Monthly Archives: February 2010

Tool Time Tuesday – Ounce to Ounce – How does it compare?

This Tool Time Tuesday topic is one that you might find helpful and will hopefully learn some new things that will make ordering your metal a little easier.

Here in the United States we have a few different ways to measure volume and weight. Today we will be talking about measuring the weight of our metal.

When I order my metal from a given supplier, I typically order it based on the weight which is measured in Troy Ounces. When I weigh my kids or food or letters or whatever else, it is typically measured in Avoirdupois Ounces or pounds. There is a difference. Most people don’t realize that there is a system called Troy Weights. A troy ounce is more than the typical ounce (Avoirdupois) found in the grocery store. Both are made up of a smaller unit called grams. Luckily for us, a gram is a gram.

1 Avoirdupois ounce (oz) = 28.35 grams (437.5 grains)
1 Troy ounce (Toz)= 31.1 grams
1 Troy ounce – 20 pennyweights
1 Pennyweight (dwt) – 24 grains
1 grain = .06479891 grams

A Troy pound is lighter than an avoirdupois pound because it contains fewer ounces.

1 Troy pound (373.25 grams) contains 12 Troy ounces.
1 Avoirdupois pound contains 16 avoirdupois ounces.
1 avoirdupois pound is 453.6 grams (16 oz), which is the equivalent of 14.583 Troy Ounces.
1 Troy Pound is just over 13 Avoirdupois ounces.

Even through the troy ounces are heavier, the difference is not enough to make a troy pound heavier.

Gold and Silver and other precious metals are weighed with this Troy Weight system. When you buy a 1 oz coin, it is a Troy oz. If you were to put that coin on a grocery scale, you will find that it weighs about 10% more than the food (Avoirdupois) ounce that you are used to.

How much metal do you get for a given weight? Well, that entirely depends on the gauge of wire you order. As you know, thicker wires or sheets are going to weigh more than thinner ones. I really like to use a chart that lays it out nicely at Monsterslayer.com.
Wire Specifications

Conversion formula. If you only have a scale that weighs in Avoirdupois ounces you can easily convert that into Troy ounces with the following formula:
Multiply # regular ounces X  .912 to
get approximate # troy ounces

This came in quite handy when I was doing my inventory recently where I had to weigh my silver and then convert it into Troy Ounces to determine its value.

So where did the Troy weight system come from? It is believed to be named after Troyes, France. This is a system they developed back in the medieval times at the celebrated fair at Troyes in North Eastern France.

Paisleys & Wire

I was teaching my wire wrapped heart class earlier this week. I figured I had enough hearts and really wanted to make another paisley, so I worked on both a heart and a paisley at the same time. It is great because I was able to show the techniques but come up with two very different pieces at the same time. Here are the two pieces that I worked on while I was teaching the class.

2024copperheart

Earlier in the week I also made another paisley pendant. Both of the paisley pendants use a beautifully faceted Brazilian Amethyst Briolette. The one above has already been sold. I also taught a wire wrapped pendant where I made this little blue pendant. The stone is a dichroic cabochon.

amethystpaisley2  blueheart
I will be working pretty hard in the studio tonight and tomorrow to finish up some custom orders. So I should have some pretty good things to show this week before I leave for Utah.

Tool Time Tuesday – Annealing fine gauges of wire

Have you ever worked with your fine gauges of wire until they were so stiff that you didn’t know what to do with them? Generally mine end up in my scrap pile. Even when there is still some good workable length. Or have you ever opened your wire to find that it was so stiff that it was a nightmare to work with? That happened to me just recently. Even though I had ordered “Dead soft” wire, it is anything but dead soft. Springy wire can be dealt with in a number of ways. Today’s Tool Time Tuesday will introduce a way for you to anneal your really fine gauges of sterling wire without melting it into a big blob. The same concept can be used for other metals as well.

