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Starting the Journey down the Jewelry Making road. HELP!!!!

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Author Topic: Starting the Journey down the Jewelry Making road. HELP!!!!  (Read 5624 times)
Mark
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« on: November 17, 2010, 10:03:56 am »

Hi guys.  Most of you know me from my cab making and probably too many of you remember me due to my lunatic postings.  I am totally sane, hard to believe, but i am one of the most sane people on the planet.  I love to have fun and joke around though.

OK, to the point.  I have to decide what to do with the rest of my life (my wife is making me).  I am tired of global depopulation as a career and really don't ever want to work for Aholes and big companies again.  I poured tons of time and knowledge into large companies, that couldn't care less if i lived or died, and probably preferred if I just disappeared so they could pay someone out of school, half of what i made.  I want to stay home and do something i like and that is cutting stones for beautiful jewelry.  Since i have the cabbing and slabbing things down pretty well, its time to step out on a limb and learn to make my own settings for my cabs.  I am doing this because i really want to, and because its the only way to really get paid close to what your work is worth.  I will probably have to do 2 or 3 things for an income, but the one i prefer the most is jewelry making.  So i need advice on how to get started, what i need to do the job, and how to use the tools and materials that i will buy.

First, i need some tools and materials.  I am going to start by just learning to set my own cabs for pendants.  I need some advice on the minimum tools and materials that i will need to get started.  I know i need  a torch, saw, some files, the tools for pushing down the edges of silver over the cab, silver, solder, pickel, etc.  Please list the basics and identify the tools by name, brand, size, etc.  For example, i know there are several different types of torches, so please tell me what kind, brand, expected price, and good places to buy.  I don't want a tiny torch that will barely get the job done, but on the other hand, i don't need a torch that i can cut through the walls of a submarine to rescue trapped sailors.  I can see spending maybe up to $200 or so for the torch and then another $200 for the rest of the basic tools, and hopefully less than that.  Also, can you guys give me your advice on the types of torch like propane versus acetlylene versus .....  

One idea for this thread, is to document my progress.  So i will be taking lots of pics along with asking questions about the various tools and procedures.  I will take pics of what i am doing and hopefully you can critique me and also tell me things like why the silver is now black and why all that is left is little globs of blackened metal.  So please, one and all, nothing is too minor to explain to me.   I have some knowledge on the basics, but that is about all.  I can use all the advice and help you can give me.  TIA

Mark
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doxallo
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2010, 10:32:37 am »

oh myyyyyyyy.

Ask 10 jewelers what kind of torch to buy and you'll likely get 12 different recommendations.

Here's my starting recommendation: (I was going to list it all but then remembered contenti has a nice basic jewelers kit)

http://www.contenti.com/products/tool-kits/456-131.html

its a basic kit - 216.00

I use this torch
http://www.contenti.com/products/soldering/114-273.html

Really, the basic kit they sell is a pretty good deal. The book alone is a great item to have.



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doxallo
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2010, 10:34:48 am »

here is a look at fuels:

http://www.contenti.com/resources/library/gas-melt.pdf

I like a bottled oxygen - it adds heat. I have a acetylene/air torch but dont' use it much. I wish I had bought an acety/oxy torch. But my propane/oxy does what I need it to do. Acetylene is just a bit hotter (when combined with oxy)

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spirit bear beads
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2010, 11:43:21 am »

OH my is right...   and Janice is right too" Ask 10 jewelers what kind of torch to buy and you'll likely get 12 different answers."
I use an Acetylene only torch like this one, the parts and tips are pretty well universally available and a "B" tank.

http://www.thunderbirdsupply.com/proddetail.aspx?StockNum=702023

But you know what???  You can silver solder with a $15 plumbers torch from the hardware store!  YUP, those little hand held tanks that you throw away when empty, not as fancy but it works!

That kit looks pretty complete.  I have and use almost everything in that kit.  I find I also use a few homemade items like awls and burnishers but those will come to you as you work. 

