Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Progress Report: Toggle

Gentlemen's watch chains had toggles that anchored the chain and watch to a button hole.  Under that, there was a fob, which functioned as a counterweight to pull the toggle against the back of the button hole and thus added security.  The assembly I am planning will still have the toggle, but it will act as a closing device, slipping into the bail of the stop watch.  That way, the whole assembly can be worn around one's neck, or just as the old pocket watches with chains were, with the watch in a pocket and the chain draped across the belly and fob dangling attractively.  In old days, the fobs became sumptuary objects d'art for display of one's wealth and taste.  I like using the marble for that, myself.  It's a sumptuous marble.

This toggle is an unused horse shoe nail with a tie wire bail riveted to it.  The two brass rivets will show on the front as both ornamental and functional elements.  

Tomorrow, the chain, if my new looping pliers arrive.

Notice that the gun blue really showed up this time, with a peacock play of color?

This will be a fun piece for a woman or for a fine, dressed-up dandy.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Progress Report: Fob & Hook

A watch chain must have a fob, so today I made one from 18 ga. steel wire and a marble from my collection.  It is a glorious marble, with bubbles, streaks, and sort of a champagne color.  And also from steel wire, a hook.  Both were darkened and polished with gun blue, which can produce some peacock colors, although in mild steel it isn't as obvious.  Then I finished off with Renaissance Wax.

The links and jump rings come next.

It's a delight to work with the sort of focus that allows each stage to be an end in itself, as mindfully as I can manage, no hurry.  That lets the ideas flow.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Keep Silence, a Work In Progress

I had this lovely old pocket watch case with no crown stem or stop watch button, and, worse yet, no crystal to cover that enticing interior space, and no back, either.  Only the case. Just the job for some jeweler's resin. So the project began last summer, during a very warm spell, which is a good time for resin pours. I'm so tickled: I was able to get a lens built in situ. It took three separate pours, the first with plastic wrap taped over the opening, the second a layer behind that, and the last over the first layer and domed. The secret to getting a dome is to let the resin batch cure to the point that it is viscuous enough to run very slowly and make a rounded edge where it spreads.

Well, that much worked out and the project sat for a year, ripening in my mind. I wanted to make a reliquary, and needed to collect just the right small cool things and achieve the right state of mind to build the interior. Originally, I was thinking a solid mass of resin, but last week, when I picked it up again, I saw how much more enticing it was to have a sealed-off hollow place, encapsulated, for holding the objects inside. Then a barnacled fragment of moon snail shell popped out at me from the window sill above my work bench. This got combined with an illustration of sea algae, steel engraved, from my antique Wilson's Reader Fifth Edition, 1861, which also yieled the scrap of text that became the title. The back got papered over with text from another antique, a biography of Cowper, soaked with resins, Keith LoBue style. And I found just the right size of verdigris encrusted rhinestone in a scrap of old earring to fit inside one of the barnacles. It just fell together in a couple of days after a year of ripening. The domed lens acts like a magnifying glass and makes for interesting distortions as you change viewpoints. The text "keep silence and if" swirls around just on the edge of legibility.

Next was the issue of missing bail. It used to have one clamped into a channel under the missing crown stem, and wonder of wonders, I had some stock of brass rod just exactly the right size to slip into that channel. All that remained was to fabricate a bail of rebar tie wire, drill and ream to fit, and hold my mouth right while I hammered the rivet heads to hold it in place. It worked!

Now the problem is the chain. I was going to cobble one from chain scraps, but it doesn't look right, so I guess I'll be making chain the rest of the week, with an eye to pictures of antique watch chains and fobs, only where they are about 12 inches long, I'll be looking for 20.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

More on the Sawing of Old Tin

It seems some of my dear ones are actually, shall we say, afraid of the jeweler's saw frame, and intimidated by the prospect of cutting tin with it?  Oh my.  Believe me, once you have the skill acquired, it's actually easier than tin snips, especially if you want a detailed outline.  I have a chronic sprained thumb in the dominant hand thanks to a little mishap in the mountains some time back, and the snips always set it off.  Besides that, the snips work ok for shallow curves and straight lines, but they leave a bur and often a bent edge, and forget any detailed shape.  So, once more, I'll recommend the right saw blades (critical for success):  they will have a curved back, and you will select the size that will give you at least 3 teeth to the thickness of the metal.  For tin, that means 6/0 or better yet, 7/0. Yes, they are finer 'n frogs' hair, but once you develop the touch for it, you'll surprise yourself with how easy it is.  As always, patience must be our first tool!

