Archive for the ‘New products’ Category

Embellish Jewelry Blanks with Crystal Chatons

Monday, November 11th, 2013

It doesn’t matter if you’re a rhinestone cowgirl or an urban fashionista – dressing up belt buckles and other jewelry blanks with sparkling crystal chatons is just plain fun!

Use the steps below to either recreate the Zen Yin belt buckle by Jan or to embed you own designs in a wide range of jewelry components including bezel cups, bottles caps, and more.

supplies

1. Gather your supplies.

Supplies:

To make the exact belt buckle pictured in this blog, see the “Zen Yin” belt buckle full parts list in our Design Gallery.

tools

A Crystal Katana makes it easy to set chatons in your jewelry clay.

Tip: A jewel setter makes it much easier to set small objects into the clay! While bare fingers can hinder your field of vision and upset other elements of the design, jewel setters provide a wax tip to lightly pick up and place small objects in just the right spot.

plan

2. Plan your layout.

Plan your layout before you unwrap the clay. This allows you to tinker with design options without the clay drying prematurely. This is especially important on large objects like a belt buckle.

Form two equal balls

3. Measure equal amounts of clay.

Wear vinyl or latex gloves to protect your hands.  Measure equal amounts of “A” and “B” types of clay, and form each material into a separate ball. If the clay sticks, apply a thin coat of vegetable oil.

Mix the clay

4. Combine.

Combine the two balls together until they are well blended and uniform in color.

Adding clay to your blank.

5. Press clay into jewelry blank.

Press the clay into your jewelry blank. You can smooth it out by adding a little vegetable oil on top. If it gets too sticky, dust it lightly with baby powder.

Embellishing jewelry clay

6. Place large objects & focals first.

Place larger objects and focal points into your clay first. Tip: To save time, you can leave strung beads on the string, rather than placing them individually in the clay. Trim excess string once the beads are in place.

crystal katana

7. Fill in remaining clay with crystal chatons.

Next, fill in the remaining exposed clay with sparkling crystal chatons. As mentioned above, a jewel setter can make this task quicker and easier. When you are placing your chatons into the clay, be sure not to press or tap them in to deeply. The clay will rise up a little bit around them particularly when it is very wet.

finished_belt_buckle

8. Allow clay to dry and you’re done!

Set aside your design in a safe spot and allow the clay to thoroughly dry, based on the manufacturer’s instructions. EnviroTex Jewelry Clay fully cures in 24 hours to a hard, durable, and shock resistant substance with a smooth, porcelain like surface. It does not shrink as it cures!

Below, check out more fun designs Jan made with EnviroTex Clay and crystal chatons.

donuts

These chunky donut beads are held fast in the crystal clay,
demonstrating how strong EnviroTex clay is!

Homer Simpson wouldn’t be able to resist this whimsical bit of bling! It’s made with donut beads, aurora borealis crystals, and a square bezel-cup pendant blank.

heart key chain

EnviroTex Jewelry Clay is durable enough for heavily-used objects
like key rings. Add heart to designs with heart bezel cups.

Heart-shaped bezel cups add an extra bit of love to jewelry designs. Additional supplies used to make this heart key ring include a beadable key ring blank, a lampwork glass heart bead (reamed to make the hole larger), and a hammered pewter heart charm.

seashore

Go nautical with embedded scallop shell beads and freshwater pearls.

Rectangle bezel-cups provide a great shape for custom pendants with a touch of bling. The design pictured above is adorned with shell beads  and freshwater pearls surrounded by blue zircon and aquamarine crystal chatons.

three-rings

Adorn your hands with bezel cup ring blanks!

Bezel cup ring blanks come in several colors and shapes. Some styles are exclusive to Rings & Things, and all styles are adjustable to fit any ring size. They’re perfect for making blingy costume jewelry.

bear

You don’t have to use crystals.
This polar bear ring has seed beads embedded in the jewelry clay.

