Friday, February 08, 2019

Put Your Money Where Your Moth Is

Moth #2, Champleve

Here is another enameling test with Argentium. The bottom piece of silver is 20 gauge and the top is 22 gauge (purchased from Hauser and Miller).  First, I cut out the moth shape in the 22 gauge metal and placed it on top of the 20 gauge sheet, and then fused the two pieces together.  It took quite a bit of heat to accomplish this.  I use an acetylene tank for all my soldering needs. When finished, I added some textures using a scribe and a ball burr, which I ended up having to cover up later (you'll see).

I put a simple bail on the back for a chain before doing anything else.  There was some fire scale that showed up here.  I didn't know Argentium could get fire scale.  Perhaps this has something to do with the germanium-oxide coating?  I am not sure.  I sanded most of it away but decided to come back later and sand some more.

After laying on a coat of clear flux on the top (Ninomiya F3) and adding wires, I fired the piece and it came out VERY yellow and discolored.   My first thought was, "It's ruined!"  No, of course it's not ruined   Maybe I left it in the kiln a bit too long?  

So I simply cut up lots of tiny pieces of silver and gold (slightly thicker than leaf) and placed them over just about the entire moth, and then re-fired the piece.

Little by little I continued adding my enamels and re-firing at 1400 for approximately 2 minutes after each coat.

Hours and hours later, it was finished!  I used diamond abrasive buffs to smooth it all out (mentioned in my previous post) and then placed it in the tumbler for a half hour.  After that step, I sanded with some fine sandpapers (400, 600, 1200 and 4000.)  I also tried out some cerium oxide (powder) mixed with water and polished with that, as well, but I wasn't as happy with the finish as I had hoped, so did a last polish with Zam. 

One last note - some gray scale appeared on the front of the piece after a few firings (near the edges), so I had to sand the silver down to get rid of it. I used Argentium to make this piece instead of Fine Silver because by using Sterling Silver or Argentium, I did not have to put a coat of enamel on the back (counter enameling).  I  dislike the way a coat of enamel looks on the back of a silver piece.  Next time I'll experiment using Fine Silver, though, with a coat of clear flux as my counter enamel, on the back to see how it looks...and then I'll move on to trying enameling on Sterling Silver.  

Thursday, January 31, 2019

From the Moths of Babes

I recently made a decision to spend some time in 2019 experimenting with enameling, and will see where it takes me.  Come along for the ride!

Today I'm going to experiment with using Argentium Silver as my base metal.  I've only used Fine Silver or Copper in the past, so we'll see what happens.

1.  I used my jeweler's saw to cut out an oval shape out of 22 gauge Argentium and then domed it slightly on a doming block.

2.  A Preval Sprayer (with a mix of 2/3 Distilled Water and 1/3 Klyr Fire) was used to spray the front of the disk before sifting with Ninomiya F3 Clear Enamel Flux, making sure there was an even amount of flux all over the top (no blank spaces).  I placed the disc on a trivet to dry on top of the kiln, and when the flux was dry, I fired it for 1.30 minutes at 1400 degrees (some use 1450 degrees).

 You must have a timer of some kind nearby so you don't over fire your piece!
As you can see, the base color of Argentium silver wasn't  darkened or damaged in any way by a coat of clear flux and one firing!  We're good to go forward!

 3.  After cooling, the back of the disc was sprayed again with the sprayer and sprinkled with a counter-enamel (see below), set to dry and then fired for 1.30 minutes.  (You won't see the back, so it doesn't matter what color enamel you use, but you must counter-enamel the piece.  It is is used to reduce stress exerted on the enamel by the metal after the piece is cool or during cooling.  As metal cools, it cools faster than the enamel, so if a piece is not counter-enameled the enamel can crack and pop right off the piece (yes, this has happened to me).

Some people counter-enamel first, and then move to the front, but I prefer to enamel the front first.

 I'm going to do this step twice with the counter enamel, just to make sure it's stable.

Now that I have 2 coats of counter enamel on the back and one coat of clear flux on the front, I'm ready to start placing my cloisonné wires.  Wherever I plan to have red, yellow or orange colors I'll add some gold foil first so the colors (warm colors) will show up nicely.  I also need to decide if I want to add some silver foil or thin textured silver pieces to the piece.

I purchase my Fine Silver Cloisonne wire from Hauser and Miller.  The taller the wire, the more enamel you will use.  The first thing I do with the wire is cut off a long piece (more than I think I'll need), wrap it into a nice little circle, and anneal it.  This can be done two ways:  1) With a torch, or 2) In your kiln.  About 20 seconds in my kiln at 1400 did the trick.  Let it cool naturally (don't water quench).

