Dec 092010

Oh wow, what could be better???

Not only yummy stones……but they are on sale!!!

While you are shopping for others……consider a little side trip over to

CR Designs Idaho

where Ric is having a

huge holiday sale

Ric is having a HUGE sale –

Holiday Cab sale

Get 20% off your next order !!

Use coupon code : cabs10

Code expires Dec 24 2010

Cabs cut by a jewelry designer for a jewelry designer !!


Better hurry though – those cabs won’t last long!!


Oct 272010

I once heard someone say:

“Don’t want scratches on your metal? Then don’t put them there!”

I love that saying. And its really the number one tip, and the first place to start in a discussion of removing scratches from metal, or polishing/ finishing.

Don’t scratch it in the first place.

Store it carefully. And handle it carefully.

There are many different ways to store your metals, obviously some work better than others and not all suggestions will fit for all studios.

Do what works for you. Here are some popular ideas for storage.

Storing Metal Sheet

  • A small plastic filing box with hanging files
  • plastic ziploc bags (inexpensive and come in varying sizes)
  • wrap sheets in paper towels (or shop towels which are a bit sturdier)
  • use manila envelopes which can be clearly marked and can be folded over for sizing
  • cover it with layers of tin foil
  • or……………………. whatever else you can dream up that works for you to keep metal from rubbing on other metal or anything else for that matter.

Despite the best planning and your hard efforts though, chances are you will end up with some scratches. Whether during storage or during handling/crafting, you are going to need to figure out how to remove scratches. Even if you don’t want a mirror shine on your work, you don’t want scratches interfering with your design. You can either add scratches INTO your design, making them a part of a texture, or learn to remove them.

Handling the metal

Take care in how you handle your metal. Both while you are working on it and in between operations.

While working – Use nylon pliers, a ring clamp, or your hands when possible to hold metal. Place your piece on a cushioned surface such as an old fabric placemat, beaders mat,  folded dish towel, paper towel, or other soft surface. This protects the back from scratches as you work and they are easily moved around the studio and tucked away for storage. Just remember to shake them out well before each use.

In between operations – Keep small containers handy to place your piece in between studio sessions to prevent other items being placed on the piece or having it knocked on the floor. Some popular suggestions are altoids containers (place a paper towel or tissue inside), chinese take out containers, or stacked styrofoam trays from the grocery store (the ones meat, veggies, or fruit come in – just wash then well first!). Be creative and think of items you could recycle for this use.

BASICS on removing scratches

  1. Select an abrasive – This can be files, sandpapers, a flexshaft attachment.


  1. Select a grit – Most of the abrasives will come coarse to fine and are noted by ‘grit’, micron, or grade (coarse, medium, etc). Choose a grit that is only the coarsest needed to blend in with the scratch. You’re not technically removing the scratch, you’re removing the metal around the scratch. It may take practice determining what grit or tool to begin with, but don’t worry, if you go too coarse, its not the end of the world, it just means a little extra work getting THOSE scratches out.


  1. Move up in stages, going through finer grits, always ‘blending’ until your previous scratches are covered. It helps if you turn your work a half a turn each time you make a step to a finer grit/medium. This way you can look for the directional change in marks on your metal.


  1. Brace your work. It is tempting to hold your work in one hand ‘in the air’ and go at it with your other hand, but it is much more effective if you brace your work on a benchpin or other surface. This provides resistance which increases the impact of your efforts.

for removing scratches


Can be purchased from a hardware store, automotive store, or jewelry supply house. There is the typical sandpaper and then there is wet/dry sandpaper. Both serve a purpose and you may want to add both to your studio.

Rio Grande also sells ‘finishing paper’ which is a sanding paper charged on both sides and backed with a synthetic fiber – finishing papers are meant to last longer than traditional sandpapers. (IN GENERAL – the coarsest sandpapers I use is a 220 grit sandpaper and the finest is 4000 wet/dry. Before or after that another tool is probably a better choice)

Sandpapers can be used in the hand or on a stick. You don’t have to purchase sanding sticks (although that is convenient), you can make a sanding stick by wrapping sandpaper around a paint stir or for small jobs a popsicle stick and adhering with either glue or tape.


large, small, flat, half round, bastard, rifler, nail (YES, a nail file!). . . . the list of files can be overwhelming! When called for, with basic removal of scratches, I normally use a needle file or rifler file. and normally that is for small hard to reach places. For flat open areas of metal, I use sandpaper.

Flexshaft attachments

3m radial disks, abrasive wheels ( such as cratex or advantagedge), sanding bands, etc. There is an ever growing number of attachments for the flexshaft. Don’t run out and buy them all at once. If you can test them at a local studio, workshop, or with a friend, do that first! Find which ones match your equipment and style of work.

Finally –

Final polishing can also ‘blend’ surface scratches by burnishing. Polishing can be done with felt, cotton, muslin buffs . . . and every metalsmith seems to have their own preference for how polishing is done. These attachments can be used on a flexshaft or a polishing lathe. The buff is ‘charged’ with a polishing compound and the various polishing compounds all have different ‘grits’ and applications.

In Practice

Here is a small test piece that shows one progression.

This piece was fairly clean, soldered and pickled.

It then went straight to the 3m radial disks. It was worked through the 3m radial disks to pink and then put on a polishing lathe with either red rouge or ZAM. (sorry I can’t recall which!)

The final photo is straight from the lathe, in all of it’s polishing gunk glory.

