Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How I do it.

I recently had someone ask how I made my little ball ring.  So, here is a little bit of a tutorial on how it's done and a peek into my process.  It's not detailed and the photos are raw, but hopefully it'll explain.

Welcome to my studio.  I have the greatest space!  It's air conditioned in the summer, warm in the winter though, I do have to admit, since we closed off a wall and I have purchased a larger torch we have some ventilation issues. 

Here is my soldering station.  It's a mess, but it just gets that way no matter how hard I try to keep it neat.

Here is my drawer of smaller gauge specialty wires. 

and here is the wire in question.  It is purchased in lengths and different gauges and you can see all the details on the tag.

I take this wire and bend it around my ring mandrel.  This is my favorite tool.  It is so heavy it could be used as a weapon.  It was my dads and he gave it to me when I started working in silver.  It has marks that indicate the sizing of the ring so you can get it close. 

I then cut the wire and file the edges so the ends fit together nicely.  See?  You can't even tell where they join.

Then it's time for soldering.  I usually make two black marks on opposite sides of the joint so I know where to put the solder.  It's hard to tell where they join when you get it just right.  I brush flux on the piece and  add a little piece of  solder....

...and then it's time to add fire!  You have to heat the ring evenly and slowly or you'll just hot spot the joint and it will be weak.  You want the solder to completely fuse into the metal so a slow even heating will get you a nice strong join.

Not the greatest picture but you get the idea.  It's hard holding the torch and the camera at the same time! :-).  Once it's done it's into the pickle pot.   See how the ring looks dark?  The copper that is in sterling silver oxidizes when you heat it.  This pickle is a mild acid that will clean the oxidation off the silver and make it nice and shiny. 

And then out .....

and nice and shiny and ready for the tumbler.  Double check the size on the mandrel.  If it is a little small you can gently hammer it with a rubber or rawhide mallet.  Make sure also that it's flat.  If it's too big, you have to start over.  bummer! 

This is my tumbler.  This has many uses but the three major things it does for my jewelry is cleaning, strengthening, and polishing.  All three at once.  You can't beat that!

You add water and soap (pure soap, no bleach!) 

Round and round they go for about two to three hours. This is what comes out on the other side.  A nice rinse and, viola!~

I didn't have time to put the little ring I made into the tumbler and get this posted, but you can see one similar to it just to the left.  Lots of other in progress you might say.

I hope this explains the process and little and satisfies any curious onlookers out there.  Seems a lot of work for just a $14.00 ring but I have to say, it's one of my favorite pieces to make. 


  1. Whoa. You're awesome. I've never seen half the stuff in those photos. I don't even think I've ever thought about how such things are made. You made my brain grow a size just now. Thanks.

  2. Ahaha, this is funny because the other day I made my first ring out of that same wire! Your studio looks a lot more legit than my makeshift one. (:

    P.S. I love your new banner! xo

  3. Great tutorial! I love the look of the bead wire and have always wanted to learn how to solder. Will have to just bite the bullet and give it a try. I love your work. It is great to see a glimpse into your studio and how you work!