Archive for the ‘metalsmithing’ Category

This a wonderful reference book about contemporary jewelry by Debra Adelson from Lark Books with plastic and resin as the main mediums. The book begins with resourceful information about plastics and resins, followed by pages after pages of color pictures depicting of projects and jewelry pieces. This book is written for someone who has knowledge in working with a jeweler’s saw and other metalsmithing tools. The projects and artist’s works ranges from simple and elegant to eccentric and uncomfortable looking. One of the outstanding works in this book is by Anika Smulovitz, whose work “Untitled” is made in sterling silver, 18kt gold and transparency film. The techniques used in this piece are image transfer, riveting and crimping.

Anika Smulovitz -Untitled (Body in Motion-Study 3), 2007

Some readers might find some of the jewelry to be strange  and  something they would not wear. With this attitude, it is not a suprise that many have given this well-written reference book a bad review. However, the idea that because something is ugly, eccentric, not wearable, or even not “commercial” is what defines the jewelry artists from the designers. For these reasons, this book would be probably most appreciated by art jewelry students and artists. With Adelson’s book of techniques and projects I believe the artist would be inspired to find unlimited possibilities in incorporating plastic and resin in jewelry.


When I create jewelry I consider all materials to create a beautiful and unique artsy piece. Options such as color and texture are obvious choices but, when it comes to medium almost any medium can be used in  jewelry.  Feathers, found objects, paper mache and clay are some interesting and commonly used choices.

But did you know plastics (commonly known as acrylic) and resins are also available options?  Let me be clear about what I mean by plastic aka acrylic. I am not talking about manufactured plastic beads or any type of plastic manufactured by a jewelry supplier. I am talking about plastic which is manufactured in its “raw form” by a manufacturer that is in the business of selling plastic.

Plastic in its raw form are sold in clear or colored sheets, polished pre-cut shapes, rods and tubes. The great thing about buying plastic in this form is that you can cut the piece to your design, you can heat it and mold it to your liking and there are numerous choices to polishing and finishing.

Resin is another type of plastic which is also used in jewelry making. For the artist who loves to use photographs, slogans, iconic images or organic objects into their jewelry, resin is a great way to protect the medium.   Before resin is poured, it looks like gel. After resin sets, it looks like clear plastic. Both jewelry suppliers and home improvement manufacturers produce resins.  The look of your finished product will depend on the resin manufacturer, type of resin (epoxy, polyurethane or polyester) room temperature and how long you the resin rests.



"Courage" By Deemakesjewelry Copyrighted 2010

In my piece “Courage”,  I used Easy Cast by Cast n’ Craft because of its low odor and long 24-hour set. The advantage of using a long set is that it gives you more time to add color or fix mistakes. With normal quick-setting resins you have only a few minutes to finish pouring and if a mistake is made…well good luck. With Easy Cast the finished product is clear, shiny and glass-like. This product is available in craft stores and comes with a bottle of resin and its hardener which must be measured equally to get a perfect finish.

There are also expoy resin which are sold by hardware stores in pre-measured dispensers which are more of a headache than the convenience of pre-measured resin is worth because the epoxy resin and its hardener never truly dispense equally.

If you want a finish which is clear but, harder and more of a glass-like feel to the touch, I recommend Rio Grande’s Colores Doming Resin System. It is available on Rio Grande’s website and also comes in a bottle of resin and its hardener. This product also must be measured equally.

Polyurethane resins are used for large, detailed castings such as bracelets or overly large shapes into large molds.

Regardless of which resin you use, safety precautions must be used because of the toxic fumes that are released. Safety-approved respirators, good ventilation, proper gloves and safety goggles are a MUST!

Recently I decided to try new waxes for my saw blades. Last semester the teacher advised us to use candle wax. Now that I have tried some new waxes, I will never touch touch candle wax again.

Waxing the blades are very important because it reduces the friction between the metal sheet and blade. Too much friction causes the blade and sheet to heat up, which results in a broke blade. A good wax also creates a smoother sawing experience.

At my recent trip to Metalliferous, they recommended that I use PRO-CRAFT Beeswax,

which I purchased along with EUROTOOL’s 100% Natural Beeswax.


I prefer EUROTOOL’S over PRO-CRAFT because:

  1. Even though Pro’s tube is small enough to fit into the hole at a jeweler’s bench while filing, it’s wax is harder to remove from the tube after many uses.
  2. Euro has a push-up application which makes it user friendly to get wax.
  3. Euro’s wider tube means less applications.
  4. Despite the fact that Euro’s 100% natural beeswax is about 3 dollars more than Pro’s wax, Euro’s is better because it lubricates and smells better. Pro’s is a synthetic beeswax which contains petroleum.

With EUROTOOL I was able to prevent lots of friction which resulted in a long sawing experience.

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From September 9-12, 2010, I attended a fold forming workshop at the Peters Valley Craft Center in Layton, NJ. Peters Valley property has been poorly maintained since it opened  4o years ago because the U.S. Park Service maintains it. Some of the pictures I took include the mansion I stayed at which had 7 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, an old deteriorating barn house which was located on the bottom of thunder mountain and the blacksmith studio which was next to the mansion. Our workshops were located on thunder mountain which was a 1.5 mile drive up an unpaved road. My car was so dirty!

My roommates and I fondly called Peters Valley “spooky town” because it was pitch dark at night with no lights in sight. We also found finger prints on the side of my car window which had been covered in dirt. SPOOKY!

