A chronicle of the meanderings, false starts (which in retrospect, while sort of embarrassing turned out to be highly instructive), epiphanies, selective apathy (still evolving), wild mood swings, opinions (subject to frequent change), and life lessons of an inveterate dabbler (and her latest dabblings).
After I posted my most recent pair of earrings at Earrings Everyday (the copper flowers textured with a foreign coin), some of you asked that I do a tutorial on them. Today I'm going to show you how to create the little rosettes that I put on the tips of the petals of those flowers, but on a different item. In this case, a copper heart charm. The technique is the same.
First, create a little shape of your choosing from some metal sheet. In this case, I'm using 22 gauge copper sheet. You could, of course, use any metal, or gauge, you want. I cut mine out with some metal snips. The snips marked up the edges somewhat, but since I was going to texture it anyway it didn't matter. In this case, I planned to use one of my foreign coins in a technique I shared here a week ago.
After texturing, punch holes in your piece near the edge, wherever you would like the rosettes to be. The holes should be far enough in from the edge to leave room for your rosette. (You probably want to practice this on some scrap first.) I used my Bead Smith metal hole punch pliers. I think they have about a 1.8mm punch size. I wouldn't use them on anything thicker than 22 gauge sheet, they don't want to go through things much thicker than that. Be sure not to put the holes too close together, because the rosettes are going to take up room.
Make some ball headpins in your torch. I used 4" lengths of wire. I find 22 gauge wire easiest to work with, while still having enough weight to satisfy my preference for a substantial looking piece. It will be nice and soft, too, after coming out of your torch. Pickle and clean with steel wool, but don't tumble--you want them to be pliable when you wrap them onto your metal piece.
Put your headpin into the first hole as pictured.
Pulling the ball tight against your charm, bend the wire up, bring it over the edge and around the ball.
Make sure the wire is nice and flat against the back and front--if it's rounded it means there's slack in your wire and the rosette will wiggle too much. You can use your chain nosed or bent nosed pliers to press the wire tightly in place, giving it a tight, crisp bend around the edge of the metal. Continue wrapping the tail of the headpin around the ball.
Wrap as many times as you like, keeping in mind how much room you have between the holes; the closer together the holes are, the smaller your rosettes have to be, obviously. If you wrap too many times it will be harder to get the rosette to be really secure. I think I wrapped about three times around.
When you have it the way you want, snip off the wire with your flush cutters and tuck in the end with your bent nose pliers.
And there's your first rosette! Ta-da!
Keep adding rosettes, being sure to wrap them in the same direction. Here I was wrapping them counterclockwise but you can do them any way you want--it just seems to look better if they're all wrapped in the same direction.
I think they look most striking antiqued and then polished up. This one is destined to be one half of a double-sided, riveted bracelet charm. I'll share pics when it's done. One day.
You can make a rosette in the middle of something too, with two holes, side by side. Just pop your headpin in, bring the tail up through the adjacent hole, and wrap until you've covered up the adjacent hole. Tuck the end of the wire in as above.
I think doing this with commercial headpins would be a challenge, as they don't generally come in long enough lengths and they tend to be very stiff. You could probably adapt this with small beads though, and a doubled length of wire. (We'll try that next time!)
I was responding to a comment from Sandra on my "Power of Money" post, and a thought occurred to me: Do you really need a torch if you're only annealing metal, and not intending to melt it? If not, what kind of heat source would someone already have in her home that she could use to soften metal? Well, duh, I thought, how about a gas or electric range?
Electric Range in "Goldenrod" ca. 1975
The melting point of copper is 1982.21°F, or 1083.45° C. (Sterling silver is 893°C). Gases used in torches, such as butane, propane, MAPP and acetyline produce flames with significantly higher temperatures than this, which can melt copper (although because of the heat dissipation qualities of metal, and other factors, butane is not very effective, because the flame often isn't hot enough to overcome the dissipation--I've never been able to melt copper with a butane torch. I've also not been able to melt heavy gauge copper (like 16 gauge wire) with propane, which is why I switched to MAPP). Silver is much easier to melt, as the melting point is a little lower. You can melt smaller gauges of silver wire with a butane torch (I didn't have any luck with gauges heavier than 22 though using butane. I kind of think butane is a joke unless you're lighting a cigar. In which case I'll be in the other room with the window open.)
