One of my favourite way to reuse the waste from my silversmithing is to heat it into balls and pebbles. Casting is going to be next, but for instant gratification of a job well done, it’s hard to beat this.
In February 2020 I showed you how I make small stamped studs from recycled silver; this time I’m showing you the beaten studs and coordinating pebble pendants I’m just adding to my shop following a custom request earlier this month.
I love a custom request. They vary hugely, from straightforward adaptations of something I do already, to more complex requests. Often they lead me to actually create something that’s been on my mind for a while – I’ve always been someone that works best with a deadline 😉
These pebble studs and pendants are exactly that. Something I’ve made for fairs, but not got around to putting into the shop.
You remember I have a lot of offcuts? And more than one scrap pot in varying grades – the heavily contaminated scrap (filings, soldered and completed pieces that I’ve melted in error) slightly contaminated scrap (might have a little solder on it), and fresh sterling offcuts from sheet and wire.
The first two contain proper scrap that I’m keeping back to send off to a refiners, with the aim to get it recycled by them and for me to receive a small payment but the final pot of offcuts is metal I can smelt* down myself and reform into other items, safe in the knowledge that it remains 925 sterling – casting, drawing into wire or forging into sheet.
In this case I’ve made small pebbles from a tiny amount of the content of the third pot. (currently running at 280grams – far too much to allow to accumulate!
The custom request was for a pair of polished, 6mm sterling studs, as fat as possible. And then, a coordinating pendant with a flower stamped in it. Because I like to give people options, and I also knew I wanted to add these to my shops, I worked out through trial and error the correct weight of silver that needed melting to make a ball of 6mm. (It’s just under 1gram) I also made three pairs, in slightly different sizes and with differing finishes. If my customer wanted them to glitter, then the lightly beaten ones are going to do that best, and in the most interesting way.
Although the request is for them to be fat, they will sit better on the lobe if there’s a flattish back, so rather than create a rounded pit in my charcoal block, I melted the scrap on the flattish surface, then pickled the balls, and filed off the top surface to remove any excess copper or fire scale. I did that twice, which I find an effective way to ensure that I get the shape I want.
It always helps to add some borax to the process (something about it helping the metal flow and to draw out impurities**) and the reason for heating on charcoal is twofold; the carbon reduces oxidisation and fire-stain, and the charcoal holds the heat well, which speeds the process up and also makes for a ‘cleaner melt’. You can see some of the shapes I’ve carved into this block for other items I’ve melted*, including a channel for making small areas of wire.
The pebbles get a brief pickle, just to remove the worst of the oxidisation, then I file off and unevenness I don’t like, file and sand the surfaces and fling back for another pickle whilst I crack on with something else.
Once all the silver is pristine and white, I’ll drill a dent into the back of the blob, to help the earpost solder joint have as much surface area as possible, and then pickle again.
These have had 3 different finishes applied – super shiny, satin and lightly beaten. In all cases the process begins the same way – grip the earring with my parallel pliers, and give the dome a super polish with files, emery, polishing papers and the silicone burrs in my pendant motor
Then I either take the shine back down with a burr or drop the stud into my riveting block and hammer it for the dimples.
Finally a turn in the tumbler and they are done.
The principle is the same for the pendants – only these have about 3.5grams of silver and take rather more work, including more effort to be applied to the back, as on a pendant they’ll twist and the back will be visible. These I beat on the steel block, using doubled over masking tape to help them adhere thereby reducing (but not stopping!) the rapidity of them firing elsewhere round the room. I’ve learned it’s best not to try and hold stuff like this with my fingers whilst hammering!
I plan to make lots of variants of these in the next few week between my current commissions because I have an exciting, state of the art Aquaflame torch due to be delivered; this will be the perfect practice project
*deliberate melting is smelting, and rarely creates the cursing that usually emanates from my workshop when I melt something 🙂
**I’m an alchemist now ***
***apologies for gratuitous Doctor Who reference
ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of genuine scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful or useful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Email Kate at the address on her Contact Me page.
You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. It’s a really welcoming group of creatives. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of them know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.
Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at). This month, we are once again welcoming new members to the group: say hello to Edith and Preeti!
Kate , Gun, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill,
Claire, Jan, Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys,
Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon, Hayley, Me,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2, Noreen,
Bear, Carol, Preeti and Edith
See you next time for more scrappy loveliness.