Monday, April 27, 2009

For Lack of A Manicure and a New Design

I have come to terms with the fact that my fingers will never again look manicured. My fingernails will always be short and chipped, and my finger tips will be rough and callused. At any given time there will small cuts and abrasions on my hands and perhaps small blood blisters from a hammer that went off course or a nasty pinch from pliers.

Exhibit A:
Lovely! I'm not sure if you can see exactly how bad my fingernails look. But they are bad. I wonder if this is natural or if I'm particularly bad at something or if I'm doing something wrong.

That cut is from this:

This is a Moore's disk, a little sandpaper wheel with sharp(ish) edges, as I found out.

This is my newest ring:

I've recently purchased some new tools, a couple of bezel mandrels in different shapes because I'm getting ready to start using stones of different shapes. Pretty excited! I had them overnighted (along with some stones I need for some orders) so they should come tomorrow. I also bought a burnisher to use in the flex shaft, so that will be good. I'll be using that to smooth the rim of metal around the stone.

This was another project I worked on last week. The customer wanted my Raw Circle design, but she also wanted it modified, with less metal around the stones and fewer texture marks. And she also wanted it joined into one ring. I finally figured out how to do that without any trouble by using this ceramic mandrel I had purchased to use while soldering.

I had a bit of a rough weekend, everything I touched seemed to go wrong. Ever have that happen? Some days it's just like I have the Midas touch, everything turns out awesome, and then the very next day nothing works and I have to scrap a project. I just want those days to get less and less. I think sometimes that I'm getting too tired and that I haven't recognized when I need to stop and rest. Maybe I should divide my week up into different work days, like Monday, Wednesday, Friday work at the bench. Tuesday, answer emails and order materials. Thursday work on drafts of new designs and maybe work on special projects. But I think that I have to answer emails everyday, I think customers really like it when I get back to them within a day. I normally do unless they have a question that I need to think about or if they're jerks, in which case sometimes I wait for a while. I really hate it when people email me with one line like "How much would this _____ be?" or "Can you do this______ and this ______?" Without a hello or giving their name or anything. It's just strange, I think. I would never approach a stranger with a demand for an answer like that. Maybe I'm being sensitive, but it just seems rude. And those people usually never order anyway. It's the people who actually take the time to write an email and give me their name that actually order things and I almost want to just focus on those people.

I'm thinking about getting equipment to start casting things this next month. It's a big step though and I don't makes me nervous!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Big Work Day Today

And what is playing in my studio? Why, bluegrass of course:

Blue moon of kentucky keep on shinin'!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oh What a Tangled Web

A few weeks ago I wrote about a couple of new pairs of earrings that I was working on, and I promised photos of the second pair in the next few days. Well, I fibbed. It's been weeks! And I'm just now getting them up here. To be honest, they remained almost entirely done on my work bench forever. All I had to do was set the stone, but I was dreading it because I thought it would be a giant pain in the A. But it turned out to be a snap because I didn't have to put them in dop or shellac, I just squeezed them in my engravers block and, snap they were done.

1) What should I name them?
2) Should I blacken the tangles?

(I just want to add that I absolutely hate (HATE!) trying to take pictures of myself modeling earrings. I'm only 29, but I swear I look at least 70 in all of the pictures I take. It's very depressing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Busy Day

Because I had to be at the dentist (I love to go to the dentist, but I hate to be there, does that make any sense?) this morning for a couple of hours, yesterday I tried to get more done. Big stack of orders:

Odds and ends being prepared:

And the beautiful result:

(Well to be fair, I didn't make all of those yesterday. I didn't make three of them, but I did make other stuff that isn't pictured! An honest day's work.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

I spend half my day looking for these

I kid you not. I'm always wasting time looking around with a blank expression, searching for these stinking tweezers. Just now, 2 minutes ago, I was looking and looking and then there they were, right there on my bench, 12 inches from my eyes. This happens 4-5 times a day, at least.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another Corpse in the Graveyard of Jewelry Dreams

Sometimes you just have to try something a few times before it works. And now I know exactly what I did wrong, and what I need to do to make it work. Can you at least tell what I'm aiming for here? I plan to pair it with the eternity band. And the mistakes I made actually gave me ideas for other things, so it wasn't a total loss. What happened was that the tube I was setting the stone in wasn't fully fused to the bowl, and it came loose when I already had the stone set. Then, when I tried to re-fuse the setting it fused all wonky and the stone cracked. Even though it was a sapphire and should have been fine in the flame. Despairing, I hit it with a hammer, and that was the end of that. I kind of like the rough uneven look of the outside cup, probably going to remake it and exagerrate that effect.