Embed seed beads and other objects in the crystal clay to see what other effects you can achieve! This winter-themed ring has a polar bear bead and a “Snow Ball” seed bead mix embedded in the clay. Let your imagination be your guide as you have fun making mosaic jewelry and a whole lot more! :)

How to Make Leather Bracelets – Two Finishing Methods

Monday, August 12th, 2013
Learn to make leather bracelets with these easy finishing methods,

Create two styles of leather bracelets using these do-it-yourself jewelry-making techniques.

 

In this do-it-yourself jewelry-making tutorial,  the bracelet blanks from last weeks blog post, “Customizing Tim Holtz idea-ology® Word Bands for a Handmade Look”, combine with Rings & Things’ new leather strips to make two styles of leather cuffs.

 

How to make a leather bracelet with metal stamped word band blanks.

Combine a customized bracelet blank with one of the many colors of Rings & Things’ leather strips to create a handmade leather bracelet.

 

Leather Bracelet Style One – A Single-Wrap Bracelet with Drawstring Clasp:

“In the Moment Leather Cuff Bracelet”

 

Tutorial: how to make a leather bracelet with drawstring clasp; a step-by-step DIY jewelry project.

Step 1: Gather together the supplies you will need to make a drawstring clasp leather bracelet.

You will need the following tools and supplies:

ruler

cutting mat 

Sharpie®, Extra Fine Point

hobby knife

rotary leather hole punch

1/2″ wide leather strip

3mm suede lace

5-ply waxed linen cord

large-hole bead (hole size 4mm)

customized Tim Holtz idea-ology® word bands

 

Make a DIY leather bracelet: Cut the leather strip with a hobby knife.

Step 2: Cut the leather strip to length. Size the leather so it fits comfortably on the wrist, ends butted together; mark the leather at the cut length. Use a ruler and hobby knife to make a straight cut at the mark.

 

Tutorial Leather Strip Bracelet D

Step 3: Measure and mark the position of the holes to be punched (it is easiest to do this before you curve the word band). Mark two “stitching” holes on either side of the two word-band loops. Also mark a “lacing” hole set 1/4th inch from each leather end.

 

How to make holes in leather with a rotary leather hole punch.

Step 4: Use a rotary leather hole punch to cut holes in the leather strip at the marked positions. Use the smallest punch (2mm) to punch the stitching holes for the bracelet blank; use the largest punch (4.5mm) to punch the lacing holes for the drawstring closure.

 

How to attach a metal-stamped bracelet blank to a leather cuff using waxed linen cord.

Step 5: Align the bracelet blank with the punched stitching holes and stitch each side in place. The waxed linen cording is stiff enough to go through the 2mm holes without a needle. After making two or three stitches, pull the cord tight and secure with a knot on the backside of the bracelet.

 

How to make an adjustable drawstring closure for a leather cuff bracelet.

Step 6: To create the drawstring closure, lace the suede cord through one hole and then back out, so the cord tails are on the outside of the cuff. String both cord ends through the large hole bead. Combine both cord ends and make an overhand knot approximately 2″ from the cuff. Slide the bead to tighten or loosen the cuff.

 

How to use a drawstring closure on a handmade leather cuff.

“Live in the Moment” leather-cuff bracelet with drawstring clasp is ready to wear.

 ~♥  ♥  ♥~

 

Leather Bracelet Style Two – A Double-Wrap Bracelet with Hitch Clasp:

“The Journey Leather Wrap Bracelet”

 

How to make a double-wrap leather cuff bracelet--you will need these  supplies.

Step 1: Gather together the supplies you will need to make a double-wrap leather cuff bracelet with hitch fastener.

You will need the following tools and supplies:

ruler

cutting mat 

Sharpie®, Extra Fine Point

hobby knife

rotary leather hole punch

screwdriver

1/2″ wide leather strip

idea-ology®, Hitch Fasteners

5-ply waxed linen cord

customized Tim Holtz idea-ology® word bands

 

How to make a double-wrap bracelet cuff--size and cut the leather strip.

Step 2: Cut the leather strip to length. Size the leather so it fits comfortably wrapped twice around the wrist; add one inch for the closure overlap. Mark the leather at the cut length. Use a ruler and hobby knife to make a straight cut at the mark.

 

How to make a leather cuff bracelet--measuring and marking for hole punching.

