Archive for February, 2012

Micro butane torches for jewelry

Monday, February 27th, 2012

It is great to have choices – but sometimes comparison shopping is such a chore! We recently added two new Blazer brand micro-torches. While our selection of three butane torches isn’t exactly overwhelming, it still raises questions. Why choose one over the other two? They all look about the same … and in many ways, they are the same:

  • No appreciable differences in height, width or diameter.
  • All three use triple refined butane (buy it locally due to shipping restrictions).
  • All three include a plastic stand for hands-free operation.
  • All three have flame adjustment options.
three-micro-torches-rings-things
Micro butane torches are only about 6″ tall but easily reach flame temps of 2400 F. All three of these torches can handle small soldering, fusing and enameling jobs.

However, in several important ways, these three little torches do differ. The most obvious way is in price: the Blazer costs over twice as much as our original little torch. In fact, you can buy an entire mini torch kit, which includes a torch, soldering blocks, a tripod with mesh, tweezers and soldering pick, for less than the Blazer torch. Yet …

three-torches-top
Micro torches are easy and safe to use – just use common sense. Never point the flame at yourself and keep combustibles out of the way. The heat is very concentrated and easy to control.

The Blazer is by far the easiest micro torch to use! It is a professional model torch, not designed for home use. It doesn’t have a child safety lock, so if you have any concerns about unauthorized use of your tools, this might not be the best choice (I hope it goes without saying you should keep any torch out of the reach of children). However, if you hate fumbling around with levers and buttons, then you will *love* the black Blazer torch. It has a really high quality ignition system. I won’t go into boring details on that. Just know that, while trying to do a fair comparison of the three torch options, I kept instinctively reaching for the Blazer because it was just more fun to use. Good design works! Plus, its burn time is about double that of the entry-level micro torch. Refilling butane is the least fun part of using a micro torch, so that detail counts for a lot in my opinion!

I really wanted to like the Stingray model the best – it is my favorite color after all! – but the safety lock and flame control just weren’t my favorite. So if budget is the biggest factor, the our original micro torch is still a great deal. It gets the job done. But if you can afford to splurge a bit, the Blazer torch is a tool worth owning. And if you truly want middle of the road performance and price – with the prettiest color! – then the Stingray fits the bill.

Here’s the stats in handy bullet form, with torches listed from Highest/Greatest to Lowest in each category:

  • Burn time: Blazer, Stingray, Basic
  • Price: Blazer, Stingray, Basic
  • Ease of use: Blazer, Stingray, Basic
  • Safety lock: Basic, Stingray, Blazer

Whether you want to fire small Art Clay silver pieces, torch enamel, solder metals or fuse fine silver, a micro torch is a great introduction to using heat! Here’s a little tutorial on making ball-end head pins to get you started. ~ Cindy

Pretty in pearls – freshwater keishi pearls for jewelry designers

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Hi bloglandia! Pearls are a standard in jewelry, yet the shapes and colors available these days are anything but!

swirls-pearls-rings-things

Sondra mixed freshwater keishi pearls with keishi-shaped sterling silver beads and Swarovski crystals. The clusters of pretties hang from Santa Me sterling silver swirls.

Keishi pearls are actually collapsed pearl sacs. To me they look like shimmery, shiny souffles that have drooped into ruffly, lacy waves. The picture below shows several shades of tip-drilled keishi pearls, including the rose ones Sondra used in the above earrings. Virtually all freshwater pearls are enhanced in one way or another, but I love how the colors still have such “natural” variation. Quite lovely.

tip-drilled-keishi-rings-things.com

Tip-drilled keishi pearls add great texture to strung designs too.

Pearls are very soft compared to other gem materials. Since earrings are generally safe from much wear and tear, they are a great way to feature pearls, like with this Rosie Posie design:

center-keishi-sparkle-rings-things

Wavy brass disks, 3mm sparkly glass rondelles and antiqued brass findings paired with center-drilled "cornflake" keishi pearls.

In addition to being soft, pearls are also sensitive to chemicals and solvents, so it is always best to put your pearl earrings on *after* you’ve applied your hairspray, perfume and such. They are pretty enough to warrant a little TLC!