Annealing, when it comes to metal, is the process of heating your metal to relax the crystalline structure to allow the material to become malleable. You can think of hard wire vs. dead soft wire in terms of spaghetti. Hard wire is similar to the uncooked pasta, while half hard is at that cooked stage where the noodles are getting soft, but still crunchy. Dead soft wire would be similar to cooked noodles. Okay, not exactly, but it gets you a little closer to the idea. Hard wire is great for some applications, but if you are wire weaving, it isn’t desirable at all.

I learned this great trick from one of my instructors, Sofia Calderwood. She told me that to anneal wires that are fine gauge, such as 24, 26, 28, & 30, etc. that you can take a small tin can like those that the little mints come in and place the metal inside, heat it up until it glows read and then your wire should be annealed. The concept sounded simple enough and I thought I would try it out.

This tutorial shows my very first attempt at this method. I will show you some of the things I learned you should not do, as well as those you should do.

2_Canbefore
Here is my sweet little can of York Mints. I never buy these things, but I really wanted to try this, so I actually bought it just so I could have the little tin. An Altoids type of can would also work well.

3_Hartwire

These are some of the pieces I found in my scrap pile. They aren’t super long, but I could still work with them if they weren’t so brittle and springy. These wires are 26 and 28 gauge. If I tried to anneal them with the torch, I run a huge risk of just melting them.

4_Placeincan

I have wound them up and tucked them in the can, which wasn’t easy. They kept springing back open. *Notice there aren’t any holes in the bottom of this lid.

 

5_Ventilate

I had placed the lid on the tin and had actually started to heat the can up when I thought about the fact that you really should have some ventilation holes. Without them the can would explode open from the gases and expanding air as you heat it up. I quickly stopped, quenched the tin and promptly opened it up and drilled some holes in the bottom with my flexshaft.

6_Heattop

I have a couple of these great annealing pans with pumice. This is my large one. It is 12″ and has 2 or 3 pounds of pumice. The pumice helps to hold and reflect the heat. This annealing pan also rotates which is fabulous. The torch I am using is an Acetylene/air torch. I am using my largest tip, which is a #6. I use this one for annealing my ingots and larger pieces. I don’t know that I would have had much luck with this process with my smaller tips. Perhaps I would, but even with this tip, I was torching for a good 2 minutes or more.

This is another great time to bring up ventilation. As the decals and coating on this tin burned off it gave off a horrible fume and dark smoke. Good ventilation is a MUST! It probably wouldn’t hurt to be wearing a fume mask at the same time. My studio smelled like torched electrical lines for a couple of days.

2033

You can see the tin starting to get good and red. Playing with torches is so much FUN!
Now, here is where I made another mistake. My tin is sitting right on the pumice. I am not able to get to the bottom of the tin with my heat. There is a lot of heat transferring from the top, sides and even the pumice. But when I pulled the wire out of the tin after quenching, it was still pretty stiff. Actually, it had gone from that uncooked spaghetti phase to the sort-of-cooked spaghetti phase.

 

2035

This problem is easily solved by raising the can up a little. Here I have used some 6 gauge copper wire that has been bent to hold my can up at a slight angle.

2034

Heating one more time. This time I am able to direct my flame under the tin. Again, I must get the entire tin glowing red.

quench_Can

Make sure you don’t touch the tin with your fingers. Hot metal and bare skin is never a good thing! I have lifted the tin with my insulated cross locking tweezers and dunked into my quench bowl of water. Here you can see I am holding it down into the water. I had to do this because it wanted to float at the top. Silly tin!

pry_can_open

After heating it up, the texture of the tin changed. I could not get the can to open, no matter how hard I tried. So finally I grabbed a little watch case opening knife and was able to pry the tin open.

Soft_Quenched

Now doesn’t that look lovely? The wire is now dirty with sooty, burnt film from the tin and it has oxidized from the heating process.

ready_to_pickle

Here is a little better shot of the oxidized wire. Oxidation is the reaction of the copper within the silver. As you heat it up it gets really dark and yucky. To remove this black layer on my newly softened wire I will put it into the pickle.

