Monday, March 30, 2015

Open Heart Ring Surgery



A customer wanted this ring changed .

She didn’t like the ruby anymore.



Open heart surgery.

I didn't actually know whether it would work, but I figured that if I totally screw up the ring, I can always make a new ruby ring.

It would have been actually better if I made the new ring from scratch, but she doesn’t want that.

It has to be the old ring or nothing.



The things I do for the rent.


I had to make a new base for the emerald tube.


Then fit the tube in and solder it up.

Once it was all soldered in I soldered the inner ring in so that the emerald would sit at the correct height.



And once all that was done I set the emerald.

This emerald cab weighs 8 carats and it’s a piece of mediocrity with green camouflage.

I absolutely dislike stones like this, not because it’s ugly, but because it is so delicate.

It’s riven internally with fractures and the slightest misstep during setting and POW, it becomes fish tank gravel.

Of course, as soon as that happens, the stones becomes a family heirloom worth millions and guess who is at the sharp end?

Anyway all's well that ends well and now the only potential hiccup on the horizon is if she actually likes it.



I attract various animals to our shop.

Some ducks came walking past so Anne took a picture of me feeding them.



And every day I feed the pigeons.

They come to the window and peck on it to let me know that they would like breakfast to be served.

So I put some seed out on the street.

This does not go down well with the local populace.

They don’t like birds.

Feathered rats and all that but who cares---I like birds.


It’s the first Moto GP weekend.

We are prepared.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Polish and the Baron.



A goldsmith buddy of mine gave me a stick of this polish the other day.

I always like trying out new products.

Especially polish, because no matter how well you finish off a piece of jewellery, the polish can screw it up completely—and easily too.

So when ever I try a new polish I take two weeks of work to check it out.

I have a corner of my supply cupboard that is piled with abandoned polishing soap bars, because most polishes suck.

Sucking includes waxy oily polish.

Is not soap soluble.

Leaves a hard residue.

This one does none of that.

Very quick cutting action, but at a rouge level.

In other words, if you really want to you can take a 220 grit finish and in one fell swoop it’s rouge.



This is admittedly pushing it, but a charged buff makes it go from 220 grit in the middle, to rouge on the right in one firm push.

If you touch the stick once more to the buff and polish at 90ยบ it’s done.

I have used Unipol blue polish for a long time, and it’s a very good .

One thing I tried out is to take my thumb, wet it with dishwashing liquid and then rub it on the bar of polish.

The orange one starts dissolving, and blue one that I have, doesn’t.

The orange one cleans off the piece easily and it figures, because it’s more easily soap soluble.


I cut some off a bar and put it in a heated brass little dish I had made.


It doesn’t run like wax though.

You got to press it into shape.


Like this.

For my hanging motor mandrels on my desk.




There was this guy with his young ‘teen daughter sitting next to him who parked this Porsche outside the other day.

I refuse to point out the young daughters influence.

She climbs out with dad.

He is wearing a sort of “I fly Aircraft” type scarf.


With a kind of Manfred von Richthoffen  cap.


The daughter is wearing camo pants and a Tinker bell type top, so I rest my case.

They were gone for quite a while and people would stop and stare at this car, and discuss the stickers on it.

With bemusement.

And faint distaste.

There were sometimes ten people gathered around the car, complete strangers, all discussing the stickers.

One simply just does NOT do this to a German car of this stature.

Little did they know they all took pictures of a car that depicted  the love of a father for his daughter.

Good father, that one.




My wife’s calculator.

I also rest my case.

Sunday, February 1, 2015





I made a riveting helper.

Very simple, just a 6mm steel rod filed to a point and with a cup indentation made into it with a 2 mm ball frazer.



Close up.

I also polished the inside.


I’m just holding this with spring tweezers for the photo, because  spring tweezers are much more pretty than my hands, trust me on this one.

Anyway, now I use a small ball hammer to peen the end of the rivet over.

The cup keeps the rivet round and also stops anything from slipping and going chiiing!


The steel point just fits into a hole so I can change it out and use other sizes and shapes for different type of rivets.


Where this method works nicely is with a titanium pendant like this, because no heat can be applied and if you slip once and scratch the titanium, it’s start over factories.


Here is another one where it was used five times on one pendant.


No scratches on these earrings.



‘Ol Schpeckels likes to crawl under things.