I had a bit of sticker shock when I first saw the price for center-drilled keishi like the ones in the earrings above. Compared to our other freshwater pearls, they seemed pricey. But then I realized just how many of these guys you get on a strand: about 100!

keishi-rings-things.com

Each cornflake pearl is only 1-3mm thick - so 16" strands hold a LOT of them!

If you’d like to learn more about how freshwater pearls are cultured and created – and more care recommendations! – visit our Gemstone Index. One last pointer on pearls: unless specifically noted, pearls almost always have small holes – even standard size head pins are usually too thick. Thin pins or 24-gauge wire works much better!

How to use charm bracelets to make necklaces!

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Hola, bloglandia! Today I wanted to share a quick and easy way to make necklaces using charm bracelets. Rings & Things has a great selection of ready-made chain bracelets with toggle clasps. The typical use is to leave the bracelet in one piece and add charms with jump rings for a charm bracelet. However, these bracelets are a bit longer than advertised.

long-long-bracelets

With clasps, the 7.5" bracelet measures 8.5", and the 8.5" measures 9.5" long!

It is always better to have too much chain vs. not enough, so think of those extra links as a bonus you can use to make coordinating earrings. Or, do as I did and use two bracelets to make a necklace! Instead of removing extra links, you can also take advantage of the longer length by removing the bar from one and the loop from another to create a necklace!

convert-bracelets-into-necklace

My pendant had two holes, so I just attached on bracelet to each hole and viola! A 19" long necklace.

Here’s another example:

resin-necklace-pretty-lady

For this one, I attached the two bracelets with a single jump ring to my resin pendant.

These extra long bracelets also make great anklets. And yes, they still make great bracelets! Here are two examples:

proud-mary-bracelet

I hung a handmade resin charm with a chain tassel, a steamboat charm and sparkly Swarovski crystals for my "Proud Mary" bracelet. I like to think Tina'd be proud to wear it!

altered-chain-bracelet

I simply removed a section of chain and replaced it with my handmade copper clay connector.

You might have noticed that all the focals for these pieces are handmade. Browse our resin and bezels, metal-working tools and metal clay selection to get busy making your own!

Making your own molds is a HOOT!

Friday, February 17th, 2012

 

Chocolates and Resin molded from this little Owl Pendant

Do you have a button that you just love? Maybe it’s an heirloom and you have never been able to find another one like it, or maybe you would like to make a pair of earrings, but only have the one item. Well I have a solution for you! Make a mold of this item and you can re-create the button as many times as you like. Suddenly that one heirloom button is a whole new line of earrings! Or imagine you have an adorable charm that you love so much you could just eat it up! Well, now you can….literally! The product that is used to make these molds, Amazing Mold Putty is FDA approved for use with food, so you can make a mold of the charm and then use that mold to create chocolates as pretty as your jewelry! The possibilities are really endless… make ice cubes, soaps and candles or melt your own crayons into fun shapes! I’m thinking toy car crayons would be a great party favors for a little boys’ birthday party….

Amazing Mold Putty makes mold making so easy

Making a mold is much easier than you would think. If you have ever had molds of your teeth taken, then you have seen similar products. The molds are made by mixing a two-part silicone compound that when mixed create a quick curing putty. This is a type of molding putty is known as RTV, which stands for Room Temperature Vulcanization. Follow these easy steps and you can mold almost anything.

Before you start:

  • You will use this mold to pour into, so one side of the mold will be flat. Pick an object that will look okay with a flat back.
  • Only mold items that are not trademarked or patented.
  • If you want to make something that is three dimensional on all sides, you will need to make two molds of the item; one for each side. Then you can fill both molds and adhere to two objects together after they have been removed from the molds.
  • Openings and loops on charms will not be useable in your mold, but you can drill a hole into your re-creation later if want to re-create an opening.
  • If you are planning on using your mold to make an object multiple times, for something like ice cubes, chocolates or crayons, consider making several molds of the same object, so that when you go to make your item you can do several at once, since some mediums take a long time to cure (like ice).
  • Objects with small protruding parts will make molds that will work with resin, but may break easily when attempted with softer or more fragile materials (again like chocolate or ice).
  • If you want to make an item in both resin and edibles, make two molds because adding resin and coloring agents to the mold will make it no longer food safe.