I have started saving the bottoms of tins for making templates of shapes I want to use.  They are quite handy, and after a while you'll have a whole stack of possible shapes to help with the design process.  They are especially handy to find just the right spot on the tin to cut, and will ensure that you end up with two pieces pretty much alike.

So here's how I go about it:  first develop the shape you want; graph paper is a good tool for that. Trace the design onto tissue paper, then squeegee (popsicle stick or a bit of cardboard) a thin layer of rubber cement to the back of the tracing and stick it to the tin you plan to use for the template.
Drill or punch a starter hole, and then cut out your shape.  Then, with riffle files, debur and true up the shape.  Now you have a very nice design tool.  And you are using your cut tin all up, even the part that is not printed.

So, dear scoffers, I was able to get the detailed edges of these little Chinese lantern shapes, which I could never have gotten with snips.  What you do is glue more tissue onto the tin you want to use, lay down the template and use it to trace the outline with a fine lead pencil.  With practice, you can actually saw right in the pencil lines, and with a fine saw blade, it doesn't take much filing to clean it up.

The jeweler's saw frame, it's not just for silver any more.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cookie Tin Cutup

I scored this incredible Chinese cookie tin at a yard sale last week.  It is gorgeous:  plum
and red with bands of yellow and green and frolicking babies, some with musical instruments, others with fruit and fans.  Usually I think simply cutting out graphics and displaying them as jewelry elements is not so interesting, but these just beg for that treatment.  So, out with the 7/0 sawblades and narrow frame saw, beeswax and reading glasses -- I'm cutting them out, still not certain how I will use them.  And the exercise of working in a batch has improved my tin-sawing skills quite a bit.  I have some hints to share with you:
  • Use a 7.0 sawblade, the kind with a rounded back, so it will turn curves easily.  Sure, they are not much bigger than a strand of hair, but they have alot of teeth to attack that thin tin.
  • If you push the saw frame, you will break the blade, so you need a light touch.  I find that if I avoid over-gripping the saw, holding it with fingers curled just enough to hold onto it, that helps.
  • Tip the saw at a slight angle while allowing it to do the work, keeping hand and arm relaxed.  As you approach a corner, tilt the blade upright and saw in place before turning.
  • Beeswax, soap, or a product sold for the purpose helps to lubricate the blade.  Don't use too much.
  • Any vibration of the tin interferes with cutting, so use the smallest slot of your benchpin to support the work.
  • It helps to use a 2B pencil to draw a line where you want to cut.  Then, as you cut look at that line.  This will help your accuracy a whole lot.
Because the tin is quite thin, after deburring the edges with a riffle file, I like to collage some paper onto the back.  This is a fun way to carry the theme and add interest to the back, as well as beef up the thin material.  Here I used a page from an old kanji script herbal.

I am not sure just what will happen to all these jolly babies, but a minute ago I discovered an old glass tube that formerly held a Chinese remedy, complete with label and waxed cork.  Hmmmmm . . . . . .

Here's a first effort though -- a pair of earrings with mercury glass bugle bead tassels.

And I just happened to have a bill of hell money for the back.  It's the "Last Gig in the Forbidden City."  They're playing a flute and an oboe of some kind. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Altering Charms

You can probably guess by now that I don't like to use ready mades.  But I do think that charms add, well, charm to a piece.  Substance, or something.  I had these seahorses that must have been from the 60s, in red, white and blue, rather ghastly to my way of thinking, and they sat in the bottom of my supply box for a long, long time.  The other day I thought, alter 'em, what's to lose?  So first they got wiped down thoroughly with rubbing alcohol for degreasing, and then dabbed with embossing gunk and sprinkled with distress powder and then out came the trusty heat gun.  The result was good -- they appeared to have undergone a sea change, and were encrusted with barnacle bumps in the high spots, which increased their sculptural appeal.  Then they got swiped with some pearl powders, which stuck to the barnacles, and their whole commersh look became something else much more satisfactory.  While I was at it, I pearlized the tin shapes and failed foil that almost caused me to pitch those parts out.  The whole lackluster project came back to life.  It's all about knowing when to quit, and sometimes that means don't quit too soon.

Then I went after a pair of cute, but uninspiring, anchor charms for another pair of tin "platform" shapes cut from a tea tin with sailing ships on it.  Much better.  Still, I don't think I'll be going shopping for ready made charms, er, well, uh, maybe some old ones, something really funky from a dead stock merchant on the East Coast, or something like that . . .