Lastly and for polishing you will need either a Foredom flex shaft or at the least go to Harbour Freight and get one of their cheap little electric dremmel kits.  Then you will need wheels and rouge or zam  etc etc  but that is another post isn't it?
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Charlotte
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2010, 12:09:30 pm »

Since we are just learning I have one of the little proprane torches and set of the little tips.  You have to get a flux that you are happy with, Dave uses a spray, I use a cream type and put it on with a brush.  I found a small used crock pot for the pickle but had to buy the tweezers that the pickle wouldn't harm.  The solder is a personal thing.  Dave used the wire solder and sometimes the paste.  I bought the little chips that I didn't have to cut up, but you have to have the hard, med and easy.  You will need a jewelers saw, I like mine and of course Dave likes the other one.  You will need several blades, I don't have that easy touch and tend to break them.  You will need the metal snips, but really it is always better to use your saw, it cuts better. You will also need the bezel tool to smoothly set your stone. Dave started me out making a leaf out of copper and them bezel setting a stone in copper.  It is better to start out using the cheaper material like copper until you get the hang of your torch.  The silver to me is too expensive to waste while learning.  But it is fun to do.  I always sit down and draw out the design and how I want it to look.  It never ends up looking as good as I want it too, but I keep trying.  You will also need a copper and leather hammer.  Good luck.
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doxallo
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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2010, 12:21:03 pm »

I use ph down for pickle - you can also use vinegar and salt. you can buy flux or make your own. I use cuprinol and also wolverine paste flux.

The issue with tongs in the pickle pot is that using steel will cause copper plating of your sterling. Only use COPPER or wood tongs in your pickle pot. Copper will obviously last longer. :)

Oh and I generally only use my saw when doing piercing. I use snips for most other cutting.

See - everyone has their ways!!

Oh - I also don't use three grades of solder. I basically use medium or hard. I sometimes use easy - good for some things. But NEVER NEVER extra easy (most of it contains cadmium which is baaaaaaaaaaad)
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Steve
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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2010, 12:35:03 pm »

Congratulations....  yes ....you're coming over to the creative side of the lapidary/metal working community (not that carving stone isn't very creative and beautiful).  ura

Here are two of the toy stores that I deal with here in Albuquerque.  You can request they send you their catalogs so you can leisurely browse through them and get acquainted with many of the toys that are available.  Sometimes they have separate Findings and Tool catalogs, so ask when you order.

http://www.thunderbirdsupply.com/

http://www.ijsinc.com/

In the thread you posted this, Tutorials, Guides........., there are many very good helpers for those wanting to do various things and the steps required for success.  I have posted several of them myself since I joined this great forum family.

The 'tool kit' suggestion from Doxallo is an excellent starter.  As you  progress through your learning you'll run across situations where you will create your own specific tools for specific duties or adapt other stuff for use - hemostats for example.

And for a torch, I personally use a Uniweld and an acetylene 'B' tank.  With this torch I have a #1, 2, 3 & 4 tip......#2 being the one I sue the most (smaller #= finer fire tip).  However, when I 1st got into jewelry making I used one of those disposable hand held propane torches until I could afford my current system.

For polishing I use a converted Delta 1/4HP bench grinder.  Simply remove and replace the grinding wheels  and covers with the easy on/off spindles you'll find in the jewelry supply catalogs.  Over the years I've been doing this I have narrowed down what kind of grinding (Craytex) wheels, cloth buffing wheel types and designs and the different polishing rouges I prefer.  You too will do this........it's by trial and preference.  There three that I use.....Tripoli for coarse buffing, Zam for medium buffing and Fabuluster for fine finish buffing.  I also use satin finish wheels (round 3-M pads), mostly for removing fire scale ( meduim) and in providing a satin finish vs high polish Medium or fine).  These come as course, medium and fine.

Don't just limit yourself to just doing stone settings, there's a whole new world of creation out there for just doing metal jewelry.  I work primarily in Sterling and use copper and brass as color accents to my designs (Gold is too expensive for me to deal with) both with and without stones.   So................

Welcome to a whole new amazanation........you'll enjoy it.........  yippie


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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2010, 01:13:28 pm »

  i feel very much like Mark and will be following this thread closely!
      i've been acquiring tools over the past year and even took a silversmithing class at my local community college that i couldn't finish (due to work). I'm still so fascinated by cabs and rocks though that I'm having problems making the time to expand into jewelry. A.P.O.P.M levels are at an all time high
 
     
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« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2010, 01:46:24 pm »

There's one thing I forgot to mention that is a 'must'...............brazing pads.  There are two kinds for this:

 1st is a non asbestos solid pad that come in 6"x6", 6"x12" or 12"x12"...........



 2nd is a non-asbestos perforated brazing pad that come in 5-1/2"x7-3/4" ..............



These can be acquired through the two catalogs I referred to................

I also put a fire brick under the pad for lift and insulation.
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earthegy
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« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2010, 01:58:14 pm »

Mark,

Completely off the subject of torches and pickles and torching pickles, but just wanted to say....

