Monthly Archives: June 2010

Tool Time Tuesday – Piercing

Thank you all so much for your outpouring of congratulations, love and support of our soon to be addition. As promised, I have set up another blog for those that wish to follow the pregnancy. I have a couple of entries on there so far, but nothing much. If you would like to  visit, it is located at . It won’t email updates like this blog does, but you can always check in from time to time to see how things are going. My girls are getting excited and my oldest is being really good at helping me out now that morning sickness has settled in.

Tool Time Tuesday- Piercing

I LOVE to pierce. I didn’t used to like it, but once I got the hang of it, it kind of got addicting. It is something that I can do while thinking about other things. My friend Valerie just returned from The New Approach School for Jewelers and has helped me once again in doing the pictures for this tutorial.

There are a lot of great saws out there and you will have to experiment to see which one you like best. For this tutorial Valerie wanted to try her hand at my new saw from Knew Concepts. I bought mine from She carries several sizes of frames, but I will be showing the smaller frame which is 3 inches.

When threading your saw blade, you want to make sure you keep the saying “Down and Out” in mind. You teeth on the blade should point out away from the back of the frame and they should also point down. If you run your finger upward along the face of the blade the teeth should catch a little bit on your skin. Obviously, you don’t want to push too hard for this exercise. You will pay dearly if you do.

How do you know when the blade is tight enough? Funny enough, you have to listen to it. Once you have your blade secure in both the top and bottom nuts, then give it a slight pluck. Kind of similar to how a string instrumentalist will pluck their string to hear if it is in tune. If you hear a dull “thud,” you do not have it tight enough. If you here a night high “ping,” chances are you did it correctly.

To start the project we have a piece of 18 gauge sheet of copper, template of what we will be cutting out and some rubber cement.

Apply a thin coat of rubber cement to the copper or sheet metal.

While the sheet dries, apply a thin  layer of rubber cement on the back of your design and let it dry.

This next step requires a steady hand as you only have one shot at this. Once both the metal and design are dry, apply the design to the metal. The dry rubber cement surfaces will hold tightly to one another.

Using a center punch and hammer make divots where you will drill holes into the design that you will be cutting out. In this case we will be cutting out all the black areas. We have made two divots in each little section. This makes it kind of nice if you get into a spot where you can’t back your saw blade out.

This is our design once we have all the divots made. We now take a small drill bit (about 20 gauge) and drill holes in each of these little divots. The purpose of this step is so that your drill will have a place to settle as you get started and doesn’t skip all around the piece.

The key to working with the drill is to go slowly. Let your bit have enough time to really grab onto the metal so it can drill it out of the way. If you go too fast, then the bit will burn out, break or just spin and not do anything. Make sure you use plenty of lubricant while doing this. If your bit gets too hot, it will get dull.

We have now drilled all the little holes. It is time to thread it onto our blade and start piercing.  Thread the blade through one of the holes. Rest the piece on the bottom of the saw frame so it doesn’t move your blade or put any stress on the blade. You will not be able to get your tension correct if that happens.

Here you can see a couple of different things. Valerie is sitting straight and the piece she is piercing is about chest height. This is important. You don’t want to be slumping. If you have a normal table, you can use bed risers under the legs to get it up to about the right height. Also notice the angle of her arms . This should be comfortable. If you are straining, then move around until you are more comfortable.

You body should be flexible and limber. If you are stiff it is going to hurt and cause problems down the line.

In this picture you will see two very important things. 1) The frame is held off to the side so she can see what she is doing. 2) look at her fingers and grip on the saw frame. This is how it should be held. The grip is VERY light, held with only the thumb, forefinger and middle finger. Your saw goes up and down, never side to side, never turning or twisting.

Keep your wrist still. It doesn’t bend at all. only your arm from your elbow goes up and down. The piece moves as your blade stays in place going up and down, up and down, kind of like a sewing machine.

You can see here that most of the piece is nearly finished on the inside design. Notice that her frame and hand position hasn’t changed from when she started.

As you pierce, use the entire length of the blade. Small short strokes just aren’t as effective as long broad strokes. Keep the blade moving and try not to stop. Use an even stroke. Once you get the hang of it, you will certainly get into a rhythm.

This is just another shot as we are now working on the last inside piece.

The piece is now completely cut out on the inside. Looks kind of cool huh?

The final piece after only piercing. We still need to go back with some files and do the final clean up work. If you do this with too thin of metal it won’t work very well as it won’t stay stable while piercing. Just something to keep in mind.