All photos were taken directly on the bench during the process, between each disk and they are hopefully in order.

This is strictly as one example of what can be done, it is not suggestive of ‘the’ correct method or the ‘right’ way to do this.


Hand positions in photos may not be accurate as angles are often changed due to camera position.

* * *DISCLAIMER  * * * *

This was not originally intended to be anything more than some photos with an explanation of the specific process used for the photos. However, it grew and grew and could have grown more……… is not as in depth as it could be, there are many area that could have been explored further…..but we’re capping it for now and will revisit it in the near future – maybe focusing on polishing buffs and compounds. If you have any pressing questions or curiosities, please feel free to leave a comment! In addition, any well meant and well stated critiques or corrections are also welcomed! * * * * *

Sep 222010

Color on Metal – Out of the grey and into the blue.

MANY artists use liver of sulphur (LOS) to create a black or grey patina on sterling. But that is not the ONLY color range that LOS offers!

With a little tweaking of the solution, you can achieve variations from reddish brown to blues and purples.

By varying the concentration of the LOS mixture and also the temperature of the mixture, one can get reddish colors – brown, and also blue to purple and adding other components to the mix achieves even brighter blues and purples.

LOS comes in chunk, liquid, and even gel form now. The following observations have been made using chunk form mixed with warm water to dissolve.

Dark grey or black – a strong mixture of LOS in relation to water is used. If the mixture is hot, the patina process will go MUCH faster, creating a deep black very quickly. (be careful, sometimes this can apply such a thick layer that it will flake off) When desired color is achieved, rinse metal in cold water to interrupt the patination process.

Reds and browns – a weaker mixture of LOS/water is used. AND a more ambient temperature solution. Dip metal quickly and don’t rinse. Wait and watch colors develop. Keep dipping and watching the process.When desired color is achieved, rinse metal in cold water to interrupt the patination process.

Blues and purples – a weak mixture of LOS and water. . . or day old mixture may be used. Add industrial strength ammonia to the mixture. (this is ‘professional’ grade cleaning ammonia, ensure proper ventilation when using) Heat metal. (can be done by running under VERY hot water). Dip quickly or paint patina onto metal. Watch CLOSELY as color develops. The metal will go through stages of color. Repeat the heating and painting process until the desired colors are achieved, rinse metal in cold water to interrupt the patination process.

Here is a picture of a sterling piece done in this manner:

Red, blue, green, maybe purple can be seen, and it has an irridescent quality to it.

Here is the reverse side with no flash on camera:

Patinas are not always stable. They can change over time. For this reason, a sealant is often used. Either wax of some sort – Renaissance Wax is a favorite among many; or a fixative spray (Nikolas lacquer has been highly recommended) to preserve color but note that anything placed over a patina will change the effect to some degree as it changes the way light plays over the surface of the metal.

Below you can see the same piece after about 7 mos in a drawer, in no protective wrapping and NO sealant having been applied. Unfortunately the photo itself is pretty poor, there is a lot of glare, however the blues/greens/reds are still visible in various places

and the back ‘after’ picture:

This pendant was colored using day old LOS soultion that had faded to a weak yellow/straw color.

Straight ammonia was added to the LOS solution. There is no need to be specific with ratios, one of the joys of patinas is in experimentation.

The room temperature mixture was ‘painted’ on with a papertowel very lightly, wiping dry, then applying more,then wiping dry until the desired colors were achieved.

The nice thing is if you go too far you can take it off and start again.

One tip – KEEP a notebook for patinas handy on your bench. Record your process including:

  • patina ingredients and amounts
  • meta used
  • temperature of solution
  • temperature of metal
  • method of applying (dunked, painted, misted, etc)
  • time left on
  • rinsing in between applications (if any)
  • repetition of process (if any)

General instructions for LOS in chunk form:

Use a heat tolerated container. Add a quarter cup of hot water. Add one small chunk (a little less than the size of a pea). Wait for it to dissolve. Swirl container to mix.

The LOS is ready to use. Mixed LOS solutions are not very stable. They will degrade over time and usually are not saved. however, for some of the color variations noted above, retaining your mixed LOS can serve a purpose!  LOS will weaken overnight, losing its color (turning more clear) and eventually have a skim or flakes on the surface. When the LOS solution gets to that point – it’s dead. ..inactive, and can be poured down the drain (from what we’ve read). If your solution is still yellow, it is ‘active’ and should be disposed of according to your local requirements.

More on patinas coming soon!

See more Tips & Tricks
Free Jewelry Making Tutorial – Dual Balled Ring


Inspiration Gallery live!

 Updates  Comments Off on Inspiration Gallery live!
Sep 172010

The new Inspiration page is now live!

Feel free to suggest an artist or piece by using the contact tab above.

hope you enjoy the work presented. 🙂

Sep 142010

chances are I’ll want a sock to go with it.

No, seriously. There is a great use for your lone socks, you know, the ones that come out of the wash without a mate. Don’t throw them away, use them as ‘hats’ for your hammers!

I snapped this picture of my hammer drawer, the place where my ‘good’ hammers live. metalsmithing, raising, forming hammers, jewelry artists network

True, these aren’t socks, but they used to be, and some do still have socks, I just didn’t et a picture of those. These are golf club covers and some might be shoe covers.

Anyway, the real message here is that there are probably things in your home right now that could be residing on the heads of your hammers. Look around and then cover your hammers! It helps prevent rust and any possible scratches on the highly polished heads.