Friday, January 30, 2009

Sapphire Swing Earrings

Preparing rings for soldering.

Adding hammered texture.

Final product.

These earrings were a little bit of a challenge. I wasn't sure how to add the tubing (to set the stones in) to the jump ring. I ended up leaving the tube long (about 3 inches) and I soldered it to the jump ring like that, and then sawed the excess off after it was soldered. I also soldered the jump ring shut at the same time. After the earrings were assembled I had to use shellac to secure the earrings to a wooden base in order to set the stones. I had never used it before so that was interesting. But it turned out in the end, but took longer than I had thought it would. If I make them again it will probably go quicker. I hope so! You can get them here.

Stacking Rings

(rings set up for soldering)

Until yesterday I had been working without pickle. Pickle is a acidic solution that takes oxidation from the surface metal, this is especially important with sterling silver, since it has the tendency to oxidize in the presence of heat. My life was incredibly hard before I got off my tush and went into town to get some of this vital chemical. Now I don't have to spend forever polishing! It was nice too, to see everyone at Otto Frei. Woody (the cantankerous manager) even gave me a chocolate. Then I stopped by Good Neighbors Lapidary, which is in the same building and picked up some tiny white sapphires to make some earrings and theses rings:

I know stacking rings are incredibly ubiquitous right now, but I love them all the same. I love how small and light they are, but then they look so solid when you stack them together. I also love setting stones, so this was fun to do.

This setting is called a tube setting. It's commonly used on diamonds and other faceted stones. You can buy this particular set here. Or you can have some custom made for you in a different metal and with different stones. It's up to you! Just contact me on etsy or send an email to singlebdesign (at)

Cheers for now! Look for some new earrings in the next day or two.

Monday, January 26, 2009

singleB studio

Item Numero Uno:

I'm sorry there are no start to finish pictures. I just plain forgot. Plus these were pretty simple so it would have been sort of boring pictures anyhow.

This design is now for sale in my etsy store. This first (might I say inaugural? :) pair I donated to a good cause as an offering to the jewelry gods! May they be pleased with my offering and bless me and my jewelry endeavor.

But seriously, this cause is a good one. If you are interested in supporting it go here, if you are interested in what it is, go here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Studio: a guided tour

This is my work bench. It was specially developed for the tasks that making jewelry require. It's called a jewelers bench and the basic design hasn't changed in hundreds of years. It's much taller than a normal desk and when I sit at it the top pf the bench is about at mid-chest height. That V-shaped wooden thing protruding out from the center is called a bench pin. I use it to stabilize my hands against when filing or sawing or anything really. It can be modified in any number of ways. The drawer underneath can be pulled out over my lap to catch all the little pieces of metal that fall. To the left is my torch and to the right (not in view) is my flex shaft. A flex shaft is a multipurpose piece of equipment that performs all sorts of tasks from drilling to grinding to polishing. More on the flex shaft later. In the right hand corner is a bowl with a white board and a black box stacked on top. That is the bowl of water that I use to quench pieces of metal after they have been in the flame from the torch. The things stacked on top are used to put the metal on while soldering etc. The black one is charcoal and the flat white one is some sort of heat resistant substance. I solder right at my bench using those, usually with on of the pads set on top of the bench pin.
Hammers! Dead blow mallet for shaping metal (but not for forging, doesn't actually make the metal thinner.) For example, I would use this hammer to shape a piece of wire around a ring mandrel to get the metal into a hoop shape. The middle hammer is a traditional goldsmithing hammer. This hammer is used for forging. I would use the round side to flatten and spread metal out. The last hammer is a chasing hammer. I mostly use this one to texturize metal with the ball side and to set stones with a punch using the big flat side.
These are gravers, and they are used for engraving and while setting stones. They have sharp tips that can remove slices of metal.

