handmade jewelry & metalsmithing

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Thimbles for sewing and thimbles for banjo 


I make two kinds of thimbles, uniquely designed for two very important pastimes- sewing and banjo playing. It’s fun when your hobbies can overlap, and a new product is invented! I’ll show you some beginner’s metalsmithing techniques and you can see how I make these. The jewelry techniques for this could be used to make an adjustable ring or use your imagination and you could use these methods to make a tool for something you enjoy.

Solid argentium sterling silver sheet is sawn with a jeweler’s saw. Beginner tips: match your sawblade to the gauge of the sheet: 24gauge is best cut with a 6/0 blade. A little wax on the blade never hurts. I’ve used a tube of beeswax or coconut oil based lip balm, nothing really specific to the task is necessary!


    Tighten your saw blade with enough tension to hear a bright sounding tone when you gently strum it. If it sounds flat increase the tension. Wear your goggles in case you break a blade. Everyone knows sharp objects and lemon juice head straight for the eyes!


    Ready to saw? Hold it straight up and perpendicular to your metal by using a jeweler’s benchpin. Saw straight up and down, slowly and keeping aware that you are only removing metal on the downstroke. With practice, you will be able to use the most delicate blades to create  graceful intricacy in your work. Save frustration by learning with the heaviest blades.


    The next part is truly fun- hammering! I start with a jeweler’s ball peen hammer and an indentation in a tree stump to start sinking the metal. If I want a more dramatic bowl, I will need to anneal the metal. I will hammer it with a rawhide mallet on a small dapping punch held in a vise to refine the form.


    Next, I will use files and sandpaper to shape the edges so they will be smooth and rounded. Remember when filing that you only remove metal on the push, it’s not a back and forth process like the sandpaper.

    Metal stamps mark the metal type and copyright information. A custom monogram could be added at this point.


    For now, I will leave these sanded and flat, so that they could be personalized for a custom order. After sanding and stamping, shaping is done on the ring mandrel with a rawhide mallet. Polishing is done with the flex shaft drill using tripoli, white diamond and rouge on felt buffing wheels. As a final touch, these are tumbled with steel shot and burnishing compound for luster and to harden the metal. 

    I hope you’ve got an idea of some new things you can try! 

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    Setting Stones: Tube Settings

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    One of the first things new metalsmiths want to learn is how to set gemstones. It’s a great way to add color and value to a piece. I’m going to cover some simple ways to set stones, beginning with the easiest- tube setting. Tube setting is ideal for small round stones. It is great for beginners because there is less soldering, and the small size hides flaws.

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    Here is the round Amethyst cabochon and a thick walled fine silver tube.

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    A tube-cutting jig is a tool which makes it easier to saw the tube. You’ll want to cut a length of tube that ends just where the straight sides of the stone begin to curve into a dome. When you push the metal over the stone, you don’t need a lot to hold it in place, and you don’t want to cover more of the stone than necessary.

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    Now you can solder your piece of tubing to a backing, using medium solder.

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    You can use a file to make the height exactly right for the stone. Keep in mind that there are variations between the cut of stones that are the same size. Make sure you create a bezel for the exact stone you intend to use.

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    Gemstones that have translucency are accented by allowing more light to pass through the stone. You can drill a hole inside your bezel setting, pass your saw blade through, sawing and filing to create an opening.

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    Complete all the filing, sanding, heat and chemical treatments you intend for the finished piece before you insert the stone.

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    Drop the stone in place. Using a tool called a bezel pusher, push the metal over the stone in a specific pattern: from opposite ends, one push at a time, nudging the metal straight against the side of the stone and over the top.

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    Use a burnishing tool to polish out the unevenness and strengthen the metal.

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    Polish without abrasives and remember to check the Moh’s level of hardness for your particular stone if you want to tumble it.

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    Let me hear any questions you have about this process and good luck!
    These earrings are available in my Etsy shop!


    It’s the Little Things

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    I like gifts. When the price is friendly, I can give a lot more gifts, and that is especially important around the holidays! So, I’m making little things-they have a lot of individuality and are easy on the wallet. You can see them all on my etsy shop, but I’m going to show you aspiring jewelry-makers how to construct your own.
    To begin, take sterling silver sheet, 22 gauge.

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    Apply masking tape, so that you can draw on the metal. This will also make the metal dust stick and allow you to see your lines more clearly and breathe in less silver.

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    Making tiny things is a great way to make use of scrap from other projects. Take a look at your leftovers before you send them to be recycled, sometimes interesting shapes suggest new ideas!

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    Saw out your design with your jeweler’s saw, then place the two pieces together to file both at the same time.

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    For the earring post, snip 21 gauge sterling round wire at about 1.1cm and file one end flat.

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    Next step is soldering, so now’s the time to do any stamping or texture!

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    Hold with a third hand (tweezers in a stand). Apply flux and one pallion of medium solder, then heat with the torch until it flows.

