Sunday, 5 December 2010

Blue lampwork inspiration

While checking out the new lampwork beads on Little Castle Designs the other week I spotted some beads I wanted, so I ordered them.

I loved the blue colour of the beads and the swirl that Sabine (the maker) had put round the outside.

For a while I've had a long section of really nice sterling silver chain lying around the house and I've been wanting to use it for something "drapey" (if you know what I mean). So I decided Sabine's beautiful beads were ideal for putting with the chain.

I'm not sure what the official name for the type of chain is but it's a lovely spiral using very small links and I love the way it drapes when hanging from my hands so I wanted to make that drape part of the design.

I decided I'd also like to have some of the chain hanging loose as a tassle below a single bead. That led me to decide to make a pair of matching earrings also with sections of chain hanging down from them.

So these are the pieces I made:

Blue lampwork and silver
Blue lampwork and silver

I love the way the drapes on the necklave have worked out. I did have to swap the longer dangles I had on the necklace for the drapes to get the shape I wanted, and I am now thinking that I might shorten the central dangle in the necklace tassle so that the tassle has similar proportions to the dangles on the earrings. But I haven't really decided yet.

For now I think I'll leave them alone and wear them for a few days to see how they work. Also, to make sure that they don't all fall apart while being worn - don't want that to happen if someone ever buys them.

Until next time

Thursday, 18 November 2010

What have I been up to?

It's obviously been a few weeks since I last posted here so I thought I'd drop in and leave a note for anyone who is interested.

Just after I last posted I went to California for a 2 week holiday. It was a good break to have as work (the day job as opposed to the hobby of making jewellery) has been a bit up and down in terms of good/bad feelings.

My brother and his family live in California so the main purpose of the visit was to see the family and catch up on gossip etc.

The weather while in California was slightly disappointing as it rained quite a lot, especially at weekends which did put paid to some of the family oriented outings, but at least it was warmer than the UK while raining.

But being inside so much did mean that the catch up on gossip went rather well. Large amounts of food and a moderate amount of wine were consumed over the break.

Anyway, I came back from California at the end of October.

Since then I've been looking for (and failing to find) inspiration for working with the silver clay or doing any other type of jewellery related work.

This was a bit of a problem for a while as I'm involved in a Secret Santa on a jewellery forum and the gift has to be posted by 7th December!

I have now managed to decide what I want to make for my Secret Santa recipient and have even started on the making of said gift, but it's not finished yet.

I won't be posting any photos of the Secret Santa gift until after I know it has been received - I just hope it is liked when it arrives.

And, of course, I can't wait to see what is made for me by who ever was matched with me. I tried to say something useful  about the kind of things I like/dislike (as we were asked to do) but really, I'll be happy with pretty much anything. It's just nice to get a special gift at Christmas!

Anyway, that's enough waffling for today.

Until the next time

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Silver clay course - the results!

On Sunday I attended a course on using silver clay (precious metal clay) to make things (technical term there).

This is the second time I've attended a course held by Nic of Murano Silver and it was even more fun this time around as I've played with silver clay in the gap between courses.

This time I wanted to tackle 3 particular tasks: making and using moulds of buttons; setting stones; and bails for hanging from.

Nic was able to fit my requests into the course nicely without taking too much time away from the other two ladies who were there.

As I was there a short while before the others arrived we were able to look at mould making and using before they arrived so that was good.

We then started the course by making a two piece framed pendant (top left in the photo below) before Nic showed me how to set a 3 mm stone into the eye of the fish using a drill bit about the size of the stone.

The other stone in the 3rd pendant was set into a hole that was slowly carved by hand as we couldn't find a drill bit that was the right size, so I'm really chuffed with that one.

Fine silver charms
The 2 piece framed pendant has a textured background and a tiny heart charm that has been attached to the front.

Until next time

Saturday, 2 October 2010

White Oak Jewellery website is live!