Today I took the train into the city to hit Otto Frei and buy some odds and ends and then go to a gemstone dealer in the same building to buy stones. And we are now having people over for dinner and I need to get cooking, but I'm sooooo tired. I think I will drink my old coffee that is still sitting in the cup from this morning. I know, gross.

p.s. I also finally received my gemstone tray in the mail today, and sorted all of my stone inventory into it, which is a huge relief. No more rifling through endless little plastic bags and loose envelopes. Yay!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Eternity Band Redux

Eternity band, second attempt. Bigger stones, bigger band. Much more successful. Planning it in white gold tomorrow for an order. It will be even easier because the band will be the same size, but the stones, 3 conflict free diamonds, will be slightly smaller. I think it's going to look great.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pride Goeth Before the Fall

So the other day I was so proud of myself. I had finished a lovely ring, my favorite thus far (see previous post), I wore it out to dinner to universal praise (exaggerating is my forte).

But then of course, the next work day (yesterday) went horribly. Everything, everything, everything went wrong. I worked ALL DAY LONG on two rings. Two. Let me give you a guided tour of my no good, very bad day.

1) Thinking I was smart and wanting to save time and money, I bought two draw plates in order to make make whatever gauge of wire might be needed for a particular project. One draw plate is awesome, the other one (for smaller gauges) is not. See below.

POS drawplate:

Good drawplate (also the more expensive drawplate):

2) So around 10 in the morning I started work on this set of 14kt raw circle rings. The customer wanted the bands to be thinner than the settings, so I had to draw down some 12 gauge wire to 14 gauge. It all started out badly. My vise isn't fixed to anything sturdy. It's on a small stump that isn't bolted to the floor. It normally works ok for most things, but to use the draw plate you have to be able to pull against the vise (the plate is clamped in the vise). So, no dice. I eventually got it to work by sitting on the ground and putting my feet up against the vise. Imagine it. Nice, I know. You should have seen me. It was silly.

3) So the difficulty with the draw plate was compounded by the by the fact that I didn't have a larger charcoal block to anneal my metal. So, if you know anything about metal working you can guess what happened. Uneven annealing is never pretty.

Fruits of my idiocy:

The wire became brittle and broke. See above. That's a ring I was trying to make and it became too brittle to bend up in the little "prong" that the setting sits on. That's gold. It just wasn't my day. I spilled water all over my filing cabinet, the small draw plate sucks, I missed lunch, and I ruined some expensive material. Oh well, it was a good learning experience I suppose. It was all my own fault for not being more careful. It's not a total loss though. I'm planning on some small gold pebble rings.

Anneal, anneal, anneal.

I did finally finish the rings, after it was too late to go grocery shopping or make it to the gym.

So now I'm off to finally go grocery shopping. I can't eat mac and cheese out of a box two days in a row.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Fancy Pants Florentine Bur

Do you see that nice satiny sheen on the gold bezel of this new ring (I'm calling it the Hatshepsut, after a female Pharaoh)? That is created by what I call a fancy pants florentine bur:

This nifty little tool has tiny little teeth that gently abrade the surface of the metal to create a lovely surface texture. I think it's my new favorite. I had been in love with the texture from the gray/white 3m radial bristle brush, but I'm a fickle lover. I've now tossed that off in favor of a newer, shinier partner!

This morning was very nice, sunny and typical California. I decided that I wanted to try something new in my product photo's so I took the ring above out to the backyard for a photo shoot.

I'm not the world's best photographer, so I'm still unsure about these. I used them in the Etsy listing anyway, but I'm not sure if they are too distracting or not. I'm used to taking the pictures in my normal spot, on my walnut desk, and I feel like I've got that down pretty well. But outdoors presents some lighting problems. But it was worth a shot.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Tool Joy!

I'm like a five year old about packages. I think it's because I never got to celebrate Christmas or my birthday growing up, but I love me some packages. I even order stuff to be sent to myself just so I can get a package in the mail to open.

Last week I was feeling short on tools, so I thought it would be a good idea to get some.

This is what I came up with:

To make shapes like these:

I love, love, love it. It's called an Italian quadrillion mandrel. I also love the name.

I also got this:

This is a bracelet mandrel. It's perfectly round and lets me form metal into circles, much like a ring mandrel allows me to make rings that are round (or square!). I can't wait to start making some bangles. Bangles are actually my favorite type of jewelry. I collect them.

And finally, the pièce de résistance of my new tool purchase!:

This, readers, is a disk cutter! It cuts perfectly round disks out of metal. Unfortunately it came wrapped in greasy paper and covered in an oily slime that stank of diesel (to prevent rust). I was so excited that I got the grease all over my hands and shirt (lovely). But I finally got it cleaned off and in working shape and made these:

Sweet little post earrings with 18kt gold, argentium, and tiny white sapphires. I love that tool, and I have so many ideas about what I can do with it. Full, detailed plans to follow.