Sunday, April 7, 2013

Blogging Revere - Project 3

I hope everyone who celebrates Easter had a nice holiday, that all who celebrate Chocolate Day had a luscious weekend, that Passover was great for those who observe it and that those who don't do any of those had a fun weekend.

This last post is a bit late, since I was away for the extended weekend and I forgot to download the pictures from my camera (not that there are a lot of them, for reasons that will be clear in a moment). However, I am already working on Project 4, so I hope that will go up faster.

So, to work!

Project 3 is a pair of domed earrings. They have a cool ethnic vibe and I love the curve. It is also quite different from my usual work so I knew I would learn interesting things. I didn't expect that they would be quite so challenging.

The instructions start of detailing how to lay out the blank, so here are the pictures. I chose to do this project in copper for reasons both aesthetic and practical. On the practical side, I had plenty of light weight copper sheet around and it is a nice, malleable metal to form. On the aesthetic, copper takes on beautiful patinas that would work well with the shape of these earrings.

I also decided to go ahead and drill small pilot holes (0.5mm) instead of only marking them. After forming, these holes will be used for the posts and closure. A word of advice - gently round the angle at the widest point of the blank. Otherwise, the tip will impact the forming and you will never get a nice curve.

Copper blank with earrings laid out
And, here things got tricky. After all the details on layout, I was surprised at how little detail was given for the forming procedure. Revere recommends forming on a thick magazine, hard felt or soft wood end grain with an embossing hammer. After a few general recommendations (working from the center out, working both sides to keep symmetry, hollowing out an indentation on the wood), I was on my own.

My first attempt was using a very hard foam, similar to hard felt. It was, however, too soft for forming and the curve was erratic. Sometimes, the metal would bend too far, at others, it wouldn't respond. The hammer would bounce back uncontrollably and it was just miserable. Once I had a kind of half dome going, I decided to give up on the foam and lightly tap around the edges, to further the dome. This had mixed results - it can work but the metal tends to buckle and crimp. It also only forms the edge, so it can give the earrings a somewhat squared off look. But it is hard to control and the outline would be every shape except round, so I needed to fix it with a ring mandrel every few seconds or so.

This process was frustrating enough that I didn't stop to take pictures to share with the world.

At this point, the copper was work hardened and pretty textured from all the hammering. It was also not domed, not circular, not regular and not nice. So, time to start over. The only thing looking good was the texture, from all the messing around. I decided to just straighten out the metal and reuse it, to see if I could keep the texture. I annealed it and looked around the studio for another hammering surface.

I next moved to my stump, which, looking back, should have been my first choice. Without a dent that fit my hammer, the metal was still not doming. That one is my own fault, since I, for no reason, had not made a good indentation. A few good whacks with a raising hammer (so the dent would be a nice groove, to accommodate the earrings), a little shaping with a burr and I was off.

The strips began doming nicely, until I hit the next bump on the road. As they domed and curled, it was harder and harder to accurately hammer. The hammer head had to fit inside the curve and strike the right point of the edge, on the right place in the stump. My solution was to use a medium dapping punch and a mallet. This gave plenty of control, even if the going was a little slower.

At this point, I remembered that I wanted to document the process, so here are pictures.

The edges are still a little irregular but, over all, it is looking
pretty good and recognizable as hoop earrings

The next step is installing the ear wires. They are soldered on one of the tabs and snap into the matching opening on the other. I admit I was unsure about this design. The earring was pretty snug as it was and I felt that both twisting it to the side and pulling it wider in order to put it on would be both awkward and, potentially, would stress the metal at the opposite side, making it bend. But I try to be a good student and follow instructions (at least, the first time) and I found that it does work pretty well, as long as the ear posts are cut just a tiny bit longer than the catch - enough to hold on but not enough to make it hard to put on. The problem is that soldering annealed the copper, making the earring floppy. Back to the stump for a couple of rounds of light tapping, similar to planishing, to work harden it again. Otherwise, it lacks the springiness required to stay on.

Finished earring

While I am quite happy with the end results, I did feel let down by the instructions. There was a lot I had to figure out myself and a lot of unnecessary fumbling around. Looking back, this project would have been very simple with a small forming stake (like the Fretz bezel stakes, which I have been drooling over for months now). I want to experiment with the shape and, perhaps, make a wearable pair out of heavier copper or silver.

Now, onto project 4 - making chains!