I've gone and done it - finally. Yesterday I paid for hosting space for the domain name and this morning (at the horrendous time of 7 am) I uploaded the site.

Okay, I have to admit, it didn't work first time, but then it is the first time I've ever uploaded a website to the net so a few teething problems are to be expected.

But it is up and running now so I'm pleased with myself over that.

Now to figure out how to tell Google etc about the site and get them to start paying attention to it.

Then, one day it will hopefully start appearing on people's search results - although I know that will a lot more work on my part before it happens. Just 'cos the website is "out there" doesn't mean anyone can find it! That much I do know.

Full Persian bracelet

The other day I blogged about the full persian bracelet I had made - turns out it wasn't the full persian weave after all - I hadn't followed the instructions as closely as I should have done. But, by accident, I had made a Box Weave bracelet instead - I guess that is how new weaves are found/created.

Anyway, full persian or box, I still like the bracelet.

But it now means I can have another go at the full persian weave at some point - I'll just have to remember to pay a lot more attention to the instructions and accompanying photos.

Until next time

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Finished fine silver charms and chain maille

Finished fine silver charms

The last post talked about the fine silver charms I was making from moulds of buttons and I said I'd post a photo of the finished, polished charms, so here they are after they've been tumbled:

Finished charms
I'm rather pleased with the way the charms turned out, although if you look closely enough, you'll probably spot the finger prints!

Weekends and chain maille

The last couple of weekends I've found time and inclination to saw jump rings and make chain maille.

Last weekend I used 0.8 mm sterling silver wire to make 144 jump ringswith an inner diameter of 4 mm - I wanted to try the Half Persian 3 in 1 chain maille weave. It took me a couple of hours to make the jump rings, but that's what films on DVD are for.

Once I'd made the jump rings I turned my hand to the weave and made a bracelet that ended up 7.5" or 19 cm long and used up 90 of the jump rings I'd made. I finished the bracelet with one of my s-clasps and 2 larger rings made from 1.5 mm wire with an inner diameter of 4.5 mm. The larger rings were attached to the bracelet using 4 jump rings made from 0.8 mm wire but this time with a 3 mm inner diameter.

So, here is the finished piece:

Sterling silver half persian 3 in 1 bracelet
Today I made some more 0.8 mm jump rings with a 4 mm inner diameter - then I used the ones I made last week with the new batch and made a Full Persian weave bracelet.

This bracelet is 7.25" or 18 cm long and contains 176 of the 4 mm jump rings I made last week and today. It is slightly shorter than the length I prefer for a bracelet but since I've used up all my 0.8 mm sterling silver wire it will have to do. It does fasten around my wrist but there is not a lot of space so it doesn't drape well. I finished it off for now to see if it would fit my wrist and to see how it would look. So I used my usual s-clasp, 1.5 mm rings of 4.5 mm inner diameter and a couple of the smaller 3 mm 0.8 mm rings to hold the larger loops to the weave and allow the s-clasp and larger rings to lie on the same alignment (it makes it easier to close and lies more comfortably against the skin). So here's a photo:
Full Persian bracelet
Until I buy more sterling silver 0.8 mm wire (and 1 mm wire as I've finished that too) I can't make any more sterling silver chain maille items. So maybe I'll concentrate on something else.

More likely, I'll buy more wire when pay day arrives.

Until another time

Friday, 24 September 2010

Finally made fine silver charms from button moulds

I few posts back I showed pictures of some buttons and the moulds I had taken from them to be able to make fine silver charms from using precious metal clay (PMC).

Last night I finally got around to making the charms. And this morning I fired them using my gas hob - a smelly job as the binder in the PMC burnt off but at least its finally done.

Here's a photo of the moulds with the unfired clay charms:

Moulds with unfired charms
 I then used a pair of tiny drill bits to drill a hole in each charm, the smaller bit first and then a slightly larger bit to widen the hole. Later I will put jump rings through these holes so that the charms can be hung on bracelets or necklaces.