Step 3: Measure and mark the position of the holes to be punched (it is easiest to do this before you curve the word band). Place the leather on your wrist and determine approximate placement for the metal blank. Mark two “stitching” holes on either side of the two word-band loops. Also mark a “hitch” hole set 1/4th inch from the first leather end and 1/2 inch from the second end.

 

How to make a leather cuff bracelet--punching holes for a hitch fastener closure.

Step 4: Use a rotary leather hole punch to create holes in the leather strip at the marked positions. Use the smallest punch (2mm) to punch the stitching holes for the bracelet blank; use the largest punch (4.5mm) to punch the fastener holes for the hitch closure.

 

How to attach a metal-stamped bracelet blank to a leather cuff using waxed linen cord.

Step 5: Align the bracelet blank with the punched stitching holes and use waxed linen cord to attach the word band blank to the bracelet. Stitch the blank in place and knot the cord on the back side. For ease, a large sewing needle can be used.

 

How to make a hitch style clasp for a DIY leather cuff bracelet.

Step 6 a: On one end hole insert the screw side of the hitch fastener.

 

How to make a hitch style clasp for a DIY leather cuff bracelet.

Step 6 b: Attach and screw the hitch in place. From the backside, use a flat-head screw driver to tighten the hitch.

 

How to make a hitch style clasp for a DIY leather cuff bracelet.

Step 7 a: On the other end hole, use the hobby knife to cut 1/8″ slits on opposite sides of the hole, running parallel to the strip length. This will allow the hitch to slip into the hole, but stay securely in place.

 

How to make a hitch style clasp for a DIY leather cuff bracelet.

Step 7 b: Insert the hitch through the hole to close the fastener.

 

How to make a leather wrap bracelet with metal stamped blank --ready to wear.

“The Journey Leather Wrap Bracelet” is ready to wear!

~♥  ♥  ♥~

 

Layer bracelets for a trendy look.

Bracelets can be worn together for a layered look.

 

Make things,

Mollie

 

Concrete in Jewelry

Monday, July 29th, 2013

 

Free tips for using Artisan Encapture Concrete and other jewelry grade concretes for mini mosaics, art concrete projects, concrete jewelry and more by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things.

An industrial material such as concrete seems unlikely for jewelry, but it works very well! It is relatively lightweight, and very durable. It is great for personalized adornment, because you can embed virtually any charm, bead or found object you want.

Visit our design gallery for free jewelry projects and check our Mosaic Jewelry Board on Pinterest for concrete jewelry inspirations.

 

Difference Between Cement and Concrete

Cement is a powdered ingredient (mostly calcium silicates) used in concrete. It is strong, but brittle and susceptible to scratching. When mixed with water, it undergoes a series of chemical reactions and slowly crystallizes into a strong, interlocking form. Concrete is a mixture of cement, an aggregate (sand or gravel) and water.

Free tips for using Artisan Encapture Concrete and other jewelry grade concretes for mini mosaics, art concrete projects, concrete jewelry and more by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things.

cement powder

Jewelry Grade Concrete

EuroTool created EnCapture Artisan Concrete  specifically for jewelry artists. This new kit makes it easy for designers to create small mosaics and concrete jewelry. For information on making your own concrete, visit Ganoksin.

Creating with Artisan Concrete

Tips on Using EnCapture Artisan Concrete

Storage of the product is critical.  Extreme temperatures may affect the mixture or compound, and can jeopardize the integrity of the activator liquid. For best results store in a dry, cool location and don’t freeze.  Keeping the compound dry is essential; once moisture is introduced the chemical reaction starts.  Store products in closed containers.  The shelf life, when stored properly, is one year (if not longer).

Coloring Concrete

Prismacolor colored pencils can be used to color the surface of concrete! To prepare the surface, wet-sand it using fine-grit, wet/dry sandpaper and let dry for 24 hours. To seal the color, spray with several light coats of Krylon UV sealant.

Free tips for using Artisan Encapture Concrete and other jewelry grade concretes for mini mosaics, art concrete projects, concrete jewelry and more by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things.

Prismacolor Pencils 

Safety When Using Concrete in Jewelry

Always use disposable cups and utensils. Throw away unused concrete; do not wash it down the drain (it will clog pipes). Wear a respirator, safety glasses and gloves.

