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Etched Monogram

A couple years ago I told you about a project involving a custom texture sheet and metal clay to recreate a bride’s wedding invitation on a pendant.  Full story here.  I’m so glad I posted the graphic I used, because I was able to use it again to make an etched copper disc for the same gal. 

Etching is a whole different animal, especially challenging for me when creating custom pieces.  I’ve only accepted etching orders from returning customers and dear friends, but I still kick myself every time I get halfway through a monogram piece and something goes wrong.  Eventually I come up with something I love enough to pass on to my customer, so it must be the end products that compel me to try it again. 

It is much more fun for me to etch when the results don’t matter, like these pendants (already sold – sorry!).  If the etched design doesn’t turn out I can just repurpose the copper.  Making jewelry should be FUN and not stressful!

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Bead Table Wednesday

I’m not very good at telling you guys what’s new in my studio, but it happens to be Wednesday and I have seen other jewelry artists participate in this, so I thought it would be fun to post about what’s on my bead table today.

Trying to stockpile pieces for fall, I’m working in series rather than my usual, “make what I feel like making today.”  The current series is (begrudgingly) utilizing my stash of Koy Glass lampwork beads.  Some of the donuts have rather large holes, and usually this doesn’t bother me because I stick a bead cap over it or a bead in the hole and it looks more polished.  But donuts are worn with the hole showing, so I chose to line them with silver or copper tubing, which I get in the plumbing department at Lowes.

This is one of several “bead tables” in my studio, so maybe another Wednesday I will show you the organized chaos of my real bead table.  Here are the copper-lined big-hole-beads I did today.

And with all the tap-tap-tapping I woke up my studio partner, who was napping across the hall.  So I put her to work stringing beads.  Here is her bead table.
What’s on your table?
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Flower Bud Earrings Tutorial

My brand new Flower Bud Earrings Tutorial is finished and available for instant download here
This is the first of my tutorials I have classified as “metalwork” as it didn’t quite qualify for wirework as we start with sheet metal.  As an added bonus I talk about how to make your own ball-head pins using a butane torch.  I’ve come to realize that I can do most of my soldering projects with this little guy while my oxy-acetylene outfit now sits, unloved, in the shed.  Figures.  We aren’t soldering in this project, however; it involves cold connections and these little flower buds actually aren’t that difficult to make.  And with silver passing the $40 mark I am trying to tastefully incorporate some alternative metals like copper and brass.
Happy Spring, y’all!
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Auntie’s Beads recently contacted me to try some of their products in exchange for telling all of you wonderful people about them.  Lately I’ve been yearning to try some more resin projects, so I chose several of their glue-in-and-glaze charms on this page.  They are plated instead of solid precious metal, which means they are a bargain and yet have a nice weight to them.


One of the other resin blanks I used during this round of resin is one I made from scraps of PMC.  It has French script on the back and I traced around it on rice paper to get the right size of insert.  Another option is to use a paper punch if you’re using calibrated bezel cups.  Or, Auntie’s Beads offers a template card for sale so you don’t have to guess while cutting a paper for, say, the oval glue-in-and-glaze charms. 
I was more interested in getting the project finished than I was in the aesthetics of each piece, but I did try including some seed beads and a sprinkling of fine glitter.  On our trip to Savannah I found an awesome art supply store and picked up some Japanese decorative paper, so I inculded some of that as well. 
The charms from Auntie’s Beads are pretty shallow, so there’s not a lot of room in the well to hold 3-dimensional found objects, but it also means it won’t use up a lot of resin volume like the die-cut bezel cup pictured here.  If you’re just using decorative paper or photographs, they would work great.  Another benefit of the glue-in-and-glaze charms is that they come as links, ready to make into jewelry when the resin dries.  For these sterling bezel cups I have to solder on rings, and that’s just a pain.
I use Colores doming resin from Rio Grande, which is a two-part non-yellowing epoxy with a long open time so you can mess around with your design before it cures. Resin is all the rage in Jewelry World right now and next I think I want to try UV resin.  No careful mixing, no waiting all night for it to cure.  It costs more, but considering I’ve used about half an ounce of the huge bottles I have, that shouldn’t be a big deal.
I liked how the charms from Auntie’s Beads turned out.  Like I said, they are inexpensive and have a nice weight to them, and they have rings attached so these are all ready to link into a design.