Done_pickling

Because it is such a royal pain in the pa-tooty to pick up really think wire off the bottom of a pickle bot, I put it in this little baby food  container. I have taken a very hot soldering pick and pierced a few holes into the bottom. The pickle won’t harm the container and it makes it easy to fish small things out of the pickle. This is a lifesaver when it comes to picking up flat discs that like to fall over on the bottom.

final_cleanup

After pickling there may be a little bit of film left on the metal that can just be brushed away with a soft toothbrush and some water.

All_Finished

There you have it. I now have annealed and clean wire ready for my next wire wrapping or weaving project.

I have been told that you can also anneal your wire nicely in a kiln. I don’t have a kiln and could not answer any questions on that. But if you have any other questions, I would be happy to answer them. Thank you to all that have been leaving comments on my blog. I appreciate them and it helps to know that people are actually reading.

Thanks goes out to my good friend Valerie Heck for taking the pictures of this process
. I couldn’t have done it without you, well, at least not as quickly.

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More hearts – can’t get a way from them

I am on my way out the door just now to go and teach a class in Rocky River. I figured I would give myself 2 hours since we got so much snow last night. We ended up with 9 inches here at  my house. That is nothing compared to some of my friends. But it is still a lot. It sure makes me glad that we bought that big old snow blower. My husband is the greatest too, he probably did 4 or 5 houses of our neighbors and the side walks from our house down to the entrance of the neighborhood (about 10 houses.) What a good guy! I love that man!

Anyway, I made another one of the forged hearts last night to show as an example for the class.

HeartPendant

Then I decided this morning that I simply must have a pair of heart earrings to wear as I am all decked out in hearts. So I came up with these really quickly. Now, I had made the structure of these prior to this morning, but I stamped and patinaed these this morning.

heartswirldrops

This last piece is a very special piece and will remain in my personal collection until I die, and then I might just ask that they bury me with it. It is one of a set of two. I have a very special friend that was literally with Garth and I all through the pregnancy, birth and death of our second daughter Kelsi. Through that experience our family has gained such a special eternal friend. Lou was such a strength to me before and after Kelsi died. Kelsi held Lou’s hand before I even got to see her. He said it was that touch of hers that bonded our families together forever.

For Lou

I don’t have his piece finished yet. I still need to get the pin back for his. He asked me back in July if I would come up with something for the both of us. I wanted it to be a really unique piece of jewelry. If people don’t know the story behind the piece, it will just be a pretty abstract piece. But when they know the meaning, it takes on a whole new level of understanding. I didn’t want people to misunderstand our relationship, because, while it is one of the deepest relationships, there is nothing romantic or anything like that.

So here is what I have come up with.

  • The diamond shape represents our relationship.
  • The line down the middle divides the piece into two, one side for him, the other for me
  • The angel wings represent Kelsi
  • The little line that stretches out from the middle one is like us holding our hands out to one another
  • The hearts represent the love that we have for each other
  • The opal has a couple of different things. First the shape: It is tear dropped, which represents the grief we had, but also reminds me of a maternal form.
  • I tried so many different stones in this piece, and none of them fit until I tried the opal. Even then I tried different shapes, but it was the tear drop that was chosen. But the color in this opal has a white background which is quite celestial and heavenly to me. The sparkles make me think of happiness. I know that we are all happy that we had Kelsi to bring so much understanding and love into our lives.

I can’t wait until I get his done and can send it off to him.

Okay, so that is all for now. Pray for good roads as I head to Rocky River for my class now! Hope everyone stays safe, dry and warm today.

 

Wedding Pendant

A couple of weeks ago I got a request from one of the cutest girls in the world. She lived pretty close to me when I lived in Virginia. She also used to babysit my little girl. My daughter adored her. When Riley would draw pictures of our family (there were only three of us at the time) she would draw four people. Me, my husband, Riley and Kiley. Riley also liked the fact that Kiley’s name was spelled close to hers. She had no problems spelling it.