Have Fun & Happy Creating!

Create a Hinged Metal Memory Journal

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Use a hinge to turn shrine-shaped metal blanks into a journal!

Hinged Pendant Memory Journal created by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things. This free DIY jewelry project features metal etching, metal stamping, dapping and riveting.  Antique brass, nickel silver, copper and natural agate were used in creating this design.  The one-step looping plier was used for the handmade chain.

Hinged Book Necklace made with shrine-shaped metal blanks

Decide on the layout, location of the hinge and other decorative elements. Using a checkered hammer, apply texture to the top and bottom panels of the journal. Patina, file rough edges and clean.
Hinged Pendant Memory Journal created by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things.  This free DIY jewelry project features metal etching, metal stamping, dapping and riveting.  Antique brass, nickel silver, copper and natural agate were used in creating this design.  The one-step looping plier was used for the handmade chain.

Layout

Cut the hinges, which can be as wide or as narrow as you choose. For 3/32 tubing, make hinges that are one-half inch deep. You need an odd number of hinge tabs. Measure, mark and saw tabs into the top panel. Use plenty of cut lube to prevent the saw blade from sticking when cornering.  
Hinged Pendant Memory Journal created by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things.  This free DIY jewelry project features metal etching, metal stamping, dapping and riveting.  Antique brass, nickel silver, copper and natural agate were used in creating this design.  The one-step looping plier was used for the handmade chain.

Create Hinge Tabs

Using wide, flat nose pliers, crease and fold each tabs up to a 90 degree angle. The position of the fold determines whether the hinge will be visible from the front of the pendant, or only from the back side. Keep the textured sides face up, so the design is consistent.
Carefully roll tabs into cylinders using chain nose pliers or medium bail making pliers. Leave hinges a bit loose until after you have inserted the tubing, then you can tighten for best fit. 
Hinged Pendant Memory Journal created by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things.  This free DIY jewelry project features metal etching, metal stamping, dapping and riveting.  Antique brass, nickel silver, copper and natural agate were used in creating this design.  The one-step looping plier was used for the handmade chain.

Roll Into Cylinders

Use a tube cutting jig to cut a length of tube 1mm longer than the width of your piece (for 1/2mm on each side).  
Hinged Pendant Memory Journal created by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things.  This free DIY jewelry project features metal etching, metal stamping, dapping and riveting.  Antique brass, nickel silver, copper and natural agate were used in creating this design.  The one-step looping plier was used for the handmade chain.

Cut Tubing

Slide tubing down the channel and finesse hinges as needed. Rivet tubing into place to finish the hinge. Open and close hinge to ensure a proper fit.

This free DIY jewelry design by Sondra Barrington features antique brass, nickel silver, metal etching, dapping and creating hinges.

Assemble Hinge and Insert Tubing

Working with the bottom panel, lay out etched metal pieces for the cover and inside page. Cut, file and patina as necessary. Leave sufficient room for the hinge to lay flat against the bottom panel.  
Hinged Pendant Memory Journal created by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things.  This free DIY jewelry project features metal etching, metal stamping, dapping and riveting.  Antique brass, nickel silver, copper and natural agate were used in creating this design.  The one-step looping plier was used for the handmade chain.

Lay out Etched Metal Page

Measure, mark and punch holes for decorative rivets, accents and center piece (using the small side of the hole punch).
Hinged Pendant Memory Journal created by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things.  This free DIY jewelry project features metal etching, metal stamping, dapping and riveting.  Antique brass, nickel silver, copper and natural agate were used in creating this design.  The one-step looping plier was used for the handmade chain.

Prepare Embellishments

Using two-part epoxy, carefully glue the etched metal panels into place.
Hinged Pendant Memory Journal created by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things. This free DIY jewelry project features metal etching, metal stamping, dapping and riveting. Antique brass, nickel silver, copper and natural agate were used in creating this design. The one-step looping plier was used for the handmade chain.

