Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chainmaking

 

Lesson Info

Hot Seat: Soldering Links

So, now what I would like to do is bring one of our in-studio audience up here, and let them try to solder a few links, so that you guys can see someone who hasn't been doing it for 15 plus years (laughs) and maybe struggle along with them. So, who wants to be brave? Yes, alright. I guess I'll do it, everyone's looking at me. (audience laughs) All the brave people from yesterday's class left, so. Alright, so what I'm gonna have you do is I've got some links that I've already put close, so I'm gonna have you do the first step of the process, which is just lay out a couple links. I won't make you do a whole board full, let's maybe do like five links. Okay. And then you can practice soldering them. Okay. Oh wait, I didn't see where it is. (laughs) You can also kinda lay it down and look. Is it, it's right there, huh? Yeah. Okay, and you said facing yourself? Yeah, so I usually keep the seam facing me. Okay, okay. And if you touch the Flux and you want to wipe your ...

hands, I'll let you steal a corner of my apron (laughs). Okay. Yeah, there is no rule that says you have to wear an apron when you're metal-smithing, but, I gotta tell ya, it saves a lot of wear and tear on your clothes (laughs), so I always wear an apron in the studio regardless of what I'm doing. Plus aprons usually have pockets, which, like, girl clothes don't always have pockets, so. [Male Audience Member] Is the Flux, like, kinda toxic? Yes, the Flux is not kinda toxic, it is toxic. Wait, let's talk about that a little. Yeah, so basically the rules for Flux first of all, if you have children, you wanna keep your Flux somewhere where they cannot get into it. Its usually, generally marked. So, while I'm talking about that, you can go ahead and put your solder on there, yeah. Okay, can I use the tweezers? Yeah, you can use the tweezers. Go ahead and move that closer. You can use the tweezers or you can use the solder pick. So, generally Flux will say it's bad, but if I had kids in the house, I would stick some giant Mr. Yuck stickers on this, so that they really know. And I would also put it somewhere that's locked and out of the way. Really what you want to do is you don't want to eat it. (laughs) And you don't want it on your hands when you're eating anything, so always make sure that you wash your hands right away. If you're working on a work surface that's multiuse in your home, make sure that you wipe that surface down really well when you're done. And then, again, always wash your hands. If you happen to be eating something and you notice saltiness and the thing you are eating is not supposed to be salty, that's actually the Flux. So, if it's probably just a little bit, you can usually just flush with water, but if you think you've ingested Flux, I would call emergency personnel and/or Poison Control and ask them, and make sure you have your container so that you can read it. But, generally, as long as you keep it out of the way of someone who's gonna accidentally eat it, and wash your hands, you'll be good. Oh, sorry. Can I just? Absolutely. It's, like, drying. Yeah, if you need a little stickiness, just, right, stick that back in there. It's dried and won't stick. I think it's on there. There, okay. Okay, do we have one on all of 'em? I think so. Okay, so now what we're gonna do is you are going to, let's get some stuff out of your way. You're gonna light the torch, and what I like to do for people who are new to lighting a torch is just practice with the striker a few times. And just so everyone knows, the strikers are designed to work in your left hand with your left thumb on there. So, if you're trying to do it this way and it's, I mean I can, again, strong hands (laughs). Generally they're built to hold in your left hand, and push with your left thumb. So just practice he striker once or twice. Make sure you get a good spark. I think so. Yeah, perfect. So now you can go ahead and pick up the torch and I'm gonna jump over here for just a second. Are you right handed? Right-handed. Okay, yeah, so hold that in your right hand. So, just turn that on a little bit. Toward me? Yeah, toward you. Okay So that's a little hot so I would turn it down a little, there you go. Perfect, and now go ahead and light it. And now you can go ahead and turn it up a little more. Toward me? Yep. Is that good? Yeah, so torches work righty-tighty lefty-loosey. Okay. Alright, so now, let's see. Circular. Yep, I'm gonna go ahead and just turn it up a tiny little bit more. Alright, so now start with the first one. And, yep, kinda circular motion. Little closer than that, you're a little far away. I think it... It jumped, yeah. (laughs) So, if that happens, Can I go to the next one? Yeah, so you can go ahead to the next one. Or, if that happens, you can always just throw another piece on there, but I'll let you work on the next one. Yeah, so it starts to bubble like that just pull the torch back off for a second, let it kinda cool, and then come back in. 'Cause I think it fell on the board. It's still there, I can see it. Okay. It's clear. Yeah, so now kinda stay on it a little bit longer, and now kinda, you can get the torch a little bit closer than you have it. Yep, now kinda hold still on that spot. Bring your torch in just a little bit closer, there ya go. There you go, I think it went. I think it did. It did, alright, next one. I can see it right there. The nice thing is that if you accomplish this in this lighting you'll be able to do this anywhere. I think it's still there. Yeah, but now it's starting to go clear, so just kinda hold on your spot for a second. Did it go? I think it It's not quite Okay. See it's got still a little bump in there? Yeah. So stay on there just a little bit longer. There you go, perfect. You're a natural. So, now you're clear, so just stay in there now. Stay in the spot, perfect. And you never want to, once the solder flows, you want to get out right away. And, again, in brass, copper, bronze it's not such a big deal, but in silver, there's a much finer line between "hey, my solder flowed" and "hey, my jump ring's in a melted ball". Perfect, yeah, so the one thing I would say, turn it off, yep, and then you can just set it down. Nice job, so the one thing I would say for you, is, again, after the solder flows get the torch off there just a split second sooner. It's not gonna hurt your brass, but if you were working in silver, you're starting to push the edge there. (both laugh) But good job. Thank you. Thank you. Alright, other questions about soldering. See, it's not so scary, right? It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. See, it's not bad. Except there's fire. There is fire. You get kinda comfortable with it after a while. Maybe that's just me. Megan, this question is "what extra step would we need to take to make our chain a curb chain?" A curb chain, so I believe a curb chain is either, like, a hammered or elongated link. So, that's something you would do after. So, I'm gonna table that question, because we're gonna talk about manipulating links when we come back, but that's something where a curb chain is link manipulation after soldering. So, you would assemble the entire chain first, just like we did, and then you would, I believe it's, like, a stretch, hammer, draw plate kinda thing to make a curb chain. There's a couple of things that happen in there, and so that happens afterwards. After we solder all those links, and end up with our long chain like this. Thank you very much, so we're pretty good on questions over here. Perfect, what about you guys? Everyone feel okay about the process now? Awesome, and, so, like I mentioned, you know, it's really about in terms of getting to the right length, it's checking in, it's measuring, it's knowing, you know, how many links you needed in your final chain. So, there's a little bit of math there, obviously. If we knew that our chain needed to be 40 links, and we got to our packets of seven, so we did seven, then we made 15, and we put another two sets of seven together to make another 15, so we're at 31, then now I have, like, nine more I have to add. Right, so you have to kinda do a little bit of math there. To be totally honest, this is why I always just make extra links. So that at some point, if I'm making, say, a necklace, I just lay this down on my worktable, and I get out my tape measure, and I'm like "okay, we're at ten and half and I'm trying to make 16, so that means I need to throw another packet of seven on there and see what happens" and I'll kinda build it out that way. So, I, full disclosure, don't not count all my links. (laughs) Sometimes, I'll just measure. Though, I will say for production purposes, if you're making a chain for production, I do know, for every necklace in my line, exactly how many links go into it, and that's how we build in production. It's like "it gets four small links, then eight big links, then four small links" or whatever those numbers are. So, I actually have a lot pieces of paper that say things like "seven plus one plus four". So, that's how I handle that for production. But when you're just kinda making things from the beginning, a nice tape measure, and I love a dress maker's tape measure because it's flexible, and I like these because they're cleaner on my bench than a whole pile of tape measure. But that's usually how I'll do it as I'm working along through there. Other questions about getting to our final length? Or anything else about the soldering process? I think folks over here are pretty clear. Perfect, so the one other thing I wanna say about our Pickle is that we don't wanna let stuff, so we've been, like, talking and things have been pickling, and we don't want to let stuff just hang out in the Pickle forever, because, again, the Pickle is a mild acid. And because it's a mild acid, if we leave our things in there, it will actually continue to eat away at the surface. So, one, that weakens our Pickle and, two, eventually it could literally deteriorate your things to nothing. So, if you left stuff in Pickle overnight, you could come back and depending on how strong your Pickle is, you could find that it is much, much smaller to nonexistent than it was when you left. I've seen students do that at the university level. Where they, like, leave something in the Pickle for two days, and they're like "where'd it go?" I'm like "the Pickle ate it". (audience laughs) So, I never recommend leaving anything in your pickle in your studio overnight. You always want to take it out. I just threw this in this Quench Water, because I'm in standing in a TV studio, and I don't have a sink right next to me, but, in my own studio, what I do is I take it out of the Pickle, throw it in a little rag, take it over to the sink, run clean water on it, and then dry it off. And you always want to dry everything right away, as well. The last thing, just as a reminder, your Pickle, as you're warming it up, when you leave your studio at the end of the night, if you've got your Pickle in a crock pot, turn it off and unplug it. So, we don't want to leave our Pickle warm all the time. And then when you get in in the morning, just turn it back on and put it on there. So, and again, just like with our Flux, you know, Pickle is an acid, so whatever slow cooker you're using here, it's Pickle only forever and ever, right. So, don't be like "I'm gonna use this and then on Sunday I'm gonna make a roast". No, (laughs) once you're using it for Pickle, it's Pickle forever, I would label it as such. I would label the inside container as such. And the same thing, you know, if you have kids, make sure that you store this in a place that they cannot get to.

