Saturday, March 12, 2011

Here comes the Sun.... PART I

I finally have a batch of suns done! I really want to take you step by step through the process of making one, as it goes through several steps before a customer would see the finished pendant. while each sun I make goes through this process, each one turns out differently and no two are exactly the same.

I cut them out first. I have a die machine that isn't really made for metal, but I modified it and I can cut out shapes in thin gauge copper, brass and sterling. I use this tool to cut out the rough sun shape.

Because the die machine really isn't made for metal, sometimes the sun isn't completely punched out. Depending on how much is "stuck" I use a saw or snips to cut it the rest of the way out.

(it's on my wish list to someday have a hydraulic press to eliminate this problem)

These 3 came out pretty clean, I only had to use the snips on one. Sometimes the cut is *almost* all the way through, and I can bend the copper back and forth to *snap* it apart from the extra metal.

Even if it comes pops out without assistance, I still need to run a file across the edges so nothing is sharp or jagged. Even though I might have to do this after the hammering stage, I like to smooth it out here because I've actually cut myself on metal, and it's not fun. This means I end up cleaning edges more than once on some suns, and that's OK, I like to be safe.
Here are the suns getting textures via hammers

The sterling silver "moon" or background to the copper swirl is a 1inch disc I cut out with my disc cutter. I love my disc cutter I bought last year, it's one sweet sweet tool! It's the swanstrom disc cutter and if you are a serious jewelry artist and don't have a good disc maker yet, get this one! It's pricey, but worth every penny. The discs come out of this cutter so clean I only have to run sand paper once over the edge to make it baby butt smooth! When making jewelry the less time you have to spend cleaning up edges is time you can spend elsewhere, and time is money. I can also pop out thick discs with this tool, which is very nice.

Once the suns and moons are cut out and edges cleaned, the fun begins! I love hammering texture on metals. Two of the suns below and all 3 of the moon middles I used a variety of hammers on. (for those who follow this blog, I have 12 hammers if you recall) ( OK, I have 13 but don't tell Jerry yet, I'm planning on breaking it gently to him)

On the 3rd sun I embossed texture on, which worked OK, but I think I like my hammer work the best.
I think of my suns as symbols on how everything is so interconnected. It's almost a yin-yang thing for me, you cannot have ( or at least fully appreciate) happiness until you have met sadness, you cannot have light without the dark, or the sun without the moon. Since I've always looked at the sterling silver part as moon like, I use the hammers to give them a cratered look. Among my hammers I have a set of Fretz "mini" hammers. Personally they are the perfect size for me, but Fretz also makes larger hammers for silversmiths. They are totally fab no matter which size works best for you!

Strangely enough, my absolutely favorite hammer is my very first one, a basic chasing hammer I got for like $12.00, and I still use it more than all the other hammers put together.. not that I don't need every hammer I own! It's great for flatting out wire and metal. For texture I turn to my Fretz set first. My set has narrow skinny heads and rounded heads ( called Raising and embossing respectively) It's amazing the range of textures you can create with these hammers, I'm still finding new ways to use them all the time.

Some of the hammers I have are just old hammers with wonderfully "abused" faces, so they make interesting textures. I love that I'm using something that might otherwise be considered damaged or broken to make new jewelry pieces.

Once I add the texture, I will smooth out any rough edges again. When you hammer metal, you are actually pushing it, which can cause ridges on the edges. Some times your hammer strikes just on the edge of the metal, and sort of pinches off the edge making it rough. No reason not to run a file or sand paper and just smooth it down again.

You can read Part II here. If you are interested in purchacing one of my suns, you can do so in my Artfire studio store

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