Sunday, March 06, 2011

Process - Fine Silver Earrings

I start from scratch with fine silver wire (16 gauge) and various mandrels, extremely high tech devices like dowel rods and knitting needles, pens, kitchen utensils, anything rigid and round. Be wise about spending your money, some things are worth the extra, some are not.
Winding the wire onto the mandrel.  I have a winder that works great for any mandrel up to about 1/2 inch, after that I have to wind it by hand, which is a little bit harder on my hands.
You end up with a nice coil of wire ready to cut into rings.  This is where it's worth spending the money for a great pair of ultra flush cutters.  BOTH ends of the ring have to be very flat so they butt up together.  You have to cut on side and then flip your pliers over to cut the other side, it's a spatial thing that eludes most people.
This is a not so great photo of fusing, a little difficult to do holding torch and phone/camera.  But you get the general idea of the pinkish color you get right before the ends melt and fuse together.  Don't be discouraged with this process.  It's all percentages, when you first start you may have 10% success, then slowly your success rate will improve.  I've done many thousands and I'm down to a 10% failure rate.  It happens, you lose concentration, the torch needs fuel, the ends aren't touching properly, whatever.
When fusing chain I'll fuse a bunch and then join two with a third.  Joining rings means you have to prop up the already joined rings so they don't touch the ring you are fusing, kind of tricky sometimes but not that hard.

These have been fused, tossed in a water bath to cool and are ready to shape and hammer.
Shaping with some nice pliers.  It's all practice and guesswork. And no I wouldn't make the shapes first and then fuse them.  Why put effort into something that may fail?  And the shapes make it difficult to get them fused, you want to push the heat up into the unfused ends.
And now for hammering, both sides get hammered for strength and to create facets in the metal that will catch the light.  These will all go into a tumbler for a final shine.  Bigger shapes are easier to hammer, smaller ones tend to be hard on my fingers, ouch.
If you are in the area and want a class on fusing fine silver I am available by appointment, just let me know.  My studio is a heavenly place filled with fun, but I warn you, you have to like dogs!


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