Well, as time goes on, Riley is no longer 3 years old and Kiley is getting married. I cannot believe that much time has already passed. But I believe Kiley is already older than I was when I got married. I was quite honored when she requested that I make her wedding jewelry. She asked me to keep it really simple and not flashy. She also wanted something that was based on her wedding ring. So this is what I cam up with. I am still working on the earrings.

Kiley_pendant

It is sterling silver. It began life as 16 gauge wire which I forged and soldered together. I have tube set 3 CZ’s (5mm & 3mm). The bail on the back is just a 1/2 ring. The pendant is just shy of 1 3/4″ long.

I also worked on another wire ring tonight. I wanted to see what the Heart ring would look like in Sterling silver. This has been made in the same fashion as the one in copper, woven shank, formed heart and forged. I have oxidized this to bring out the details and gave it a matte finish with some Pumice powder.

Silver_heart_ring

Silver_Heart_ring2

We are supposed to get some good snow here, though I doubt we will have anywhere near what they predict. We always seem to fall short of that here in Norton. But I am sure glad we aren’t living in Virginia this weekend. They are supposed to get upwards of 30″. Stay warm and dry my friends.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Tool Time Tuesday – Essential Soldering Setup

I am often asked what tools are needed when one wants to get into soldering. There are so many tools that you can buy. Not all of them are necessary, and there are some that I just cannot live without. This post is about those that I just cannot live without. Now, keep in mind that I am still fairly new to jewelry, yes, it is true. I only  learned how to bezel set a stone 3 years ago. I began playing with wire only just a couple years before that. With that said, this is all based on my opinion and personal experience while teaching myself and others.

When I took my first soldering class the instructor gave us a sheet of recommended tools.  That is where I began. I searched for the best prices and bought in bulk where possible to save a few dollars. With that said, I spent over $500 on my first set up. I have since found better suppliers, some wholesale, and am just wiser as to what is really needed. I offer a kit to my students at a rate MUCH less than I paid.

Here are the 15 items I consider ESSENTIAL to be successful in soldering. This is a basic set up and meant for small scale jewelry items.
1- Butane Torch
2 – Butane for your torch
3 – Soldering Pad/surface
4 – Soldering Pick
5 – Insulated Cross Locking Tweezers
6 –  Needle File Set
7 – Flux
8 – Flux brush
9 – Saw Frame
10 – Saw blades for your saw frame
11 – Bench pin and Anvil Combo
12  – Straight Shop Shears
13 – Copper Tongs
14 – Pickle
15 – Pickle Pot

If you are going to get into bezel setting, I would suggest that you also add:
1 – Prong/Bezel Pusher
2 – Bezel Rocker
3 – Burnisher
4 – Ring Clamp

Here is what my soldering station looks like.Soldering_StationThe first thing I would like to point out about my set up is the two black hoods over the table. This is my ventilation system. This is something I came up with my father-in-law as we built the studio. I knew I needed to have some way of pulling away the dangerous fumes that would be created during my classes and as I worked. It is actually a modified woodworking system.

My table will comfortably sit 3 people at a time. My Acetylene/Air torch is easily seen on the right hand side of the table. That torch is only a year old. It is my “big girl” torch.

Let’s look a little closer at some of the items on my soldering table.
Main_setup

This is a typical set up that I use every time I solder something together.
A – These two bottles contain flux. The yellow fluid is a self pickling liquid flux. The short fat container is a paste flux. Flux is used to absorb oxygen and keep oxidation at bay long enough for your piece to get to temperature so that the solder can flow. The way I apply my flux is with a simple paint brush.

B – This is my soldering surface. In this case it is a 6″ x 6″ Solderite Pad. It gets pretty dirty from the flux and torching, but can easily be resurfaced. I will show some other pictures later int his post.

C – These are two styles of Soldering Picks. My favorite is the shorter one as it is smaller and has a finer tip. These act as your fingers when you are soldering. You do not want to be touching red hot metal with your fingers when soldering, so you would use these to keep things in place, or move them, help direct your solder, hold things together, etc. I hold this in my dominant hand while my torch works in my non-dominant hand. This takes a bit of getting used to, but it works for me.

