Foundations in Metalsmithing: Bracelets


Foundations in Metalsmithing: Bracelets


Lesson Info

Soldering a Basic Round or Oval Bangle from Sheet

Now that we have talked about wire, let's turn our attention, let's get some of this wire craziness out of the way first, let's turn our attention and talk a little bit about sheet metal. What you'll find is that this process is actually really similar to everything that we just did. The only difference is, now we're dealing with longer seams, right? We have a little bit more solder to place, a little bit more to pay attention to. And so, the first thing that we wanna do is think about making a nice, this is not round yet, it will be in a minute, a round bangle out of a strip of sheet. As I talked about when we talked about our riveted bracelets, for ease of use, I cut a strip. This doesn't have to be a strip. It can be an interesting shape, as long as our two ends match up. There's no rule about this having to be any particular shape. It can be whatever shape you want. Again, we wanna determine our bracelet length. This should look pretty familiar at this point. It's the same one we'v...

e been using all day. The only difference is, you know, if we're working with a strip that's wider than four millimeters, we wanna add on that little extra length just to make it a little bit longer. This was one of those where, when I'm working with sheet, I would recommend taking a piece of cardboard or a piece of heavy paper and just cutting it out in your length and taping it together, making sure it fits on your wrist. Really simple way to check, make sure you've got your sizing right, especially 'cause sheet takes a little longer to cut out. With the wire, if you get it wrong, you just cut a new piece of wire and move on, right? But sheet, you spend a little bit of time sawing this out, so you wanna make sure it's right. All right. The most important thing, this is just our gauges, I'll just leave our little info up. Now, the most important thing is that we get our ends to fit nicely together. Especially if you cut these out with a saw, you might have a little bit of wonkiness and unevenness on our ends. There are two things that you can do to make sure these end seams are gonna match up, and the first one is, surprise, surprise, file. You can come in here with your file, but what I have found is that most people, myself included, don't have that great of control with a file. What you end up doing when you're supposed to be making this thing straight is you end up accidentally rounding a corner, or making it wonky. You end up almost making it worse rather than making it better. A better way to do this is to take some really heavy-grit sandpaper. This is 150 grit, which, in jewelry talk, 150 is very heavy. My husband, the other day, told me to use fine-grit sandpaper for something, and I was like, "What do you mean by fine?" 'Cause in the jewelry world, fine is, like, 1,000 grit. He was like, "Oh, I meant, like, 250 or 400." I was like, "That's coarse, honey." Like, doesn't work that way. This is 150. It's pretty coarse. And then I can just go ahead, and this is gonna sound obnoxious. (metal scraping) But I can actually just take whatever I need on here, and as long as I'm working on a pretty flat surface, it's gonna be a lot easier. I know, that's a grating noise. It's not something you really wanna do in a shared studio space. The other thing that you can think about is the fact that if we are making a circle, the outside of our metal has to travel slightly further than the inside. If we think about, it's real subtle, 'cause our metal's pretty thin, but geometry tells us that the outside has to go a little bit further. We can actually even put a little bit of angle in this by just holding it this way. I'll hold this angle this way, and then I'll just remember what side I decided was my inside. This is my outside, that's my inside. You could write on it if you wanted. Mine is actually labeled "Round," because when I cut it in my studio, I wanted to know what I needed it for when I got here. I'm gonna say it's the round side. The side that says "Round" is the inside. Let's look at that. (grit scraping) All right, so, now, just like we've done with everything else, you're gonna be amazed to find that pretty much all of these processes that we just did with wire look remarkably similar with sheet. Maybe we're gonna buzz through 'em a tiny little bit quicker, but I'm gonna bend this here. Again, the same thing. I don't care what shape this is. I only care that my ends meet nice and evenly. Now, with wire, it's pretty easy. The other nice thing about that sanding is that I just cleaned this while I was in there, so now we're nice and clean in my seam. The thing with sheet is that sometimes it's not gonna wanna sit nicely together. It's gonna wanna spring apart, or kinda move. We can actually use something to hold it together called binding wire. Binding wire is just steel wire. It's called binding wire, you can get it from all the jewelry suppliers that are listed on that PDF supply list. What I can do with this is, because it melts at a higher melting temperature than our solder or our metal, you can actually use it to hold things together and not worry that it's gonna melt to your metal. What I'll do is I'll take this, and I'll get my seam pretty close to lined up, and I'll take my binding wire and I'll actually twist it around. And then, even with my freakish finger strength, I can't get it tight enough without pulling out a pair of pliers. I'll just tighten this up, here. And so, what this does is it'll keep our seam from popping apart while we're soldering. I'm actually gonna give that, it could be a little tighter, I'll give it another twist. You don't necessarily have to do this step, but it's nice, because now I don't have to worry about this springing back apart as soon as I put heat on it. I know it's not going anywhere. And then, just because the little tail's driving me crazy, I'm gonna cut those off. Not into my solder. Now, I'm gonna remind you guys again of this later, but, no steel in the pickle. That means that this binding wire has to come off before you pickle anything. I'm gonna remind you now, I'm gonna remind you again later. Now I'm gonna go ahead and set this up. The other nice thing about this binding wire is that I can actually use this to hold this. You may have seen people talk about using that steel grate to solder with. The reason people like it is because they think, "Okay, if I put my solder in the seam here, "I wanna get my torch underneath it "to draw the solder through." This setup keeps it closed, lets us get our torch underneath, but the binding wire doesn't act like a giant heat sink, like that steel tripod would. So, now, I'm just gonna flux