Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Easy oval links for a chain

I am starting to make a bespoke chain for my fold-formed pendant. The chain will have a few large oval links, and I have started to make these following the method on p110 of Elizabeth Olver's Jewellery Making Techniques Book

I was delighted to discover how easy this was, assuming access to the necessary tools, as I had been worried I'd have to pierce the ovals. In fact they are made using soldered jump rings. You then roll each ring in the rolling mill, and miraculously out comes a beautiful oval. I used 2 mm round wire wound on a 6 mm knitting needle to form my rings.

I chose to hammer the links so that they go well with the pendant, but they looked pretty good before hammering. I am now going to decide how best to link them together.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Tumbling bottle glass

This tutorial describes how I converted glass from a sherry bottle into pieces resembling sea or beach glass, to be used for jewellery making. The bottle was a blue Harveys Bristol Cream sherry bottle.

I used this rock tumbler, which I usually use for sanding polymer clay beads. (You'll find advice on that application, from Desiree McCrorey, here). The tumbler is sold as a child’s rock tumbler, and is predominantly made from plastic. Mine was purchased from the Science Museum Shop. Another, similar toy is here. For tumbling rocks the machine needs to run for several days, and I suspect that it really makes too much noise to be left on all night without disturbing the neighbours. Fortunately, less time is required for tumbling glass, this task can be achieved during waking hours.

The tumbler was supplied with several packets of abrasive grit for use with rocks. I used the coarsest grade for tumbling my bottle glass.

Here are the steps involved in the process:

1. Empty the bottle and rinse it out with water

2. Put on safety glasses and gloves (I used leather gardening gloves)

3. Wrap the bottle in a tea towel that you don't mind getting torn.

4. Take the wrapped bottle outdoors, together with a household hammer

5. Find a suitably hard surface, hold the bottle neck (still wearing gloves and eye protection) and use the hammer to smash the bottle inside the towel. I found that the edge of my concrete doorstep was a suitable surface, and that the hammer worked best when applied to the shoulder of the bottle. The hammer bounced off other parts of the bottle.

6. Check to see how large the fragments are. Hammer those that are too big, keeping them inside the towel. Some people suggest using tile snippers to form the pieces into the desired shape, but I did not manage to do this successfully.

7. Carefully transfer the fragments from the towel into a storage container.

8. Still wearing gloves, select several pieces for tumbling and weigh them. My load weighed about 150 g.

9. Put the glass in the barrel of the tumbler, add water to just cover the glass then add the abrasive. The maximum my tumbler can tumble at a time is 225 g, so as I had about 150 g I decided to use only half of the sachet of abrasive. Close the barrel tightly and start the tumbler.

10. Tumble for several hours, then check on progress. I tumbled for 10 hours, checked progress, than ran for 2 more hours (12 hours in total). Rinse and dry a piece of glass to be sure that you are assessing progress correctly.

11. When tumbling is completed to your satisfaction, empty the contents of the barrel into a colander held over a bucket, and rinse well. Dispose of the grit that is now in the bucket - but not into the drains! I added mine to a flower bed. Do not use the colander for food after this. Nor indeed the bucket.

12. Clean out the barrel thoroughly so that there is no danger of spoiling any items later tumbled in the barrel.

13. Make something pretty using your tumbled bottle glass!

Please do leave a comment about this tutorial. For example ask a question if these instructions need clarification, post a link if you make any tumbled bottle glass of your own, or add your own experiences with tumbling glass.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Hammered earrings completed

I have finished the earrings shown as work in progress in this post. The silver came from an old bracelet, and the design of the earrings is based on a necklace project in the January 2008 Art Jewelry magazine.

The total drop is 4 cm.

These close-up photos are so unforgiving! I think I may not have finished after all; there is still some filing and polishing to be done! Space was tight on the back, so I had to file down the top of the lower half-ovals so that it was possible to close the little hook.

I am going to put these to one side and come back to them in a few weeks. I need to view them with a fresh eye to be sure that I am not judging them rather uncritically because I am so pleased to have recycled the bracelet!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Tree ring design alterations

The other day, the square wire that I ordered for making my brooch arrived. It was finer than I had thought, and this will have an effect not only on the appearance of the finished item, but also on the practical issue of fastening the brooch. The original plan had been to attach a little bit of fine tubing, on the back at the top of the brooch, and fix a wire pin through this. The pin would fasten into a loop on the back of my mounted felt cylinder. There really isn't room to attach anything on the thin wire.