D – Two types of Tweezers. The one that is ESSENTIAL is the insulated cross locking tweezers. You want them insulated because the metal will get hot as you are soldering and transfer that heat right up to your fingers otherwise. The other pair is a fine tipped pair of tweezers. I especially like these for placing my solder or laying down detail items into place.

E – A good pair of 3rd hands is always a good investment. I didn’t list this in my Essential list, because there are other ways to accomplish what you can do with them. But it is still a handy tool to have.

F – No metalsmith should be without a black sharpie. There are just so many uses for them, including being able to tell if you are at the right temperature for annealing your metal.

quenchbowl

A Quench bowl is VERY IMPORTANT. After heating your piece you should quench it to cool it off. It makes the BEST sound when you dunk a hot piece of metal into the cool water. Just be sure that you dunk the ENTIRE piece into the water or your piece will remain hot. I even dunk my tweezers and soldering pick to cool them off. Here I have used a ceramic coated steel bowl. It had been chipped and was no longer safe for using with food, so naturally I pulled it into the studio. I also have small glass and stainless bowls that I use for quenching. It just depends on the size of piece I am working on.

charcoalBrick
Other soldering surfaces I like to use are a ceramic soldering board and a hard compressed charcoal block. I also have a couple of annealing pans with pumice, one is 12″ round and the other is 7″ round. You can also use fire bricks. They are all great for reflecting heat back onto your piece as you work with your torch.

resurfaced1
resurfaced
I mentioned above that sometimes these soldering pads get really dirty. Here you can see on the left one of my soldering pads that has been quite well used. There are pits, dark spots, spots with hardened flux, etc. These things can make it difficult to see what you are doing, as well as a really gummy mess when soldering. Every now and then I will take my pad out to my driveway and resurface it by laying it flat on the ground and running it in a figure 8 motion to sand away the surface. The pad on the right was resurfaced not too long ago and is beginning to get used again.

Butane_Torches
This is my little army of torches. I absolutely ADORE my Blazer torches. For a long time this is all I used. I knew it was time to get a bigger torch when I was holding three at a time  (yes, you read that right) to get my solder to flow on larger pieces. I will totally vouch for the durability and consistency of the Blazer torch. They are more expensive, but worth EVERY PENNY! The Jumbo Torch on the right is a newer torch for me. I began using this one back in the fall. I LOVE it. Now in my kits, I offer my students the option of which torch they would like. Most will buy the one that doesn’t come in the kit.

The Jumbo torch isn’t quite as hot as the Blazer, but the flame is larger so you are able to get and keep a larger piece at temperature. The Blazer works best on smaller pieces, say 1 1/4″ x 1 1/4″.

Butane
The two torches above are both butane torches. They are perfect for small scale projects and you don’t have to worry about having gas and oxygen tanks. When I first got into this I worked at my kitchen table and then progressed to the formal dining room where I set up a small student computer desk as my bench. You still need to have good ventilation, but like I said, at least you don’t have the big tanks hanging around. I really like to use Triple Refined Butane, but have found that even regular lighter refill butane will work.

Pickling

After soldering a piece, it is typically pretty oxidized and not very pretty. I remember taking my first soldering class and looking at this awful black charcoal-looking chain and b
eing so disappointed with how it looked. You can use a solution called Pickle to remove this oxidation. Your piece won’t be bright and shiny yet, but at least you get back to your original color.

There are a number of solutions that can be used for pickle, and perhaps that might be worthy of its own Tool Time Tuesday. But for now, I am using a couple of differing things. I started out by using Sparex #2, but it was so dirty I couldn’t stand the stuff. Then I found Rio’s pickle and really liked that. But I wanted something I could get locally and I tried Ph- or Ph Down. It is a swimming pool chemical.

Pickle works fastest when it is warm so I put mine in this little 1 1/2 quart crock pot. Things to remember with Pickle; depending on what you are using, you do not want it on you or the fumes up your nose. Always open the lid away from you to keep the fumes out of your face. NEVER put steel tools in your pickle. Use copper tongs instead.

