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Every year I make a batch of ear-hooks for earrings. I’ve done it very often now, and I thought I’d share my experience. It may be of some value to a beginner who wants to make ear-hooks that look good, work well and are easy and fairly quick to make.

Perskabong: Earrings, silver

Perskabong: Earrings, silver

The earring hooks that I prefer have a little ball on the end of the loop that goes through the ring on the earring. Ear-hooks that don’t have this terminal just look like bits of wire that have been twisted. A simple solution is to melt a little blob onto the end of the wire, and one often sees such ear-hooks. But there are some problems – it is difficult to melt blobs of exactly consistent size and shape, and they end up with a blobby testicular look. The physics are just not on the jeweller’s side here. Instead, here’s what I do:

 1: Draw wire

 

I like to draw the wire to 0.8mm. It is important to anneal the wire as little as possible during drawing, especially in the last stages. Use lots of beeswax. If the wire isn’t coming out with a polished look, get a new draw-plate.

2: Cut wire

 

hooks3I have an L-shaped piece of metal that lies in a drawer. Each year I take it out. It helps me to measure the length of the wires. I hold the piece of wire on the plate, push its end against the upright, and cut the wire with a pair of side-cutters. Because drawn wire is often curved and springy, there will be some small variation in the lengths. This doesn’t matter.

 3: Trim the ends

I use a little diamond disc in the flexible shaft drill to do this. Holding two or three wires at a time, bring them up against the flat of the disc. Make neat 90 degree ends.

Round one end of each wire with a cup-burr. This is the side that will go through the ear, so it’s important that there are absolutely no burrs or sharp bits.

 4: Make granules

Now I get another tool from the same drawer – a piece of brass into which I have drilled a hole perhaps 5mm deep. I pop the wire into the hole, push it firmly down and cut it with the side-cutters pressed as low as they can go. (warning: hold the wire from the sides – if you press down with a fingertip, the wire will drive up into your finger as the side-cutter clicks through.)

hooks4I quickly get a whole lot of short bits of wire. These I scatter on a charcoal block and melt into spheres with a soft small flame from my torch (which doesn’t use oxygen.) Make sure to do a few spares – the little granules are easy to scatter, and they roll in all directions.

5: Solder the granules onto the wires

 

hooks6This may sound daunting and fiddly but it’s easy if you follow these simple tricks.

  • Roll the solder thin – I use 0.25mm hard silver solder.
  • Cut it into paillons (little pieces) that are just under 1mm square.
  • Put the paillons and a drop of solder on a clean metal sheet near your torch.
  • Clasp the wire in a pair of spring tweezers near the end to be soldered – about 70% of the way along. This is important. The spring tweezers will serve as a heat sink, so that only the part of the wire that’s near the soldering will become annealed, and the rest will remain springy.
  • Dip the end of the wire into the drop of flux and pass the flame over the wire until the flux evaporates, leaving the borax residue. At once dip the wire into the drop again, and quickly pick up one paillon of solder on the end of the wire, using the capillary action of the flux. You will find that this way the solder is much less likely to jump off as the flux boils.
  • Melt the solder onto the flat end of the wire. Use a small flame. Really, these things are so small they don’t need a lot of heat.
  • Now dip the wire with its melted solder into the drop again. Then touch the wire to one of the granules on the charcoal block and bring the torch up until the solder melts and the granule sticks to the wire. Use a very gentle flame. Turn the wire over so that the granule is at the top, and heat until the solder runs. Capillary action will centre the granule on the wire.
  • Pickle the wires in sulphuric acid to clean off the flux and any surface patina. Neutralise in a bi-carb solution, wash and dry.