Instead I shall use a separate pin. For this to work, the brooch as a whole needs a little curvature, so there is space for the pin. I was having trouble drawing this, so made a little model using a short length of wire, a head pin and a button. All three items were on my desk! I really do need to tidy.

The model was enormously helpful, and I believe I can curve the wire framework and still retain parts flat and level enough to fix it to the setting.

My tutor suggested echoing the spiral theme on the end of the pin. I need to draw a few more to decide on the correct size. The example in the drawing at the start of this post is too big. The spiral could even be rotated by 90 degrees.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Hammered earrings: recyling the bracelet continues

The January 2008 Art Jewelry magazine has a project called Pounds Sterling. It is a necklace made up of links of hammered sterling silver. Each link is a slightly domed semicircle made by cutting a disk of silver in half. The bracelet that I am recycling (see 1, 2, 3) offers a source of silver ovals. So I have adapted the project slightly and am making a pair of earrings.

The straight wires, which are soldered to the back of the half-ovals, will be bent into hooks from which the remaining half-ovals of silver will be suspended.
Apart from hammered fingers, things went remarkably smoothly with these, so I hope to complete the last few steps without drama!
For scale: the wires are about 20 mm long.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Tree ring design continued

Further to my previous post, I have continued to modify my design inspired by the cut-off-tree-branch photo. The variation I liked best was one generated using the computer (rectangular to polar coordinate conversion in the Effects | Distortion | Polar coordinates menu of Paint Shop Pro). The shape is now much smoother than the original, but still has the same rings within rings format. I changed the relative sizes a bit, because the piece was getting a bit big overall. I have also simplified things for the first version by removing a decorative element associated with the setting.

Here is the design:

The spirally circle will be a slice from my felt sausage. It will be set, like a stone, in silver. The kidney-shaped rings will be made from square wire. A brooch pin will be fixed to the back, with the closing end on the back of the setting.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Review - Brief number 1: Origami with metal

Image created using Picasa and the Hockneyizer.

I introduced the first brief at Level 3 of my course in this post entitled Brief number 1: Origami with metal. At that time I didn't really think that what I'd be doing would bear much resemblance to origami. However, the technique that caught my enthusiasm was fold-forming, and the first few steps in creating a fold-formed piece involve folding the metal. Just like origami.

It took me a few weeks to get going with this brief and I doubt that anybody would want the outputs, as they look like the beginner pieces they are. However, it has been a vital building block in developing a useful set of skills and I think the techniques learned here are going to be ones that I use repeatedly.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Starting to design

I have started to work on a new jewellery design inspired by the photo of a cut-off tree branch shown in a previous post. These scans (left and below) from my sketchbook are my first attempts to follow the suggestions in Designing and Making Jewellery by Sarah Macrae about refining a shape by making repeated drawings. These would include for example a series of increasingly fatter versions, stretched versions etc.

I have found it hard to keep to only one kind of change in each drawing (e.g. just stretching without any changes in the relative sizes and shapes of the components), but it is proving to be a useful and informative exercise.

The larger image at the start of the post shows various modifications of the original drawing made using the computer. In this case it has been easier to perform just the one kind of geometrical operation at a time.

When I come back to this I shall select the elements I like best from the drawings so far and continue to refine the drawings.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Felt and silver jewellery: three websites

Michele A Friedman's work includes natural shapes with a strong graphic elements and beautiful, bright wool felt ( gallery/jewelry/artist_michele_friedman/catalog_friedman.htm).

Shana Astrachan has incorporated metal pieces into the felt in the rings shown on the home page of her website (

Jewellery with felt and fur from Michaela Binder. Click where it says Sehen sie fotos aus der kollektion and step through a gallery of great metal pieces set with felt (

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Prize has arrived!

The book that I won in the whiplash competition has arrived!

Thank you again to whipup and to the prize donor, the author of this lovely book, Kaari Meng.