After firing, PMC has been changed to fine silver but it is covered with a white crust that needs to be removed to be able to see the silver, in the photo below, the fish charm in the top right corner has been cleaned with a wire brush and water to remove the white crust. The other 3 charms have not yet been cleaned.

Fired charms
Tonight I will clean the last 3 charms of the crust and then tumble them with steel shapes to polish them further. I'll post a photo of the polished charms next time.

Until next time

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Website development

Last December I bought myself two domain names. and

The intention was that within a few months of buying the domains I would have a website that show cases my jewellery up and running on the Web.

At that point I wasn't thinking in terms of selling the jewellery I put up photos of, but more of just having a place on the web where I could sent friends etc to see that kind of thing I make and what I'd been doing with my spare time recently. It would be a lot easier to put up a site of photos than lug the box of finished items around with me when visiting - especially given the weight involved - or at least, that's what I thought.

When I mentioned my plans to friends, more than one of them said "what's the point of the site then, you should be putting prices up in case people are interested". Which complicated the whole process of course 'cos it meant I had to find a way of quickly pricing everything I make so that I have a "reasonable" price on them.

So first, I made a spreadsheet of the list of things I'd made and started trying to put calculations in to generate the prices. This was slow work as such actions are not something I'm particularly good at. But I had some prices.

So I started building a website from scratch. In theory, the day job (computer programmer using Visual Studio 2008 and building browser based applications) would help enormously.

Of course, what really happened was I quickly found that my short period of exposure to Visual Studio etc (about 2 months at that point) really did not provide me with enough knowledge of basic HTML to create a page with photos on it.

I turned to a friend for help - luckily for me, he's patient enough to repeat answers to questions even when I've asked them multiple times over various days and to read the pages I put together.

With his help, the site has grown from a single page to a set of 8 pages including terms and conditions as well as the jewellery photos. All the sterling silver items shown on the site have a price attached and each description comes with a "contact me" button so people can email me if they wish.

The photos on the site are (in my opinion) not bad considering that photography is not one of my talents. The friend who helped with the website is a keen photographer (understatement really) who has helped me learn so much more about taking a photo than I ever thought I'd know, and introduced me to functions on my camera I've never heard of before, let alone used!

It was the same friend who looked over my shoulder at my pricing spreadsheet and started asking questions that started with the words "why don't you...." - at which point I gratefully asked for his help and the resulting pricing spreadsheet was born. A spreadsheet into which I type a few simple pieces of information, e.g. how long it took to make, how many of each size and material of jump ring was involved and a few other bits. And then the spreadsheet produces me either a trade or retail price depending on my input. It makes my life so much simpler now when it comes to pricing everything even if I do have to keep it all up to date myself.

Anyway, the point of this blog post is, that 9 months after I bought my two domain names I am on the verge of uploading my first ever website. I'm currently waiting until on/after 1st October to organise a company to host the site - that way the relevant monthly direct debit payments are due shortly after pay day from the day job so I can afford to pay it.

So, hopefully in the next week or two I'll be able to announce the launch of my site. Here is a glimpse of the home page I'll be loading up.

Screen print of my home page
Then the hard work of getting it known by search engines starts, which will be a whole new learning curve.

Until next time

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Round maille bracelet

Over the last few months I've tried a few different chain maille weaves - out of curiosity to see how they work and if I can do them.

I couple of months ago I started a section of Round Maille - this is a "tube" of linked rings made from 1 mm sterling silver wire where the rings have an inner diameter (ID) of 3 mm. It was fun to do and grew quite fast as there are only 3 rings in each "round" of the tube - but it takes a lot of rings. In fact, I didn't have enough rings to finish a bracelet at the time so I put it aside for a while.

Then I made some more 3 mm ID rings and finished the bracelet. It's a lot chunkier than I expected it to be and I had a problem figuring out how to attach a clasp to the end of the tube until I asked for help on a forum and was given some help.

