ScrapHappy – January 2022

Everytime I do a lateral flow test, and have to throw away so much stuff, a tiny part of me dies a little death

Then I had a genius* idea

My hairdryer doesn’t get a huge amount of use, especially since I stopped having a day job in 2014, but I’ve noticed that the external sheathing was worn through.

I’m no electrician, but I’m not an idiot, and I know that will eventually lead to the inner sheathing rubbing and then the two wires connecting. One would hope the fuse would blow before I’d be fried, but, hey. Let’s not test that assumption.

So. This is old enough to have a proper plug, and I’m old enough to have been trained how to wire them (in fact, I’m so old, dad taught me using black and white TVs, that had valves and with red and black wires, telling me “red is live and therefore brown is live cos it has a R in it and black has an l which looks like a – sign” a phrase that’s actually quite hampering now!)

All I needed was 5 minutes, a pair of screwdrivers – a possie and a flathead – scissors, my magic alligator tape** and the flexi test tube bit from a used (negative) NHS Lateral Flow Test pack. That element sat in the dishwasher for about 3 weeks, repeatedly getting washed, just to be on the safe side!

Cut a length of alligator tape, wrap it round the damage. Trim the tube so it will fit neatly over the cable

Remove the plug – if unsure how it will go back, take a photo for reference

Thread the tube over the cable and wodge it into the sheath at the other end as far as it will go. Because it and the alligator tape are both silicone, they’ll grip together nicely.

Rewire the plug.

Make a drink and bask in the smugness of saving two items from landfill

NB – if I were better at this, and if the hairdryer had any obvious way of disassembling, I’d have taken it apart properly, shortened the cable an inch and rewired. But it doesn’t, so I had to bodge instead.

*aka #Geniearse in the Gilly household

**I get mine from KernowCraft coz they are local to me, being in Cornwall (as the name suggests!) but I have it on good authority that if you can’t shop from them, you can get silicone pet bandage in different widths and sizes. I use mine for all sorts of things, mostly for protecting my finger and thumb when doing a lot of filing, or wrapping round plier jaws to soften the edges and give a little grip

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
ClaireJeanJon, DawnJuleGwen,
Bekki, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue LVera,
NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Bear, Carol,
Preeti, EdithDebbierose

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ScrapHappy November 2021

A more traditional and simple ScrapHappy this month; I’ve repurposed an interdental brush as a needle pin to use in carding my files.

I first came across needle pins when I was a child, making Honiton Lace* – it’s the tool we used for pricking out a pattern, but I’ve found them super useful for all sorts of things in the decades since.

Carding a file is what one does to clean a metal working file – it’s scraping out all the swarf that gets stuck from within the teeth. Many of the files I use are small and all have very fine teeth so the brass brush I have doesn’t really ‘un gum’ (technical term!) lots of them sufficiently

These interdental brushes are incredibly good. They come in different widths, are made from carefully sourced bamboo so the handle is compostable, and the brush part pulls out with a little effort from the handle to go into the standard waste bin. And for me, there’s an extra bonus as The Truthbrush is a local company (though they sell internationally – here’s a link)

What I’ve done, is take two broken pins – one’s a bit thinner than the other and it’s nasty plastic head pulled off when I ran over it with my sewing machine. It’s very long and thin and is one of the ones I got in a Christmas cracker many years ago. The other one is a bit thicker, though still slim, has a glass head, but bent when I tried to use it to block my crochet.

I expected to have to anchor them into the top of the Truthbrush with glue, but I was able to simply push them in as the hole the brush came out of has been drilled wonderfully deeply into the handle.

I smashed the glass head with my stamping hammer, and now I have two new needle pins – one super fine and one fine with a convenient kink to help align it.

And look!! My favourite file is no longer filled with silver swarf, and works beautifully again (I’ve cleaned it all, this is just to demonstrate the difference!))