He crackles up a storm when he’s like this.


Job packets are his best.


When he gets his head into a cup he sings at the top of his voice

Gives new meaning to the phrase “liking the sound of your own voice”

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Setting Round Gemstones in a Tube ( bezel) with a Punch.


When ever I have some round stones to set in tubes, especially many small ones, I use my concave punches to do so.

This is a method of setting round stones requires a bit of practice to get right.

Once you got the drift though, it makes for some seriously clean and neat setting.


First you got to make some concave punches.

Or buy them.

I buy those cheap center punches from hardware stores or I make them from some mild steel rod.

The front end of the center punches have to be softened by heating to orange and then allowing it to air cool.

I drill a center hole into the front and then expand the hole with the right sized ball frazer, depending on the size of the stone to be set.

So generally, say the tube I’m setting is 5mm in diameter, I will drill a 3 mm hole first quite deep into the punch.

Then I burr it out with a 6mm ball frazer until it comfortably covers the tube.

The 3 mm hole stops the table crashing into the table of the stone.

The punch on the right side shows what I am talking about clearly.

Then I polish the inside.

It’s not difficult to make a punch like this so I make one when ever a stone comes up that I don’t have a size of.

On the left of the picture is a punch for 1.5mm stones and on the right is one that is 10mm in diameter.

The tube that the stone is set in can be parallel or tapered towards the bottom.

The first thing is to use a ball frazer to seat the stone into the tube.


In this picture, I am showing the 7 mm ball frazer that is used to seat a 6.5mm stone.


Here is the stone in a tube showing the level, or height that is has to be sunk into.

Note the height of the table of the stone is just above the height of the top of the tube.

This is important and requires some practice.

Too high and the stone pops out and too low and too much metal covers the stone.


Now just to make things a bit more difficult by way of illustration, I cut a small piece off an iron nail and drilled a hole through it and then I used a 3.5mm ball frazer and prepared the stone seat.

The nail has a 4mm diameter.


Here is a close up.


And then I put an emerald in, nice and level.

As any setter knows emeralds dustify very easily and iron is very hard compared to gold or silver.

So breaking this emerald should be very easy.


The first firm tap, somewhat harder than I would use with gold and silver, settles the stone in and then it is also good to check the level and height of the stone.

Then if all is well, a second firm tap gets it set—unbroken.

Don’t worry, this was just an example of how a delicate stone can be set in hard metal.

To remove the emerald intact, I leave it in my pickle solution ( sodium-bi-sulphate) for a couple of days and the iron dissolves away.


This is a 2.5mm silver tube where the emerald is still too high.

If you tap this one, the emerald will pop upwards and not set correctly..


Here the emeralds is at the correct height but the table is still skew.

If the tube is tapped now, the emerald will also set skew.


This was after the first tap.

Note the emerald has shifted and is not straight anymore.

This is because there is a ‘bounce’ and so the stone must first be leveled out again.


And in fact still falls out easily.

So now the next tap will tighten the stone without any bounce.



And here is the tube after the second tap .

Note how the angle around the emerald is pre shined because the inside of the punch was polished.

( And just for the gemologically inclined, this emerald comes from the Sandawana mine in Zimbabwe, and the tremolite needle inclusions can be clearly seen in the center of the table).

These close up pictures are taken with a jewellers loupe held up close to my camera lens.


Here are all the three samples set and finished.


Here is a real life example where I am setting a 7mm CZ into a silver domed ring.


I use a ball punch to support the tube at the bottom

If one put the ring into a setting block, it would have to be filled with wax or thermo-plastic, otherwise it would be likely to deform.




Here is another ring being set.



Tube is ready to be tapped.


The finished ring and matching wedding band.

These pictures were taken from an upcoming tutorial I am working on that shows how to make these rings step by step.

This method of setting is of course not suitable for very expensive stones.

There is a danger of breaking the stone, especially at first when the ‘feel’ of the punch is not developed yet.

So setting your mother’s blue colour change garnet from Madagascar is not advised

But where I use it a lot is to tube set small gemstones in the one to three millimeter range.

And anyway, I only set stones in this manner that I can replace easily.

Eventually though, it becomes easy and very quick and very neat.

And with diamonds, if I am fabricating a ring that requires small tubes, I set the diamonds into the tube first and then solder the tube into place.