If you would like to try this, just print this picture out and have FUN!

How do you know what size of blade to use? The rule of thumb is to have 3 – 5 teeth per thickness of material with a 3 tooth minimum. You can find a fantastic PDF document that shows the saw blades, hole sizes and metal thicknesses at Contenti.

For this piece we used a 4/0 blade. The way the blades run are kind of like this:

LARGE: 8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1  1/0  2/0  3/0  4/0  5/0  6/0  7/0  8/0 Tiny

The blades are thinner on the back than on the front. This helps when you are making turns or even straight cuts. This way the blade doesn’t get stuck in something you just cut.

A great big project

Well, I found out about this new project of mine on Wednesday and it has caused quite a stir in my household and will certainly change the direction of my work. Last week I went in for some routine health testing and check ups (which I don’t do nearly often enough.) After discussing some of my concerns my doctor decided to send me in for an ultrasound to rule out uterine cancer, cysts and tumors.

We did find something in there, but it certainly wasn’t anything I was expecting to find. I had myself all ready to hear news of the worst things but instead we found the beginnings of a BABY! What a SHOCK! And Yes, I know how it got there. That was the fun part.  HAHAHA

The girls are excited, though Riley is a bit apprehensive about another baby. She is such a great sister though. Kate keeps asking when we are going to go to the store to pick the baby up. She said she also wants one for her, one for Riley and one for daddy. Let’s just pray there is only ONE baby coming.

The baby is due in February and we are praying to make it to January. As you know, my pregnancies are riddled with complications and we would certainly appreciate any prayers and good thoughts you can spare. I will be setting up a separate blog for people to follow my family and pregnancy. I will post a link to that later if anyone is interested. But that way I can keep this blog more arts centered.

Well, Here we go!  Wish me luck!

Tool Time Tuesday – Marking your Solder

Tool Time Tuesday … on Wednesday. At least I got it in before the week is up.

Last week I was reading on one of my forums about solder and identifying which is which, particularly once you have already cut your sheet into little pieces. One of the things I learned very early on is to color code my solder with a colored sharpie. Sharpies won’t make your solder dirty and it burns off cleanly when it is used.

Solder comes in different melting points, which we will save for another Tool Time Tuesday Post. The most common Solder temperatures are labeled Hard, Medium and Easy. I prefer to use sheet solder that I cut into small pallions or pieces. You can also buy solder in paste and wire form. Today, though, I am going to address how I identify my solder sheet.


Here I have 3 pieces of sheet solder. As you can see, I have already been working on these as far as cutting them up. Why don’t I just cut all the sheet into little pieces from the get go? Well, if you have a dirty surface, including oxidation, then your solder won’t flow. Based on that logic, if your solder is dirty, it won’t flow. when I am not using my solder it is stored in a plastic zip-lock type of bag. If it happens to get dirty (just look at my easy and medium) then I can clean it off with a green scrubby, or pumice, or steel wool and then cut it up and use it. I typically cut a little more than I need at the time and leave the rest on the sheet.

You can see that I have not added any color to the Easy solder. I have colored my Medium Red and currently my Hard is Black. I used to do it with blue, but someone took my blue sharpie. The reason for doing this is that when I find little pieces of solder on my soldering surface or table top, I can easily identify it because of the color.

To cut my little pallions I work with my metal shears or snips and make cuts similar to how we used to make grass skirts when we were kids. You can see that the metal curls around. It is rather difficult to cut when it is like this.

So I typically straighten it out a little bit with my flat nose pliers. Then, I hold my finger over the ends while I cut across the top to make little squares. If you don’t hold your finger over the ends then you will have little pieces of solder flying everywhere. But at least they will be color coded so you can easily figure out what they are.

This is what my hard solder looks like when I have finished. Notice the little pieces that didn’t make it into the little cup. But again, since they are colored, I know exactly what they are.

Here are my easy and medium solders ready to go. I keep these covered when I am not using them to help keep some of the oxidation at bay.

Now, these are just my coloring choices. There isn’t any set rule for what to color them. So just remember what colors you use and you will be good to go, until you visit another friend that uses a different color scheme.

In Other News

Thank you to all that have responded to my call for Studio/Artist Feature. I am very excited to get that underway. If you would like to be featured just shoot me an email and I will send you a list of questions.