When I have small bits and pieces I will place them in a small plastic container with holes in the bottom. This saves me time trying to fish them out of the pickle.

Always take your pieces from the pickle and dunk them in a container of baking soda and water (black bowl above) to neutralize the acid of the pickle.

Fireout

One item your shop shouldn’t be without is a good fire extinguisher. Make certain to get it tested or buy a new one every year to make certain you are covered in case of a fire. Here is a question I ask all my students. Where should you place your extinguisher? The answer is on your way out the door or at least away from your bench. You don’t want to have to reach into or through the fire to grab it.

Other tools I cannot live without
Bench pin and anvil combo

I love my bench pin and Anvil combination. For a long time I didn’t own a steel bench block. I just used the steel surface of this device for that purpose. The bench pin is great for supporting your piece while sawing or piercing. And I don’t feel bad about cutting or drilling into it as replacement pins are very inexpensive. This particular bench pin is my original. Believe it or not, it does actually get quite a bit of use. But I don’t drill into mine. I have another surface that is used for that.

sawframes
I cannot live without my saws. I have about 6 of them. I have a couple that are much larger than these even. Saw blades are also easy to break  and are sold by the dozen.

shop_shears
As you can see, I have quite the assortment of shop shears. I really like the straight tips, but they also come with a curved tip. I just haven’t used it much and haven’t found the need for it. But others swear by them. I guess it is just a matter of personal preference.

These are great for cutting solder, sheet metal and thicker gauges of wire. My favorite pair in this shot is the middle pair. They are french style shears with a spring.

One Item that I don’t have a picture of is a needle file set. A good set is going to have a variety of shapes so that you can get into various areas of your work.

As always, if you have any questions or comments I would love to hear them. Hopefully this answers a few questions you might have about soldering set ups. Please let me know if you would like further information on any of this. I am happy to share what I know.

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February 2010 Class Schedule

February is such a short month that will be made even shorter with some traveling I will be doing. With that said, I am keeping my schedule fairly light this month. But if you have a project you would like to work on give me a call and let’s see what we can work out. Just because something isn’t listed on my schedule doesn’t mean it can’t be added.

I am teaching a lot of Valentine themed classes this month. Go figure.  But what better thing for me to teach than Hearts and Swirls. I just love them!

Pictures and class descriptions can be found on my website: www.melissamuir.com/classes.htm

February 2010 Schedule

Location Date Time Class Cost
Beadtini
2/4
6:00 – 7:00pm
Forged Heart Pendant
**
Beadtini
2/4
7:30 – 8:30 pm
Wire Heart Ring
**
Embellish
2/6
1:00 – 2:00 pm
Forged Heart Pendant
$18*
Embellish
2/6
2:30 – 3:30 pm
Forged Heart Pendant
$18*
Embellish
2/6
4:00 – 5:00 pm
Forged Heart Pendant
$18*
Norton
2/9
9:30 am – 4:00 pm
Bezel Set & Pierced Pendant
$115
Beadtini
2/10
10:00 – 11:00 am
Forged Heart Pendant
**
Beadtini
2/10
11:30 – 12:30 pm
Wire Heart Ring
**
Beadtini
2/10
1:00 – 2:00 pm
Heart Earrings
**
Beadtini
2/11
10:30 – 1:30 pm
Wire Wraped Heart
**
Ohio JMAG
2/13
10:30 – 1:30 pm
Free
Norton
2/16
10:00 – 1:00
Open Studio
$65*
Ohio JMAG
2/17
10:30 – 1:30 pm
Free
Norton
2/18
6:00 – 9:00 pm
Wire Wrapped Cabochon
$55*

* Some materials not included. Please see the class description or shop for details.

** Please contact the store for class Price

Payment
must be received in full to guarantee your space. All materials and use
of tools are included in the class fee, unless otherwise noted.

Custom classes available by request. Contact me at: jewelry@melissamuir.com

***Please
note, I will not be holding classes in March. Classes will resume in
April. Please make your date and class preference requests now.***