Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tutorial and Swage Block

Well, that took a LOT longer than I thought it would, but I am finally done. I have just uploaded my tutorial on how to make the Cone Earrings and Lily Pendant. It is 12 pages long and features 48 full color images. It is a step by step tutorial on how to make the items mentioned with nothing more than the material, a hammer and swage block.

The tutorial is a PDF and downloadable immediately. You will have three days to download the document. The price is only US$8.00.

You can find it listed here:


I have also created a listing for the beautiful Black Walnut swage blocks. I have a small shipment of riveting hammers coming in next week and I will list those as soon as I have them. They are the hammers that I used to form my earrings and pendants. Next week I will also have a video on how to use the swage block, so it will be a great compliment to the tutorial and block.

The swage block can also be purchased for $40 on my web site. You can find the listing here:

I am also offering a bundle deal until April 9th. First of all, until the 9th, shipping is free. And on top of that, if you buy both the tutorial and the block, I will take US$5.00 off the price of the total. So that is basically getting the tutorial for free when you count the price of shipping. *Insurance is extra*

To get the discount (which is more than 10% off) just enter the coupon code: ConeAndBlock during the checkout process. You will have three days to download the tutorial.

This coupon and the free shipping expire on April 9th.

If you live outside of the US and would like to purchase the block, please contact me first and we will arrange shipping and other necessary items. I can be contacted at:

What a Whirl, What a Whirl, What a Whirl

And I am still trying to recover. That was seriously a FUN weekend and boy what a weekend it was. As you can see, it has taken me until Thursday to even get on here to post about it.

I want to thank my Canadian blog readers who gave up their time in the beautiful weather, to come and sit in a hotel conference room and take the classes with me. I understand the weather was wonderful. Of course, I didn’t see much of it as I was teaching all day, every day. I was able to meet some amazing people. My students were patient and wonderful as well. It was the first time for me teaching in a venue like that and of course I had some glitches. But there always are the first time, and I have already changed up my plans to make things flow a bit more smoothly for the next show.

I had the great pleasure to meet a few of the other artists teaching at the show as well. One of them was Shelley Hubbs. If you read Step By Step Wire Magazine, I understand that she has a chainmaille project in the last issue. She also has a great store front in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. I have to be honest, I have never heard of Saskatoon. But I have now. Shelley specializes in jumprings and chainmaille patterns, but she has other great projects too. She teaches at a lot of different shows where she is also a vendor. Be sure to check out her website and class offerings. Her company is Metal Designz. Shelley, it was a great pleasure meeting and hanging out with you. I look forward to spending more creative time with you soon.

One lesson I learned, when you call the border to ask them what you need to have in place for doing something like this…. Call at least three times and hopefully talk to three different people. I made the mistake of calling only once to find out which permits and forms were needed. Well, I was told that I would not need a work permit as my classes were only three days. Apparently anything over three days requires a work permit. I told him exactly what I was going to be doing and what I was bringing and what I would be bringing back into the states with me. Well, I did what he told me to and when I got to the border, they decided that I did need a work permit, which I didn’t have and it was now too late to get. OH BOY! Luckily, because I had everything else prepared and they could see that I had made the effort to get the information needed and got the wrong information, they sort of took pity on me. They told me that if I bought a temporary residence permit (for 5 whole days) they would issue the work permit. So $350 later, and about 60 minutes or so, I was on my way. Luckily, getting back into the US was much easier, though my car did get searched. LOL. Never a dull moment in my life, never a dull moment.

I have been working on several things. I will have my blocks listed by tomorrow in my webstore. I will announce it here on my blog and on my facebook page when they are up and ready for order. I still have to figure out the best way to ship them. They are kind of an awkward size, 3″ x 3″ x 2.5″ but I will figure it out. I am also just putting on the finishing touches to the tutorial to make my cone earrings and lily pendant. I will be working on a video showing how to use the tool as well. In addition to that, I just ordered more of the hammers I use when making spiculums (cones and such) and will create a video showing how to alter the hammer shape to make them work with the form.

On a personal note, because I know I am not the only one that has ever gone through this and it always helps to have a bit of support, yesterday I took my baby in for a developmental evaluation. Some of you may remember that just before we moved we had tubes placed in her ears since she wasn’t hearing things. I could tell because of her lack of reactions. I took her in to be evaluated back in November where they determined she had a lot of fluid behind her ears. She hasn’t had ear infections, but similar to her sister and mother, she has issue with fluid getting trapped and not draining. So the tubes were placed just before our move and she is hearing beautifully now. Again, I can tell by her reactions to things that she didn’t react to earlier. At the time of her hearing evaluation she was delayed in her speech. I knew she was and hoped it was just the ear issue. I hoped that once we got the tubes in that things would progress quickly. She is so stinking smart. She watches and then does what she has learned. That is both good and bad. LOL.