An easy way to help with wire cutting and placing is to lay double sided tape on your drawing and then place the cloissone wires on top of the tape, all cut to the proper sizes, before then placing on your piece.  I use either Blu Stic or Klyr-Fire (mixed with a little H2O) to place the wires in their proper places on the soon-to-be finished piece.  The glue is wet, so let it dry before putting in the kiln.  When it comes out from the kiln (approx 1.30 to 2 minutes later), some wires may still not have embedded themselves into the clear flux, so GENTLY take your tweezers and push them down a wee bit and they should "take" during the next firing.  I actually dropped my piece on the way into the kiln, and didn't notice I was missing a couple of pieces of wire until it came out.  No problem!  I added the missing pieces and fired again.

Here I start laying the wires for my moth:

I've finished laying all the wires and it's been fired at 1400 for 1.30 minutes.

Now it's time to lay down some 24K gold and Silver foil (using Klyr-Fire) and fire again at 1400 for 1.30 minutes.

Little by little, I add more and more enamel, let dry and fire at 1400 for about 2 minutes.  The thicker the enamel, the longer it might need to fire.  Don't forget to wear a mask!  I use leaded enamels, so it's very important not to breathe in any minuscule particles.  I purchases most my enamels from  I've also purchased from and

Note:  One problem that came up was on the bottom left of the piece.  The opalescent enamel "popped" off in a tiny area and I had to re-enamel about 3 times for it to stay put.  Maybe this had something to do with using Silver Argentium instead of Fine Silver?  Hard to say.  

To finish this piece, I used 3m Diapads to get the surface as smooth as possible.  I wish I knew where I purchased them, but I can't remember.  I always start with the darkest color first (grittiest), and always file under water...then move onto the red, yellow and finish with white.  After that I used a number of very fine sanding pads called Micro Mesh Regular.  I started with 1500 grit and finished with 12000 grit.  I then polished with Zam.  Maybe someday I'll purchase a Jool Tool or something else to make the polishing part easier, but until then I'm content to do it all by hand.  

 This is the finished piece.  I'm happy with the wire work, but definitely unhappy with the colors.  Had my wires been taller, I would have been able to add more layers of color, which this piece needs.  

I looked up enameling on Argentium and found this quote from Cynthia Eid:

"In tests at the Goldsmiths’ Hall of London, opaque enamels worked well. Transparent enamels appear as a different color than on traditional sterling or fine silver, but no other problems were reported. In some enamel tests, some colors shifted; clear flux enamel applied under the colored enamels stabilized the color. Enamels used on Argentium sterling that was sanded or abraded to remove any germanium-oxide coating showed the best results."

I'll keep on happily experimenting! 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

My Filigree Bracelet with Gia Gogishvilli

I can't tell you how great it was to finally take a filigree class taught by Gia Gogishvilli, the master of filigree (and Repousee/Chasing and all metalwork)!  We had one week to learn how to twist the metal, flatten it, anneal, make solder, file the solder, make the filigree pieces, make the frames for the filigree, learn the proper gauges, make and solder hinges, etc.  It was a lot to learn.  Most of us needed a bit more time once the week was finished, so Gia set up a couple of extra time periods to meet again, which was extremely helpful to all of us.

So as complete beginners, we began with building our sterling silver frames.  One for the left, one for the right and one for the middle.  The size of these frames depend on the size of our wrists or whose wrist we we're making this cuff bracelet for.  We made cardboard templates to be sure of the sizing.

The basic frame
Using a template
Then we added the design inside the frame.  This wire must be fully annealed before shaping.

Adding the inner wires
Once the frames were built and all inner pieces soldered in place, we could then begin to make our filigree wire.  This is a process of taking two or three fine silver wires and twisting them to the point of breaking...annealing and then twisting even more.  It is difficult as a beginner to know when the wire is twisted enough because it's far tighter than one can imagine.  Once the twisting is complete, we run the wire through the rolling mill to flatten.  We then anneal one more time before beginning to make filigree wires.

There are different types of filigree wires, called ornaments.  Some have a single loop, some have a double loop and others have a tight double loop.  I've seen some filigree made with just loops and no tail.  I decided to do a tight double loop for this project.  The wires are supposed to all look exactly the same, but I need more practice with this.

Adding Filigree (ornaments)

As we insert the ornaments into the frame, each one is supposed to fit snugly.  The goal is to fill an entire frame with ornaments before soldering, but some of us had trouble with that in how they would keep popping out because we were not placing them properly.  It takes practice!  Once a frame is complete, we turn it over and solder with filigree solder, which is more like a powder than regular silver solder.  You can make your own solder by combining silver, copper, brass, cadmium and zinc with flux and borax, which turns it into a hard piece of metal.  You must then file this piece of metal to make your solder for filigree.

With persistence, the frames eventually fill up!

Now it's time to make the flower that will be placed in the middle over the large opening and also make the small half circles that will form the edging of the bracelet.

Adding the edging
Soldering the flower

Now comes the hinges.  These were simple 3 way hinges made out of tubing.

Trying to decide which stone to use.

What's next?  Finishing the hinges, forming the entire bracelet, cleaning and polishing and setting the stone.  Phew!

