Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It Ain't over 'Till It's Over

When I left you last, I had been working on a bezel-set seashell that I had made as a sample for a Level Two Certification project. It sat on my bench, unfinished. I wasn't in too much of a hurry to finish it because it just didn't look right to me. The more I saw it, the more I began to think that the 'seaweed' feature didn't add to the design. So I decided to get rid of it!

I took my trusty little jeweler's saw and cut that weed down to size. But now what? It sat on the bench for another two days until I started fiddling with it and placed the seaweed above the shell. Ah! That did it! Then I spent another ten minutes staring in the mirror trying to decide if the piece wanted to be a brooch or a pendant. I decided to solder a pin finding to the seaweed and joined it to the shell setting with two little S-shaped connections. Tumbling, patina, and polishing brought it to the point of no return - setting the shell. This morning I braved the threat of icy streets to go to the studio to finish it up.

Making the bezel for this shell was a bit of a process. First, I had to bur out a depression in the bezel wire to accommodate the 'hinge' point of the shell. Then I realized that the uneven slope of the shell would cause the fit of the finished bezel to look misshaped.  I'm not a measurer, so I eyeballed the distance from the bottom of the setting to the top of the wire as it related to the shell, put Sharpie marks where I thought I should lower the height of the bezel wire, and ground away with the help of my Foredom motor tool until I thought it looked right. Then I sanded the edges and called it good.

Thank goodness that my very scientific (not!) calculations turned out to be correct after I finished burnishing down the bezel. The perimeter of the setting looks perfect. I used a bezel rocker that I've never used before (but have had in my tool box for years) to push the wire evenly around and over the shell sides. In the course of doing so, I realized why I've heard jewelry makers and teachers talk about "dressing" commercially purchased tools. Sigh.

The edges of the rocker (which came straight from the factory) had true, sharp, 90 degree angles that put unlovely, sharp, straight lines/marks in my perfectly polished bezel wire!  That of course meant I had to spend another hour trying a variety of  techniques to get rid of them. First I used tried and true, go-to, 400 grit sandpaper, pushing it around with my fingernail as a way to apply a bit of pressure. Then I thought of loading the paper into a split mandrel on the Foredom. That helped s little more.  Then I remembered to try a tiny grinding stick I got many moons ago, and little by little, those obvious blemishes began to dim.

I may not use my metal smithing skills to their full extent, or practice them as often as I might, but thank goodness I have them in the first place. They've added panache to my metal clay jewelry work many times and it's a good thing I had them to call on this morning. Athletes cross-train - ice skaters jog, swimmers pump weights, even ballroom dancers work out in the gym. Jewelry makers are no different. The more skills you have, the richer your production vocabulary becomes.

I still don't think this piece is done. I may like it as a brooch, but a buyer might wish I had made the other choice. So, I think tomorrow I'll solder a jump ring on to a length of silver tube to make a necklace enhancer! It may not be over till it's over, but when I'm finally finished, I know I'll be happy.

by Lora Hart 
Artistic Advisor 

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