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    Use copper tongs to pick up the hot metal. Quench in water, the soak in the warm pickling acid until the flux glass and oxidation are gone.

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    The last step is to polish it up! This means sanding and buffing and don’t forget rounding the sharp end of the post. You can use pre-made butterfly clasp on a short post, or hook a long post to the side to make a cool ear clip.
    Little posts are a fun project. There’s a lot of work involved, but the results are one of a kind and last a lifetime. It’s a great way to make a really unique gift for someone special. Try it out yourself, or request a custom item from my etsy shop!


    Handmade Men’s Ring, Hammered Silver and Gold

    To begin this ring, I saw the band from a sheet of sterling silver. I snip off chips of 14k gold wire and heat them with a hand torch until they spin into little granules. Using tweezers, flux and gold solder, I place them in line and solder them with a hand torch.

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    After pickling it in a warm citric acid bath, It is ready to be shaped into a ring. I first bend it with my fingers and flat nose pliers to bring the ends flush for soldering.

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    After soldering and cleaning the solder joint with sandpaper, it is ready to be shaped on the ring mandrel with a rawhide mallet. Then I will use a ball peen jeweler’s hammer to create texture and flare out the edges.

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    I polish the ring with white diamond, tripoli and rouge on the buffing wheel. Next, I mix a warm solution of liver of sulphur to darken the polished silver to a purplish black.

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    The gold is not affected by the liver of sulphur. I tumble the ring with steel shot for a few hours to add a luster to the black finish. This also work-hardens the ring for wear.

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    This ring and more original handmade works are available in my Etsy shop.


    Custom Handmade Banjo Fingerpicks

    I got a banjo for my birthday. The happiest most fun instrument there is. I thought the ukulele was the coolest, but since a banjo requires jewelry-it wins!
    How long did it take me to start making my own banjo picks? Not long. Almost instantly. I am allergic to nickel, and I have the tiniest fingers ever, so it was a mix of necessity and artistic opportunity, which often combine to mean the same thing.
    How many mock-ups before I settled on the best? Countless! I made banjo picks different ways in silver, copper, aluminum, paper and foil for 2 months until I found my sweet spot.
    Finally, I nailed a design that is completely original and fits like it isn’t there at all. The bonus is that sterling silver is not only beautiful, but sounds like heaven. I was playing on a pair of National’s that I inherited from my Dad. Not only were they too big and uncomfortable on my skin due to the nickel, the sound of the nickel on the strings is awful and scratchy. You don’t really notice it until you’ve heard the sound of the silver. But, once you do there’s absolutely no going back.

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    Here’s a view if the process, from copper mock-up to the finished product. You can purchase a pair of these from my Etsy shop. You can even add a custom design and inscription.
    Here’s a view of the process in making the design, from copper mock-up to finished product.

    First, it’s just copper sheet.

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    Then, I apply masking tape so that I can draw my design.

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    I trace my design from a paper mock-up.

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    I saw it from the sheet with a jeweler’s saw.

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    Banjo fingerpicks come in pairs, just like making earrings. They have to match.

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    Next, I file away the rough edges.

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    Then, I draw the star.

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    I drill a hole for the saw blade, then carefully excise the design in the metal. I add the stamps for sterling silver, my maker’s mark and copyrights.

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    I tap the ring shanks around the mandrel.

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    They are now beginning to take shape, but still require a lot of filing, sanding and polishing.

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    Here’s how they line up to an old National.

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    Here’s how they would fit if your fingers are batteries.

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    Now here are some various glamour shots because they are so beautiful.

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    New Year of Handmade Adventures

    It’s a New year and a time when lots of art lovers are looking for a new outlet. Well, I have some advice: make whatever you want, whenever you can.
    If you feel inspired to try your hand at creating something in metal, here are some excellent books to guide you.
    The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight
    Gemstone Settings by Anastasia Young
    The Complete Book of Jewelry Making by Carles Codina
    The Design and Creation of Jewelry by Robert Von Neumann
    Indian Jewelry Making by Oscar T. Branson
    If you can only get one: The Complete Metalsmith
    But if you can get two, get that and Indian Jewelry.

    This year, keep an eye out for beautiful craftsmanship and make some of your own! Here are some shots of the studios, craftsfolk and craftwork at Colonial Williamsburg for further inspiration.

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    Adventures in Torch-Fired Enameling

    It’s the start of a good day- going to explore and experiment with the contents of this box!

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    After ten years of metalsmithing, I’ve finally become curious about trying my luck with enameling. I’m looking forward to seeing shiny colors and experimenting with torch-firing. I’ve ordered sifters, trivets and colors. No kiln though- I want to be up close for the changing colors and molten glass!

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    I’m excited-blue, yellow, black and white opaque enamel to play with!
    But first, I will make copper earrings to hold the enamel.

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    I love the potential of the copper to be shiny pink, black, purple and red-and the way that plays against the colors of the enamel. So much fun!