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Playing with Fire, Part 3

A square copper pendant

Last week, I talked about creating silicone rubber molds for metal clay, attempting to use said molds with said clay, and the trials and travails of equipment failure and lack of experience. I had ordered some new supplies and was ready to dive into new ventures.

As I waited for my supplies to arrive, I had a realization. I was doing things backwards. I was trying to take on relatively advanced techniques without having a grip on the basics. I wasn’t comfortable with the torch. I didn’t have a good understanding of the properties of metal. I had only vague ideas how I was going to turn my castings into usable jewelry.

Switching Gears

So I started reading, and watching videos, and asking questions, and actually trying to learn a thing or two before diving in head first for a second time. And I realized that learning to solder would teach me a lot. So I ordered still more supplies. I was determined to find a win, even if I blew through my monthly budget in a couple of days.

The fates converged, and most of my supplies arrived early. By Friday morning, I was all set to start putting my newfound knowledge to the test. I made the decision to practice on copper, which is much more affordable than silver, and easy to work with.

I happen to have a fair amount of copper on hand. This is something I’ve wanted to try for a while. I started by fetching a small, square copper blank from my stash, and getting comfortable on the floor in order to hammer the blank into something a little more artistic. (My “bench” is a folding card table—for now—and not suitable for hammering.) At first only random, unsatisfying patterns appeared. I tried different combinations of hammer ends, pressure, and direction, and eventually gained a pleasing result.

A copper square, a silver-colored bench block, and a chasing hammer

Success at Last

The next step was to attach a copper jump ring to the back of the hammered copper square. My first several attempts did not succeed, so I decided to try soldering a jump ring closed. As I mentioned, this is a very basic and crucial skill, so I was determined. I am happy to report that I nailed it on the first try. Yes, I may have cut two or three pieces of solder in an attempt to not lose it. And it’s possible that I had to reposition the solder multiple times. But when flame hit joint, the solder flowed, the ring was closed, and all was right with the world.

A soldered copper jump ring
One ring to rule them all.
A copper pendant showing a messy soldering joint
Spoiler alert!

With that small success under my belt, I was eventually able to get a less-than-perfect, but serviceable, join between the pendant and a jump ring. I added a second jump ring to accommodate a chain, and successfully soldered that one, as well. Next, I plan to add a bezel and a pretty, green aventurine cabochon. This piece will be for me.

More to Come

It will be a while before I’m ready to start presenting these more handmade pieces as merchandise, but I am so excited about the possibilities. I am awaiting the arrival of copper clay and findings, so I can experiment without breaking the bank. I hope to include some handmade elements in my upcoming summer collections. We’ll see how things go—I’ve been putting the cart before the horse for a while now, and it’s time to take a deep breath and re-group.

A silver blob
This was supposed to be a sand dollar.
Close up of a silver blob
It is not a sand dollar.

Thanks for being with me on this exhilarating, exhausting, expensive journey. There’s a lot more to come and I hope you’ll be along for the ride!

Cover photo: Pendant in progress. I need to polish it and add a bezel and a cabochon. I think it looks like a little grocery sack.

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