I attended the workshop because I had received a scholarship from Peters Valley. In exchange for the scholarship I worked in their kitchen during meal times. Honestly, I hated working in the kitchen and I am not sure if I would want to scholarship again. Next time I will take out the checkbook.  Also, I was staying at the Valley Brook Farm Mansion which was 150 years old and lots of bugs. I hate bugs.

Other than those issues, I enjoyed the time spent with my fellow workshop roommates and with silversmith, John Cogswell. One of my roommates drove 12 hours to attend John’s workshop! Unknown to me, John is well-known in his field of jewelry and metalsmith. He is also the author of Creative Stone Setting, professor at SUNY New Paltz, teaches the most workshops in his field and a 2006 inductee into the National Artist of the Year.  Whew! Oh and he is also my professor’s colleague.

John was a wonderful instructor who taught us tricks of the trade as he told humorous stories about his life. We asked him so many questions about fold forming, supplies, best equipment to buy and he happily gave us answers to all our questions! I am so looking forward to future workshops.

With fold forming you need to purchase a forging hammer. John recommended buying the hammer from Allcraft Tools in NYC, which is fully dressed and polished (basically this means these are ready to use hammers). He also  recommended to purchase the medium-weight hammer with the 1000 gram/2.2lb head because the heavier the hammer, the less hammering you need to physically do.  Oh and earplugs are a must. Forging was also done on 24 gauge copper sheets. Creating a 3D form with metal is possible without the need to solder with fold forming.

Fold forming requires annealing so that the metal can be soft enough to bend. Annealing with the torch is another skill to master but, it’s a necessary skill to have because metal hardens if repeatedly hammered, bent or even put into the roller. Once you have mastered annealing, you are ready to use the heat patina technique. On copper the heat patina creates different colors depending on how long you heat it. As you apply heat the copper will turn in the following order: gold, orange, pink, purple, dark blue, light blue and, finally, black. Usually I push the heating a little bit more past black until I get a bright reddish or orange color before quenching it in water, which creates a beautiful red color.

The following video demonstrates annealing on copper. However, the copper is not quenched in the video. If you are trying to created the color red,  it is necessary to quench as soon as it turns bright orange.

Fold forming was invented by Charles Lewton-Brain who had recieved his inital training in Germany. Oh and a colleague of John too. His highly rated book is available now. I am waiting for mine!

I am asked a lot about where I purchase the metal sheets and the supplies needed for school.  So far, I have shopped at Metalliferous and Dikra Gems, both located in New York City, to purchase my supplies.

Metalliferous has a HUGE supply of hammers, files, metal sheet and lots of other goodies. I could spend hours in that little place! Last week after work, I rushed through my shopping trip there before closing time. For the beginning of the semester Metalliferous extends its store hours with late nights on Tuesdays till 8pm and temporary Saturday hours. Since my fold forming workshop is coming up this week, I purchased extra metal sheets of copper. I left Metalliferous with a $150 shopping bill! If you can’t make the trip to their location, I recommend calling their mail order service. I used their mail order service last year and their staff are very helpful (especially last semester when I was a clueless Jewelry I student!).

Dikra Gems is a very little store that sells cheap to very expensive stones and gems. The place is very easy to miss, since it is located in a small office building. For jewelry class, I purchased small inexpensive stones ranging from 4mm to 8mm which cost between 10 cents to $2.00.  For only $9 I purchased more than enough stones to last me a few classes!

Both business are helpful to jewelry and metalsmithing students and both are acquainted with many of the colleges and university’s professors. Some of the professors also relied on these stores as students!

Happy shopping!

Back to the University for me this week, for Jewelry  and Art in Latin America. I am eager to learn more about the learn more about the arts and my  Latin American roots. My mother’s family is from Honduras so I was raised in an American-Latino cultured home. Even  though I have been exposed to the Latino culture, I have not been exposed to its art despite the fact there are two well-known painters in my family.

I am also going to missing a little bit of school soon because I received a scholarship to a craft school to attend a fine metals workshop for fold forming. I have never done fold forming myself but I have observed the process last semester. Form forming in a nut shell involves using a special hammer called a forging hammer. Before the process begins, the sheet metal is heated (annealed) until it becomes soft and so it is able to be folded. The metal then is hit with a hammer in any pattern you want to make and again annealed. The piece is then unfolded to create a 3 dimensional piece.

The whole point of annealing is to make the metal softer and prevent it from breaking. However, hammering the metal can make the piece become harder. So sometimes you would need to re-anneal to do additional pattern making with the hammer. See the video below from Rio Grande which is a more scale down version of what we actually do in fold forming. We usually use a lower gauge metal sheet which means the metal is harder and can not be cut with regular scissors. Also, we use heavier hammers too.

At the University, we were assigned a ring project for our first project.  One of the first things I learned in class was to use the jeweler’s saw. It took awhile to get use to it and I broke a few saw blades along the way. Once I master the use of the saw, I cut designs into the metal.

I created a dome shape by hammering a round metal piece which was placed into a doming block. Doming is done by putting the metal into the biggest circle first. After that sized circle is used, the next smaller sized is used until you get the desired dome shape.

The band of the ring was hammered and later soldered together using a torch. The teacher helped with this one since I probably would have burned the metal to a crisp!

After the process is completed, I sanded the piece to remove any discoloration which occurs during the soldering process. I then sanded the piece using very fine sandpaper to create a very matte finish which created fine lines. My next project is a bracelet cuff.