Thursday, March 31, 2011


I got a box of tools and sheet metal in the mail!

First, I want to show off this adorably tiny vise. Shown with a Sharpie next to it for scale:
Isn't it so cute? I'm not entirely sure what it'll be good for yet, but it was about $5 and seems like it'll come in handy at some point--maybe for very small-scale fold-forming, or just as a "third hand" for holding things I'm working on once in a while.

I got a melting crucible that looks something like this:

I've tried salt casting before, and there are several other kinds of freeform casting that I'm also interested in trying and incorporating into jewelry. This crucible will help me play with molten silver more safely. And since silver prices keep going up, I'm really liking the idea of being able to recycle every bit of sterling scrap into more art.

The other tool I'm really excited about is this soldering tripod.
The tripod supports a mesh, which supports the piece of jewelry, and you can point your torch at it from above or below. Notice how there are 4 pieces on the screen? This tripod means that I can solder groups of pieces in batches rather than one at a time--really good for simple things that benefit from a miniature production-line approach (like a few pairs of earrings that I want to be identical).

Here's how the earrings I started are shaping up so far, prior to patina, polishing, and adding earwires:
I'm making them with the International Steampunk City festival in mind.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Interdisciplinary metalsmithing

Something that I love about metalsmithing is that it's possible to incorporate many other crafts into it. My friend Danielle uses metalwork to showcase her handmade glass beads; I use my sewing skills to make silk necklace cords; and my favorite art blogger, Daily Art Muse, keeps posting really great combinations of metal and other materials (like leather!). My newest idea is to etch copper plates, pull prints from them using my pasta press, and then turn the copper plates into jewelry. I've enjoyed printmaking in the past, both with my pasta press and with linoleum blocks, and I'm really happy to have found a way to tie it into my metalworking.

I've taken the first step this weekend by trying out electrolytic copper etching. It seems to have worked well on my test pieces; now I just need to perfect an image transfer process (or come up with some designs I can make on metal by hand). I've had a lot of fun researching the history of etching on Wikipedia--and I learned a lot about how one can turn an etched plate into ink on a page. Much better to look to old handmade processes than reinvent the wheel!