Monday, December 23, 2013

May Your Days Be Merry!

Holiday Eye Candy 2014 by lorahart
Holiday Eye Candy 2014, a photo by lorahart on Flickr.
Wishing all our friends, family, and fabulous customers a healthy, happy and safe holiday!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Soldering Fired Metal Clay

How hard is it to solder fired metal clay? This question was asked recently on FaceBook. There were all kinds of answers - some wrong - so I decided this would be a good time to address this question.

Many of us like to combine sheet with fired metal clay in our pieces. For example, I sometimes use sheet wire for the band on a ring or solder bezel cups onto fired metal clay.

Fired PMC3, PMC+, and PMC Sterling, bronze, and copper clays - all are soldered in the same way. There is no reason to perform depletion gilding on sterling silver. The only reason depletion is performed is when you want to fuse something to sterling silver. Depletion, removes the outer layer of copper in the sterling silver leaving only fine silver which doesn't tarnish. (For information on how to deplete check out my blog on February 24, 2012.)

The only difference in soldering fired metal clay and sheet is that the fired metal clay has porosity, tiny microscopic holes. Because of this porosity, its best to close some of these holes so that the solder doesn't disappear into the fired metal clay like a sponge! Simply finishing the fired metal clay to a shine suffices. Either tumble it using stainless steel shot, polish it with a brass or steel brush, or use a burnisher in the area to be soldered. 

The usual processes of soldering are important to know, like which type of solder to use - Hard, Medium, or Easy; how to flux and melt the solder to the item; and then how to clean the piece after soldering in pickle. If you would like to learn more about the process of soldering, I have a tutorial for sale on my personal website.

Until next time have fun claying around.

Janet Alexander
Technical Adviser

Friday, December 13, 2013

News Flash

Why am I writing about business? I’d rather write about the art process, creating from the soul, inspiration and motivation. Some day. For now, today’s business topic is your own Press Release and how to write one to your advantage. You might be wondering, “What could be newsworthy?” 

Are you going to a show? Are you traveling for your PMC business and work? Have you won an award? Are you the feature exhibit at a gallery or in a new gallery? Did you place well in a contest, or is a magazine publishing a photo of your work or an article you wrote?

I emailed my first press release to an editor at a local newspaper, thinking, "yea, right, fat chance, nothing newsworthy." The next week I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard, “Nice write-up about you in the paper.” I had to ask someone to save it for me so I could see it. Yup, exactly how I wrote it (at bottom of linked page). Ha. It was one of those moments where something worked so well it was shocking.

Does this sound like excellent public relations and free advertising? It does to moi.

Are you concerned that you may not have a provocative story line for an editor or reporter to put into print? Think about the Sunday section of newspapers, entertainment and arts sections or a business section. Every publication has space to fill with information to make known to the public.

The anatomy of a press release is important. The format is standard. News flash: deviate not from it if you want to see your work in print and to further entice the newspaper or publication to contact you because they want to do a full story on the piece.

Here is a link for a downloadable pdf that is excellent for writing a press release.

Press-release distribution services abound on the Internet, as do resourceful websites. Here are a few to get you started.

Resources Sites

Good luck with your news and your release. Be true to yourself in writing it. If something is exciting to you, it’ll be exciting to someone else. Keep us posted on your successes.

by Kris A. Kramer

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 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tips from the Bench - Ring Gauges and Mandrels

Ring gauges and ring mandrels are used in concert to make rings. Ring gauges are used to measure the size of a person's finger and ring mandrels are used for manufacturing rings to the required size. In metal clay, we wrap the clay around a paper covered mandrel at the required size. In metal smithing, we wrap the metal around the mandrel at the correct size.

The typical  ring mandrel is a tapered and made of steel with the sizes engraved on it. In metal clay we also have the stepped mandrels sized in two sizes, either whole sizes or half sizes. 

Did you know that not all ring gauges and ring mandrels match? When you first purchase your ring gauges and a ring mandrel, check to see if they match and you might be surprised! Check several sizes, because some might be correct while others are not.

Size 7 is on 6 3/4" line
8 Fits correctly

This size 7 narrow ring gauge should slide down to the size 7 on the tapered ring mandrel, so the tapered mandrel is incorrect for this size.

The photo to the right shows that the size 8 wide band fits correctly on this size 8 short step mandrel.

Size 9 doesn't fit
But the size 9 wide ring gauge doesn't even fit onto the size 9 mandrel and neither does the narrow size 9 ring gauge.

(Interestingly the size 8 is on the same mandrel as the size 9!)

What's important to know is what to do if they don't match.

Since I measured the finger with the ring gauge, its important that I make the ring the size of the ring gauge. With the tapered mandrel, I slip the ring gauge onto the mandrel and draw lines on both sides of the ring gauge using a permanent marker. Now I work the ring around the mandrel between those lines.

With the miss-matched short stepped mandrel I wrap wax paper around either the size 8 or 8 1/2 mandrels until the size 9 ring gauge fits correctly.

I hope this helps those of you who have had problems with rings not fitting the finger. Until next time have fun claying around.

Janet Alexander
Technical Adviser