Use entry-level jewelry-making techniques to make a graceful silver bracelet.

by Hazel L. Wheaton, Editor, Art Jewelry® magazine


 

On the last day of my first-ever metalsmithing class, the instructor gave us this challenge: Use the beginner-level skills we'd learned to design and make a piece of jewelry. We'd be surprised, she said, by how far we could go using only very basic techniques. I came up with a bracelet that combined cutting out disks, rolling and texturing with a rolling mill, drilling holes, soldering posts, and balling up wire. I was a rank beginner, but I still finished the bracelet in under 2 hours. The balled-up posts that connect the oval disks give the bracelet a lovely fit and ease of motion, and the overlapping-disk design means that the clasp is invisible once the bracelet is on your wrist. If you've been eager to try using a rolling mill, this is a great project to start out with. For all its simplicity, the bracelet never fails to attract attention, and it remains among my very favorite pieces of jewelry.

Punch out disks. To punch a disk from a sheet of 20-gauge (0.8 mm) sterling silver[1], hold the silver firmly in place while striking a disk cutter firmly with a utility hammer. (I used a 3/4-in. [19 mm] disk cutter.) You may have to strike more than once, but be careful; if your silver moves between each strike, your disk won't have clean edges. Cut a total of 10 disks.

TIP: To make clean cuts using a disk cutter, use the metal as is. Don't anneal it; annealing is a technique where you heat metal to make it softer. A disk cutter will distort the edges of annealed metal rather than making a clean cut.

Use a hand file or coarse-grit sandpaper to clean up any burs left on the edges of the disks.

Make the ovals. You can choose your own size ovals. I rolled my 3/4-in. (19 mm) disks into 1 3/16-in. (30 mm) ovals. For a 7 1/2-in. (19.1 cm) bracelet, I needed 10 ovals; you can add or subtract ovals to reach your desired length. Keep in mind that you don't need to figure in the length of the clasp, because the clasp is integrated into the bracelet's design and hidden by overlapping ovals.

To stretch a disk into an oval, roll it through a rolling mill. (For tips, see "Using a Rolling Mill,") Progressively tighten the rollers each time you pass the disk through the rolling mill, and continue rolling until the disk is the desired oval shape [2].

Note the setting of the rollers, and roll the rest of the disks at that same tension; this will give you nicely uniform ovals.

NOTE: To add visual interest, try rollprinting your disks as you're making them into ovals. For my original bracelet, page 1, I rolled my disks through the mill with sandpaper to give them a grainy look. See "Roll-printing," for more information.

Curve the ovals. A large rolling mill will give each disk a slight curve. A smaller rolling mill, like the one I used, produces flat ovals. If your disks don't fit the curvature of your wrist, you'll want to add a slight curve to each disk.

To do this, place each disk front-side down in a wide, shallow depression of a dapping block, and use a rawhide mallet to lightly hammer a dapping punch onto your metal until the metal conforms to the depression [3].

NOTE: Use a wooden dapping block and punch; a steel block and punch can scratch your disks.

Drill the ovals. Using a fine-tip permanent marker, lightly mark the centerline of an oval. Then, mark a point on that centerline 1/4 in. (6.5 mm) from one end of the oval. Place the oval on a bench block, and use a center punch to make a dimple at your point [4].

Use a flex shaft with a 1 mm drill bit to drill a hole through the dimple [5]. Check out the video on drilling at www.artjewelry mag.com/howto.

Repeat to drill holes in all the ovals. For the last oval, drill the hole slightly larger; that hole will be the catch for the clasp hook.

using a
rolling mill
A rolling mill is a machine that thins metal. It's comprised of a long hand crank that rotates two steel rollers, and a dial on top of the mill that adjusts the distance between the rollers (also known as tension). The gauge of the metal that you're rolling will determine how far apart you'll need to set your rollers.

To set the mill to the right tension, you'll use a test piece of copper that is the same gauge as your silver. Rotate the dial on top of the mill to open the rollers until you can just barely slip the copper test piece between the rollers. Set aside the copper, and close the rollers by tightening the dial a quarter turn.

NOTE: If your rolling mill has two dials instead of one, make sure both are set to the same tension. Otherwise, you'll make a wedge-shaped sheet of metal.

Insert your copper test piece between the rollers, and turn the hand crank until the copper comes out the other side. Assess the copper's thickness, and adjust the tension accordingly. Then run your silver through the mill at that tension. If further thinning is needed, tighten the dial another quarter turn and repeat the rolling process. - AK

Add the posts. Cut nine 1/2-in. (13 mm) pieces of 20-gauge (0.8 mm) sterling silver wire. Secure a piece of sandpaper to your work surface, and sand one end of each wire until it's level and clean.

Mark a point on the centerline of an oval 1/4 in. (6.5 mm) from the end opposite the hole. Apply flux to both sides of the oval. Place a small pallion of medium solder at the mark, and heat the oval with a torch until the solder flows. For basic information on soldering, visit www.artjewelrymag.com/howto.

Grip a wire in cross-locking tweezers and dip it in flux. Hold the sanded end of the wire to the solder, making sure the wire is perpendicular to the disk.

Apply heat with the torch until the solder reflows [6]. Remove the heat, and maintain light pressure on the wire until the solder resolidifies. Lift the wire to check the bond, then quench and pickle the link. Repeat the process to add posts to all but one of the remaining ovals.

Connect the bracelet. Insert the post of one oval through the hole of the oval without the post. Grip both ovals in cross-locking tweezers, and hold the ovals so that the post points downward. Direct the heat of your torch at the tip of the post so the wire balls up [7]. Check out the video on balling up wire at www.artjewelrymag.com/howto. Ball up the wire until there is approximately 3 /16 in. (5 mm) of straight wire between the oval and the ball. Repeat to connect all the ovals, ending with the oval with the slightly larger hole.

Make the hook. Cut a 5/8-in. (16 mm) piece of 16-gauge (1.3 mm) sterling silver wire. Sand one end of the wire level and clean. Using easy solder, solder the wire onto the oval without the post, using the same process you used to attach the posts. Quench, pickle, rinse, and dry the bracelet. Shape the wire into a hook, using round nose pliers [8].

Polish the bracelet. To bring up the shine of the matte finish, scrub the bracelet with a brass brush and soapy water.



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© 2008 Kalmbach Publishing Co. This material may not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher.


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