Friday, July 22, 2016

Experimenting with Exciting New Equipment

Hello everyone!

A few weeks ago I found myself frustrated. I love working with wire, but wrapping just hasn't been doing it for me lately. I've wanted to learn advanced metalworking techniques for years, but this time I decided I was going to buy the equipment needed to start making soldered copper jewelry.

I made a list of all the things I'd want and need for soldering, figured out which items I would need right away, and then I priced out each item I needed that was available from Amazon. There are still things I need to buy but they could wait a little bit. From there, I comparison shopped for a couple of days at Rio Grande, Rings & Things, and Fire Mountain Gems to try to bring my costs down. I got my list down to a bit over $100. I couldn't afford that, so I spent a long time doing paid surveys! Over a few weeks I joined a number of legit survey sites and little by little accumulated the money I needed. I also did two 'mystery shops' at a diner for a significant chunk of money.

When I finally had enough, I ordered what I needed and eagerly awaited their arrival!

I got a cute little pickle pot and a pretty nice torch-

...a fire brick (which arrived broken, actually, but it ended up being a lot bigger than I thought it would be so I didn't actually mind that it broke - my studio space is not large so it actually works out that now I have two smaller bricks.)

My pot, brick, and torch arrived before my solder did, so for the first day with my new equipment, I focused on practicing balling up lengths of copper wire, getting a feel for the torch and how the copper behaves when it's hot. I had drawn out a little design to attempt a pair of earrings, each earring consists of two different lengths of wire balled up at the ends. It took quite a few attempts to get two pairs of wire in matching lengths with balled up ends. I got a little frustrated because I worried I was using too much wire, but then realized that my failures would probably make for pretty decent headpins for future projects, so I kept them :) 

I discovered that sometimes little bits of hot copper can jump away and land on your sketchbook! After this, I moved my book very far away from my work surface.

I also learned that hot metal can melt a plastic worktable quickly! After this, I located a large stone tile to use on top of my table.

After much practice and experimentation, I was left with four components, two each for each earring.

The next day, my solder arrived. I made up a few jump rings and soldered one to one of my earring pieces...

...and was beyond thrilled when I completed my first soldering! It was so satisfying to see the two little bits of solder suddenly melt and flow. I soldered the other wire piece and another jump ring on and was left with a sort of fleur-de-lis design. Time to pop it into my cute little pickle pot!

After pickling, it came out coppery again.

Here it is after a bit of filing, a bit of hammering, and a bit of sanding.

At this point, despite all the hammering, this is very soft - annealed copper is like butter! For now my earrings stay in this form until I can afford a rawhide mallet and a dremel/flex shaft. So, it's back to surveys for me! If anyone is interested, I can post referral links to the sites I like best that are legit and pay through Paypal.

I'll leave you now with my mom's cat Vinnie, who knows there's canned food in this box! :P

Til Next Time!