Lay out Etched Metal Page

Using a dapping set, dome two small round shapes that can nest one inside the other. Patina, file away any rough edges and clean the domed metal. Layer, and rivet domed metal nests onto the top panel. Connect top and bottom panel with rivets. Use a tube rivet at the top so that you can thread a jump ring through it (if you choose).
Hinged Pendant Memory Journal created by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things.  This free DIY jewelry project features metal etching, metal stamping, dapping and riveting.  Antique brass, nickel silver, copper and natural agate were used in creating this design.  The one-step looping plier was used for the handmade chain.

Rivet Domes Into Place

Carefully clean and polish the pendant before attaching the necklace chain.

Hinged Pendant Memory Journal created by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things.  This free DIY jewelry project features metal etching, metal stamping, dapping and riveting.  Antique brass, nickel silver, copper and natural agate were used in creating this design.  The one-step looping plier was used for the handmade chain.

Clean Finished Pendant

Handmade jewelry looks great on a custom beaded necklace, on leather cordingsilk ribbon or chain. I created a necklace by making individual links using the one-step looping plier, eye pins, metal beads and natural agates. The links were connected using jump rings.

Hinged Pendant Memory Journal created by Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things.  This free DIY jewelry project features metal etching, metal stamping, dapping and riveting.  Antique brass, nickel silver, copper and natural agate were used in creating this design.  The one-step looping plier was used for the handmade chain.

Memory Journal Necklace

This free DIY Memory Journal pendant was created by designer Sondra Barrington of Rings & Things. This necklace features riveting, metal etching, antique brass shrine stamping blanks, dapping, and metal stamping. The chain was created in an ombre pattern using natural agate gemstone beads, TierraCast antique brass bead caps, metal heishi trade beads and the one-step looping plier with antique copper head pins.

Button, Button, What to do with buttons?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

I love a good button.  I think most bead hoarders have a button tin somewhere as well.  The materials used for buttons range from the simple and inexpensive to exotic and pricey.  Obviously buttons have a practical use in sewing and clothing design, but they can be great additions to DIY jewelry as well.

 

button box spill

button box spill

 

Buttons as beads:

Boston Bracelet and New Leaf Earrings

Boston Bracelet and New Leaf Earrings

By their nature, buttons tend to have either a shank, with an opening for thread, or 2-4 holes for sewing.  These holes and openings mean your buttons can substitute for beads and work as connectors in jewelry design.  See round TierraCast buttons with a leaf pattern  in New Leaf Earrings and bone buttons sewn on the Boston Bracelet.

Buttons as clasps:

Dark and Dangerous Bracelet

Dark and Dangerous Bracelet

Whether for popular wrapped lashed leather bracelets, or for necklace designs, adding a button to one end of your design and creating a simple loop or series of loops at the other end will complete your creation.  The Dark and Dangerous Bracelet uses a cast pewter Spiral Button for the closure.

Buttons as Cabochons or Cameos:

Cute as a Button Bracelet

Cute as a Button Bracelet

Disk & Loop Bracelets make up into quick finished jewelry by gluing buttons to the disks.  If the button has a shank, you may need to trim it and file the surface, then add your favorite adhesive, and you have quickly created a new accessory.  Cute as a Button Bracelet uses an assortment of plastic “accoutrements” by Tim Holtz for decoration.

Copies of Buttons:

Buttons, Molds, and Cast Reproductions

Buttons, Molds, and Cast Reproductions

Have a one-of-a-kind or vintage button that you love, but don’t want to part with?  2-part silicone molding material works great to make a mold of your treasure that you can re-create in polymer or resin and use time after time.  Silicone molds were quickly made of the buttons in this picture.  Reproductions of the buttons (without the pesky shanks) were easily made with Amazing Resin and SuperClear Resin.  For more information on making molds, see our previous blog: Making Your Own Molds is a Hoot.

Buttons you can buy from Rings & Things:

Rings & Things carries buttons in materials such as bone,

Assortment of Bone Buttons in various colors.

Assortment of Bone Buttons in various colors.

plastic,

Plastic Button Assortments

Plastic Button Assortments

cast pewter

A sampling of pewter buttons.

