I get many questions about how I work, and it seems like a lot of people want to try making jewellery, but do not know where to start.I figured I could show some simple ways to get started, and what tools you actually need and what’s nice to have but not really necessary. You don’t have to buy absolutely everything to start with, there are many simple things that can be done with just the basic tools.
To start, if you want to make jewellery, you will need tools. I will not be showing how to do wirewrapping, because I’ve actually never tried that. I do believe it can be done with a lot fewer tools. If you want to be able to solder your items, you could start out with this set from Rio Grande.
You get a saw, sawblades, files, flux, solder, a little bench anvil with a wood part to hold your jewellery against while filing and sanding, a set of pliers, metal scissors, 5 1mm drill bits and tweezers.
Then you need a bigger file, this half round one is nice. You should also get a handle for it.
Calipers is a must have if you’re doing any sort of precise work. These are good, but you can actually get digital ones cheaper.
Ring mandrel, and ring gauge set.
For polishing you could get a little buff wheel and some polishing compound. Just use it with a cheap dremel, you probably already have one in your house.
Polishing papers are also good to have.
Here is a block to protect your table while soldering. Use charcoal and soldering picks.
(I think these picks are crap, and if you find a solid titanium one, without the handle, buy that instead. If not, these work too)
You should have a dead blow hammer to start with. You can probably wait with other hammers.
Now you need some pickle. I use one called Vitrex, but this one seems to be just the same. It should be used warm, and you could buy a pickle pot or use an old crockpot. A brass brush to brush off the white layer that forms from the pickle, and you’re ready to start!
Start by figuring out which size you want to make. On the ring guages you will find the size in many different measurements, including American sizes, and mm. I will be using mm.
If my ringsize is 49, that means the inner circumference of my ring should be 49 mm when the ring is finished.
Measure out 49 mm+the thickness of the material*π, but you can round that down to just 3. I’m using 1 mm thread here, so 49+(1*3)=52 mm.
Anneal the silver. Heat it up untill it glows, but take care not to melt it. Drop it in some water to cool down.
Using pliers, but being very very carefull not to mark the wire, bend it so that the two ends meet. Don’t worry about making it round, we can do that later. The important thing here is that the ends align perfectly, and are closely together.
There will be a gap, and you should saw through it several times, untill the edges are straight and tight together.
You can also do it this way. If you want a size 5 ring (American sizes, my ring mandrel doesn’t have mm sizes, so I keep a conversion chart nearby)
Wrap it around, and then make a mark across both ends. Saw through the marks.
Cut your solder into tiny pieces. You can use your soldering pick to pick it up. Melt it with the flame while poking it with your pick. A bit of flux on it will make it stick to the pick, so you can transfer it to your ring.
Or you can just put it onto the ring before you start heating it up. Make sure you don’t use too much flux, or it will bubble and move your solder around.
Here you see the tiny bit of solder placed right where the two edges of the ring is joined.
Heat your ring slowly, starting from the back, and going from side to side a for a few seconds before directing the flame to the soldering point.
The even heat will prevent the ring from heating up too much in front while still being cold at the back, and opening up beceuse of the temperature difference.
Here are the two rings soldered. Through them in the pickle for a minute, and brush it off with your brass brush.
I don’t have any pictures of that, because I was too lazy to do it. It’s not a huge problem if you skip it.
They are not at all round, so we’ll fix that now.
Make sure it lies flat as well.
You might have to flatten it a bit, and then hammer it round, and alternate between these two a few times before it’s perfect.
Rub them on a sanding stick to remove any coal or other bits stuck to the bottom of them. You want them to be clean when you solder.
Stack them onto the ring, and just slather it in solder. It can be as messy as you want with this type of design.
When you’ve soldered them on, turn it over and put a few more beads on the other side, so it’s more balanced.
Pickle, brush, and if you want, oxidize. I oxidized it and then polished it to remove some of it and give it more depth.
If you do not have an oxidation soloution, hard boil two eggs, and put them in a box with a tight lid. Smash the eggs completely with a fork, shell and all, and put your jewellery in with it. Leave it for 5-6 hours, shaking the box once an hour to ensure even oxidation.
The sulphur in eggs will turn your silver black.
Now, let’s move on to something a little bit more refined, yet still easy.
I have a thing for butterflies. I really really like them. So here is a piece of 1 mm sheet silver. I drew a butterfly with a sharpie.
Saw it out. This might be a bit tricky, and you will break half a million sawblades before you start to feel you’re in control of the saw. That takes years. So don’t worry if you don’t get it perfect the first time, and don’t think you’re a failure if you need to replace your sawblade constantly.
At school we spent months doing nothing but sawing straight lines, and squares and cirlces, before they let us try other shapes, or even touch a file or torch.
Just practice, and if it turns out bad, make another one. You can always turn the terrible ones into little beads and put on the rings, and prented like it was intentional ;)
Solder the bend to make it more stable, and ensure that the wings will not break apart because you weakened it by filing it down.
Use a round file to make an indent to put your ring into. You don’t need to file deeply, just a bit. This helps you solder the ring safely on, by increasing the area of the butterfly that touches the ring.
I forgot to take pictures of the soldering process, but I used a “thrid hand” to hold the ring, and placed the butterfly upside down with the ring on top. After that I pickled it, sanded it a bit to give it a matte satin finish, and that’s it. I stamp my work with a 925 mark and my own hallmark, but if you’re just making these as a hobby and not to sell, I wouldn’t worry about that.
Would you like to make some cat ear rings?
And solder them on.
Pickle them, and if you want to, oxidize them.
You can make fox ears, bunny ears, what ever animal ears you want.
And you can use the same technique, only smaller to make earrings too.
I think the rings are nice as pendants as well, just put the chain through one of the ears.