Friday, January 18, 2013

Work In Progress II

Here's the chased snake cut out, oxidized and highlighted. (Chased snake?  Chaste snake?)

Hint:  When using oxidation solutions (here I used liver of sulfur), use a steel or brass brush or even a tooth brush with some Windex and scrub up some bubbles. Add some Windex, detergent or ammonia to a bowl of hot water and stir in some liver of sulfur, then add the workpiece. Remove after it colors up, brush and soap up some more and return to the solution.  Repeat, each time rinsing under warm running water, until you have the color you want. I recommend you use some nitrile gloves to avoid getting your hands into the solution; it's hard on your skin, and you probably don't want the liver of sulfur on you, either. I do this in the bathroom with the fan running.  It's stinky.  Even better if your workspace is equipped with an exhaust fan (my next big purchase and installation project).

Next, what to do with the thing; it's part of something, but what?

I am thinking pendant, and remembering the wonderful old army boot part I found on the beach below a bluff at Discovery Park, once the site of Fort Lawton. Did someone march in that boot until it was ready for the trash, and was it pitched off the bluff, as once all garbage was in Seattle? It sparkles with salt crystals and has a few grommets left, with rust marking the ones that became part of the salty waters of Puget Sound.

The workpiece is a bit off truly flat, and I have decided to rivet it to another piece of metal, so the leather between the two layers will help keep it from rattling and absorb some of the unevenness.

I decided to use one of those boot lace holes as the place to connect the pendant to the necklace.  I am also thinking the beach rock I found expresses the sort of look I hope to get, so it's on my work bench for inspiration.

I'll cut a backing plate from 24 ga. copper sheet and pierce out another swervy snake for interest, and to save weight.

Hint:  Thinner metals require thinner saw blades; for this I used a 6/0, which is really thin.  You can find charts online that suggest the correct size blade (meaning number of teeth per section of length), as well as the right drill size for the blade, if you are piercing, which I am doing here.

I have cut the pattern out.  It makes all the difference in the world using the right size blade, even though it is hair thin, and can break.  Look for a brand, like Herkules, that has a rounded back edge so it will turn easily as you cut, moving through the metal more smoothly, being less likely to torque and break.

Hint:  I use a little beeswax to lubricate the blade and help it cut more easily.  You could also use a little dried soap, mineral oil, or one of the products made for this purpose.

Sawing like this is an acquired skill; you will break a few blades getting there until you develop the feel for it.  It helps to project love and enjoyment toward the saw blade as you go.  Impatience will not reward you.  It also helps to keep the blade aligned straight up and down and don't push, let the teeth do the work.  Saw in place to turn corners, and slow down for the sharp curves.

Next, I have prepared the piece for drilling the rivet holes.  I center punched a pilot hole to start the drill bit, and have taped the piece to my bench pin, to hold it down while I drill.  Because rivets fail if you drill the hole too big for the stock, I will use a very fine drill bit and then ream the holes to fit.

Hint:  I almost never use a powered drill, even on steel, because the high speed will work harden the very stuff you are trying to drill.  And, Newton was right -- drills have a tendency to drift, so where accuracy is needed you get good results with a little Archimedes hand drill and a fine bit.  Also, lubrication helps, and is kind to the bit, as well, helping it to stay sharp.  I like wintergreen oil for this purpose.  It is light and evaporates away, so it is less dirty.  Old time engravers and watchmakers used this trick, keeping the oil in little cups in the work area.

Next, how do I make sure the back plate and the work piece match up when drilled, so that the rivets are straight? How do I set the rivets and what do I use?  How is my vision for the necklace progressing? Stay tuned!


  1. It's delightful to look over your shoulder as this project advances. LOVE the snake as well as the many helpful tips you share. Another great post!

  2. You should do a book or tutorial. So nicely written with wonderful pictures and thoughtful hints for beginners.

  3. I like watching this project come reminded me about my own saw blades. I have several sizes in one packet & they don't seem to be marked. Therefore, I just grab one out when needed. I'm sure having the right size makes a big difference.

  4. Check the link in my post; using the right size means you get at least two, preferably 3, teeth to the thickness of the metal. A blade too coarse will hang up on the edge of the metal, and get stuck, making the whole process really unpleasant.

  5. fun to watch your art progress so. can't wait for the final unveiling and all the continued steps leading up to it! xoxo and i totally agree with pipnmolly. a tutorial is at hand.