At any rate, during the assessment yesterday, she scored a 0 on a scale of 0-90. She only said her first word while I was gone over the weekend. Her first word? “Uh-Oh” The funny thing about that, it was Kate’s first word too. Though Kate said it somewhere around 9 or 10 months, not 16. So there is a little progress, but she doesn’t mimic, she doesn’t point, she doesn’t look for objects or people when you ask where they are. So the next step is a full evaluation and then speech therapy. I know things will most likely be okay. I know we have caught it early. I knew there was something wrong, which is why I set up the assessment in the first place. But it was still very disheartening to say “no” to every question they asked. She also started to walk last week. Again, she is actually quite late when compared to my other girls. I know that everyone does it in their own time, and actually wasn’t worried about it until yesterday at the assessment. So they will also check her over to make certain she has good muscle tone and proper alignment with her feet and such. I suspect she does, she was just slower to walk. And if you have ever seen this kid crawl….. dang, I have to run to keep up with her. HAHAH

Alright, back to the tutorial and I will do my best to have it all posted tomorrow. Until then, have a great day.

Tool Time Tuesday – Who has a purple press? I DO!!!!!

I love getting tools. You all know that I have a serious tool problem. My dad was doing my taxes this week, my poor dad, and he forbid me to buy any more gems and beads. But he didn’t say anything about tools…..

Yesterday I was visited by both the UPS man and the FedEx man. Not sure who I was more happy with. Oh wait! Yes I do. I LOVED LOVED LOVED the UPS man for he brought me a PURPLE HYDRAULIC PRESS!!!! I LOVE IT! Yes, I do have now have two hydraulic presses. So? Your just jealous.

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about getting a purple one. Colors can be so “off” when you see the pictures of them on the computer screen. I was VERY pleased when mine came. It is a deep plum color, which is one of my favorites. I couldn’t have picked the color better…. which is good, because I didn’t really have a choice.

Why do I have a new press? Well, who wouldn’t want a purple one? Okay, don’t answer if you don’t want one, but I did, so I got one. Also, Kevin Potter of Potter USA sent it to me so I could do a review and new video for the new design. There are some great benefits to being a teacher and making video reviews. Being sponsored by Potter USA is just one of those perks.

So what is new about the press? Here is one of the great things about having two presses, I can show them side by side.


Please forgive the bad photo, but this is the only one that I have that shows the bottom of the press and the need for the feet. Kevin’s cost of materials has nearly tripled over the past few years and he has only just recently raised the price on the presses. He did it only because he absolutely had to. He thought long and hard about the the design of the press and wondered if there was a way that he could utilize the metal better and have less waste. With the redesign he is now able to get 10 presses out of the same material that he was able to get 7 before.

If you look at the photo above, painful, I know… but you will see a few changes. First, the outer frame is slightly thinner. It is also one full piece all the way around, hence the need for the feet. The feet are actually aesthetically pleasing to the design as well. They are aluminum, so we are free of rust on that baby.

It is actually a bit easier for me to move around too. The old press is currently sitting on some padding I used to protect my table tops as I slid it from place to place. It also helped to slide it around. But I don’t have that need with this new press. It is sturdy and there is no wobbling at all, which means, no need to bolt it to the table top…. not that I did that before anyway.


If you look at the photo above (forgive the greasy fingerprints) and the placement of my jack, you will actually see the gauge. The inside opening is also a bit larger. I love that I can see my gauge so much easier now. You can sort of see on the blue press where my jack was sitting. Some of the oil has leaked from the jack and removed the paint where it was sitting. You will notice that the old lower platen looks to be a lot lower than my new one. That is only because my jack is so tall. If I needed to have more space between the upper and lower platen, I could simply use a shorter jack… and I just might do that in the old press. This would give me more opportunities to do things such as “deep draw” items.


The new press is slightly taller than the old design and again, a little
bit thinner. The bottom footprint takes up less space, and in this new
studio of mine, every inch saved is necessary for me. One of my favorite
features, besides being purple, is the upper platen. I no longer have
to use my wrench to loosen the bolt and remove the platen. Yes, the bolt
is still there so I can use any of my bracelet forming attachments and
Bonny Doone attachments, but the new upper platen is thinner and the
best part…. MAGNETIC! He has used a couple of SUPER STRONG magnets and
it is a cinch to remove and I don’t have to worry about it falling out
on me if I don’t get the nut on top tight enough. BRILLIANT!!!