A sampling of pewter buttons.

one lone sterling offering

Sterling Flower Button

Sterling Flower Button

and SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS crystal

Crystal Buttons

Crystal Buttons

 

Making a Button:

Resin Flower Buttons

Resin Flower Buttons

Do you have an item without holes that you want to use as a button?  Easily glue a plastic button shank to your piece to create a button.  These work great for turning resin, polymer clay, hand-made glass, and ceramics into useable buttons.  Since these shanks are plastic, they don’t have the sharp edges that you sometimes find on metal shank findings.  The set shown above are made from resin flowers, colorized with gilders paste, and attached with E-6000.

Changeable buttons:

Cast Resin Button Covers

Cast Resin Button Covers

With a button cover and some glue, you can create a decorative cover that can be transferred from garment to garment, covering the plain or boring buttons used in manufacturing.  This set is made with super clear resin, colored with dye and glitter, and attached with E-6000.

Our pinterest board “Buttons” has further inspirations for using buttons and great handmade buttons.

 

~  Rita

Easy Elegant Earrings

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

 Easy Elegant Earrings

Using one-step looping pliers and a few supplies, you can have a set of fantastic earrings in under 30 minutes!

Free simple DIY earring project! All supplies available at www.rings-things.com.

Step One:

Gather supplies

Free simple DIY earring project!  All supplies available at www.rings-things.com.

Step Two:

Lay out pattern and mark paddles

Free simple DIY earring project!  All supplies available at www.rings-things.com.

Step Three:

Loop paddle-end head pins

Free simple DIY earring project! All supplies available at www.rings-things.com.

Free simple DIY earring project! All supplies available at www.rings-things.com.

Free simple DIY earring project! All supplies available at www.rings-things.com.

Step Four:

Adjust and tighten loops

Free simple DIY earring project! All supplies available at www.rings-things.com.

 Step Five:

Assemble

Free simple DIY earring project! All supplies available at www.rings-things.com.

Free simple DIY earring project! All supplies available at www.rings-things.com.

Free simple DIY earring project! All supplies available at www.rings-things.com.

 Step Six:

Repeat for other earring & enjoy!

Free simple DIY earring project! All supplies available at www.rings-things.com.

 

For more information, scroll down to see the video tutorial and review tips on this one-step looping pliers page.

Quick and Easy 1-Step Looper Tutorial

Friday, May 10th, 2013

I love jewelry with lots of sparkly adornment, but making simple jewelry loops can be tricky.  Creating matching loops with the perfect shape requires skill and time.  It’s little wonder the “1-Step Looper” is so popular — this magical tool makes consistent loops in one quick and easy step.  In fact, the process is so quick, you might miss it if you blink.

Here are visual micro steps so you can see exactly how the looping pliers work.

The 1-Step Looper jewelry making pliers for making simple looped beaded dangles.

The 1-Step Looper works with head pins, eye pins and wire sized from 26 to 18 gauge, in both precious-metal and plated finishes.

 

To use the 1-Step Looper start by inserting a beaded head pin in the pliers' jaw.

Place a bead onto a head pin, slide the head pin into the pliers, and insert the excess wire through the hole in the pliers upper jaw.

 

Squeezing the handles of the 1-Step Looper jewelry pliers will cut and shape the wire end.

Gently squeeze the pliers to trim and shape the wire.

 

Continue squeezing the 1-Step Loopers' handles to form a perfect loop on your crystal charm.

Continue squeezing the pliers’ handles to form a perfect loop.

 

Use your index finger to create a slight bend in the wire between the crystal and the loop.

Before releasing the handles, gently press the wire downward to form a slight bend below the loop.

 

After forming the perfect beaded dangle with the looping pliers, release the handles to release the beaded charm.

Release the handles to release the beaded charm.

It takes just minutes to make dozens of crystal dangles with the 1-Step Looper pliers.

The 1-Step Looper is not only quick and easy to use, but it’s fun to use! It takes just minutes to make dozens of beaded charms (or links).

 

Embossed Vintaj Brass pendant  with weather copper patina finish and sparkling Swarovski crystal dangles.

With the 1-Step Looper, all your handmade jewelry can sparkle!

 

Make things!