*Honiton Lace – bobbin lace, made on a straw stuffed round and flat pillow, in motifs and runs of lace, using extremely fine cotton. Traditionally the bobbins are long and slim, with no beading and the lace is white. Learn more here: Victoria and Albert Museum Wikipedia Honiton Museum

Posted in processes, resources, ScrapHappy, silver, Stuff I love, Tech Tip, tutorial | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

ScrapHappy – October 2021

There’s quite a bit of experimentation that goes on in my workshop. Sometimes it’s because I want to play, sometimes it’s because I’ve got a new tool, but mostly it’s because I need to learn or practice a new technique

I’ve a commission ongoing where my customer requested a textured bezel. The bezel (as I’m sure you know) is the wall of metal that holds the stone in place. There are lots of different ways to create texture on metal, from running it through a mill with something patterned, to heating it and reticulating it, to beating texture in – either by laying it on something with an interesting texture, or using the hammer / punch to impart the texture.

With a bezel, there’s the fragility of the stone to factor in, and as I’ve not created textured bezels before (my customer knows this!), I tried two different techniques, both of which created very small bits of scrap silver

Here’s what I did with one of the small pieces.

I’d begun with a strip of fine (99.9) silver that was 1mm in thickness and 6mm in width.

By the time I had rolled it down to 0.8mm and hammered in the texture it was 20 mm longer than it began and 15mm longer than I needed

Not long enough for a pendant, but ideal for some delicate studs

I had some gold leaf scraps from my keum-boo* projects, so I took those and applied them to the textured surface of the rectangle of metal

Then I used the mitre vise to square up the ends and verniers to measure the width to mark out where I needed to divide (using a saw and file) to create a pair of squares.

I soldered some stud posts to the back with ‘easy’ solder (the solder with the lowest temperature melting point**) flipping the studs over whilst still hot and rubbing the gold back on to ensure the bond between the pure metals was secure

Finally, I pickled them and popped them into my little mitre vise to beat in some more texture and give them a very slight dome before dropping them in Betty-The-Barrel for a tumble and polish

Here they are – a birthday gift – with the two test bezels. A gorgeous purple flash labradorite and a not so gorgeous amazonite from my practice stash of stones I’d picked up right back at the beginning of my silversmithing journey when I expected to damage more than I successfully set

**lowest melting point of ‘assay quality silver solder’ – there are solders with lower melting points but they have a lower proportion of silver so I don’t like to use them in jewellery

*Video of the keum-boo process here over on my v v unprofessional YouTube channel, an earlier post explaining the process here

Posted in Challenge, Gems, Keum-Boo, processes, resources, ScrapHappy, silver, Tech Tip, UltraLite, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

ScrapHappy – August 2021

Back to jewellery this week 🙂

And only minimally scrappy, but I wanted to share this lovely project I was commissioned to undertake a few months ago.

In a wonderfully sentimental and budget conscious make, Grandad’s old signet ring was repurposed as part of a pre wedding workshop where the bride and groom made their rings, back in 2019, and there was a little of the 9karat gold being left over. The wedding had been due during 2020, but had to be postponed and eventually took place in July 2021

The bride to be had 6 bridesmaids planned and ordered some beaten sterling bangles from me as gifts for them. During our conversation about the finish and weights of these, she mentioned she’d got bits of the signet ring left over from making her wedding ring and asked if I’d be able to do anything of interest with the leftover bits of gold, and in an aside said she’d got a necklace of her Nana’s that needed mending.

I replaced the clasp on the necklace, which left me with a broken bolt ring and worn out jumpring, both appearing to be gold. This brought the total gold up to 4.3grams

I removed the (rusty!) spring within the bolt ring, and set it in the little box with the bits of signet ring. During this time I was able to let my customer know just how much gold there was, and mocked up what I had in mind in silver. Now, gold is heavier than silver, so it wouldn’t be able to stretch as far as 4.3g of silver, but there was still plenty to do what she wanted.

I sawed all the offcuts into 0.4 and 0.5gram pieces, except the part that contained solder, which I divided into two.

Then I melted every offcut into a small ball

Annealing and rolling them through Morris-the-Mill, so that I’d be able to ensure they got to the same shape with more annealing and hammering and we are left with 11 discs, mostly all the same size, but a pair of smaller ones that contained the seam of the signet, so these are slightly different in colour, a pair of larger ones and one other one that is a slightly different colour because that was just the bolt ring and jumpring from the necklace.

