Sunday, 13 August 2017

Dipping my Toes into Etching

Hello August, just 2 short years ago I was blogging about the 50 things I did before 50! No big list this year though just a quiet afternoon tea with family to look forward to later on today.

So this month I have been dipping my toes into etching, combining my artwork with copper to see how it works.  I researched all the options and with hubbys advice opted to try Ferric Chloride for which is also used for making pinted circuit boards. 

The first thing I did was to sketch a few pictures on my i-pad that I thought would work, this are two of them

I transferred these images to my scan n cut maching and cut them from vinyl.  There are lots of options to choose from for a 'resist' but so far I have only tried vinyl and sharpie pens. Vinyl worked the best for me out of those two, next on list to try is nail varnish.

Next I prepared the copper by cutting into small rectangles and cleaning with sandpaper, a nylon pad and then a wipe over with neat alcohol to make sure the surface was squeeky clean for the vinyl to stick properly.

Stick the vinyl to the copper and make sure it is well adhered with no edges lifted, you can fill in any missing bits with a sharpie pen

Before putting the copper into the chemicals you need to protect all of the bits you don't want etched by accident including around the sides of the work and the back.  I coloured around the edges with the sharpie marker and stuck the copper onto some packing tape to protect the back so the only bits of metal exposed were the bits I wanted etched (sorry I forgot to take a picture of that!)

I pre-prepared two plastic containers for the etch one with the Ferric Chloride which I bought ready diluted and one with Bicarbonate of Soda and water to use as a neutraliser to the acid, some gloves which are essential to protect your skin and I put all this on a tray and had plenty of paper towels on standby as it it messy!

Then I gently lowered the pieces into the Ferric Chloride and left them, I checked every half hour for progress, as the copper I used was pretty thin I only left them until the pattern was just visible, thicker materials will take longer.

Once you are happy with the etch take the pieces out wearing gloves I also used non metal tweezers and put the piece into the bicarbonate of soda solution to neutralise.  I gave them a final rinse in clean water then you can peel away the packing tape and vinyl.

Next step was to clean, I used a nylon pad to scrub then some ultra fine sandpaper to lightly polish. For the Unicorn I rounded the edges and added a rivet and turned it into a key ring.


The hare became a pendant with an added moonstone

So whats next, well I just ordered some thicker copper to try a few more designs and also some Ferric Nitrite to etch some silver, will blog about that when I have given it a go.  I hope you enjoyed my little foray into etching and pop back again to see what I get up to next. 

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Silversmithing - the Journey Continues with Bezels

Well hello, it's been a while!

I'm still loving the silversmithing, in fact it's kind of taken over everything else so not much going on in the way of  other crafts, but this is just too much fun!

So I have just finished my 10 week course and learnt so much about soldering, forging and generally how metal behaves. I have put that learning to good use in making heaps of bangles and rings, and just sent my first packet off to the London Assay Office - how exciting is that!

Meanwhile those who know me will know I wouldn't stop there, so next on my "what do I want to learn to do next list" was bezels.  I have a stash of gemstone beads that were just sitting there waiting to be used.  This was a challenge as most bezels are designed for flat back cabachons whereas I wanted to use beads, so mine had to be a little different.

I started out with a few fairly flat beads to make it a bit easier as this was the first time, I have some amazonite, jasper and bronzite pendant size beads and here's what I did:-

Sterling Silver Sheet, I used 0.4mm for the strip and 0.8mm for the base
Hard Solder
Medium Solder

Step 1

I cut a strip of silver (from the 0.4) that was wide enough to reach from the base of the bead to just above half way, then wrapped it around the bead to fit (I used fully annealed dead soft silver for this), then cut and soldered (I used hard solder for this).  Next I checked for fit around the bead I wanted it to be snug but not too tight to allow for 'setting' the bead once the strip was fixed to the back. I also made tiny pin marks where the bead holes were for later on.

Step 2

Once I was happy with the fit I soldered the strip to the base, taking care not to bend the strip in any way, especially as the beads were not all a uniform shape.  For this I used medium solder

Step 3

After cleaning pickling and checking for final fit I adjusted by sanding/filing the top edge until I was happy with the fit. Next I set my beads, I used a bezel pusher to do this, taking care not to scratch the surface of the beads. I used a burnisher to finish the setting which helps to get as smooth a finish as I could around the edge of the bead and make sure the bead was secured.

Step 4

Once I was happy that the bead was set I cut away the excess silver from the base with a piercing saw taking care to get as close to the bead shape as possible

Step 5

Using the marks I made earlier to find the bead hole I used a Bradawel tool to make the holes big enough to take some headpins, then I used files to smooth the cut marks around the edge and bead holes, then sanded everything smooth using various grades of sandpaper.

Step 6

Next I made some headpins to fit, I used 1mm silver wire for this and heated the end until the silver balled up, cleaned and fitted them.  These are in their 'almost finished' state as they are now at the Assay Office in London for hallmarking, I'll give them a final polish when they get back.  Not decided yet how to use them, I'm thinking maybe with a cluster of beads as a necklace, or perhaps just a plain chain with an elegant bail....

My next challenge is to find a way to use round beads other than just threading them or wire wrapping them.

I hope you enjoyed this little snapshot of my continuing journey with silver. This week I have been learning how to make findings and I am looking forward to designing pieces using these and eant to have a go at making my own chain next.

Take care and bye for now
Max x