I am going to mold this Pewter Owl Charm

Step 1. Using the item that you are molding as a guideline, determine how much molding compound you will need. I like to make two equal size balls of each color, each one being about the same size as the item you are molding. It is better to error on the side of being too big.

Smoosh the two colors together!

Knead quickly because the putty will begin to set in 5 minutes or less depending on the room temperature.

Step 2. Knead the two compounds together. You want to knead them until there is no marbeling and you have achieved one solid color.

Carefully press your object into the molding putty. Apply even pressure so that the object goes in straight.

Press the object down, but be careful to not push through the compound. If you want the mold to be deeper build the edges up around the object.

Step 3. Insert your object that you are making a mold of. Press the item into the putty and form the putty around the item a little. Make sure that you don’t press any part of the object all the way through. Also make sure that the putty is getting into all the crevices in the item.

By pressing the mold between two sheets of plastic, you can create a mold that is compact, stack-able, and level.

Step 4. Make your mold flat. Do this by pressing the putty with the object still in it between two pieces of non-porous plastic (I’m using plastic file folders). The reason you do this is so that your mold is flat on both the bottom and top. This will ensure that you can easily fill it and keep it level. It is also nice for storing molds for later use, so you can easily stack them.

Watch Nate wait! 20 minutes and your mold will be set completely!

Step 5. Wait for the putty to cure. I recommend waiting a good twenty minutes before pulling your object out.

Remove your object revealing a perfect mold!

Step 6. Remove object from the cured putty. Now you have a mold! The mold itself is flexible and can be peeled off the original item.

You can see the quick setting resin beginning to set when it turns opaque. Allow a full 15 minutes before removing your piece.

Step 7. Fill your mold and re-create your object. I used quick setting Amazing Resin and metallic powders to make gunmetal and copper versions of this owl charm. When using the metallic powders use a dry brush to remove any excess powder. The amount remaining will adhere to the resin.

Original Charm in the center, copper resin version on the left, gunmetal resin version on the right!

Resin version of this owl would be perfect for a glue-able ring or bobby pin!

I made a second mold of the owl to make little owl chocolates! Perfect for a themed party or baby shower!

Well I hope you have learned how to make some fun molds! I love making these molds, because literally the possibilities are endless! I can’t wait to make some custom molded crayons! Feel free to ask me any questions on what I did or how to do something. For more great how-to blogs see the list below! ~~Tiffany

How to make Cluster Earrings

How to make Wrapped Leather Bracelets

How to wire wrap a Briolette

How to dap and dome Metal

 

 

 

Tips for sawing sheet metal with a jeweler’s saw

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Hi bloglandia! Today’s blog is about how to use a jeweler’s saw. Why? Because if you want to cut clean shapes out of metal without bending the metal, you need a saw. All metal shears, even the really nice ones, bend the metal, at least a bit. It is just the nature of the beast. Also, unless you have the hand strength of ~ I don’t even know who! ~ you probably need a saw to cut metal thicker than 24 gauge.

A saw also allows you to cut very intricate designs. Pierced is the term for designs that are cut from within the metal, as opposed to coming in from the edge.  However, “pierced jewelry” brings up a whole different category of jewelry when you search online!

sawing-tools-rings-things

The basic tools needed for sawing metal.

Supplies needed for sawing your own metal shapes:

