Monday 17 February 2014

Memory of Max & Getting Hammered...

Yeah, it was around 1:00 a.m. in the morning, one year ago today, that Max started to die. The day itself, like today, was sunny, Max's favourite kind of day to go running around burrowing and playing in the snow.

Still cannot believe how much I miss my little fuzzy boy every single day.

Wire-wrap chain:
On other fronts, I got a commission on Saturday at the market and put it together yesterday. I had made the chain during one of my Netflix marathons back in the fall and Winter brought me the pendant. Since the pendant is provided, I figure this length of chain (about 44 inches) would cost $50. These are vintage 100-year-old greasy blue Venetian glass seed beads that I got from Naomi at Black Tulip Designs wrapped in hard temper copper wire which I buy by the pound from The Ring Lord. Using the hard temper wire is murder on my fingers, but I find I have a lot more control over the shape of the loops. Soft copper is really mushy for this type of chain. In the closeup photo you can appreciate the depth and lustre. These beads are wonderful. New beads don't hold a candle to them.

Getting hammered:
I'm subscribed to Lisa Yang's jewellery blog and lately Lisa's been posting a series of tuts on basic jewellery-making. I'm always a fan of going back to the basics, if only to find out about new tools and new materials to play with, not to mention the chance that someone somewhere has come up with a new and improved way of doing some simple thing.

I haven't done any hammering for at least two years -- mostly because I was doing other things, but also this past year I'd been living where hammering wasn't feasible. If you've ever lived on a river, especially bounded by cliffs on either side, you'll understand how all sounds are magnified like crazy up and down the river. But now I'm out in the country again and, while I have neighbours on either side of me, we're also bounded on three sides by gravel pits and manufacturing facilities all making their own assorted noises, and a vast golf course to the west. Therefore, I feel free to whack away... although maybe not in the middle of the night.

Lisa has been demoing so-called "bone" connectors, and I made two batches yesterday, trying to beat her time. I'm down to about 2 minutes per "bone". I've said this before: I'm no jewellery designer; I'm a technician. I love to figure out ways to do things easier, faster and more efficiently. Since I would like to sell my stuff, the more efficiently I work the less time it takes me to make things and the greater my profit margin; the less I can sell an item for the better my chances of selling something. Plus I get bored really quickly and like to do repetitive stuff fast.

I used to work in newspaper and printing binderies and know about optimising papers and envelopes on a table in order to stuff envelopes and newspapers. It's no different when one is hammering wire. And I get a production line going.

The first thing I became aware of yesterday was the height at which I was sitting at my folding table. I have a wicker chair I sit at. There was a HUGE difference in ease of hammering when I put the cushion back on the chair as it raised me up 3 inches. I've found I like to sit lower and hunched over with my nose closer to the table top when I'm stringing or wire-wrapping. I found the hammering went much easier, more efficiently (and therefore faster) and I had better control over the effect because I had more arm control when I was sitting up higher in particular because I was using hard-tempered 14 gauge copper wire. I also found I could only hammer three or four "bones" at a time and had to take a couple of minutes' break in between each batch. Even though I'm ambidextrous most of the time, I'm not good at hammering using my left hand. I'm going to look like a lopsided Popeye when I'm finished this. Muskles on top of muskles.

Remove anything you don't need from the table. In mid-whack, a big bin of beads sitting on the corner landed upside down on the floor... absolutely everything jumps around when hammering. Using a doubled over beading mat keeps the noise level and the bouncing down, but I'm still working on figuring out how to keep the bench block itself as well as the mat from moving. The bead mat helps, and I noticed if I hammer wire in the middle of the block, it tends to stay in one place, but when holding short wire "bones" I'd be forever hammering my fingers to a pulp so this time I was stuck hammering closer to the edge of the block. I'm wondering, since I've seen other people use it in tutorials, if using a piece of leather would keep the bench block in place. I'd love to hear from someone if that is true. Makes me wish I hadn't been so hasty throwing out an old purse that I could have cut up.

Note that I use memory wire cutters for the thicker, harder wire gauges and always when I'll be hammering any wire as it cuts off truly square and 45 degrees to the length of the wire, rather than angled as with the regular cutters. I really appreciated the pure efficiency of this punch that I bought a while back and used for the first time. I also have one of those gizmos that you screw down to punch a hole with, but this is way, way faster. Note also the diamond file. I used that to clean off the burrs from the punch, as well as cleaned up any sharp edges around the hammered ends. I thought the pack of diamond files to be really expensive when I first bought them, but I use them all the time for so many different things.

Lacking a tumbler (and having to live with the fine scratches from the file), I opted to use ketchup to clean my finished bones.

Smooshing the pieces around. Takes only seconds to clean them.

Finish with some dish detergent and rinse. A scrubbie and soap got rid of any Sharpie marks. I have filtered well water with unknown mineral content so I'll need to get some distilled water. 

A New Toy for Ruth & Me:
Every show I do I try to upgrade and/or buy one item to make life easier in an away venue. For the March 14th, 15th & 16th Gem Expo in Toronto I bought a dolly. Since hotel luggage carts are at a premium (let alone unavailable in some venues) waiting for half an hour or more to unload and load up my truck is not what I want to be doing especially at the end of the show when I'm looking forward to a two-hour drive home.

Even though this dolly is all-metal, it is still about the same weight as the mostly plastic one that cost $10-$15 more, and is less bulky/bulbous. Plus this one can be used both vertically and horizontally. My trick will be to keep track of those cotter pins that lock the handlebar in place. Since I'm basically hauling bins of rocks, I need the sturdier all-metal construction and the big wheels, essential when moving heavy loads on dirt paths, grass, snow, uneven road surfaces and humping up and down steps which, if a dolly is going to collapse on you, these are the exact places.

I also bought some half-size bins with the flip-flop locking lids -- I'm forever misplacing lids -- so that everything not only stacks, the smaller sizes will hold more-reasonably-easy-to-heave-around quantities of beads and jewellery. My goal is to get everything into two sizes of bins, ditch the open top liquor store cardboard boxes, and anything else will fit into Tyvek shopping bags, still stackable and portable/easy to heave around.

Hammered Tinned Copper Earrings:
I promptly lost the first batch of copper bones I made. Zero idea where they got to. Made a second batch. Then I made these using 14 gauge tinned copper. Very soft wire. See how wiggly and bendy these got compared to the hard temper copper wire that really held its shape, but the tinned copper does goosh out a lot easier.

This morning I was contemplating them and wondered if the "waterfall" effect looks better (the earring on the right). I think it does. My online pal Joanne over at Nelson Gemstones agreed, but also suggested these would look better with the large jump rings in a silver colour. She just got back from Tucson: go check out the new beads she scored on her Facebook page. I'm so jealous!!! Next year!

Now to get off this computer and go make a chain out of the "bone" connectors and make more of these earrings and figure out a necklace variation.

Hope everyone is having a relaxing Family Day here in Canada and President's Day down in the US.

Went to Bulk Barn for the first time in over a year, and since they renovated.
This poster made me laugh. Yummy!!!

Thanks for looking!


Nelson Beads said...

Sheesh! You have been busy. Sounds like you're streamlining your show prep. Should save a lot of time and backache.

Love those waterfall earrings! And thanks for the link, Barbara.

Lisa Yang Jewelry said...

You have been busy! I love your hammered bones and that you were trying to beat my time. lol. I think I was down to close to a minute each (even though I said two). I didn't want newbies to be discouraged. I use dead soft wire though. I'll have to try the ketchup. I knew they shine things, but didn't know it would do that much! So much good information - thanks!