Round maille bracelet
This bracelet contains 307 individual 3 mm ID rings. It seems to be a much more "masculine" bracelet than the other ones I have made so far, just because it is much thicker and a lot less flexible than the byzantine or helm chain weaves made with the same thickness of wire.

I'm planning on making another round maille bracelet soon, but this time I'm going to use 0.8 mm wire and the rings will have an inner diameter of 2.75 mm - this should produce a narrower, less chunky, bracelet which may be more suitable for a women to wear.

Until another time

Monday, 6 September 2010

Changing my mind - maybe

In the last post I showed you the lamp work bead I had bought that reminded me of a framed seaside sunset.

I showed photos of the piece on a forum, and one of the members commented that it made her think of a window into another universe showing the swirls of gas clouds! And when I look at the bead again I can see exactly what she means.
Seaside sunset or View on a universe?
Of course, people always talk about how an image can seem different to different viewers and I guess this is a case in point. I see it now as both a seaside sunset (one of my favourite scenes) but also as an amazing view of a galaxy similar to some of the amazing pictures that are produced from the images that the Hubble telescope and others take.

Whether it is ultimately a sunset or a galaxy will be up to the person who finally owns this piece. If different people own it over time, then what it shows may also change over time. Isn't the human mind amazing too!

Until later

Friday, 3 September 2010

Seaside sunset in a lampwork bead

Recently I bought some lampwork beads from Annalyse Taylor who is one of my favourite bead makers. There were 7 beads in the group but all were different.

One of the beads looked to me as if it had a framed picture of a seaside sunset in it so I decided to try and mirror the "framing" using silver wire. This is side 1 the result which is currently hanging from a simple silver belcher chain. What do you think?

Side 1
 And this is side 2, they are a bit different.
Side 2
I'm pleased with the way the silver frame worked out even it is a bit more rustic than my mental picture was.

Bye for now

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Can't decide what to do

I'm having a period of time where I have lots of ideas in mind for things to make - I just can't decide what to do first!

I'm glad that I've got a lot of ideas going, but just wish I could settle to something.

Last night I got really fed up with myself and made myself sit down and do one thing, so I thought I'd tell you about it.

Moulding compound
The first task was to use some two part moulding compound to make moulds of 3 buttons I bought while I was away on holiday. The idea of making moulds from buttons was given to me by the wonderful Nic of Murano Silver with whom I have done one course on using Precious Metal Clay (PMC) and I can't wait for the next course I have booked with her in October this year. The moulding compound I use comes in 2 parts, as you can see from the pots in the photo, I don't have much left of these pots.

You take equal amount of each of the compounds and using your fingers work the two pieces of compound together until you end up with a light blue mixture. While the compound is still soft (and it doesn't stay that way for more than a few minutes) you press a button (or other object you want an impression of) into the compound and then leave it to set. I learnt recently that you can keep working the compound in your fingers, but when it's ready to set it will set - I overworked a piece because it was just so squidgy and fun to play with, at least until it turn rock solid between my fingers and had to go in the bin.

This is my favourite of the buttons that I wanted to mould and the mould that I made from it last night.
Heart button and mould
And here is a picture of all the moulds I have made recently.
Moulds of buttons
Once I get my act together I will use some PMC that I have already bought and use the moulds to make fine silver charms. PMC (or ArtClay) can be used to "sculpt" items in a way similar to clay and then when they are fired (in a kiln, with a torch or on a gas hob) the "binder" that they contain burns off and leaves behind a solid fine silver item. The moulds can be used many times so here is one of my favourite buttons with it's mould.
Swirl button and mould
And here are the 3 pieces I have made (so far) based on the button's mould.
Swirl button and moulded charms

On one of the charms above I remembered to drill a hole for a jump ring to be threaded through before I fired the piece on the gas hob (I don't own a kiln, although I'd really like one!) for the other two I forgot to drill a hole so will need to find another way to attach them to chains. The charm in the lower left of the photo has had a small cubic zirconia gem set into it - although the gem isn't very straight unfortunately. As you can see from the photo above the final charms are smaller in size than the original button, this is because when the binder burns off the piece shrinks slightly in size.