I also found out about another big thing that I will be working on in the next few months that will probably change some of the direction of my work. I will be sharing some of that in the next couple of weeks as we find out more information.

Tool Time Tuesday – Hammer and Tool storage – Another New Feature

Today’s post is going to be a really quick one. I am often asked how I store some of my tools. I thought that would make an easy and very quick post. When I was building my studio I knew I wanted to have a way to store my hammers and the tools that I sell to my students that take classes from me. I had looked at slat boards, peg boards, building various cases and such, but in the end, I decided to go with the peg boards. But I didn’t just want peg boards, I wanted my peg boards to be pretty. HA!

I actually have fewer peg boards than originally planned, but they work for now. To go along with the decor of my studio, I have painted them black and framed them with door molding that has been painted with a metallic pewter colored paint. But more than looking pretty, they needed to be functional. In order for that to happen, I had to locate the pegs, which was actually quite difficult.

It was a lot of fun to go into the hardware stores and ask for 2″ double pegs. They would show me a package of two and way too costly for the amount I needed. I informed them I was looking to buy a minimum of 50 and possibly even 100. They would ask why I needed so many pegs and it was always fun to see their faces when I told them I needed them for my hammers.

I finally found a place online where I was able to order a larger quantity of pegs, though I am still in need of more. I used the shorter 2″ double pegs for my hammers, they were perfectly spaced and the majority of the hammer heads hang nicely in the middle. I have a second peg board where I hang the tools I sell and also some other random supplies that I keep for my use. On this board I have used 4″ single pegs to hold my items.

hammers    1885

Another little holder that I use that has totally saved my sanity is a home made design stamp holder. I took a 2×4 piece that was left over from the framing of my studio walls and drilled holes down about 3/4 of the way through the block. This way I am able to store all my design stamps with their face up and I can easily see their designs. Before I made this tool, I kept all of my stamps in a little bag and had to sort through them each time I wanted to find a stamp.


Because my stamps aren’t the same diameter, I did drill a couple of size holes. This works much nicer than trying to pick them out of a jumbled mess in a bag.

I have a couple of other storage ideas that I will share with you in the coming months.

Studio and Artist Feature

Back in January when I introduced the Tool Time Tuesday posts I had also mentioned that I was thinking of doing a studio or artist feature. Well, the time has come and I would like to get that started. If you are interested in being a featured artist, please email me and let me know. I will send you a list of questions for you to fill out. I would like to show a couple of pictures of your workspace and a couple of your pieces. This is a great way to get some exposure and also to learn about others in the jewelry and metal arts field. Depending on the response from artists, I would like to do a feature once a week or at a minimum of once a month. But hopefully I will have enough interest to do more than one a month.

Just let me know by way of a comment or send me an email at

And the winner is…..

First, I must say how truly amazed I am at the response to this little give away of mine. I honestly never thought that my blog was actually read by so many people and the comments have really made me aware that you really like what I am doing. So often there isn’t any feedback and I never know what people truly think about my posts. When that happens my little insecurity monster comes out to play and does a real head trip on me. That is part of why you haven’t really seen any new work from me lately. I am hoping to change that soon.

Thank you all so much for your comments. I really appreciate the time you took to write. If you want to see some really great eye candy, go back through the comments and check out some of the work being done by the readers. If their name is underlined then it is a link to their blog or website. I was truly inspired by them, and yes, I visited them all.

Okay, Okay, let’s get to the real point here. This is how the drawing was done. I copied and pasted all the comments into MS Word, which conveniently enough came across as a bulleted list. I converted the bullets to numbers and voila, I now have my entry numbers. There was one commenter requesting to no be a part of the drawing so that comment was removed. There were 4 others that were either double comments or a threaded conversation, so they were not counted either. This gave me a grand total of 77 entries. This method gave me 11 pages of comments. WOW! Here are two of the pages to show you what it looked like:

Because the response was so overwhelming, I decided to do three drawings. The prizes will be awarded in the order that they were drawn. So the first person gets to choose from all 5 items. The second will choose from the remaining 4 and so on.

I used a random number generator from I put in the range between 1 and 77 and then hit the “Generate” button. I did this three times for the following results.

Drawing 1:

The winner is:


and this is what she wrote:
Melissa–thanks so much for all of the great tutorials and the inspiration!

Congrats Ellie, I think I can already guess which prize you are going to pick.

