A passion for silversmithing

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

Saturday, 6 August 2011

A labour of love

Stephanie is my oldest and dearest friend, my soulmate, an artist and  printmaker extraordinaire who has lived on the other side of the world in Melbourne for many years. I have known her since we were five years old and friends do not get more special than this one.

I want to make her a birthday present - she isn't into bling or sparkly, so I decide on a pendant necklace which I will forge, hammer and oxidise.

I have in mind a particular bead but I cannot get it locally, and in fact what is in my mind probably doesn't exist. I want a cream rondelle, about 16mm, with a cracked glaze appearance. I find some magnasite beads that are almost right but have left it too late to order from abroad. I settle for a pandora style glass bead instead in a yellowy clear glass from the Southampton beadshop

First I make some links for the chain. I wind some 0.8mm round wire around a tool handle and cut them using pliers into individual links. I solder them closed after filing the ends square. I use too much solder and find it difficult to file it smooth. Still I am learning by my mistakes.

Then I make them slightly oval by pushing them onto my burnisher blade before I flatten and hammer them. It is time consuming and I know I can't make the whole chain like this, so I have bought some silver chain to attach to the hand forged links.

I really struggled to find the right sort of chain sold loose. I wanted something simple, plain oval links, to mimic the shape of the hand forged ones. Had to compromise with some plain chase chain 25/11 from Cooksongold.com.

I join the handforged links with hand made sterling silver jump rings which I had great difficulty soldering. I messed up so many. I had stupidly used extra easy solder on the hand forged links so had to use the same again on the jump rings. I made many mistakes, too much solder, not enough filing to make ends meet before soldering, missing the joints, soldering the jump rings to the other rings, not enough flux............ sheesh! I bought some ready made jump rings and silver solder paste which made the job easier, though I still managed to mess some up. Luckily this is a rusticy piece so I can get away with a certain amount of mistakes.

I make some bead caps using my disc cutter and drill a hole in them using my cougar drill (charity shop purchase). Can't see the finished article in my mind at this point but have to keep going. I ball up the end of some 1.0mm wire to make the clasp and other findings. I hammer the ball of one to flatten it slightly, and with the other I make a clasp using my round nosed pliers. Again, flatten and hammer...

Because the bead has a large hole I need to somehow keep the centre pin in place otherwise the beadcaps will move around. I wrap thin copper wire round and round the pin so it pads out the hole.

Finally I join the pieces together with jump rings which I solder (getting the hang of it now - no filing needed before or after!).

I spend ages sanding and polishing - my nails are broken, my fingertips sore, but its in the name of love, so I put up.

Final step, I dip it in liver of sulpher (pooey) to oxidise it, and then polish it with car polish to bring back some of the silvery shine.

I like it, it's not perfect - but a true labour of love.

I wrap it in handmade paper, with 'Sweep', a glove puppet that she has coveted for years, and that has been up in my loft since forever.

...and in the card I tell her about this blog!

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing friend you are - a labour of love indeed!