The Finished Bracelet

The back hinge

What an amazing experience!  Thank you Gia!  Until next time...

(Edited 3/15/18)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sugalite Delight

My son gave me this unusual looking Sugalite stone for my birthday.  Lucky me! It's really lovely close up - it has small bursts of clouds, and a little bit of yellow all swirled around making it gorgeous! I spent hours (weeks) wondering what I wanted to do with it.  I love when people give me special stones.

This is the design I came up with, deciding to make the entire piece in sterling silver and adding some red garnets and an amethyst.  Sometimes it's important to draw a design out on paper like this, but other times I like to just jump in and see where the process takes me.

I changed my mind along the way (this happens a LOT) and added more stones to the "chain" part of the necklace and filed a texture all around the edge of the bezel.  Below you see the stones just delicately balanced on a piece of square wire to see how they'll look.  A piece of dental floss keeps the large stone from getting stuck in the bezel because I'm not yet ready for it to be set quite yet - there is still more soldering to do.

Here the bezels are all soldered, the chain is attached, all jump rings are soldered shut and NOW it's time to set the stones.  For all the beginners out there, it's very important to remember that ALL soldering must be done before setting the stones. at a time...

And finally the finished product.  The good news - I like the design and how well it turned out.  The bad news is I didn't count on the square wire, which holds the small stones, to turn slightly outwards.  Definitely something to think about the next time I want to do a similar type of design.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Textures in Metal Clay

I recently took a class in Metal Clay with Pam East.  The only experience I had in this medium was a week-long class at Wildacres in North Carolina with Janet Harriman in 2013.  Metal clay is a clay-like medium that consists of very small particles of metal (silver, gold, bronze or copper) that is mixed with a binder and water.  It can be shaped just like clay, molded by hand, carved, stamped and put into molds.  After it dries, it is fired and the binder burns away leaving the pure sintered metal.  

We started out with some simple pieces using bronze and copper, and later moved to fine silver.  I discovered that Metal Clay is the BEST for textures. You can get deep, dramatic patterns using something called Photo Polymer Plates.  Here is the how-to video:  

I also discovered it's a friendly medium for 24k gold keum boo (a technique for applying 24K gold to silver). Because fired silver metal clay is more porous than regular silver, the gold practically melts onto the silver when heating on a small kiln.  Here's a how-to video on keum boo:

Another benefit is the ability to insert gemstones into the metal prior to firing.  Only specific stones can take the high temperatures required for metal clay, so it's important to make sure the gemstones you are using are safe.  Cool Tools has an excellent gemstone firing guide online.

Metal clay is a whole new medium for me and an exciting new tool in my toolbox of metalworking skills. There are some experienced metal clay artists doing amazing things...Gordon K. Uyehara, Celie Fago, and Ivy Soloman to name just a few.  Holly Gage won the 2015 Saul Bell Award in Metal Clay with this necklace:

The 2016 Saul Bell award went to Rodica Frunze with this piece:

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Filigree Earrings

While still fresh from my filigree class, I wanted to make something a little more simple.  Filigree earrings!  I messed around with a few designs on paper for a bit and finally came up with something suitable...and simple enough.

I began with square wire, 16 gauge, to make the frames, formed and soldered together with regular silver solder.  Until the class with Gia, I had not realized the utmost importance of getting these curves correctly done.  They have to be perfect.  No dents, no sign of having been misshapen and reshaped...just smooth and curvy.

I then twisted 2 lines of 22 gauge fine silver into filigree wire by attaching one end of the wires to my doorknob and the other in my Foredom, basically stretching across the length of my studio.  Holding the wire straight and tight, I turned on the drill and it twisted until it broke, at which time I annealed and twisted again.  (It may seem a little scary to do this at first, but you'll get used to it.)  Once satisfied with the tight twist of the wire, I annealed it and ran it carefully through the rolling mill.  Then I made the small "ornaments" which will fill all the little spaces in the earring.  This time I used a double loop, with the outside loop being a little bit larger than the inner loop.  I also used Victoria Landsford's Filigree Solder (Rio Grande) which is far easier than making my own and works quite well.

Some teachers think it's best to form lots and lots of little ornaments before placing, and others think it's best to make one at a time.  Each one has to fit correctly in the space it is going to be placed, so even if you make them ahead of time, you will often have to clip a little off the end to make it fit correctly.  So it's up to you how you want to do this.

I considered putting a gemstone in the middle of the earring, which would have been lovely, but because I used such heavy square wire for the frame, the earrings were leaning towards being on the heavy side, so left them out.  I do like the look of a solid, heavy frame, though.  In this next pair, I used a smaller gauge wire for the outside and inside frames.

Even though they weigh less, the outside and inside frames are not as prominent to the eye.  I think I will continue using the 16 gauge square wires in the future.

Perhaps a filigree ring will be next on my project list...