Drawing 2:

The winner is:


and this is what she wrote:
I love your swirls, aka as Melissa swirls.
You are one of the people that finally convinced me to work with wire. I
haven’t done much lately but ready your tool time posts are inspiring

Congratulations Lori.  Thanks so much for your comments and support.

Drawing 3:

The winner is:


I remember when you joined the Year of Jewelry, and you have certainly
flourished in your work! If I had to choose between the hammer & stones,
well, I’d have to go with the hammer. Maybe then I’d finally get around to
learning how to rivet!
Thanks for all you do Melissa!!!

Congratulations Angie. You might have to fight Ellie and Lori for the Hammer, but either way, I hope you like what you get to choose from.

Thank you all again! I am truly humbled by the response. And even more than that, I found out that some of the people whose work I admire most and strive to be like, are learning from me and admire my work too.

Well, Summer Vacation has begun! Remember I said that we had built a patio out in our garden area? It isn’t quite finished. I still have to finish the flowerbeds and get some plants in there, but it is pretty much there. Well this is where I will be spending quite a few summer nights…. assuming that the rain will let up every now and then. Come on over, we will sit by the fire and roast marshmallows…. and then of course we will play in the studio once the kids have gone to bed.

Happy Summer Vacation everyone!


150+ and Growing

At the beginning of the year my blog celebrated it’s third birthday. I began the year with only 60+ subscribers. In just a few short months, word has spread and continues to spread about my Tool Time Tuesday Posts. It thrills me beyond belief that people feel my blog is worthy of subscribing to and reading. I must admit that I am a pretty selfish person. I try not to be, but in the end, it is all about me. This blog is just one more example of that.

The blog began as I participated in a challenge called the Year of Jewelry. I was very new to jewelry at the time and knew only the basics of how to work a torch and just a little about wire wrapping. In three years time I have taken an unknown talent have turned it into a career. My career is a very lax one as I am just letting it takes it course while my children are young. I already know what it is like to live in this world without one child, I figured I would do my best to spend the time I have with the children I do have here. But even letting my business takes its course by word of mouth, I am able to afford my “habit.” That is a good feeling. But I digress. This blog was a way for me to document my journey in jewelry, and what a journey it has been.

Continuing in my selfishness, moving to Ohio has been very difficult for me socially. I am a very social butterfly, but when we moved here, I gave up my career in computer training and software development to be a full-time stay-at-home mom. We moved to Ohio in October… the weather was already bad and we didn’t know a soul. As a way to gain friends, I started a guild here in Ohio called the Ohio Jewelry and Metal Arts Guild . In just one short year we are already 80 members strong and are getting ready to open up two new regions in the state.

My Tool Time Tuesday posts are another selfish thing, it is totally about me, even though there might be some benefit in it for you. I was getting lazy and not blogging. I was not getting into my studio to work on my craft and develop my talent. I wasn’t accountable to anyone. Now that I know that people are actually reading this thing, it gets me into the studio and I am learning new things and trying out new tools. It is so much fun!

I told you all that once I hit 150 subscribers I would do a celebration give-away. As promised and as a way to say “Thank You” for spreading the word, here it is.  I don’t know who is subscribed as I only see a number, not an email address, username, ip address, nothing…. just a number. The only way that I actually know who is reading this little blog of mine is if they actually leave a comment, and I read them all…. and try to respond.

I have identified a couple of audiences however, and have a few gifts for you to choose between should you be the lucky winner.

For my friends that are in the jewelry making business, there are two great items to choose between. You can choose a pair of beautiful faceted Amethyst pear briolettes AND faceted heart shaped Periodot. These are not poor quality. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a better quality or cut as these. I paid a pretty little penny for them, and the picture just does not do them justice. They are top drilled.

If stones aren’t your thing. Then I am offering one of my FAVORITE hammers. This is a little goldsmiths hammer. Both ends are slightly rounded. It is lightweight and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I use it a lot when I am doing my rivets or adding texture to a piece. In fact, I just ordered 11 more of these if anyone is interested, just let me know. The hammer below is actually mine. I just sold my last one and placed my order for the others today. So if you choose the hammer, you will have to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week before I can send it out.

I also have a lot of friends and readers that just enjoy reading the blog to see pictures of my progress. So I am offering one of three choices of finished jewelry. The first is a pendant in sterling silver and Agate (though I forgot the type of agate). The second is a pair of Sterling and Fire Agate beads. And the last is a pair of earrings, similar to the style that was presented in the new 30-minute-earrings book.



So how do you win?

