but varying the method. I used Auroflux, but it just seemed to run off, and I felt I needed more heat.

I had been successfully fusing thinner sheet and wire, so I was a bit disheartened by the rings- I could still see the joins, and in some cases when I hammered the rings to make them bigger the join split. After some good advice from Peter Johns, and some more trials, I came to these conclusions:

* Auroflux separates out, so needs to be shaken before use, and it also works better warm. It also helps to warm the workpiece and dip it in the flux.

* My propane torch was just not getting the work hot enough, and my microweld was ok for small stuff but not the chunkier rings. I bought an oxy-propane torch, with 5 nozzles, and this has helped me immensely. Argentium behaves more like gold, so heat can be more localised, instead of heating the whole piece.

* I have had more success standing the rings up on the firebrick, with the join at the top (like a letter O ), rather than lying them down. I have tried using a charcoal block, and a firebrick, and find I prefer the firebrick for this purpose.

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I love to make hamdmade chains, and I loved the idea of being able to fuse all the links instead of soldering them. So my next set of experiments was trying to fuse links in different sizes, some from 1mm round wire, and some from 0.7mm round wire. I painted the joins with warm, shaken Auroflux, and was successful in fusing links in both sizes of wire, made on a 6.3mm mandrel. But when I started going smaller, it was a bit more tricky. The ones on the charcoal block got too hot too quickly and started to melt. I had about 75% success on a firebrick, but found that these smaller ones were better done using my microweld.

My next step is to make a chain using some of the 0.7mm wire and a 3mm mandrel- wish me luck!

Chasing the collar

The chased, anticlastic collar that was the centrepiece of my Immaculate exhibition started off like this

I stuck a long thin strip of Argentium silver onto a bowl full of pitch (to support it and hold it in place), then used a small punch and chasing hammer to put the decorative lines onto the surface.

Next I took the strip off the pitch, and used a mallet and an anticlastic raising stake to form the piece. You can see the finished collar on the page about my Argentium exhibition above.