Monday, January 21, 2013

Having fun!

I have been having a lot of fun working with the old steel and sapphires we found last fall. Concepts have been flowing out of me so fast I can hardly keep up with sketches. Ok, that's an exaggeration but I do have a few ideas in mind.

The other day, when I was working out a design for a channel set ring, I got so excited about a steel pendant idea; I had to stop working on the ring and make the pendant.

I started with a really old piece of rusty wire.
When I forged the wire it wound up with a slight serpentine shape which I really liked, so I decided to mimic it in the setting. I drilled holes to clear out the bulk of the metal for the channel then used a saw and files to remove the rest.

Next I cut some 14k yellow gold sheet, to use for the bezel, and soldered it in place with easy 14k solder.

I had a scrapped, 14k gold, hoop earring; that I cut a short section out of to use as a bail. After melting two of these I decided it was just too thin of a gage (30) to solder to steel. I then set out to make the bail out of sheet. Tubes are pretty easy and I had it made and soldered in no time. Bending it proved to be a different story. Since it was so short the spring bending technique did not work and I did not have the right size music wire to use as a bending mandrel. So...I had to design and make a bending jig.

It worked ok but took me some time to work the kinks out. It turns out (I think) the channel needs to be deeper than just half of the cross section of the tube. More like a U shape. I did practice with some copper but finally decided to just go for it. It wasn't perfect (probably because my hand cut channels (I used a ball burr) had a couple of wobbles in them. So, I found a piece of wire that matched the inside diameter of the tube exactly (in this case a coat hanger) and bent it into and arch to use as a mandrel. I inserted this in the tube as far as it would go and used a polished hammer to coax it into shape so I could slide the mandrel in further. I repeated these steps until the mandrel was fully inside the tube. I then plannished out the remaining flaws and removed the mandrel.

Lessons learned:
- make sure the bezel is completely soldered. If you look closely at the upper right side of the channel, you can see where the bezel is pulled away from it (actually I relearned this...bad Pixie, you know better. In fact you would have made your students redo it.)
- 30 gage gold may be to thin to successfully solder to steel. Someday I might do some more experimentation with this but for now I plan to steer away from it (it was really to thin for a bail anyway, I was just to lazy to make the tube).
- don't be cheap. I tried to save cost and made the bezel too short. In the long run it would have been a lot cheaper to make the bezel another .25 mm taller than to struggle getting the stones tight in the setting.
- use a higher karat gold for bezel setting. The 14ky that I used was really hard to move. First I tried using my favorite setting method that I use for silver bezels; a brass punch and a chasing hammer. When the gold would not budge I switched to a mild steel punch in a hammer handpiece. This helped but I was constantly resharpening it. Finally, I switched to a stainless steel punch and got the job done...sorta' (I really could of used that extra .25 mm of bezel height).

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