Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Diary of a Rookie Silversmith: Part 3

This is going to be a short one.

I'd got as far as succesfully soldering my 'tree' onto the base disc of my pendant, and choosing a stone in Part 2, and then things stalled a bit.

In two further sessions, I've made a stone setting and soldered it to the pendant. Which doesn't sound like a lot, and isn't, really. I'm discovering that a lot of the time is taken up by waiting to ask a question (I'm not the only person there, and everyone else had questions too!), waiting to use various bits of kit (I do try to organise myself so I can get on with something else, but that's not always possible) or getting to grips with a technique.

For example...

I made the double-skinned tube setting for the stone;

Cut the sheet metal...

Cut one portion slighter narrower than the other and
file them both even (thin one for the inside)

Solder the two sheets together, form a ring, and solder again...

But - it stood really high on the pendant, so I knew it needed to be filed down. I started with rough sandpaper. Took an age. Lex saw me, and introduced me to a small vice which I could clamp the setting into, and a metal file. Lovely - potential to file a lot quicker. Except the setting kept jumping out of the vice (I was filing it in the wrong direction!) and I didn't seem to be making much headway in reducing the depth of the tube. Cue Lex again - she asked if I wanted some help. After about half an hour's filing with no real impact, I said yes please... I could see straightaway that she was removing a lot more silver than I'd managed, with just one swipe of the file - what was her secret?

It turned out to be strength - she showed me how much force she was using by pressing against my hand; it was a lot! I admit that Lex ended up filing the tube down to the right amount in the end...but I didn't mind. I was still learning by watching her, and to be honest, my frustration at my own lack of progress was beginning to impact on what I was achieving.

So I am learning as I go along - learning lots! - but it does mean that everything takes so much more time than I thought it would, and I'm having to rein in my expectations of what I can achieve in the time available to me.

I did manage to get the reduced depth stone setting soldered onto the base disc (and Lex tells me my soldering is improving - hooray!), so next week's tasks are filing the top edge of the setting so it can be bent over the stone, soldering a bale onto the back, actually setting the stone, and polishing. I might actually get it finished...?

All set to solder - spot the little blue squares inside the setting?

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