Until another time

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Holiday over!

I've just had a weeks holiday from work - but now that I'm back I feel like all my work related knowledge has been blown away along with the cobwebs. Ah well, I'm sure it'll all come dribbling back over time.

Why is it that going away for a holiday leaves me feeling like I need a break? I know, rhetorical question that one.

Anyway, while I was away I visited family and friends in various places and showed them some of the jewellery I've been making recently.

So far the responses have all be positive, with a couple of very useful questions being posed to, which was great.

Mental note to self - finish the website and get it up and running! That's the plan for the next month and so I'll see how it goes. Just got to finish the terms and conditions section of the site.

More another time

Friday, 13 August 2010

More helm chain with beads

n the last post I mentioned I had made a pendant and earrings to match the sterling silver helm chain bracelet with red beads I showed a photo of. The earrings and pendant are made from 1 mm sterling silver wire. The larger rings have a 6 mm inner diameter while the smaller rings have an inner diameter of 3.25 mm.

Sterling silver helm chain pendant

As you can see, on the pendant it made more sense to me to place all the beads around the outside of the pendant.

Sterling silver helm chain earrings

But with the earrings I decided to stagger two beads and then used a single smaller jump with bead at the bottom of the earring to hold the lowest two large loops shut, until I did that, the lower two loops had a habit of opening and allowing the bead above them to slide down.
The pendant is hung from two sections of belcher chain using 2 small jump rings. I decided that hang the pendant from two points rather than one gave a better display of the piece as hanging from one link caused the pendant to elongate into an oval shape rather than a circle. This is because the gaps between rings are slightly larger than one that would allow the pendant to hold a circle shape - but when I tried using jump rings with an inner diameter of 3 mm instead of 3.25 mm I could not get the elements together so had to go back to the 3.25 mm inner diamter smaller rings. The two rings holding the pendant to the chain are actually only 3 mm innner diameter as I did not want them to be really obvious and get in the way of seeing the pendant.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Car insurance and helm chain!

It's car insurance renewal time - last year I'm sure it cost me £450 plus and this year they want £550 from me! I know they keep saying that premiums have to go up 'cos of uninsured drivers being a problem, but this is stupid. Time to look around for alternatives, and maybe time to stop insuring the fancy 'extras' I had put on the car (e.g, the body kit and posh alloys). But it was useful when I had the only accident I've ever had and one of the side skirts was damaged - it got replaced along with the doors.

Anyway, back to jewellery talk.

Having made the helm chain bracelet I showed you last time, I decided to try my hand at helm chain with beads as I was sure I'd seen something about it somewhere. This is what I came up with as a bracelet

The bracelet was made using jump rings I created from 0.8 mm sterling silver wire. The jump rings have 3 mm and 5 mm inner diameters. I decided to stagger the beads as I felt it looked better than them all being on the same side.

Of course, because I loved the way it turned out I couldn't stop there and make some earrings and a pendant to compliment the bracelet.

Photos and details of them next time.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

A charm bracelet and the first helm chain

Earlier this year I was asked by a friend how much it would cost for me to make a charm bracelet for her daughter's 18th birthday present.

I quoted a price of £50 ish and she agreed that I could go ahead. We agreed that I'd make a byzantine weave bracelet with 6 places to attach charms on it. She already had one charm to attach but it would leave space for more in the future.

Sterling silver byzantine charm bracelet
This photo shows a similar bracelet to that of the one I produced for the friend's daughter. And, luckily for me, the price of the bracelet for the friend was £55 at the time of making, so I think I'm getting better at pricing items.

After spending the last year using mainly byzantine weave in my jewellery I decided it was time to try a few more weaves. There are numerous books out there but none that is considered the 'definitive' chain maille book, instead the best sources of inspiration and instructions are found on the World Wide Web. There I found instructions for a number of different weaves, all of which I like the idea of completing, and so I'm working through some different ones.