Steampunk is another trend right now in Jewelry World, and in some of these pieces I included some watch gears I found on eBay years ago. 
I also have some decorative brads from the scrapbook aisle that are in the shape of keyholes, but they are hollow and lightweight so I thought they would be good candidates for resin. 
I snipped off the brad parts and, since they have holes already, stuck them to a piece of packing tape so the resin wouldn’t leak out.  And because their holes are now closed I drilled through the resin with my Dremel in order to link these components to other things.  I could have placed brass tubing for the holes and “resin’ed” around it, but it seemed like a hassle to keep things from moving around with wet epoxy in the equation.  My only complaint about the tape-back method is that it gave sort of a matte finish on the back instead of the shiny clear on the top side.
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You can read about my initial foray into etching in earlier posts, saltwater and acid.  I finally had the time to do the real commissioned piece, and my customer chose the chiseled font (which we agreed looks better with her initials than a script).  However, that also meant I needed to find a way to transfer the image from my computer onto the surface of the copper to act as a resist.  Because I have known how to etch in theory for years, I also have a collection of websites with helpful info.  This one explains how to use a printer or photocopier for image transfer, and it worked successfully.  This piece looks pretty on its new owner with her beautiful red hair.  Copper is so perfect for fall, and this is a unique monogram pendant that is not available in stores.

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Acid etching

I used the same sample piece of copper for etching with ferric chloride since it was still masked with duct tape from Etching Round 1.  I traced over the monograms with a Sharpie oil-based paint marker as the resist, which seems to have a more consistent application than a regular Sharpie but is much easier to use than nail polish.  (Available in three thicknesses where art supplies are sold, in my case at Michaels.)  I let the copper plate sit in the etching solution for about an hour, checking it every 20 minutes or so to see how it was going.  It’s hard for me to tell how much etching is happening because the resist itself is three-dimensional, but finally I couldn’t wait any longer so I rinsed the piece off and removed the resist with acetone. 

You can actually see both rounds of etching in the top of the closer monogram and the circles around both (which were only salt water etched).  Etching is a much more subtle texture than what I normally do with PMC.  And, like I said, it’s hard to tell how much etching is happening during the process, so I guess salt water etching was more effective than I thought. 

At least now I can honestly say I can etch copper.

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Salt Water Etching

My friend Trice, who sews and will monogram anything that isn’t nailed down (and does a great job), sent me this picture and asked if I could make her one.  I could tell it is a copper pendant, most likely etched.  In theory I can do copper etching, and I have the bookmarked web pages to prove it, but in reality I had never tried it.  Most of my customers want this type of look in silver, so I normally use PMC with a custom texture sheet.  (Note to self: write a tutorial for that.)

I wanted to try salt water etching because I aim to be The Lazy Etcher, so I’d prefer to just pour the solution in the sink when I’m finished and “chase it down with plenty of water,” as my organic chem professor used to say.  I dragged my husband, whom I met in that o-chem lab, to Radio Shack to obtain a single D cell battery holder and a couple of alligator clips.  I noted that The Shack also carries ferric chloride in case this method didn’t work.  (Ferric chloride just needs baking soda to neutralize it anyway, not that bad.)  I also noted the irony that it’s usually the husband dragging the wife to Radio Shack.  Thank you for not being an electronics geek, sweetie.

Which of these does not belong? 

Well, they all do in this case.  After sanding a piece of 24ga copper with steel wool I cleaned it with acetone (okay, nail polish remover), then alcohol.  I freehanded the monogram with a Sharpie, which didn’t look awesome but this was just a test run anyway.  I put a spot of nail polish in the margin to note the difference in masking quality.  I wrapped the back and edges of the copper in duct tape to keep them from being eaten away, then I cut another piece of copper to be the cathode.  A spoonful of salt, a glass of warm water, and some wirework skills to attach the clips to the leads on the battery.  Clippy clippy, dunk dunk, battery in, and I was in business.  Bubbles started forming on the cathode, which was a good sign.  After about 10 minutes brown sludge appeared around the anode side (another good sign).  After 20 minutes I still wasn’t seeing much etching going on, so I added more salt.

I let it go for over an hour (instructions found on the web suggested etching for 5-60 minutes), then used acetone to clean off the resist.  My design was still shiny while the negative space was matte, which indicated that my resist was working, but there was no cut (nothing was really etched away).  Stay tuned for Round 2.
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Anniversary gifts

I’ve had two guys contact me lately, each approaching their 7th year of marriage, each looking for copper jewelry for an anniversary gift knowing it is their “year of copper or wool (or desk sets).” One asked for a copper nest pendant with a freshwater pearl “egg” for each of their children.
The other one designed this personalized necklace with their initials on hammered copper tags, the year they got married (in Roman numerals), a heart for love, and a rose which has a special meaning in their relationship.