Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Diary of a Rookie Silversmith - Definitely Part 4

Well, if you've kept up with my rookie silversmithing so far, you'll have covered Parts 1, 2, 3, and almost-4, and are probably wondering how I'm getting on, because I was this close *holds finger and thumb a hairs breadth apart* to getting my pendant finished.


All I had left to do was the setting of the cubic zirconia - but boy, is stone setting HARD. D'you remember this picture?

Well, that empty little circle - the bezel - is where the stone was going to sit. What I did not realise is that the outer walls had to be thinned to a 'knife edge' thickness before I could put the stone in. I was terrified of taking too much off and ending up with a portion of no wall at all, so it took me ages to get it right.

When I did, the faceted crystal sat inside, and it was then a simple case (!) of pushing the thinned walls inwards with a bezel pusher until the stone was secure, then push over the top a little bit. It takes an awful lot of strength to do this well - and I'd not helped myself (of course) by doing all of this on a domed base, because it didn't sit flat on the workbench. Lex came to my rescue to help secure the stone, (with a rather worrying moment when the domed base deformed under the pressure - eek! But she managed to reshape it again - phew.) Then I just had to finish off.

I didn't manage to stop the stone rattling, though, because it wasn't a tight enough fit... Lex said it was secure - no risk of it dropping out - so I decided to leave it as it was.

Next - burnishing. This uses a lovely smooth tool that you run round the outside edge of the bezel to smooth away any slight imperfections. From this close up, you can see my setting's not entirely smooth, but I am happy with it.

And  - ta-da! - here is the absolutely finished pendant...

There's a couple of things I would perhaps have done differently - I think I should have made the central tree trunk smoother, so there was more of a contrast between it and the textured background. Or maybe given it a satin finish... And I would have left such an ambitious project until I was a bit more familiar with all the techniques I've been learning, instead of jumping straight in with something so technically difficult!

But it is finished, I love it, and I need to find a length of thong now to hang it on.

As to my other project... remember my ring?

It was a proper circle when I soldered it (look back at part 1 if you want to see how uncircular my first pinkie ring attempt was!) and last week I added the tube setting for the sapphire cabachon. 

It sounded simple enough - cut a short length of 3.8mm tube, and solder to the ring. Except...you have to cut a longer length of tube than you think, because you of course you saw the tube in a (hopefully) straight line, which won't sit well on the curve of the ring. So there's a bit of filing involved, with a rounded file of a similar diameter to the finished ring, until the tube sits without any gaps on your ring. THEN you can solder. Which I did, successfully. (Hooray - finally getting the hang of it!)

Needs pickling - hence the matt and brown-black areas

The next step is to file the tube down until it's a depth that comes about two thirds of the way up the cabachon. I had to be careful to work from a side view here, to avoid taking off too much.

After that, I had to open out the tube by 0.2mm so the cabachon sat comfortably inside, before carefully filing the outside of the tube back to that same knife edge I'd done before. (I realised while doing this that one of the issues I had setting the pendant stone was that I hadn't reduced the thickness of the entire bezel wall - just the top part - because I misguidedly thought that as it was just the top I was pushing in towards the stone, that was the only bit which needed thinning. This time, I did the depth of the bezel, and it made the setting SO much easier.)

Anyhow, to cut a long story short - the cabachon was set, and then I started to sand and file around the shoulders of the stone to remove a few solder marks and make everything smooth and lovely. I didn't get it completely finished; I have some sanding homework to do this week so I can polish next...

See those saw marks? Need to sand them out.

And that big blob of internal solder will have to be sorted, too

Couldn't resist trying the ring on though! You can see that it needs polishing still, and I'm wearing it here on my right hand, but ultimately will wear it on my left from May onwards, because that's when Mr Squidge and I celebrate our silver wedding anniversary... 

And for the last week of my course? I have an idea for a very simple bangle bracelet which mainly involves forming and soldering, so I might just get the ring polished and a bangle made...

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Novel finished, so time to quilt!

Writing news first...

I've finished Rurik-Reeka-Tilda. Hooray! It's taken me almost ten years to really get to grips with this story and make it something I'm really proud of. I sent it out to a few beta readers for a teccy review, and the feedback is about 98% positive. There are always going to be a few niggles and glitches to put right, or consideration to be given to plot points, but on the whole, I'm pretty chuffed with it.

Two out of the three readers returned their comments very quickly - they'd read the novel within 24 hours, so I came up with a new word to describe this...


That is, a measure of how much your reader keeps turning the page - and I'm pleased to say that the Mage of Merjan (yes, the story now has a title) seems to score highly in that regard. (At which point Squidge breathes a huge sigh of relief).