6: Bend the wire into hooks

 

hooks2I use a small pair of round-nosed pliers. There are three bends, and here are some tips:

  • Do all the bending and clasping gently so as not to mark the wire.
  • Straighten the wire carefully with your fingers. It doesn’t have to be perfectly straight, but shouldn’t be curved.
  • Bend the wire at the end with the ball. The wire will be well annealed from soldering and bend easily. Leave a gap so that you can get the earring on.
  • Now bend the slight hook at the opposite end. The wire should be tough and springy here. You will now have a boat shape:
  • Make a mark on the pliers where the diameter is 5mm.
  • Clasp the wire near its middle, at the marked spot on the pliers.
  • Bend along the plane of the two previous bends. The idea here is to create a bend where the two sides are of equal length. As you’re bending the wire, you’ll find that whichever side you bend becomes shorter, and it’s easy to get the two sides to converge.

hooks5

  • (Almost there!) Now use a pair of flat pliers to flatten the wire into a plane.
  • Link the earring in and close the loop with your fingernail.

 

hooks1It’s easier to polish ear-hooks once they are on the earrings – you have something to hold. Polish with a soft cotton mop and Uni-pol or rouge.

 

Felicia: Earrings, silver

Felicia: Earrings, silver

That may seem like a lot of stuff to do just to get ear-hooks, but in fact each process is very short, on the order of a second or two, and you’ll find that with a bit of practice you can make a large number of good-looking ear-hooks in a relatively short time, especially if you just keep doing it.

 

 

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Every year I show my work in an at-home exhibition. I’ve been doing it for more than two decades. Every year I make packaging for the items I sell. I’ve been making variations these packets for many years. I thought I’d share the method, since it’s not copyrighted and I am sure many small-scale jewellers can benefit from this idea. When I was an apprentice in the early 1970s I was used as a delivery boy, and one of the highs of this experience was fetching stones from Mr Lutzno the diamond dealer. He would always show and count the stones before handing over a parcel. The moment when the diamonds were revealed in their packet was a magic one. from https://i2.wp.com/www.idavid.be/media/catalog/category/file_3.jpg So that was the starting-point of my design – a desire to recreate that aha-moment of revelation. After several experiments, and refinements over years, I have come up with the following: I print a design onto A4 paper. I have chosen a stiff, off-white paper with a slight sheen that’s not evident in the pictures. i’ve used Word’s table function to set this up, with fine dotted lines defining a central rectangle that is 95mm x 125mm in size. I frame this central area – this will give the package a neat square look even if the folds are a tiny bit off square. In the middle of this I put my name and a picture of a piece of jewellery that I have rendered in B&W, high contrast. IMG_1547The next step is to paint the images with a dash of watercolor. This gives the packets the look of individual artworks, which they are. I line up ten at a time, and paint several at once. I spend about 30 seconds on each, using three brushes. This only works if you have used laser printing or non-water-soluable ink.IMG_1548 IMG_1549 IMG_1550The next thing is the packet liners. For this I have found that a deep blue tissue paper is the best – black is too austere, and pale colours don’t show silver well. I buy sheets of tissue paper and cut them into eight by folding and cutting with a sharp knife. This gives me a size that’s just a little smaller than A4. I glue the tissue paper to the printed and painted sheet with a glue-stick. 10 seconds each. I always end up thinking about Yves Klein at this stage. IMG_1538Now to fold the packets, carefully following the dotted lines, and making sure that they don’t appear on the front. About 20 seconds each if you’re being careful. IMG_1540 IMG_1541 IMG_1542 IMG_1544   The package opens and the jewel can be seen – ahhh! IMG_1553        I have done this hundreds of times and have developed a precise set of gestures which seem to work best.

These are all flowers that I have observed on my annual trips to the Namaqualand spring. Click on the image and page through to see how I have first abstracted the designs in the watercolor medium, then carved them in wax to produce a three-dimensional version where the form is more important than the colour. The result is then cast, and a rubber mold taken for making multiples.

 

I made these for a client who had inherited a pair of diamond earrings but wanted something that gave less prominence to the diamonds and more to sculptural craft. Just my kind of commission, since I have always railed against the use of jewellery to represent wealth rather than culture.

Cormorants are very common along our coast, and when she asked for birds, they were what sprang to mind.

Cormorant earrings: Silver, diamonds, sapphires.

Cormorant earrings: Silver, diamonds, sapphires.