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...

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