Thursday, 21 July 2011

Show and tell from start to finish

This post is part of the Aspiring Metalsmiths group Blogroll on the subject of "What are you working on".

So I thought I would write up the progress of a piece from start to finish.

This one was easy as the stone screamed what it wanted to be,

Priday moss thunder egg cabochon

and I was so looking forward to receiving it in the post and getting to work on it. While waiting I had a look through google images to brush up on the anatomy of ...... as you may have guessed, beetles.

When the stone arrived I took the picture above and loaded it into Photoshop to get to work on it. I find working in Photoshop to do my preliminary designs suits me as I have been working with it for many years, and with the layer facility can do multiple versions and flick between them to get things just as I want before starting on the metal work.

First thing I do is copy the image of the stone place it into another layer and delete the background, making the original invisible but preserved.

Clean background

Then I make a new layer of a flat contrasting colour, place it behind so applied pieces will show clearly.

Then I open an image of some silver leaf that I took some time back and use as my metal component for all my designs. It just helps to visualise how things will ultimately be.

My working copy of "metal"

The flare and texture on the image is excellent for giving a bit of dimension rather than a flat grey. It is a very large image so I can select areas of it and cut and paste as needed.

Now to get on with designing the elements of the piece. In this case I know I will be bezel setting the cabochon. So by using the select tool and refining the outline and then filling with some of the above silver I give the stone a bezel.

Bezel added
Now using multiple layers for each element I build up the various other components of the design, in this case using the freehand selection tool to draw them out and filling once again with the silver. Head, legs and feelers. Due to the symmetry of the beetle I only had to draw one set of legs and then just copied them and flipped them over for the other side the same with the feelers.

The first one shown below to my mind was too much like something you would not want to find in your hair :0) too lousy. So hiding the bits I did not want but using copies of the bits I did want to keep, redoing the head came up with another version, but still keeping all parts just in case.

Not attractive!

Quick look on google again at some other bugs and refined the shape to this:

Much more friendly.

All that remains to do now is fill in the gap between head and what will become the back plate onto which the bezel will be soldered and print it out to scale to use as a template for sawing. The feelers and legs I will make with wire and are not at this point important.

Cutting template

I know too that as this stone has some very nice transparency to it I will also cut a hole in the backplate to leave just a rim to solder the bezel, which will not only show off the stone but conserve a good deal of silver. I will use the method described in a previous blog post about setting stones to give me a template for cutting that hole. (see earlier blog posts)

Now to the metal work.

As the back-plate is to be cut out, I will not use new sheet as that would be a waste. So I will melt down some scrap and hammer it out till it is the right size and thickness to cut out the shape I need.

Here is some scrap hammered out till it just fits the template by a hairs breadth :0)

Silver hammered out and template stuck on for cutting
And here it is cut out, with just enough room for the bezel to be soldered on.

Back plate cut

Ha, as part of the process of making things as we all know we change our minds: since pickling, filing and a preliminary polish of the silver and then seeing the stone on the plate, it just lights up with hitherto unseen detail so I am now not going to cut out the back.

Now for the bezel. The thickness of the stone at its widest part from the base to the beginning of the dome is 2.24mm so I will cut my self a bezel of 3mm to see how it goes.


The tail end of the cabochon is quite a bit thinner so a little gentle filing to diminish that end of the bezel is needed.

Bezel hard soldered to back-plate and legs made from 1.5mm wire hammered flat and bent before soldering onto the back of the piece with easy solder, and the feelers are 1mm round wire. I moved the legs from the original drawing position to make it less like a tick as it was looking :0)

Bezel and legs soldered on

Punched and drilled for bail, then pickled and polished before putting in the tumbler for a while. A couple of nicks filed into the bezel at the top end to ensure a neat corner, bezel rubbed over and finished.

Bezel rubbed over
Not sure yet about the chain but for the present I am using a biggish oval belcher.

Let loose in the wild :0)
So there you have it, what I was working on. Now on to the next.

Here are some of the Blogs of friends and colleagues in the Aspiring Metalsmiths group:

  • Esmeralda

  • Happy Tortoise Designs

  • Crow Steals Fire

  • Contemporary Jewelry by Beatriz Fortes

  • steph

  • Jessica @ Abella Blue

  • Pennee- All Wired Up Jewelry Designs

  • Sylvia Anderson

  • Stacy

  • Mary Anne Karren

  • Brightstar109

  • Amy Nicole Artisan Jewelry Http://

  • Resurrection Silver

  • Kit and Caboodle Shop

  • Julie

  • Lilian

  • Autumn Bradley Jewelry Design

  • 1 comment:

    1. Wow. Never thought about using photoshop as a design tool. I must learn me some photoshop! Love how your piece turned out! Very unique.