this guy right in my seam. Gonna flux the underside, too. You don't have to do this. You could just set this on there, and because of the binding wire, you're still gonna get a little bit of space, so you're gonna get a little bit of air through. This is actually a terrible fit seam. I'm being super lazy here, just so we're clear about that. And now I just messed it up. There we go. You know, if you were doing this in your home studio, spend, like, a few more minutes on the sandpaper. I just didn't want to subject all of you guys to that obnoxious noise for any longer than we needed to. Now what we're gonna do is, this is a case where we are gonna use not crazy amounts of solder, but we're gonna use more solder because we're actually going to lay that in our seam, here. I like to go about every eighth of an inch with my solder pieces, but it kinda depends on how big your solder pieces are. And also, it's really time for some new tweezers, in my case. These have a pretty big globule of solder melted on them, which makes it a little hard to pick things up. But I really like my tweezers, so I keep resisting getting new ones. I'm trying my best to lay this as evenly in this seam as possible. I wanna get rid of, I had that extra piece of solder that's hanging out there. I wanna make that go away, because if it melts randomly on my piece, then I have to file it out later, and we don't wanna do that. All right. We can take our lights down, and I'm going to actually, I could probably get away with a size one, but, in a perfect world, this is, again, 22-gauge, 'cause it's what I happen to have in my studio. But honestly, 22-gauge sheet is a little thin for a bangle. If I were doing this for something real that I was making for myself, or I was gonna sell, I would probably go 20 or 18, something that's gonna be a little bit sturdier. Definitely with that, I would probably jump up to a size two tip, just so that it's a little bit hotter. Now, just like we did with everything else, (torch hissing) I'm trying to kinda just get my flux again just to dry a little bit so my solder pieces don't go flying everywhere. (torch hissing) And try not to set my cross-leg tweezers on fire. (torch hissing) This is that point where I'm like, "Don't move, solder, don't move! "Don't bubble!" (torch hissing) I'm just gonna keep bringing this up to temperature, and now, I'm gonna come in, again, focus my heat. I'm kinda getting my torch underneath. We got a lot of solder jumping, there. You can see that we flowed. Definitely not the best seam. (laughs nervously) Probably, once again, you can see my little solder lumps. I'm such an over-solder-placer. That's a lot to file off, and the challenge, you can go ahead and turn the lights up. The challenge with having this much solder happening in there on this thin of a gauge is now I have to do a lot of filing to clean that up, and so I'm really thinning out my metal. Once again, less solder is actually better than more solder 99% of the time. Now I'm gonna quench this. I don't actually know if this really flowed in my seam or not. And then I'm going to make sure that I take my binding wire off before I put this in the pickle. A lot of times, you can get your binding wire off just by twisting. Sometimes this'll happen right where your binding wire wants to stick a little. If that's the case, sometimes that's because solder actually flowed onto it. If that's the case, you can just take some pliers and just kinda peel it off. Now that it has no binding wire, we can throw it in our pickle. And then, just like we did with our wire bangles, once it's soldered, and then we've pickled it so that it's clean and it's dry, because we never wanna take wet metal to steel mandrels, now I can bring this over to my mandrel. Slide it on here. Now, the one thing with this is that, obviously, our mandrel is tapered. If we don't want this to be tapered, we actually wanna just put it on here, hammer it really gently, and then we're gonna flip it, (hammer tapping) and keep alternating its direction on the mandrel so that we don't accidentally taper it. And so, the same thing, we can put it on the round mandrel, we can put it on the oval mandrel, whatever you want to kind of do there. And then, this is a case where, again, with this, with the round or the oval, you could add a hammer texture to it. If your solder seam is done properly, you don't have to worry about it splitting back apart. I could come in here, add some hammer texture. In a case like this, if I were gonna do, say, some stamping on it with, like, letter stamps, I would do that on the mandrel after I've soldered instead of fighting with it beforehand, because, let's say you have a lot of stamping you wanted to do, and you wanted to do it near the seam. If you accidentally flowed solder into the seam, that would be a lot of cleanup if you flowed solder into your stamping. That said, you can actually intentionally flow solder into stamping and then file it off, so that is a case where you could use solder as a point of contrast, and not feel like you were doing something wrong. But in this case, what I would probably do if I was gonna stamp on this is I would either just put this in at an angle, or you could even rotate the bolt. I would put this this way so that I could stamp on here and spin it around that way. Make sense? I didn't bring any stamps 'cause I don't have any, and those are heavy things to bring in a suitcase, but you can certainly add any of that to this kind of bracelet.

Class Description

Whether you’re just getting started in metalsmithing or have been experimenting for years, Foundations in Metalsmithing: Bracelets will help you deepen your skills while exploring the exciting world of bracelets. From torchless techniques (like forming and riveting) to more advanced concepts (like hinges), you’ll walk out of this class with a heap of new metalsmithing skills! (And a pile of new bracelets).

In this class, jewelry designer and metalsmith Megan Auman will help you build your metalsmithing skills in a way that’s completely approachable - no matter what level you’re currently at.

You will learn how to:

  • Create unique cuff bracelets by forming wire and sheet.
  • Join metal without a torch by riveting.
  • Solder wire and sheet into different shapes.
  • Make hinges (with or without a torch) to take your bracelet designs to the next level.
  • Finish your designs and experiment with color on metal through patinas.

Whether you’re looking to grow your existing jewelry making knowledge or for a new creative outlet that you can proudly wear (and show off!), you’ll leave Foundations in Metalsmithing: Bracelets with a series of bracelets you can call your own - and a new set of metalsmithing skills you can expand into even more jewelry ideas!