Here is a helm chain weave bracelet that I made recently in sterling silver using 1mm thick wire. For this project I made my own jump rings, there are 2 sizes used in the helm weave and I chose to use rings with an inner diameter of 3.5 mm and 6 mm. This weave involves the 'capture' of some of the rings meaning that the captured rings are held between two layers of rings but are not actually through any of the other rings themselves.
Sterling silver helm chain bracelet
This weave hangs well on the wrist and the bracelet is 19.5 cm (7.7") long which is a comfortable length for me.

Next time, clasps!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Pricing - how high / how low

Having made the sterling silver byzantine weave and amethyst bead necklace for my friend and priced it at £50 I wanted to know if I had priced it correctly or not.

About the same time as I'd been looking for sources of sterling silver jump rings etc to make the necklace I had revistied the website for CooksonGold which is a company which sells a huge variety of goods to jewellery makers. I had opened an account with them back when I did my silversmithing course and was slightly surprised to find that the account still existed even if it hadn't been used for years. I bought the sterling silver wire I needed from Cookson. While I was looking at their site I saw an announcement for their recently started forum and decided to sign up.

It just happened that just after I had given a provisional price for the necklace to my friend, a discussion about pricing started up on the CooksonGold forum and gave beginners like myself a huge amount of useful information about how to go about pricing items for sale.

After a bit of research through a few books and online I settled on a pair of formulae for pricing that I was happy to use. As I am not expecting to be a full time jeweller and have to pay my mortgage from my earnings, the formulae for pricing were a bit simpler than if I was giving up the day job. The formulae I chose of follow include one for a trade price and one for a retail price and are given below:

Trade price: (((price of materials + price of hallmarking) x 1.25) + a labour charge) + 10% of the total as profit margin

The retail price is calculated in a similar way except that instead of multiplying by 1.25, the total cost of materials plus hallmarking is multiplied by 2.

When I plugged the details of the sterling silver and amethyst necklace into these formulae I found that the trade price should have been £63 and the retail price should have been £88.50 - I guess my friend got even more of a bargain than I thought she did!

You live and learn, as the saying goes. So when the friend in question asked me to make her a bracelet in a similar style to the necklace I did and quoted her a price of £45 on the grounds that she'd got a good deal on the necklace. She was happy with the bracelet costing her £45 and admitted that she thought that the necklace was low in price.

I made the bracelet for her and then priced the bracelet using my formulae and found a trade price of £36.50 and a retail price of £47.00 so she still got a good deal on it too.

At the same time as we discussed making a sterling silver and amethsyt bracelet, the friend and I had discussed the idea of a matching set of earrings. I didn't tell her what I was doing and made a pair of earrings when I had finished her bracelet. I then gave her the bracelet which she was very happy with and then presented her with the earrings as a 50th birthday present as her birthday was only a few days later.

Here are the earrings and bracelet - giving her the whole set with the necklace shown in the last post.

More another time

Monday, 9 August 2010

My first sale - and the resulting piece of jewellery

Last time I ended with a comment about my first sale, so a bit more information here and the problems I found with it.

A friend saw me wearing my sterling silver and purple bead bracelet around the office and asked where I had got it. Of course, being me, I launched into a tale about how I'd made it and where the problems were and pointing out that I'd love to make a similar bracelet using sterling silver jump rings.

The friend asked if it would be possible to make a necklace in a similar style - so I said "Of course". At which piont she asked me to let her know how much it would cost to make a 16 inch necklace for her!

Wow, I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. Where to find the jump rings? How many beads to use? What about the catch to use? What about the price?

So, I calmly said, "I'll let you know when I've had a chance to price things up", then I headed back to my work computer and tried to think.