♥ Mollie

 

[Editor's note: Rings & Things is happy to ship this 1-Step Looper Tool anywhere in the world -- but it keeps selling out, so if you see it in stock, don't hesitate!]

 

I Love Copper Solder!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

I recently got a chance to play with copper solder, and I LOVE it! This awesome copper solder is 7% phosporous (and 93% copper), which makes it self-fluxing. It flows and melts around the same temperature as hard-grade silver solder, so you can easily solder links, small bezels, and other basic joins with a butane micro torch.

16-gauge copper wire link with 18-gauge copper solder.

16-gauge copper wire link with 18-gauge copper solder.

Why do I love copper solder?

#1:  It’s easy!

Jewelers have traditionally used silver solder to solder copper, but when using silver on copper, you have to be very careful so the silver seam doesn’t show. Since the copper solder is 93% copper (making it copper colored, even after you solder with it), I can enjoy the freedom of having my small mistakes invisible to the untrained eye. And it’s nice that the 7% phosphorous portion makes it self-fluxing, so I don’t have to use flux.

#2: It’s inexpensive.

Copper solder is about 1/10 the price of silver solder:  silver solder is around $40 per ounce, but you can get 4 entire ounces of copper solder for around $14. I can experiment and practice all day and it only costs me a few dollars worth of materials. I can make affordable copper jewelry, and/or I can decide to upgrade to sterling silver, after practicing new techniques with copper.

#3: I have everything I need.

I finally bought my own torch last year, but haven’t used it a lot yet. I got the Blazer torch kit, so I’d have everything I need — 2 types of tweezers, a solder pick, and a few different soldering surfaces.

Butane micro torch kit

Blazer micro torch kit.

How do you use copper solder?

If you already know how to solder sterling or fine silver, then you already know how to solder copper. If you have no soldering experience, or have only used “soft” solder before, then copper solder is an EXCELLENT material to begin with.

So, where do you begin?  At the very minimum, you need:

  1. Raw (bare, unplated) copper
  2. Copper solder
  3. A torch that gets hot enough for the job (all of Rings & Things’ micro torches work fine for this — but a soldering iron does not get hot enough)
  4. A firing surface — I use a magnesia soldering block on top of a ceramic fire block on top of an old cookie sheet.
  5. Something to grab melty-hot metal items. Check out the tweezers listed & linked in this kit.

Generally, you’ll drop your freshly-soldered item in a pickle pot or a metal can full of cool water. And there are safety considerations … you don’t really want to catch your clothing or kitchen/craft table on fire, or breathe or splash unknown chemicals, so if you’re completely new to soldering, pick up a book like Simple Soldering, by Kate Ferrant Richbourg, or Soldering Made Simple, by Joe Silvera.

Here is my project:  Simple soldered links, for a bracelet or necklace.

2 links soldered, the next 3 ready to go.

2 links soldered, the next 3 ready to go.

3rd link being soldered

3rd link being soldered.

To make my loops, I used ring-bending pliers and the large side of Wubbers bail-making pliers to shape some quick links out of 16-gauge raw copper wire, and hammered them a bit on my metal block. Then I cut the ends nice and straight with flush cutters (You know solder doesn’t fill gaps, right? So your spots to be joined need to line up very cleanly … or your solder join is doomed or ugly), laid out a few links, and started soldering.

I soldered the quick way — torch in one hand, and spool of solder in the other hand. Heat up a link, then touch the solder to the joint, and fwoosh, it flowed. Sometimes a little too well, so my solder spots are a little globbier than they technically should be. So now I’m actually reading my copy of Kate Ferrant Richbourg’s Simple Soldering rather than just just flipping through and looking at the diagrams. Soon, I hope to pop in the DVD (included with the Simple Soldering book)!
The tips and techniques in Simple Soldering are all about silver soldering, but apply just as well to copper soldering.

One last tip based on questions I received at last weekend’s Bead Show: Do you know which part of the flame is hottest? You might think it is inside the brightest blue part of the flame, but it actually the darker space just past the tip of that bright blue inner cone.

Coming soon…. (now finished)
Next blog, I’ll share a technique to add beads (even fragile beads!) directly to links before soldering them!

~~Polly