Well, as I said, I don’t know who has subscribed and who hasn’t, so just leave a comment on this post. I will number them in the order in which they are entered and use a random number generator to pick or I might just write the numbers down, stick them in a bowl and let my girls pick the number.

As something kind of fun, in your comment, tell me about your favorite tool or piece of jewelry (doesn’t have to be one of mine. )

I will draw and announce the winner on Friday night. So you have until Friday at 6:00 pm EDT to get your comment in. Good luck!

You do not have to be subscribed to the blog, but if you like it, then think about entering your email address in the upper left corner under the caption “SUBSCRIBE.” You will receive an email every time I make an entry on my blog.

And again, THANK YOU!

Tool Time Tuesday – Product Review – Rolling Mill Resource Patterns

I came across something on Facebook about 2 weeks ago that really piqued my interest. One of my friends had “liked” a page called Rolling Mill Resource. I was nosey and decided to find out what that was all about. Well it turns out that it is a new company owned by Tracey Johnson. She was showing some of the patterns that she has been creating with her laser cutter on a thick card stock. She is offering samples until June 15th and I took her up on that kind offer. She will begin selling her patterns on June 30th on her website. You can contact Tracey at her Facebook Fan Page for more information or to try these great samples.

You will be able to buy from her patterns or send in your own for her to create something for you. If the image is black and white (not gray scale) it can be made into a pattern. The patterns are one time use only.

So about a week and a half ago I received a big black envelope in the mail. Inside included these great patterns, of course I am all about the swirls. I think I will have to have some more swirls made for me…. imagine that.

Tracey is also quite prepared. in addition to the patterns, she also sent some tag board and light weight foam backing for thinner metals and the latter to help ensure you have a good imprint when rolling the pattern. She also includes a small polishing pad.


I have decided to try these patterns on 20 gauge copper. Here I have only cut the pieces to size. As discussed in my Tool Time Tuesday Post on Rolling Mills , you should anneal your metal before putting it through the mill to achieve the best results. So from here, I went to my soldering station and heated and pickled each piece before rolling through the mill.

I am usually pretty bad at getting my rollers a tad bit too tight and end up distorting my metal and shapes, but that didn’t seem to be the case this time. The prints came out beautifully. The depth of the textures is fantastic and makes the piece fun to run your fingers over. Since the patterns are somewhat hard to see here, I oxidized them all by giving them a nice little dunk in the stinky Liver of Sulfur.


I actually love the texture of the card stock almost as much the patterns. I am not quite sure how I am going to use these yet, but I am almost sure I won’t have a problem coming up with something.

I do not know the price range of the products yet, so I can’t tell you if they are worth the money or not. But when you have the opportunity to get custom made designs you can use to create a brand name, or look, or just for something different, it just might be worth the cost even if they are sold at a premium. I have a few ideas of some patterns I am toying with and you just may see them crop up on my blog.

Thank you Tracey for the samples and good luck with your new business venture.

Resident Studio Cuties


As I was getting things ready for this TTT Post my girls were playing at my computer and asked for their pictures to be taken….. well, my youngest always asks that. HA! So here she is.

Two weeks ago my oldest decided she would take the term “Metal head” to a whole other level and we put her in braces. She is such a trooper. The first night was kind of hard, not with the pain, but she just didn’t like how she looked with them on. She has since gotten used to them and really likes that she is the only kid in her school that is in braces. She has become quite the talk of the kids at school. Yes, she is young to be in braces, but her 12 year molars have already come in and all of her baby teeth have fallen out. Isn’t it bad enough that she is growing as quickly as she is? Does her body really have to mature faster than it should? UGH! But I do love my little girls. I am truly the luckiest girl in the world. I have said it before and I will continue to do it.

150! We finally got 150!!!

In other news…. We finally hit 150 subscribers! THANK YOU!!!! I will be posting about my celebration give away tomorrow. Because I have identified 3 main groups of my readers I will offer the choice between three different prizes. For my friends and family who read, but don’t make jewelry I thought I would offer a finished piece of jewelry. I have friends and readers that are in the jewelry making industry and are far above my own skills, and I will be offering the choice between a pair of beautiful Amethyst or Peridot faceted heart briolettes. And last but not least, I have friends and readers that are learning how to make jewelry and are working on acquiring their own studio of tools, so I thought I would offer my favorite little hammer. It is one that I use when I am doing rivets. Be sure to watch your in-box or check in tomorrow for more details on how to win one of these great gifts.

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