This is just a small assortment of the endless things that can be used in a flex shaft for polishing. The two round balls at the end of the wood block are the handles to two different sizes of burnishers. I mostly use those burnishers when flush setting stones. But they are good for just about anything. The multi-colored wheels are a new thing from 3M called radial bristle brushes. They have different grits and are used for polishing.These are my favorite pieces of equipment. The strange round vise is called an engravers block. The jaws open and the round ball will rotate in all directions. It's useful for all sorts of things, but I mainly got it to use when setting stones. The rods with metal balls on the top are part of a dapping set. There is a solid metal block included in the set that has round depressions in it. You set metal over or within the depression and you can dome and shape the metal with the round balls and a hammer. The set I have is just a cheap set from Harbor Freight (about a tenth of the cost of the nice Italian set) but they get the job done. The flat plate with the crazy mechanical arms is a soldering pad with two third hands attached. Those little hands will hold things in place as one solders. It's fantastic.

A side view of my bench. Those are my sketch books and books on jewelry on the lower shelves.

And this is where I draw and blog and do business type stuff.

So that is a short introduction to my workspace. Since the tools of a jeweler are pretty much infinite I will be introducing things as I use them.

Next post: Forged ellipse earrings. These will also be available in my Etsy store (singleBbeautiful) soon. I will be showing the final product and the sketches that lead up to it. I forgot to take pictures of the step by step this time. But in the future I will be documenting the major steps taken when making stuff. Check back soon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Little Bit About Design

My ideas come from everywhere. The shape of a lamp, cursive handwriting, branches, thoughts about movement, costume jewelry, and on and on. Most of the time I can't really tell where they come from. They just come into my mind and then I do variations upon variations. I have a few sketch books around, but this is my main one (along with a disgruntled looking pug in the background...I won't let him up on my lap. He hates that.) Note how it says sketchbook on the front. That is how you know it is a sketchbook. I had two other books that I was using, but I recently combined the other two into this one. I like the format, it's much easier to draw and write on both sides of the paper.

This is one of my random idea pages from my book, which will from now on be called the Bible. When I like one of these random ideas I go on and try to develop it further, with more detailed drawings, like below:

When I progress with an idea I also try to think about the feasibility of making this in metal, what steps I would need to take and in what order I should take them in, what other variations on the basic theme would be interesting, and finally researching how much it would cost to make it. After that, I start making it, but that would be another post. I am planning on blogging about the actual production process in the future. Check back for that if you are interested in metalworking.

The next post coming up in what I like to call my introduction series is: "The Studio, A Guided Tour"

Check back in a few days for pictures of my workspace and a basic introduction of tools and all sorts of things!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hello, My Name Is

Welcome! This is my first post of what will (hopefully) become many. I have another blog that I am finally comfortable writing on. With this one I think I'm just not sure exactly what my voice should be. I'll get the hang of it eventually....maybe around the 20th post.

Well, the beginning is a good place to start: That's me, my name is Justine, my friends call me Bean, and that is where I got the idea for the name of my new jewelry company; singleB. I grew up in the northwest, joined the Navy after high school, served for 5 years as a Chinese linguist in Hawaii, returned to the civilian world, studied Chinese language and culture along with the fine arts at the University of Oregon. After I graduated from college, I moved to China for 2 years and studied international and comparative law and politics at Johns Hopkins/Nanjing University. Finally realizing that I had almost zero interest in being a lawyer or a diplomat, I moved back to the U.S. and attended an intensive goldsmithing course in San Francisco. I have been making jewelry since I was a teenager (remember spending too much money at Harlequin Beads, Kellie?). I love art and I mainly saw myself as a painter or illustrator. But I've always loved making things with my hands, and I'm a perfectionist by nature with an obsession for detail, so making small pieces of perfection seems to suit me. And now you know my life story. I live in Portland (the left-coast one), with a little striped pug named after the Nobel prize winning author of The Tin Drum, and his nemesis, Dieter (AKA the littlest Pug). Now you know everything.

Coming next post: "A Little Something About Design"