  • Jeweler’s saw frame – I’m using a pretty lux Knew Concepts frame, but the technique is the same no matter which saw frame you use.
  • Saw blades – Rings & Things offers both Form d’Arte (entry level) and Antilope (higher quality) saw blades. I think the higher quality is worth the price for less breakage, but it is up to you. Make sure to use the right size for the gauge of metal you are cutting.
  • Sheet metal – I like working with 20 gauge, but you might choose thinner metal if you’re planning to layer the pieces, or if you are working with pricey sterling silver.
  • Bench pin/ – I’m using a bench pin that’s been modified for sawing. Our bench block already has a V cutout.  You’ll see why this V is necessary shortly.
  • Paper design – the more ornate the shape, the more you will challenge your skills!
  • Rubber cement – for adhering your design to the metal. Don’t think that you can draw your design onto the metal with a marker – it will smudge and blur and be impossible to follow. “Permanent” is a relative term!
  • Hole punch – optional – to pierce metal, you need to drill or punch a hole to insert the saw blade into. If you are sawing in from the edge of the metal, you don’t need a hole.
  • Cut Lube or beeswax – optional or not, depending on who you ask. Many people swear by it, but I typically prefer to saw without it. The lubricant is meant to keep the blade moving easily across the metal, but sometimes it gunks up the shavings and clogs the blade, so use it sparingly at first.

How to saw metal:

Adhere your design to sheet metal with rubber cement and let dry.

Insert saw blade into saw frame with the teeth pointing out (away from frame) and down (towards floor). Make sure you have the blade in there good and tight – a loose blade very quickly becomes a broken blade! Tension is key. (See post about Knew Concepts frames and tensioning.)

sawing-metal-rings-things

My left hand is holding the camera is this shot, but really it needs to be holding the metal down on both sides of the blade while I’m sawing.

Hold your metal in place on the bench pin with your non-dominant hand.

sawing metal rings and things tutorial

Supporting the metal on both sides of the blade keeps it from wobbling. Less wobbling = easier sawing.

Hold the saw frame between 90 and 45 degrees to your metal and start sawing. You are only sawing (removing metal) on the down stroke, but try to keep the sawing motion smooth and even on both the upstroke and down stroke.

sawing-nickel-silver-rings-things

I try to keep the saw fairly stationary and rotate the metal to follow my pattern.

Follow your design! It takes practice, but you’ll pretty quickly learn how to maneuver your metal and/or saw to follow curves. Blow away the shavings every so often so you can stay true to your pattern. If the blade seems to be catching or it feels jerky, check your tension and/or apply a little lubricant to the blade.

Moving too quickly, especially when changing direction, is an easy way to break your blade. Smooth and steady wins the race.  One of the most difficult things at first is not pressing too hard with the hand that’s holding the metal down. Hand cramps hurt, so take frequent breaks and be conscious of what you’re doing. It doesn’t take much pressure to keep your metal in place. It does, however, take that V-cut bench pin. You will (er, I did) break lots of blades and have tons of problems if you try to hang your metal off the edge of a table rather than supporting it on both sides of that V.

It is always a good idea to wear safety glasses while you are sawing. Everyone – yes EVERYONE – breaks blades, and you’ll notice yourself getting your face closer and closer to your project. So again, take frequent breaks and also be sure to set up your sawing station at a height that is comfortable for you.

Happy sawing!

mustache charmEditor’s Note:
Don’t want to cut out a mustache blank by hand? Rings & Things now stocks copper and brass mustache blanks in 2 sizes, plus fun enameled mustaches in great colors!

 

Bead Shows!

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

 

“For beading fanatics, it’s like being a kid in a GIGANTIC candy store.”

bead-shows-rings-things

Prepare to be dazzled.

What’s that? Tasty beads at sweet prices? Yes indeed! Our 2012 Bead Shows are starting up again in just a few weeks! Our crew kicks off the season with our Spokane Bead Frenzy and then travels all across the continental United States with a truckload full of beads and other jewelry-making goodies.  We actually do put out candy dishes to help customers maintain their energy as they peruse the thousands and thousands of beads available!

If you haven’t already, now is  a great time to sign up to get an invite to our shows! Admission is free. Bring a friend to help you decide – or to help carry your haul! Plus, if you plan a week or two ahead, you can have a regular stock order delivered to the show for no charge. Translation: free shipping! Then, if you purchase more than $100 at the show, you’ll get a free shipping coupon for your next phone, catalog or online order. We visit most cities on our route 2x per year, so if you keep up this cycle long enough, you might not ever pay for shipping again!