I already had an account at a company that sells silver sheet to the jewellery trade, so I was sure they'd be able to supply everything I needed. Well, I was almost right, they could supply the silver wire needed to hold the beads and whichever style of catches/clasps I wanted to use - but the jump rings they sold were not of the size I needed.So the hunt was on for jump rings in the right size. Luckily I found the web site of David Scott Plumlee (see earlier posts about his books) and he had a link to a UK based maker of jump rings! Unfortunately this company has recently gone our of business so I won't waste your time with their name.

Luckily for me the company made exactly the size of jump rings I wanted, so I ordered what I hoped would be enough rings to make the necklace.

Then I asked the friend if she would prefer amethyst beads rather than purple coloured glass ones to go with the sterlinng silver - the answer was "yes please". That was easy as I already knew a bead shop in London that sold the beads, so I paid them a visit. I wanted 9 beads - and so I picked them out and took them to the till to be told "it's cheaper if you buy a string of the beads, and you'll have more" - so I bought a string of beads with no idea how I'd use up the spares.

I then told the friend it would cost about £40 to £50 to make the necklace - I wish I'd known then what I know now about pricing, but I didn't so she was getting a bargain (more about pricing in the future).

I made the necklace for the friend. Got it hallmarked (more about that topic later) and presented it to her wrapped in acid free tissue paper and a red velveteen bag. She was thrilled, and so was I when she happily handed over £50 in cash, and here is what she got for her money:.

It's 16 inches (41 cm) long and is closed with a bolt ring clasp. It contains 9 amethyst beads which are 6 mm in diameter each as well as 284 jump rings made from 18 gauge sterling silver and with an inner diameter of 3.25 mm per ring.

More another time

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Lead up to my first sale

As I've already mentioned, I discovered chain maille last year, and that is what started my progression towards where I currecntly am with my jewellery making.
Silver jump rings

Since I discovered chain maille I've become addicted to creating pieces of chain maille jewellery using mostly my favourite Byzantine weave and more recently a few other weaves.

I have found that I really enjoy taking a pile of insignificant looking silver jump rings (like those to the right) and turning that pile of metal loops into a beautiful wearable pile of metal.

My first love is the Byzantine weave, partly because it is deceptively complicated. I find it very easy to create Byzantine weave quickly and sometimes find ways to use it that are not in the book I learnt it from. From the first pieces that I made which were copied from the book, I have enjoyed including beads of various shapes and colours into my pieces.

The first bracelet I made used silver plated jump rings I had cut myself and purple glass beads. The result looks good from a distance, but close to you can see the problems with it.

Silver plated Byzantine weave with purple beads

As you can see, the jump rings are not cut cleanly as I used half flush cuters to cut them. Half flush cutters create two different shaped faces in the cut metal, one face is flat and the other is pointed where the blades met - this causes unsightly gaps and makes it difficult to close the jump rings at times. Also, the wire sections used to hold the beads is made with much thinner wire which lookings out of place.

But I am still pleased with the results, and the fact that wearing this bracelet around the office led to my first jewellery sale.

More next time

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Finally remembered name/author of chain maille book

Having finally remembered which chain maille book I meant I thought I'd give you the details. The author is David Scott Plumlee and the first of his books is called "Chain and Bead Jewellery: techniques for creating dimensional necklaces and bracelets". He has since released a second book, and it turns out has two more in the pipeline for this year so I've just pre-ordered both of those. I really like his style of writing and his explanations / instructions I found clear enough to be able to make the items in his book on the first attempt. His website is at DavidChain Jewellery if you are interested.

The Byzantine weave bracelet I showed in the previous two posts came from his first book. As I said earlier I made nearly every piece in the first book and a few pieces from the second book. I'm interested in seeing his next two books as they appear to expand on the techniques he has already shown in the first two, as well as one of the books being about soldering jump rings. Which is something I am very eager to learn!

I have a soldering kit in the house, but so far haven't really used it except to deliberately melt some Precious Metal Clay (PMC) to see how working with it under a torch flame affected it. Melting the bit of PMC into a ball of fine silver was fun I must admit, but didn't really help with learning to solder.

