Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Step 3 - carving the details

So, if you've been around for the last few weeks, you'd know that Susan and Jason have chosen the wedding band "Stitches" from my Etsy store. Thanks guys!!! This is the third, and final, tutorial on carving their waxes. The previous tutorials are, part one and part two.

Here is a picture of the gravers I will be using to carve this wax. I want to stress that this is the way I carve a wax. There are as many wax carving techniques as there are wax carvers so if you don't have gravers, don't sweat it. Just use what you have!!

I now have unadorned wax rings in the correct sizes and widths and thicknesses so it's time to carve the details. I start, again, with my dividers and a calculator. I measure the outside diameter, calculate the outside circumference and fiddle with that measurement until I am satisfied with the number and width of the stitches that will fit around each band.
I mark all the way around with my dividers and scribe a line about 2mm in on each side. These sections will turn into the stitches. In these next three photos, I use various gravers to carve out the design. First, I mark out each section with a line. Then, I take a little wax from each corner to round each stitch and scrape away wax from each stitch's edge. I am mostly using a #42 and a #2 graver for this.

All these parts are very fiddly. I use whatever tools give me the right texture. To give the stitches their final texture, I used a file and a scribe. Below is a picture of the final carving.

Once the wax is done, I obsess over it for a day or two. I hunt down air bubbles, remeasure, rub it with 400-600 grit sandpaper and then give it a dunk in the ultrasonic and a quick steam. Sometimes I give the wax a quick flame polish, which is holding the wax very quickly in front of a big bushy flame to just slightly melt it (careful, this can be either really great or really heartbreaking.) There are wax polishers too that work really well. Either way, at some point you have to call them "done" and send them off to be cast. This is, honestly, the hardest part of the whole process. If you have ever had anything cast before you know,...a teeny blemish that doesn't show up much on a wax model can be HUGE once the piece is cast. You want to make sure that all of the scratches and air bubbles are gone once you send it off or you will have tons of cleanup to do.

Thanks for hanging in there for all three weeks!! I hope you learned something and I hope you try carving your own wax!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Creating a wedding band, part 2

Hi! For those of you who didn't see part one of this post, Susan and Jason chose "Stitches" for their wedding bands and I am blogging about the process of carving their bands out of wax, to be cast in 14 karat white gold. This is part two in the process.

The following two pictures are the tools I will use to carve the details into the wax. I use dividers for marking precise guidelines and gravers for carving the detail. The second photo shows some of the files I use, one specifically for wax and the others are cheap-o's I got at Lowe's. They are a pretty coarse cut that removes a controllable amount of wax but don't clog up with the wax debris.

The next step is removing some of the wax that I was to chicken to remove with the lathe...live and learn. I measure first to get the initial thickness (with my awesome new digital caliper!) which is 3mm. I would like the thickness to be 2.2mm.

My next step is to measure and mark the .08 mm I want to remove, which I do with a rotary file. This is an amazing tool, I use it for carving all my waxes and for removing metal when I need to move quickly. It leaves a nice surface that doesn't need much cleanup.

I was taught to use gravers for the next step. There are lots of ways to carve waxes but this is the way that works best for me. I think graver skills are so important for a bench jeweler or metalsmith to have. While FAR from an expert, my limited skills have helped me out of many jams and have been indispensable when carving pieces from wax. For rounding the outside and creating a comfort fit on the inside, I use, first, a #38 graver and then a #2. The #38 is a skinny flat graver and the #2 has a "V" shape. I use the sharp edge of the #38 to gently scrape wax away, creating a rounded edge, inside and out. I scribe a guide line first with a divider so everything stays nice and even.

When this step is done, I may run over the whole surface with 400 grit sandpaper but not always. I now have a ring blank that is ready for embellishments (sorry for the blurry pic), which I will cover in my last post, next Wednesday! Thanks for reading!!! See you next week!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

My studio mascot

This month's topic for the Etsymetal blog carnival is "Who/What is your studio mascot". "Does he/she/it inspire you? Watch you? Encourage you? Impede your work"

For those of you who aren't familiar with a blog carnival, every month members of the Etsymetal team choose a topic to write about and we all link to each other's blog. Get it? If you like a topic, find it interesting, there are lots of viewpoints and opinions!

I can't think of anyone else I'd rather call my studio mascot than my patient, loving and awesome husband, Ben! Back in 2008 we were having a really shitty summer. We had lots of stress and lots of bad stuff happen and, in the midst of it all, he built me my studio and encouraged (he would say forced at knife point) me to open my shop on Etsy. He had a vision for this crappy shed that, at the time, was full of old junk and mouse poop. I never thought it could turn into anything and now, it's my incredible space. Made just for me.

This picture is my Father in Law, my husband and my son, all working together to build me a studio. Three generations, all working together!!!

Every time I am blue and feeling like Etsy isn't working out for me, he is there to encourage me, or bring me a chocolate bar and a diet coke. Every time I melt some important piece or break a stone, he is there to make me realize it's just jewelry, not brain surgery. Every time I stay out way too late in the studio and come to bed long after he has gone to sleep, he makes me coffee in the morning and hustles the kids into the basement so I can sleep a little later. He is the maker of all things, the fixer of all things, the answer to all questions and the best husband and father I could ever imagine. He's not just my studio mascot, he's my studio hero!! Ben is also a very accomplished woodworker, so he understands my need for tools! Sometimes I think he understands the whole tool thing a little too well. He has made my studio work flawlessly for me. From hooking the pickle pot up to the light switch so I don't forget to unplug it, to installing a switch so my flex shaft and drill press can use the same foot pedal without unplugging it, there is nothing my studio is wanting. He has encouraged every thought, every need, every whim.

So, here's to my incredible studio mascot!!! Thanks Ben!! You're the best!!

Well, with lots of shows going on and lots of busy metalsmiths, it looks like there are only a few bloggers this month. Want to ready about their studio mascots? Check them out here!!:

Nina Gibson
Victoria Takahashi