Initially the plan had been to solder one ball, slightly flattened onto each bangle, but – as is often the case – as the jewellery was made, and the progress photos sent to my customer, the idea was refined, and instead became a small charm to add to each bangle, with the bride having the two large balls and Nana’s hanging as a triplet and stamped with the initials of the bride and groom, with a heart on the differently coloured one

The two small balls were destined as a another gift for another granddaughter, so I made them into features on a pair of simple circle studs, slightly offset to add interest.

It’s a very simple use of something that was chock full of sentimental value. It would have been more economical to buy in fresh gold, and send off the old for refining, but this has far more meaning.

One of my favourite projects of the past year, I loved every part of the process (even when one of the balls pinged across my workshop and I lost an hour hunting it down!)

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? Either email Kate at the address on her Contact Me page, or leave a comment on her blog. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. 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.

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).

Kate Gun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, JanMoira, SandraChrisAlys,
KerryClaireJeanJon, HayleyDawn (me!),
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, NanetteAnn, Dawn 2, Bear,
Carol, Preeti, Edith and Debbierose

Posted in processes, ScrapHappy, silver, Stuff I love, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments

Adventures with an Aquaflame Part 1 … Introducing Little Miss #SmeltyMelty

New Tool Alert!! And warning – this post is techy and likely to be of no interest to anyone who doesn’t use heat on their metal; it’s going to contain information I’d have liked to have known before purchase.

I expect this to be the first in an intermittent series of posts about the new blowtorch I’ve bought. A significant investment, an Aquaflame uses hydrogen gas rather than propane / acetylene / butane and oxygen to produce the flame and heat needed for working with precious metals.

Until now, I’ve used small, hand held blow torches – similar to those sold in kitchenware shops – refillable using the small canisters of butane that people use to refill cigarette lighters, supplemented with a portable plumbers blowtorch when I’m brave enough (which is rare!)

These are limited in what they can achieve, even though I’ve been known to have one lit, standing on the soldering station, directed at a kiln of bricks to provide background heat, and then another in each hand. I’ve basically outgrown them and needed to upgrade if I wanted to move on to the types of metal working I’d like to add to my skill set.

A hydrogen torch (aka a microweld, aquaflame, hydrotorch) works using magic, witchcraft electrolysis – here’s what it says on their website:

Aquaflame produces gas from water and works on the principle of electrolysis. Electricity is passed through an electrolyte solution resulting in the production of hydrogen and oxygen. The gas is then passed through a MEK (Methyl Ethyl Ketone) solution that gives a flame with the optimum working temperature of 1850 ° C. (3365 ° F). This produces a highly efficient and low cost high energy heat source. The only by product other than energy is water. The flame is clean and safe with no toxic effects.

The other option would have been a micro torch (most likely a Little Smith) which, although cheaper, and possibly better for larger work, would have necessitated keeping acetylene and oxygen canisters (or an oxygen concentrator machine) in the studio.

My studio / workshop is a converted bedroom, upstairs in our 1930s semi-detached, 10 paces away from our bed. I decided I wanted to upgrade in 2019; got permission from the insurer that it would be acceptable, and then had regular nightmares about the canisters exploding.

Life is too short to invite extra stress into it, so I ruled out the Little Smith and looked into other options

Eventually, I decided on a hydrogen torch and then opted for Aquaflame over the other main UK brand MicroWeld solely based on the interaction I had with the companies when trying to make my decision. One was very keen to help answer all (and there were many!) of my petty and silly questions, the other ignored me.

I put myself on the waiting list for a reconditioned one, and on 25th May 2021, she arrived.

#SmeltyMelty in situ. I’ve now moved the actual torch to the left and put the machine on a tiny set of rollers to make topping
up easier

It’s incredible the difference the precision flame makes. I’ve gone from using a wide flame coming from a torch tip of a centimetre wide, to one that’s coming from a hypodermic needle tip of less than a millimetre. As a result, I’m having to relearn every technique, and have been beginning from the basic – balling silver for earwires and headpins and the balls I like to use for embellishments before stepping up to multiple settings and large bangles

It’s like owning a small, slightly temperamental dragon, and I’m in love.

As you’ll know, I name all my significant tools, so clearly she needed a name. My intention had been to name her for the mother dragon in Ivor The Engine – but it turns out that’s she’s got the same name as my first primary school teacher, so it felt far too cheeky given I tend to curse a lot whilst using a torch; instead, she’s #SmeltyMelty.