I mentioned that the paint on my other press has been eaten away by the oil from my jack. Hopefully that won’t be an issue with this press, but we will see. It is just something that happens. But this press isn’t just painted, it is powder coated. And if it looks as good as it does right now in these pictures, I think it should hold up just fine. What do I mean by that? Well, UPS isn’t always the nicest to these items when they are shipping. They are heavy, oh, I forgot to mention, it is a full 8 pounds lighter than the original style as well. But I digress, When I received my press, even though it was packaged and wrapped, the packaging had been through the wringer and there were several parts of the press exposed. But it doesn’t show anything for the wear.

With the money that Kevin was able to save on the presses with the better yield of material, he poured the money back into the press to cover the powder coating and nicer feet for the press, thereby keeping the price the same. To find out more about these beautiful presses please visit: www. Oh, and here is a teaser, just today Kevin and I talked about offering some workshops at the Tucson Gem Show next February. Great things are in store!!!!

Off to Canada!!!

I am packing things up for my classes at the Fraser Valley Bead Show in Canada this week, but when I get back, I will do a video presentation on the new features of the press. If you are in the Coquitlam area this weekend and would like to take a class from me, I would love to meet you. I am teaching Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I think I have a couple of spots left in each of the classes. It should be a really fun weekend. I will try to get some good photos so I can share my experience in becoming an “International” teacher.  LOL.

Coming up

Thank you all for the support on my blog. I love getting your comments. It makes doing this worth it to me. I really appreciate all the encouragement and support, whether you leave the comment on my blog, or you send me a private email. They really mean the world to me.

So many of you have expressed interest in the new swage blocks made by my father-in-law and you will be happy to know that the remainder of them were shipped yesterday and I should get them tomorrow. I am just about done with the tutorial (thanks to an awesome new friend, Donna, that took a bazillion photos for me) that I use the block for and hope to have them both listed in my shop by late next week. I have three Featured Artists that I am excited to share with you. I even have the one post all typed up. I just need to get the photos uploaded. So hopefully there will be a Featured Artist Friday this weekend. We will see. Tomorrow I have to get everything packed, inventoried, a few hammers altered, and pack. So sadly, it might not happen, but you never know. See you all soon!


My First Custom Tool

I am busy getting things ready for the 5 classes I am teaching at the Fraser Valley Bead Show in Canada next week. My bank account has been wiped out purchasing tools (2 hydraulic presses, 10 hammers, butane, etc.) But mostly I have been buying metals and the silver alone took out about 1/2 of my bank account. The sad thing about that, is that I only ordered about 20 oz of silver. I hate that the price is so high now. But it sure is satisfying to hold a beautiful sheet of silver in my hands. I hate to cut it up, but that is just what I did. It is now all ready for students to work their magic and make it into something more than just a square of silver.

I spent several hours last night getting one of my classes ready by cutting copper squares, acrylic pieces and counting beads and tiny screws, washers and nuts. You know what I hate? I hate it when you order 100 beads or pieces of something and you only get 99. So now I have 24 kits instead of 25. Then you have to sit here and wonder, is it worth calling them to ask for the extra one that you are missing? Sadly, two different places did this. Sigh.
In preparation for one of my classes (Cone Earrings and Lily Pendant) I had a new tool made. My amazing father-in-law, the one responsible for my To-Die-For-Benches and previous studio space, worked with me to create a swage block that is simply beautiful. I love tools. You all know that. You all know that I have a serious tool problem. But this one is a serious need. I have metal forming blocks and I even have a delrin forming block that works to create some of my pieces. But they aren’t exactly what I need. I like my metal one because it has so many grooves and I can easily make the forms I am after.
My swage blocks are used to create round forms with the use of a hammer and the forming or swage block. If you want to see one of my pieces, just look at my banner. That lily was made with nothing more than a couple of hammers and a swage block. By directing your hammer blows onto the metal into a grooved form, you can create tubes and round shapes. One of my former students was also a teacher and she had someone make her some large swage blocks out of maple. They are pretty, but they weren’t uniform and it looks like it was a trial and error type of thing. So it works, sort of. I really wanted to have something a bit smaller, but not as small as my Delrin one. I also wanted to make it with a material that would be softer than metal as I usually use a metal hammer, but I didn’t have the resource of the Delrin. So we went hunting for hardwood. My husband and Father-in-law went hunting for it just after we unloaded the trucks here. They found a lumber store in Portland that has nothing but hardwoods.
This block is BEAUTIFUL. It is made of Black Walnut, expertly machined and hand guided by my father-in-law. Then he spent extra time sanding them and hand rubbing them with a Dark Walnut Danish Oil. They are dark and …. BEAUTIFUL. I love functional tools, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE functional tools that are pretty too.
Sorry for the awful picture. I do not have good lighting her in the new studio. Still working on that issue.
I just received the first shipment of 20. I will be taking these to Canada with me. Any that are left over, I will be listing on my website for sale. I am still trying to figure out the price on these, but they will be about $35-$40. That isn’t bad for a handmade tool that is as pretty as this one. I have another 30+ blocks on their way in a couple of weeks. So if you want one, let me know.
How do you use them? Well, I will have a tutorial/project available as well. I would do a video, but again, I am having lighting issues at the moment and they aren’t working. I really miss my studio.  Here are a couple of pieces that I have made using them.
Melissa Muir Lily Pendant and Cone Earrings
Melissa Muir Lily Pendant
Stay tuned because I will have more information soon.