Congratulations!  On leaving the big bad corporate world and figuring out what you want to do when you grow up!  I was laid off in September from a job I absolutely despised, and luckily I had started making some jewelry as a hobby before that happened.  So now I'm doing everything I can possibly think of to jumpstart this new business, and it's starting to work.  And you know what?  I LOVE it!  I absolutely love talking with customers, taking custom order, getting feedback, and doing something I actually enjoy for a living.  Granted, I've given up professional pedicures for awhile, but who cares? 

One recommendation I do have, if you haven't done this already...get a website and blog about what you're doing.  I set mine up for next to nothing with Wordpress, and the more I update it with new info, the more people come around and take a look.  Customers like hearing about the process of what you're doing.  And letting them in on some of that knowledge helps them build trust in your business, holds their interest, and if you're blogging about a piece for them, it bonds them more to the piece you're working on immensely.    Plus once customers see the amount of work that you put into what you're doing they'll understand your pricing better for your product.

As for torches and pickles, I know nothing about them.  I just really like pretty rocks, and stringing them together.

Chrisy
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greenhorn
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« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2010, 02:35:34 pm »

Mark,(
What I would recommend is to develop your style before you buy most of your equipment. When you are ready to buy tools you will already know what tools you need. Get the basics, a (decent) cheap torch, etc. Make your own burnishers, anvils, and other hand tools. What you can make is usually better than what you can buy. For example, jade anvils, a 3" thick block of cheap nephrite jade will withstand ANY kind of pounding you can give it with any hammer. It will never dent or scratch, and it will always have a perfect polish (which transfers a perfect polish to your work). You should make your own hammers, anvil, burnishing tools, draw plates etc., I would even build my own work bench. Your tools are your art just as much as your jewelry is. Then, when you sit down to make some jewelry, you will always have inspiration sitting in front of you in the form of your tools. And you will always have to tools you need no matter what.
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« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2010, 03:05:40 pm »

Your most valuable tool is knowledge about the processes. I would recommend attending a local adult ed jewelry class. The instructor will help you avoid the most glaring mistakes that beginners make and ultimately save you a lot of wasted time, materials and money. You will also (hopefully) get to try the various torches and tools to see what works best before you buy. The adage about buying cheap tools and you will buy twice does apply.
There are a lot of good (and not so good) books out there too. They are a great reference, some with color photos to show you the proper flame, metal color and methods to solder and anneal. Learn from others knowledge in lieu of stumbling along on your own. Your knowledge and skill set will advance much more quickly by leveraging with other's knowledge.
Some good books that I recommend are:
The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight
The Art and Craft of Making Jewelry by Joanna Goldberg
Jeweley Making Manual by Sylvia Wicks
Indian Jewelry Making by Oscar T. Branson  Volumes I and II
Creative Gold and Silversmithing by Sharr Choate - (My beginning bible because she was a member of the Gem and Mineral Club that I belonged to and I could ask her questions in person)
Jewelry Making by Murray Bovin  (A school text).
My preference for a torch is  an oxyacetylene gas with the Smith (or other generic look-alikes) torch  utilizing the #3 through 5 tips.
My soldering surface is a light weight fire brick.
Another good reference for learning info is the vast (free) videos on the Orchid Digest forum.
The above advice comes from my 15 years experience  teaching gold and silver smithing at the adult ed level
Bob
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« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2010, 03:21:57 pm »

Mark, good luck to you. I can take some pix of our blackened lumps of silver, if that would make you feel any better. Actually, I will be able to show off some blackened lumps of steel, acquired a small forge last month, and an antique anvil last week.
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« Reply #13 on: November 17, 2010, 03:37:30 pm »

All good advice so far and Bob is right.  Get thee to an adult ed course at your local community college to get at least the very basics down.  I had 2 years of jewelry in high school (a very, very long time ago), but I still remember all the basics and can fabricate pieces even now.  Since I've just been able to set up my work area recently, I use a plumbers torch for soldering at the moment, but will graduate to a different torch eventually.  I usually work in silver, and I have no problem soldering with a plumber's torch.

Also the Orchid Digest is a wonderful source for information, like Bob said.  There are also a ton of videos on the site that you can watch.  www.ganoskin.com is the website.

Good luck and happy creating!
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« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2010, 03:42:10 pm »

Mark, I have been using a propane torch with a hose, and don't think it would be real easy to hold the bottle only setup, with no hose.
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