I’m sharing my progress with the wonderfully supportive jewellery Facebook group The Jeweller’s Bench Cafe run by my favourite tutor Joanne Tinley, but thought it would be sensible to also document it on my blog so it can double as my notes!

I’ve learned the following – Tips supplied range in size from 20 to 24, with 20 and 21 being properly feisty, 22 being significantly smaller than 21, and 23 and 24 super delicate. I could also use a #19 or #18 as there’s just me, but it didn’t come with them. I shared small videos of these with my jewellery gang, but I’ve now uploaded them to YouTube here

I have used #20 to successfully ( and deliberately) melt 6g of scrap, in about 35 seconds on my charcoal block but not so successfully to melt 8 grams in my not terribly clean crucible.

minimal melting with the #20 tip and a dirty crucible

7g is as much as I’ve been able to achieve with my traditional handheld butane torches, and that took either a plumbers torch (comes with a side of free nausea and terror) or a pair of handhelds, and about 20 minutes of said terror and nausea.

Initially I only tried smelting for 10mins with the aquaflame, because I decided the flame and the metal were too bright for safety.

I’ve used the #24 for soldering jump rings (from 0.8 to 1.2 and up to 11mm in diameter) and the ends of earwires that are about 2cm from an earring, with no change to the Liver of Sulphur patination, which suggests I’ll be able to do delicate work with stone set pieces.

I’m using #23 most often for ring bands up to 2mm, and #24 for studs.

The #22 is also working really well for annealing short shank lengths.

The main difference I’m noticing with the actual solder is that the piece will heat more rapidly than with my handhelds, which means that the solder will melt earlier in the process – but crucially, I’ll need to hold the heat for a couple of seconds longer to make sure it flows through the whole joint, as there’s less ambient heat to drive it through. I’ve had lots of pieces where I thought that I hadn’t successfully soldered, but it was because the flash of the molten solder simply isn’t as bright or as obvious as with my trusty dremel.

Whilst sweat soldering, it was much easier to ensure that no solder spilt over the sides of the settings, because I used the #24. The other things, are:

  • It’s not as huffy, so the pallions are less disobedient
  • There is less ambient heat in the workshop
  • The hottest part of the flame is much further along than I’d expected.
  • Firescale is definitely reduced
  • It’s not really any noisier than a regular handheld butane torch
  • The whole piece will heat more rapidly
  • solder melts earlier
  • The joint needs heat held on it slightly longer than I’m used to
  • The colour of the flame means the flash of the solder flow is less visible
  • It doesn’t need to be left running, so I have it on for only a minute before actually soldering
  • It doesn’t appear to use any meaningful amount of electricity (conveniently I’ve just had a smart meter installed)
  • I needed to top up the MEK for the first time after 3 weeks of use


I am gradually repeating regular processes and trying out new with it. This is something I know I’d have struggled with using my handhelds- the cups would either have moved, dropped off, or melted, but I was able to successfully use all hard solder for all 4 cups using the #23 tip(4mm stones, 2mm band) as a side bar, these were really gorgeous shades of stones – faceted green amethyst, green tourmaline, London blue topaz and faceted blue topaz

I’d never have achieved this with my handhelds – four 4mm bezel cups, on a 2mm size L.5 ring, all the bases next to each other. I used the #23 for this

Nb. this was a customer request and the settings are deliberately slightly skew-whiff to fit with all the rest of her jewellery!!


Ordered some #19 and #18 tips, and successfully smelted 8g of silver in les than half the time it’d have taken me to do it with a plumbers torch and the biggest of my small ones.

I then used tip #21 to anneal it before making square wire with #MorrisTheMill

And – Bangles!

I used tip #20 for 3 different bangles – annealing and soldering:

  • 1.1mm thick, 220mm x 6mm
  • 1.1mm thick 220mm x 9mm

and also to reticulate 220 x 9 x 1.1mm which I then soldered into a bangle

It was much faster and easier to control than my handhelds

beaten and reticulated bangles

Posted in cheeryuppy, DGDCheeryUppy, geek, Gems, Meet The Maker, processes, resources, silver, Stuff I love, Tech Tip, tutorial, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments