Sunday, 28 September 2008

Jewellery-making evening class - part 1!

Thursday night was the first night of my new jewellery-making evening class, courtesy of Edinburgh city council. It's held in the metalwork rooms of a secondary school (wish I had been able to do that at school!!) not too far from where I live. There's a small group of us, about 12, and we all have varying degrees of experience, which makes for an interesting mix. Some have never tried jewellery making at all, some like me have done a wee bit and want to learn more, and then there are some who obviously do the evening class every term, and came laden with very impressive and professional-looking tool boxes!

Our teacher has been a jewellery-maker for many years, and is very relaxed, and was happy for different people in the class to be getting on with various different things. We talked about what I had tried already at the Summer School, and then my teacher suggested trying to make my first ring. I decided to use some copper I had to try it out (copper isn't fantastic for rings, as it tends to make your skin go green! - but it is relatively cheap and easy to work with).

First I had to size my finger, to work out the circumference of the piece of metal strip that would be shaped into the ring. We decided to try a thick band, which meant adding an extra couple of millimeters (as thick rings always feel tighter than thin ones).

So, I cut a strip of copper to size, and then added some surface texture using hammer marks. Then, using half round/flat pliers, I gradually shaped the metal into a rough ring shape, eventually getting the two edges to meet as truly as possible. Next, we soldered the edges together (still a bit scared of the soldering torch - this time we used disposable hand torches rather than blow torches - but I still find myself heating it too gingerly) - the teacher helped me put some welly into it, and the joint eventually soldered ok.

Once the ring had been quenched in water, and soaked in the pickle to get rid of the oxidised layer, it was time to shape it more finely on a ring mandrel (a big long tapered piece of steel) using a hammer, making sure to shape it evenly all around. Last of all came the filing and polishing to get the edges smooth and a shine on the surface.

It was really satisfying to finish something within the 2 hours of the class, and I really like the breadth of the ring on my finger (and it actually fits!). I also like how the texture has turned out to look a bit like Birch bark. Looking forward to next week's class!

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