Go beyond the basics of handmade chainmaking and discover your own creative voice.

There’s no need to buy boring, store-bought chain. In Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chainmaking, you’ll learn the basics of creating your own handmade chain (including how to get comfortable soldering with a torch) and how to take the basics of chainmaking and add endless variations to create designs that are uniquely yours.

Designer and metalsmith Megan Auman has built her own jewelry line by discovering her signature style in chainmaking, and now she wants to help you do the same!

In this class, you will learn how to:

  • Make and solder jump rings into a basic link-in link-chain.
  • Create variation in your chainmaking through wire gauge, link size, shape, and more.
  • Hone in on your aesthetic to find a style that’s uniquely you.
  • Finish your chains so they’re sturdy and stunning.
  • Turn your chainmaking explorations into amazing earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.

Whether you’re just getting started in metalsmithing, or you’re looking to inject some creativity into your jewelry designs, you’ll leave this class with the skills and ideas necessary to create your own unique chain. Plus, you’ll explore your ideas by creating a series of chain-link statement earrings - perfect to wear, share, or sell!

 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • Megan' an excellent instructor and lays things out very clearly, with a lot of good tips based on her extensive experience. I've experience making wire wrapped chain and have taken a beginning metalsmithing class before, and this class had some good refresher information. I particularly appreciated seeing her techniques and process for streamlining production.
  • Megan is an awesome teacher! She is genuinely enthusiastic about sharing her metalsmithing skills with us. I am really looking forward to trying my hand at designing and making a chained necklace on my own soon.