Byzantine weave charm bracelet
PMC is kind of a "side interest" as I'm hoping that by working with it I can start to make fine silver charms to hang from my chain maille bracelets and necklaces.

A bracelet I was commissioned to make as the 18th birthday present for a friend's daughter was a Byzantine weave chain bracelet similar to the one shown in this photo. The larger links are available for hanging the charms from.

Until next time

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Finding chain maille for the first time

Byzantine chain maille weave bracelet
I finished my last post with this photo of a Byzantine chain maille weave bracelet that I made recently.

I have seen chain maille before, primarily used for making armour for re-enacting various battles, and once I got to try making a very basic sheet of maille from copper rings at a convention.

Last year I was looking for chain maille instruction sources on the Web, I found a few but found the instructions difficult to follow, so I kept looking. At some point I spotted a book on Amazon that looked interesting so I picked up a copy (when I remember to get the details together I'll put the name up here).

From this book I learnt about making jump rings, the basic building block of all chain maille creations, and about the Byzantine weave. From what I can tell the weave is not named for having been used in the Byzantine world, it is a much more recent creation than that.

I find that I love the Byzantine weave as it is deceptively simple (to me anyway) and it grows at a good rate when being made. I can easily sit in front of the TV and make sections with no problems.

I made nearly all the pieces of jewellery in the book from silver plated wire that I had cut into jump rings.

Those early jump rings are very rough in cut and sizing and I have since learnt that the sizing especially is very important when creating chain maille pieces as the slightest variation in size and affect the lie of the rings once woven together. Some weaves rely on an inner diameter of a ring leaving only just enough space for the other rings to fit inside so that the structure of the weave grows correctly, more about those later.

More another time

Monday, 2 August 2010

Welcome and an introduction to me!

Welcome to the first entry of my jewellery related blog.

This is a blog in which I will be commenting about my success or lack of success when making jewellery and other items.

I bit of back ground first before I get started.

About 8 years ago I was looking for my next Adult Education Course. Having already completed courses on Russian language (I never was very good at learning vocabulary so can't remember most of it), Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP, very interesting but not sure if I'll ever use it) and Woodworking for beginners (I love the cupboard I made, but I really must varnish it sometime). And having failed to complete a course on shorthand. I decided something hands on would be good as the most fun and satisfying course so far had been the woodworking one, but I was looking for something difference.

One of the courses on offer was Silversmithing for beginners. I thought that sounded different enough from my day job as a computer programmer, so signed up. The course lasted 10 week and was held in a local art centre which had fully kitted out jewellery studio. The course was interesting although some of the "begginners" were back for their 4th or 5th term it turned out. The tutor seemed to be more interested in helping the returning students with their more complex work than helping us newbies. But, even with that I made 3 items of jewellery using Silver sheet and I had fun learning to use various tools. I even got a single shot at soldering - now I really want to learn how to solder, but that's a future project.

I loved the silver smithing but knew that it was not a hobby I could continue in my tiny 2 bed semi, so I gave up on the idea of my own jewellery studio (at the time at least).

The next Adult Education course I took was Wire Wrapping. It was a one day course on a Saturday and I enjoyed it so much that I knew I'd found a new hobby - that was 5 or 6 years ago now.

Since then I've stocked up on various kinds of pliers, files and cutteres as well as various types and sizes of wire. Gold and silver plated wires were the first kinds I used and having learnt a bit about linking beads together on the wire wrapping course, I was soon making earrings and necklaces.

A number of these earrings and necklaces were given to friends - I'm not sure they all appreciated receiving my gifts, but they said nice things at the time so that was okay.

Last year I discovered a new love - chain maille working. The example below is a Byzantine weave bracelet.

Byzantine chain maille weave bracelet

I better stop now or you'll have my whole life's history to wade through. More on the chain maille I love next time.