I usually sketch jewelry ideas with a regular pencil and paper in a sketchbook. That can be bulky when I'm going someplace. I always take my iPad though, so I decided to try a sketching app.
I love this app called Paper 53 from fiftythree.com
Here's the space where I create. Let me take you for a tour.
Shown above is my jeweler's bench. It's where 90% of the work happens. Next to it is the soldering station with a fume extractor above the charcoal block. The table is an old sewing machine cabinet with ceramic tiles placed on top. My torch is next to it. Notice on the right my dvd and cd collection. I watch dvds on the portable player on the bench, while I'm doing the more mundane parts of the work.
The studio is divided in half - one side for design and paperwork - the other for tools and bench. The antique desk has been with me for most of my life. I wrote poetry on it when I was a teen. Now it is where I sketch design ideas. I gave up using it for decades when it was too small for a computer. Now I can slip my iPad into the shelf, so it's back in daily use.
There's my muse up on the wall. He's a great reminder that if you follow your passion, the world will catch up to you sooner or later. I also have my pantograph engraver here and pegboards in antique frames to hang tools and wires.
I bought barely any new furniture for my studio. This antique dresser fits well beneath an extra kitchen island formica top. I use this area for cleaning, etching and other messy procedures.
When I'm sitting at my bench, I can spin around and use my rolling mill, dapping blocks or other hammering tools. They are on a little vintage school desk, which are perfect bases for workshop tools. The clear acrylic box can go into my bench so that dirty, dusty grinding is contained. There's an additonal desk for wax work or laptop work.
As you can see, I have everything I need, in a small space. My next need is some bright paint on the walls along with some inspirational artwork.
Do you have a picture of your workspace online? Please share! I'd love to see it.
As promised, here's a short video of my new water torch in action.
You can learn more about it in my previous blog post, where I explained why I'm excited about this new tool in my studio.
If you'd like more detailed information on what it's like to set the torch up, see my videos 1-7 on utube (shown below).
The final video (8 of 8) shows me actually using the torch.
What was your most recent tool purchase? Is it as fun as you thought it would be? Let me know.
Thanks for stopping by!
There are three things that are essential for me to do any work as a jeweler. The flexshaft, the bench and the torch.
The type of torch, for a jeweler, can dictate limitations in metal and form. Some torches don't get hot enough for certain metals and some torches don't provide enough control for certain forms. The torch I had was limited for both.
After considering it for years, I recently bought a water torch. It's a unique type of torch and not at all common for Jeweler's, although it is becoming more used because of safety issues. Most jewelers use torches that require a gas in a pressurized canister. Many also use oxygen tanks, to get a hotter flame.
The water torch doesn't need stored gas, because it creates the gas itself. Using electricity, it breaks the bonds of oxygen and hydrogen which creates a gas. The gas is created, on demand. It's so safe that the hoses to the flame are plastic tubing, similar to tubes to the ice-maker on a refrigerator. I like that there are no dangerous stored gases in the studio.
Here's a picture of my torch. It's a Hydroflux Welder from Okai. I had an opportunity to visit the factory, which is in Union, New Jersey. The people there were so incredibly nice. That, plus the fact that the torch is (New) JerseyMade, just like me and my jewelry, makes it extra special.
In my next post, I'll show the torch in action. For those who care, I'll share videos of the steps I went through to set the torch up.
The takeaway is, I now have more power, a hotter flame and less limitations to make new designs! I'm so excited to take the work to the next level. This new torch will make it possible.
I was recently up near Bear Mountain, near West Point in NY. There was reference to "The Great Chain" in 1777 made to defend the Hudson River from the British. It was a forged iron chain, 1800 feet long. In this photo is a relic of the chain. One link is big as a bench. (There's more info and a better picture at this link.)
Is that cool or what? A chain big enough to stop ships! Sounds like something out of a pirate movie! And the story gets even more fascinating. This chain was the reason Benedict Arnold was discovered as a traitor. He was found out by a female spy named Sally Townsend, who's brother was a member of George Washington's Culper Ring of spies. (Read about the Culper Ring on Wiki..wow, history has such good stories!)
So, I started thinking, how is something like this made? I know how to make chain small enough to wear, but never thought about how super large chain is made. I realized chain used on ships must be made the same way.
Well, it takes alot of muscle and teamwork. Check out this antique video of chain and anchor making. I find it fascinating.
Thanks to Warren Townsend for giving me the link to this great video. You can see Warren's wonderful metal work on his website, Metalrecipes.
Here's my own tiny version of a great chain, big enough to make a ring around your finger! I first made this a few years ago. Now, I'm inspired to make some super thick chains for a bracelet or necklace.
My humble little Jeweler's saw is the most used of all my tools. Most of the jewelry I make starts out as a sheet of metal. I transform it into jewelry forms with the Jeweler's saw.
First, I either measure out a design or print it and glue to the sheet.
Sometimes, I then need to drill starting holes, so I can thread the saw blade through and cut out an inner space.
You can see in this example of a copper cuff with a Celtic knot design, most of the work is the sawing.
It takes time and patience to do this. There are a lot of jeweler tools and techniques that attempt to minimize the amount of sawing. I don't use most of them.
Sawing is my favorite part of the day. It forces me to slow down a bit and think about what I'm creating. This is when I send good thoughts to who ever will wear the piece. Time seems to stand still. I watch the grains of metal flow up as the blade moves down. I am aware that jewelers before me, for thousands of years, have used a similar tool in the same way. I feel a wonderful connection. There is a peace and satisfaction that comes in the process of creating. For me, I most often experience peace while using my humble Jeweler's saw.
I hope some of that peace flows to you, when you wear a piece I've created.
I'll tell you more about the cuff in these pictures in my next blog post.
Have you ever used a penny machine? That old fashioned, gear driven machine that squashes a coin into an elongated souvenir? If so, you've used a version of a jeweler's rolling mill. A mini rolling mill is the latest addition to my jewelry studio.
The cool thing about making jewelry is that there is always more than one way to perform a task, to get to a similar end result. I've been getting by for several years without a rolling mill, but I finally bought a mini, to make my tasks go a bit quicker. I still intend on saving up for a full size top of the line Durston mill...someday..to make everything even quicker and easier.
Anyway, above are two examples of how I've put an X onto metal. (I use these in my Pirate Tides Jewelry Collection.) The bronze X was created using etching acid. The sterling silver Xs were made with my new Rolling Mill. I used the bronze X that I had etched, and pressed it with annealed silver, so the etching was transferred to the silver. This is how your penny comes out with "Souvenir of ..." on it.
Don't let the image fool you. Even though it's a machine, it is still hand powered. My strength and adjustment of the gears is needed to perform the tasks. This is true with most "machines" in the studio jewelers shop. Come back next Tuesday and I'll tell you about another tool in my studio.
This post is the first in a series, titled Tools Tuesday. On most Tuesdays, I will share some pictures and information on the tools I use to create the jewelry I make for you.
Mary Lu Wason
is a studio jeweler. Here she shares the inspirations, discoveries and process of creating her art jewelry collections.
@PirateTides on Instagram