Pageturneyness is second only to Unputdownableness in the authors eyes...

But, having finished the writing, I've given myself a break before I embark on continuing to write the second book in the series. So I went on a one-day Mini-quilting course at Quorn Country Crafts.

Here's what a mini-quilt looks like;

This is a sample of what's achievable, made with one inch squares.
Not for the beginner in this technique! Love the corners on this mini-quilt. 

We were going to make some blocks from one and a half inch squares, ending up with maybe a couple of the designs from this selection;

The block to the left above the blue based block is the one I did...

First task - choose our colours. I'd seen the sample blocks, and decided to try to make some placemats for our new kitchen, which, if you remember, is grey units, black worktops and yellow on certain walls. I had quite a few bits and pieces from both my own and Squidgeling J's projects, so here's what I took with me.

We started by cutting freezer paper into one-and-a-half inch squares (this stuff is like magic - sticks to your fabric when you iron it on and enables really precise cutting). Then, we cut one-and-a-half inch strips of four fabrics and a background colour, which all had to be cut into one-and-a-half inch squares.

3 x four colours, 16 x background

Have to say, I'm not known for being a tidy worker...

For the triangles - or half squares - we used a different tactic. Four-and-a-half inch strips of each of the four colours were sewn to one long strip of background... Opened out and with the seams pressed, we then applied the freezer paper at an angle across the seam so we got perfect triangles of each colour.

Prepping the half square strips to save on waste

Loads more cutting followed, until you had the half-triangle squares, then you could peel off the paper.

Then the fun part. In the next pic, you can just about see the grid we worked on. We cut enough iron-on interfacing to cover 6 x 6 squares. Then, we very - VERY - carefully positioned our patterns of squares over the grid, taking care not to cover the black lines. A bit like when you get a box on a form for your signature, and it says 'Do not go outside of the box'...

These were then carried - oh, so carefully - to the ironing board and ironed into place, with paper above and below to prevent any of the glue transferring onto the iron.

First block of squares stuck to the interfacing

Now, the fun part - actually stitching! You sew a quarter inch seam on the back for every row of squares, cut through the interfacing, iron open, turn 90 degrees and repeat.

Front of block after the first set of seams

Uncut seams on the back

Amazingly, the block shrinks by one and a half inches both ways - and you end up with this;

Finished block!

You'll notice the edge squares look slightly rectangular - that's because they still have a quarter inch seam allowance for the border to be added. I was really impressed though - my triangles were all pretty much perfect!

It took me a while to get to grips with the basic technique, but after that, I was on a roll, and prepped and stuck down three further blocks. I stuck to the same basic pattern, but varied the fabrics in each one while sticking to a mix of grey, black and yellow.

 Today, I've finished them off;

Four blocks, ready to be bordered, backed and bound

It's a great technique, providing you are careful with your ironing and don't melt the interfacing. And get your positions right on the grid. And get all your squares cut up front if you are doing multiple blocks.

The results the other ladies got were fabulous too - some amazing mixes of colours, and using a source book, lots of different pattern possibilities too. I wish I'd had time to take pictures of some of the others... It works best with plain colours or small prints without large areas of space between the printing, and you can blend or contrast the colours to give different emphasis to the block pattern. Huge thanks to Jill for sharing the technique with us and for giving me yet another project to complete...

I'm wondering whether, when I get a chance (!) I can do this kind of thing with lots of different coloured fabrics. A whole block of shades of blue, for example, or reds, or turquoise, perhaps in patterns, perhaps not, and then put those together into a big quilt...

Think I need to write another novel between now and then, though, or the Mage of Merjan will never be joined by the other four books!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Diary of a Rookie Silversmith: Part Almost-4


Not many pics, I'm afraid - forgot to take the camera to the workshop this week to take staged photos - but the pendant is almost finished!! All that's left for me to do next week is set the stone.

In fact, this week's session was really good for a number of reasons...

1. I managed to successfully solder a bail onto my pendant without having to ask Lex how to do any of it beforehand. (Yes, I'm THAT confident at soldering now. Only taken me seven weeks!)

2. Formed a ring - and it was actually round!! (Shan't tell you that I had measured it wrong though, and had to chop a fair few mm off.. It's still a little bit big)

3. I managed to tension the ring, saw the join and solder it...all in the space of about half an hour. You might remember my first pinkie ring took a total of four hours over two sessions.

4. I chose a sapphire cabachon to mount in the ring.

5. I polished the pendant and it's all silvery and shiny...

Downside...I sawed my thumb. Sod'd Law says I did it just after I thought to myself 'must move the ring a bit further up the sacrificial block in case it goes through and hits my thumb first...'

Wonder if I'll get them both finished next week?