The element on an electric stove, set on high, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 550°C. A Bunsen burner produces a flame of about 1570°C. Natural gas, typically used in gas stoves in the United States, is about 1950°C on room air. (The effective temps of these flames apparently can be lower than this in real-life situations--flame temperatures quoted in data sheets and such refer to "perfect" conditions where no heat loss due to environmental factors is assumed.) Lightning, by contrast is 30,000°C. You should stay away from lightning.
I myself have an electric range (pictured above). I thought I would see what the element set on high would do to a 22 gauge copper disc.
I placed my copper disc on the cold burner,
cranked up the burner to high and let the disc sit there for a while. I dunno, 10 minutes?
It turned a little reddish. Another larger disc I did before was glowing dark orange, maybe I left it on there longer? Or maybe the other disc was a thinner gauge.
I let the burner cool down and removed the disc with my tongs. I ran it under cold water to make sure it was cool enough to handle. You will have sooty fire scale on it which will need to be removed with a pickling solution. You can use a mixture of household white vinegar and salt for that--just pour some vinegar into a little cup, just enough to cover your metal, put about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt in there, toss your metal in, swirl it around a bit and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. Then rinse it off and rub some baking soda on it to neutralize it, and scrub with steel wool. Should be good to go then. (The salt is important, the vinegar alone doesn't seem to do the job.) No pickle pot needed for this procedure! This is low tech stuff for us working poor.
The heating from the electric element did indeed soften the copper. Not as much as with a torch where you get it glowing bright orange, but I could bend the disc with my fingers whereas before I could not. It took the texture from my half crown coin easier than non-annealed metal. (See top photo). Obviously, this will work for wire too. Many intricate wire projects are much easier to do with annealed wire. (I have tried annealing nickel with my MAPP torch, to no effect. It did not noticeably soften it. Annealing red brass, which I prefer to yellow brass, produces a pink discoloration, from drawing the copper content to the surface, which I have never successfully been able to remove, even with commercial pickle, so I don't recommend annealing either of these metals.)
You should be able to get it even softer if you have a gas range, as the flame is much hotter than an electric element. You should be able to get it glowing orange. (Always be careful with flame and heat--even metal that doesn't look hot may still be very hot and burn you.) You will need some long steel, insulated tongs or pliers for that, something with a good gripping tip so you don't drop your metal, and insulated because the heat will travel to the handle and possibly burn you.
You might even be able to make a sterling silver headpin in your gas stove flame, although it would be challenging because the flames are oriented vertically. If you try it, you'll know what I'm talking about. If anybody has ever tried that, tell us about it!
So you see, all you torch virgins out there, you can still anneal your metal to an extent for stamping and texturing, even if you don't yet have a torch. Or even a gas stove.
I have a big bag of money from around the world--some of it I collected on my own travels, and some of it my mom gave me. I've hung on to it for years. Wouldn't it be cool, I thought, to use some of these coins in a piece of jewelry? But alas, I lacked the patience to drill them. (This is why I need a drill press.) So they languished in a drawer. I ran across them again yesterday, and pulled them out and pawed through them for a while, reminiscing, and put them away again.
Today I decided it was time to seriously work on my inventory for the little component shop I have in mind. I started working on some charms with some wire weaving, idly thinking about what a pain in the ass etching is and how beat up my brass texture sheets are and isn't there anything lying around the house somewhere that I could use to pound a cool texture---
OH MY GOD. THE COINS.
I leapt up, the Metal Muse on my tail. I was driven now.
I furiously dug in the drawer for the bag of coins, hauled them out and dumped them on the living room floor (where I do my hammering, hunched over like a Balinesian basket maker.) I pawed hungrily through them, looking for patterns, lettering, borders...
I found some with intriguing, intricate patterns and decided what I would do.
I annealed my copper pieces in the torch (until they glowed orange), quenched, pickled and cleaned them.
I took the first one, and positioned it atop a coin:
I fastened it in place with painter's tape:
Then I pounded the crap out of it with various hammers (with the coin underneath my copper shape), first with my really big one, then a little tapping in the center with my chasing hammer to make sure the center of the design was deeply impressed in the metal.
I did a bunch more with the more artistic looking coins:
The coins I eventually chose were from Japan, South Africa, Mexico, Swaziland and a bunch of British coins that I think my grandmother might have picked up on a vacation somewhere--the British ones are all from the late 50s and early 60s. The designs on them are fabulous! The beauty of these coins is how tough they are--they really take a beating! And they don't really cost anything.
I like how the copper shapes look almost like relics--like those misshapen coins you see brought up from sunken ships.
