A passion for silversmithing

STERLING SILVER : Noun, meaning silver of 92 and a quarter percent purity.....

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Anniversary waltz.....

We have been married for 25 years in August and I want to make Paul a wedding ring to replace the one he lost years ago whilst on holiday in Cape Town.

I'm excited but apprehensive, working with an expensive strip of gold wire, without my tutor Jane Shellard guiding me. The other 'slight' problem is that I don't actually know Pauls ring size. He has no other rings that I can measure, and I want this to be a surprise, so I have to guess. A conspirital friend managed to get Paul to try on his own ring after a few beers one night, and it measured U1/2. It was a little big on Paul, so I plump for one size down, V1/2.

Next problem was calculating how much gold wire I need. I found charts online that give ring circumferences for every size, but for V1/2 it varies between 64mm and 67mm and it seems too small. Thinking it's better to make it too big than too small, I decide to make it 70mm. I had already bought 80mm of 9ct 'D' wire, 5mm by 1.5mm and a tiny piece of gold solder wire from cooksongold.com . It looks really ordinary, and thin, and not very gold.

The ring will be completely plain like the original.

I take the plunge, using my brand new saw on my brand new bench peg, and cut the gold strip at 70mm. 

I bend the ends round to meet each other using half round pliers and with a thin glass nail file I file both ends together until they are flush. We were taught to hold the join up to the light and make sure no chinks of light can be seen through the join.

It takes me a while to get some usable flux from my new borax cone, but lots of water later I have enough to cover the join and to hold a tiny strip of solder wire in place (I place it on the inside along the join).

 In the workshops we only soldered silver, and my first attempt at soldering the ring doesn't work. I am frightened of melting the ring, and end up not melting the solder either. I remember Jane told us to heat the all of the ring, nd not actually the solder joint, then the joint and the heat from the torch will draw the solder into the joint. The torch I am using is a chunky blowtorch with a fat nozzle and fat flame. Not ideal but all I have for now. Second attempt and the gold turns red as the solder flows. I drop it into my pickle solution which is warmed in a mini slow cooker bought for £6 in an Argos sale. 

In an effort to save money on tools I am using an old wooden spindle chair leg as a ring mandrel. Unfortunately it is not that successful as the wood is too soft. I get the ring kind of round, and can see that it is too big. I should have trusted the measurements on the chart after all. I saw out a piece a few mm wide where I had soldered and start again. Success this time, but its not a perfect joint by any stretch!

I need a proper mandrel, but the only shop in Hampshire does not have one and cooksongold do not have the ones I want in stock. I get one from ebay, and now have to wait til it arrives.......

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