Still not convinced? Here’s what some of your beady friends have to say about Rings & Things Bead Shows:

“For those of you near the cities below, check out this schedule to make sure you don’t miss it!!” http://abeadaday.blogspot.com/2011/09/rings-and-things-bead-tour.html

“So much goodness – I can’t begin to tell you.”  http://justatish.blogspot.com/2011/06/rings-things-bead-tour-and-give-away.html

“Clients want something unique, handmade, not mass produced. That’s why these trips are worth it to me…”  http://lexibeads.blogspot.com/2011/06/rings-and-things-bead-tour.html

“They set up a sea of beads and allow you to browse with no pressure to buy.”  http://karenlandis.com/2011/05/19/rings-things-bead-tour-in-charlotte/

“When I walked into the room, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were tables lined up with strands and strands of beads.”   http://trendygal.com/?p=77

“For beading fanatics, it’s like being a kid in a GIGANTIC candy store.”  http://donnahuebsch.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/rings-things-bead-tour/

All the Bead Show details are right here. Have questions? Contact us here on the blog or via Twitter, Facebook or regular old email. Hope to see you there! ~ Cindy

 

 

 

 

How to choose a Knew Concepts saw for jewelry making

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

Hi bloglandia! Do your jewelry projects ever seem to stack up, one on top of another? Mine do. Maybe you are able to focus entirely on each project, finish and clean up before moving onto the next, but it seems I always have 10 different things going at once. Right now I’ve got a bunch of metal shapes to saw out and then solder together. The next few blog posts are going to use a few of these projects to highlight different tools and techniques, starting with the Knew Concepts saw frames and ending with Blazer micro torches.

sawing-tools

Saw frame, saw blades, bench pin, rubber cement, sheet metal and a design! Ready to saw!

So, what is new about Knew saw frames, other than their distinctive shape and bright red color? Well, most of us learned to saw with standard adjustable saw frames. In order to get the right tension on your blade with these frames, you press the frame between your body and a table or other sturdy object. By inserting the blade while the frame is bowed, the blade gets pulled tight into place when you release that bow. But – ow! That action bruised my breastbone. And when you break saw blades as often as I did starting out, it becomes a real chore.

Knew Concepts saw frames are different in a number of ways. Obviously, they are bright fire engine red. They are extremely lightweight, which makes them more comfortable to hold. And they are available in a whole lotta different models! How to pick?

1. Size. 3″, 5″ or 8″? My vote is for 5″, unless you plan to work with very large or very long pieces of metal, in which case the 8″ frame makes sense. If your hands tire easily and you only work with small pieces, than the 3″ frame might meet your needs. I’m a middle of the road kind of girl! Note that the size refers to the depth of the frame. The height for all Knew frames is fixed. This means you won’t be able to re-use broken blades by shortening your frame. (But wouldn’t you rather not break the blade to begin with? Knew frames help with that!)

saw-frame-depth

If you want to pierce the very end of a long strip of metal, you need either a large frame or the swivel model.

2. Blade tension options. Screw tension or cam-lever tension? I 100% endorse the cam-lever tension because the tension does not change when you switch blades. Instead of sandwiching the frame between your chest and the table every time you break a blade or move to a different area of a pierced design, you simply flip the cam-lever switch! What a relief!

cam-lever-tension

The cam-lever option is totally worth a few extra bucks.

3. To swivel – or not to swivel? That is the final question. Personally, I found the swivel to be an extra complication that I didn’t really want to mess with. However, if having a really lightweight saw that can still get into tight corners is important, buying the small 3″ saw frame with the cam-lever and swivel would accomplish that goal.

After testing the different options, I decided the 5″ Cam-Lever Tension model was my favorite (69-169-52 – it is the one with the staff choice icon in our online store). It is comfortable to hold and large enough to handle pretty much any jewelry project I would undertake.

Of course, the first question should have been: do I really need a Knew Concepts saw frame when I can buy a standard jeweler’s saw for less money? The answer depends on how you define need! If budget is the #1 concern, then maybe the answer is no. An adjustable saw frame has been the industry standard for years. However, if you want to invest in a tool that will serve you well for years, and which will make the – let’s face it – somewhat tedious job of sawing more enjoyable, then yes, you kneed a Knew frame! ~ Cindy