Saturday, 22 January 2011

A term of silversmithing

I was so busy with my Christmas blogs that I did not have time to update you on my current silversmithing projects. I wrote this post last September when my silversmithing class returned after the summer break. As I promised  I will now share with you what I got up to during the autumn term. Our class returned 2 weeks ago , it was good to get back to the bench.

I still had my locket as piece of work in progress from the summer term last year. This has probably been the most challenging piece I have made at class as it involved making the domed front, a matching flat back, etching it with a design and then hand making a hinge. This has all been created from a piece of flat silver sheet.

This is the front and the back before I finished the hinge. It is hard to see the front but the design is actually an etched deco line pattern.
It is really hard to photograph my silver work, the reflection is very strong.

On the back I have soldered two half rings so that I can attach a chain behind the locket. My plan is to hand make the this space. I have made chains before and they are very challenging but very interesting to make.

You will be pleased to hear that I finished my locket.

This hinge was one of the most challenging things I have attempted. I am not sure I will be  making a whole series of lockets!

I am pleased though that I kept going as there were so many silversmithing skills I gained from making it.

The next project our tutor set us was to teach us some new skills in shape making by press forming using the bench press. This is a very mean, heavy looking piece of equipment.
 We looked at various hollow shapes to get some inspiration.

Here is the bench press on the left. We were told to decide on a hollow shape we would like to form.

I chose to make a bean shape as it would test my skills more that making a symmetrical one. I had to draw an outline and then cut it out in perspex.
This then had to be carefully filed and then a brass template was also hand sawn...mmm sawing is never easy!

The brass  templates was then stuck to the perspex template and the 2 had to be filed smooth together so that when the piece was formed in the press there would be no sharp edges. I spent some time filing away until the shape was ready for press forming.

A "sandwich" was then formed with the pieces put either side of a piece of flat copper together with some padding. It was put into the press, the handle was screwed down and out came................

A press formed bean

You could make a reverse of this, cut them out and then solder them together to form a hollow shape but this was more an exercise of a new skill rather than making something

Another new technique we were introduced to was cuttle fish casting. Yes honestly you use a cuttle fish to cast with. This is one of the oldest forms of casting and was used way back even in Egyptian times. Luckily one of our students had recently been on holiday and had picked up lots of cuttle fish "bones" from the beach so we did not have to buy them.
Cuttle fish have a soft texture on one side and you are able to carve into this to form a shape. You then bind  this tightly to a flat piece of wood and carefully pour in molten pewter (silver can be used but is obviously much more expensive).

This carving I made created a pretty flower shape. I may at some point make it into a brooch.

This is the shape I carved to create some cuff links for my Hb. The spiky lines out at the sides are air vents to allow the molten metal to "flow" and any air to escape. The brown area is where the molten metal poured in burns the opening to the mould. It is pretty interesting handling bubbling metal, not for the faint hearted!

I had to make 2 castings and then filed the shapes carefully to remove all the surplus pewter.

I then bought some cuff link backs which I attached them to. I
 put the finished cuff links into my Hb Christmas cracker. He really thought they were great and of course quite unique!
Here they are in their finished polished state.

They are quite hard to photo but they almost have a primitive effect which I really like.

Our next project (Spring Term) is to create a setting for an usual shaped stone. We have used rub over settings in the past, Liz wants to stretch us a little further this time.  This is the stone I have bought, a very pretty piece of agate with a flat back.
So now I need to put on my creative thinking cap and start to think of an unusual setting for my stone. This is work in progress again so I will come back and show you when my design is in place. At my slow pace of blogging about my silversmithing  that may well be Easter ;0)

Bye for now,

Jane x

(P.S please remember I have a free giveaway running at the moment with 2 prizes.  To take part just look at this post. Remember to leave your comments there by this Monday, 24th January, this will be my last post before it closes. Good luck!)


  1. Oh Jane, I love your locket. If the hinge took forever it's worth it as the finished piece is beautiful, can't wait to see the chain (if you do decide to make one that is). Bethx

  2. What a really interesting post Jane! So many different techniques! I'm sure your husband was delighted to get his cufflinks in his cracker much better than the tat we got in ours!!! They really do look great!
    Your locket is wonderful, beautifully made, do make sure to let us see it when you make the chain.
    Enjoy the rest of the weekend. :)
    Vivienne x

  3. The locket is so beautiful. I love lockets...there is something so intriguing about them -- thanks for sharing the process. Wow!

  4. I have said this before, but here's to you still once. You're so talented, Jane! I love doing handicrafts but my fuse would be way too short (I'm so impatient) for these (and jewelry making too). I LOVE the locket, such an unique piece! And handmade chain... I'm going to faint now ;)

    Happiest Sunday and kiss to B!


  5. Thanks Beth..yes that hinge was SO tricky, it was just that the pieces were tiny and then we were sawing those in halves and then thirds!
    Jane x

  6. Now you know why I make my own crackers Vivienne! Thanks for your kind comments, I will let you know when I make the chain...we are doing some tricky stone setting then enamelling first....lots of lovely techniques. Have a mellow Sunday.
    Jane x

  7. Thanks Bethanie...I agree lockets are very special. I am glad I did persevere with making this one...eventually I can hand it down to my that is a very pleasant thought.
    Jane x

  8. Oh Mia you are so kind...*blush*. My locket did involve so many hours of hard work....but I really did enjoy the challenge of it.I will warn you when the chain gets going so that you can get a chair before you hit the floor-LOL!!! ;0)
    Have a great Sunday my dear, hope the snow is not too deep? It's quite pleasant here this morning- even the sun is trying to peek through.
    Jane x

  9. Hello Jane!
    This was most interesting! I don't know much about making jewelries and I really enjoyed learning something or perhaps more understanding how you can create them! It's good for all of us also to know how much work one small creation may need!
    Your locket is wonderful! They have some magic!
    xxx Teje

  10. Such an interesting post, Jane. I know so little about how jewellery is actually constructed, so it's nice to read how you do it. The locket is very pretty and you are very patient to make the hinge! Hope you're having a great weekend. Helen x

  11. Hi Teje, now you know how I find all the sewing you do so interesting, it's great to see other people's crafts isn't it! I do enjoy my Tuesday silversmithing classes so much.
    Jane x

  12. Oh yes Helen...the dreaded hinge!!Luckily mine did go together 1st time, some of the poor girls in my class had 2 or 3 attempts and one just gave up in total frustration!!
    We are having a very pleasant weekend thank you. Enjoy your Sunday afternoon :0)
    Jane x

  13. wow that was a fascinating post, thanks for sharing all your crafting on here.

  14. It's my pleasure..I'm glad you enjoyed reading it!
    Jane x

  15. Jane, you're just the busiest little bee! This is absolutely fascinating, what fun you must be having with this! Hubby will treasure his links, I'm sure. Can't wait to see what other silversmithing projects spring from you multi-talented hands! :o)

  16. Hi Michele, I really do enjoy myself there, it's a world away from my work and a great challenge. I will report back nearer spring with how recent projects are going.
    Have a great weekend,
    Jane x


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Jane x