Lots of Changes

Wow the last week has been just crazy. So crazy in fact, I was thinking I was supposed to get a Tool Time Tuesday out today when I noticed that it wasn’t Tuesday, it was Wednesday. We have now been here for 3 weeks, as of today. In some ways it seems so much longer than that and others it doesn’t seem possible that it has been 3 weeks already. The weather has been mostly rainy, but yesterday and today were so beautiful. Not a drop of precipitation and the temps were fairly mild. I took advantage of that and took a nice long walk with my baby. It felt great to get out. 

We are living in a fairly nice community just outside of Vancouver, Washington. After we got here, I got my two oldest girls enrolled in school. My oldest is in 6th grade and the next one is in Kindergarten. Well, the first day I took Riley to school was quite the shocker when it came to the kids. Now I am certainly one to not judge people on their looks as I love the freedom of expression that comes from it. Most of my friends were rather “colorful” when I was in high school. But I expect that of high school kids, not 6th and 7th graders. Their behaviors were also much more liberal than we are used to as well. So much so that Riley was actually quite uncomfortable with them. We came from some really great schools where the students and teachers really show respect for each other. When we attended church the first couple of times, my concerns were validated. We were told of another school that a lot of the kids have transferred to. We were fortunate to find out that there was room in the 6th grade and the bus picks up only one street over. So Riley started at the new middle school on Monday. She came home and when I asked her about her day, she beamed and said, “It was WONDERFUL.” It was such a relief. She has enjoyed all three days there so far. 
Kate had been attending kindergarten on a full time basis in Ohio. But here the school is only 2 1/2 days. That was kind of hard for me to deal with also as she has been in full time preschool for 2 years and then full time kindergarten. But again, we found out about another school that did have a full time program. We were so blessed. There are only 54 kids in the school (K-6) and there is a waiting list for the Kindergarten/1st grade class. Last month, one little girl moved out and there was an opening. They weren’t really letting kids in because it is too hard for kids to adjust from part time to full time in the middle of the year. But because we came from a full time program, they let her in. I have to drive her a little further to catch the bus, it used to pick up at the corner, but she is really happy and she is already doing really well. There are also some other opportunities she is going to have, like swim lessons, that she wouldn’t have had otherwise. 
So even with just that, I have been busy. I have my classes in canada in just a little more than 2 weeks. I have been frantically trying to find my tools and materials. That has proved rather time consuming and difficult. 
The other thing that is really getting me right now is this new Mac that i am working on. Even right now, I was about to hit save and post this entry. But one little swipe of my fingers and the last 30 minutes of work is GONE! SCREAM!!!!!! UGH!
I did finally find my bur-life and saw blades and have been working a little on some piercing. 
These will be samples for one of the classes that I am teaching. I am hoping to get a few more samples for each of the classes I will be teaching.
These are a bit rough right now as i have only started the clean up. I  still need to file them and finesse the piercing. I have decided that I won’t be letting the students get too elaborate on their pieces. Piercing on a flat sheet is one thing, but it is quite another story when trying to cut a domed piece of metal. 
So that is where things stand right now. I still need to figure out how to use this computer to get my handouts done and photos edited. It is proving rather difficult for me. I used to be a professional computer trainer for years and years. I am not used to being lost when it comes to working a computer. But Mac’s and PC’s are light years apart. LOL. 
Okay, one last thing. Lighting. The lighting in this studio (living/dining room) is AWFUL!!!!! What do you use for lighting? I have a couple of lamps, but they aren’t cutting it. I really miss my studio. It really makes me appreciate what I really had.