Except for platinum, diamonds can take gold and silver soldering heat easily.

This blog post will be posted on my tutorial page as a free tutorial.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Antikythera-- the Mother of Dragons.


This post, to correlate the journey of making her.


When ever I start a big project like this, I am always reckless at the beginning.


The reason is that it’s easy to start over at the start.

Not much time lost.


I bought some clay, six kilo’s to be exact, just to see what the body proportions would be.

It was much fun carrying it two kilometers back to my workshop.

Note to self: buy plasticine next time.


Then I carved some legs out of purple carving wax after making the shapes out of cardboard first.


The legs would be sand cast, then rejected and later  re-made.


The neck and head was carved out of two pieces that were temporally joined and the cut apart later.

That way I carve a three dimensional object that is easy to split in half when it is finished.


These were sand cast and soldered together.

In this project, I wanted to move strongly into carving wax and sand casting it, instead of fabricating everything as I have done in previous projects.

Frankly, if I could have peered into the future, I would have carved them in greater detail and then spin cast them.


Here I have re done the legs and soldered some claws on.

The neck is just stuck on with double sided tape at this stage.


The tail was a lot of work.

It would eventually have 32 garnets set into it.

It also spawned a new manner of riveting an overlay onto it.

That was the first of three new techniques that this project taught me.

See here for my dead end rivet post.


But the most work were the wings.

I made 3 different versions, until I finally settled on this design.


Setting them up and getting them aligned and in proportion proved an exercise in patience.


With a complex project like this one needs the ‘big match’ mentality.


What I mean by that is that every new component must just be regarded as that—a new component.


Like the mane here.

In other words, don’t think about the end, just focus on finishing what you are busy with now.


Slowly more components are added.


The tail, prior to being engraved, with 32 garnets first set in silver tubes and then the tubes set into the tail.

The copper was affixed using  dead end rivets

IMG_1513 (2)

The head fins were made out of four pieces of carved brass with copper sandwiched between them.


I wanted to make realistic looking scales.

At first I thought of making tiny pieces of metal and overlapping then but this proved not to be practical on such a large scale.

I custom made myself a concave engraver and messed around trying to engrave scales, until I got to this effect.

So the second new technique that this project taught me was how to raise scales in metal.

IMG_1529 (2)

I added silver horns and set the eyes and engraved the piece slowly.

Now is the time when I am not reckless anymore.

It is very easy to choose a wrong avenue and then many things have to be re made.

The eyes, it is always the eyes that make or break a piece.



Here Antikythera in about 90% finished and the time came to make a display platform for her.

Most of her was stabilized with Ceramix, which was the third technique that this project caused me to learn.


The basic platform was started out of wood.


The basic wooden frame with the copper it will be clad in at the bottom.


Then I beat it around the wooden frame and I use a oxy propane torch to heat it red hot at the same time.


It burns the wood something fierce and smells awful.

So before I close everything up I douse the wood with eucalyptus oil and then it smells nice again.

Easy paesy…..


Then I made a brass ‘dish’ and pierced out kind of teeth looking spike things.


Ta da, moving in the direction I want.


The jewel holder head scratching time.

I liked the quartz but nothing else survived the elimination process.

The paper design was engraved onto a brass plate but it looked to frilly so it was discarded.


Everything still sucked.

The snakes I made were to aggressive.


This is all the different design ideas and attempts. all of them were rejected except the one on the bottom right, which was used after some serious modification.


Only the pillars and the crystal survived this attempt.


Slowly moving forward


I quite liked the jewel holder, but man the dragons sucked.


I re carved the baby dragon and then tried to sand cast it but they came out awful, so I made a silicone mold of the original purple wax and injected three more.

Then I spin cast them, which gave me the detail I wanted.


After they were cast I added more metal to the base and now I felt I was getting somewhere.


Anyway, eventually all the components were finished and all the stones were cut and set and  and I could assemble everything.


Set, stabilized and engraved.

The central Quartz weighs 150 carats and all I did was to polish the bottom and leave the top natural.

Ready for the dragon themed ring that I will make.

I am going to make a lamination cut amethyst and insert a miniature carved dragon of gold into the center.

Check out an example of what I have in mind here.


She is very protective over her babies and the jewel holder.


Antikythera is a fierce dragon.


And I think she is beautiful too.