These will be destined for clasps, focals, connectors, and maybe even a little pair of earrings. I might attempt a little patina embellishment on them.
I bit the bullet this weekend and created some new pieces. A recent Etsy post has been really helpful--Artist Noah Scalin shared some tips for getting your creativity flowing. His first tip was "Let Go of Preciousness." He explained: "One of the biggest creative stumbling blocks is our need to get things right. Believe me, I’m a perfectionist myself, so I know how hard it is to let that go. The reality is that treating your creations as precious little things to protect keeps you from the world of possibilities the comes from trying new things out, making mistakes, and getting things wrong." I wrote "Let Go of Preciousness" on a sticky note and put it in my wallet.
I am the absolute worst about agonizing over every little detail in a piece, as if somehow every little detail has to feel exactly right or the whole piece will be a failure. Pretty silly, there really is no "right"--tomorrow I'll feel different about that little detail anyway so might as well just stick some stuff together and move on. The pendant below features a focal of pink fire agate (it so reminds me of pink champagne), lampwork in encased khaki by Kelley Wenzel, and more lampwork in pale coral pink and sherbet from The Spacer Shop.
I finished two other pieces I had been wanting to make with this same front toggle closure. The focal on this one is a festive "fiesta bead" from Indonesia (via Happy Mango Beads)--it makes me think of summer and margaritas!
The toggle is made from heavy gauge sterling silver, and the connector rings attaching the cotton cording are nickel silver wrapped in sterling. The focal bead is about 60mm long--great size for a focal.
This last one is an idea I've been working on--I had done a prototype earlier with a green button, but I needed to tweak it a little. This one has a clear button of recycled glass from Happy Mango Beads, with a circle of art paper underneath that I sealed with several coats of decoupage medium. It's fastened to a copper base with ball headpins.
The beads include moukaite, mint green glass discs from Happy Mango Beads, and rosy lampwork from The Spacer Shop. Hand-dyed ribbon from Jamn Glass.
I'm waiting for the weather to warm up so I can do a trial run with resin. Sounds like I need to put about 10 more coats of Mod Podge on my art paper before I can do that step. Oy. Not sure if I'll have the patience.
This was my very first Bead Soup! Many people know I don't like being told what to do (so I rarely do things like color challenges or kickboxing classes), so this was a real stretch--not only being told what colors to use, but what ACTUAL BEADS to use. Good thing my partner was Donna Millard! She sent me some fabulous lampwork, and some great accompaniments for them. I don't usually go for bright colors, but I had admired this set of beads in Donna's shop, and bless her heart she sent them to me!
Here's a picture of the raw materials from Donna (lampwork spacers and large tablets, Czech glass flowers, vintage tin discs, beadcaps and connectors, a brass toggle clasp, lucite flowers in various colors, and metallized plastic coppertone beads.)
There was more than enough to make a few pieces. I started with a necklace, and decided copper would go nicely with both the orange and the aqua in the lampwork beads.
The little lampwork spacers Donna sent with the large tablets were, of course, perfect accents, so I used those, and threw in a few favorite copper beads, some of my own copper beadcaps, and the vintage tin caps, linking all together with copper wire. The Czech glass flowers in aqua were just perfect to dangle from the lampwork focal, along with a copper flower charm. I just happened to have some fabulous hand-dyed silk ribbon in lime green, which tied in the lucite flower in lime. I added some rectangular link chain, and that was that!
Next I thought I would do a bracelet. I used essentially the same elements as for the necklace, minus the copper beads:
I created a toggle clasp with the focal bead, and again used the lampwork spacers, tin beadcaps, lime lucite flower, Czech flowers, silk ribbon and carnelian. I also added a little verdigris patina beadcap by Shannon LeVart on top of a faceted round of red agate. I strung the beads on Beadalon in "satin copper", with tiny emerald green seed beads in between to give some drape between the beads.
Next I decided I would try some earrings with the little tin discs, combining them with some patinated copper rings by Shannon LeVart, and seed beads. The vintage floral design adds a nice touch!
I also wanted to do some earrings with the tin beadcaps. I ran out of the lampwork spacers, so I pawed through my stash to find some gemstones that would work. These green aventurine roundels below were just the right shade of mint green--like a lighter version of the kelly green in the lampwork. I mixed them up with tiny turquoise heishi, and hand-formed copper earwires embellished with bright turquoise blue seed beads.
I'm so tickled to have a few of the wonderful focal beads left. I can't wait to use them again!
Be sure to visit the other Bead Soup participants!