02 July 2015

How To Measure Your Ring Size

If you're considering buying a new ring, one of the most important things to know is your ring size. Here are a few quick rules for getting your correct size: 

Finger size can vary from day to day or even throughout the day due to a variety of factors including diet, hydration, exercise, allergies, temperature, etc. It can be difficult to get an accurate size even when using a ring sizer, so I recommend measuring your finger more than once, ideally at different times of day. Later in the day is generally best, as your finger is likely to be its largest after a day of working with your hands and being in the heat of the day. 

In addition, be sure the sizer slides comfortably over your knuckle. If the ring you wish to order is over 1/4” (6mm) wide, I would recommend ordering a slightly larger ring to compensate for the width. Wider rings constrict more of the finger and so will fit tighter than a narrower ring of the same size. Go up 1/4 size if you are ordering a ring between 1/4” (6mm) and 5/16” (68mm) wide. Go up 1/2 size if you are ordering a ring that is 3/8” (9.5mm) wide or wider.


17 June 2015

Have you bought your wedding bands from Down to the Wire Designs? I would love to see your photo! Keep in mind, it doesn't just have to be photos of the wedding bands -- feel free to share your favorite moment of the day. You can submit your photo via a Facebook private message or email it to downtothewiredesigns@gmail.com . I'll try to post as many as I can!

09 June 2015

A New Old Favorite

This is a new set in my Opposites Attract wedding band line. It makes use of a pattern I have used many times before in my work. It's always enjoyable to take a much-loved element of my work and find a new way to make it relevant.

08 June 2015

My Essential Four

One thing I love about metalsmithing is that no matter how long you've been doing it, there's always more to learn. Towards that end, I have happily accumulated a stash of favorite go-to books dedicated to jewelry and metalsmithing. My book collection has proven to be an invaluable resource whenever I've had a technical question or needed some creative inspiration.

Of these books, there's a small handful that I seem to return to again and again. I consider these books essential to my library. Here are my Essential Four:

The Complete Metalsmith: An Illustrated Handbook by Tim McCreight - This book is the bible of metalsmithing for beginners. There is lots of basic, practical information and even now I find myself flipping through its pages from time to time.

Knitted, Knotted, Twisted, and Twined: The Jewelry of Mary Lee Hu by Stefano Catalani, Jeannine Falino, Janet Koplos - When I first discovered jewelry making at the University of Washington, Mary Lee Hu was my jewelry professor. After just two classes, I was hooked. Her work appealed to me in so many ways, but particularly because it is so intricate and precise.

1000 Rings: Inspiring Adornments for the Hand (500 Series) by Marthe Le Van and Robert W. Ebendorf - This was the first book that ever included a piece of my work. There’s even more of a sentimental aspect, as my niece was the person who chose the piece for submission. 

Calder Jewelry by Alexander & Holton, eds., et al. - I love Alexander Calder’s work because he has always struck me as a tinkerer. I admire that spirit. Calder wasn’t a trained jeweler – he was open to experimenting with forms.

Which books do you find yourself reaching for again and again?

30 March 2015

New Work

So pleased with the way this one turned out. The bride and groom designed this band with a dogwood/bird pattern in 14k white gold.

11 March 2015

The Basics of Jewelry Making - Part 3

For the final post of this series, I'll discuss a few techniques and tips for using the materials we previously discussed.

1. The pickle: I never follow the directions for mixing the pickle, but here are some guidelines: add acid to water (always); I never use as much water as it calls for. Instead, I put in enough water for my needs, to cover my work entirely. Usually just a couple of inches. Then add in some of the dry pickle, and mix in. You do not need to turn on the crock pot for the pickle to work but it works quicker with heat. So if you have a lot of stuff and you are in a hurry, use the heat. Just try not to forget to turn the pot off, which can evaporate out all the water (still no big deal, just add more). Distilled mineral water is best. You might also get some kind of non-metal pan or tray for under your crock pot in case of spills. Lastly, locate it in a spot where children or pets are not going to get into it. Pickle is not a deadly acid that will burn your skin the second it touches it, but you don’t want it on your skin just the same.

2. The solder: Easy melts at the lowest temperature, then Medium, and finally Hard melts at the highest temperature. You only need all three if you plan on doing complex projects with a lot of solder joints. Then you don't want to be using the same solder for the whole piece because as you are working on the last joints, the first ones are also heating to flow point. You plan out your soldering in advance, then start with hard and work back to easy. That way the hard joints aren't flowing when you are working on the easy joints. Color your solder sheets different colors with permanent marker. I use red for easy, purple for medium, and black for hard (color both sides). You don't want to mix these up if you can help it, for the reasons above (i.e. soldering an easy joint with hard solder will make all previous joints flow before the one you are working on). Then cut off very thin strips with scissors and then cut little square snips from those with your wire cutters. I have three marked containers for my solders so I don't mix them.  I have friends who use medium solder for everything and that seems to work for them but I would still urge you to get all three if you are soldering anything with more than ten solder joints.

3. The flux: I flux everything before I start soldering. The solder is wet and if you start right away, everything will bubble and your solder, if you pre-place it, will bubble out of place. If you let your piece sit, the flux will dry out and then not bubble when you heat it.  Also, not thoroughly fluxing a piece can lead to the build-up of firescale in sterling silver.  That is when the copper in the sterling alloy comes to the surface when the piece is heated and gives the silver an orangish hue.  This can be a huge pain to buff out, especially if the surface is highly textured.

4. Venting: You should also rig up some sort of ventilation system to remove any fumes from your workspace.  This can be as simple as a fan at your back and an open window if front of you, or a kitchen range hood mounted above your soldering area.  Try not to solder while looking down on your work because then the fumes will be flowing upward into your face.  If you do this once you will tend to avoid it afterward— it’s really unpleasant.

And, finally, here is a trick.... I take the piece of solder onto my pick, by wetting the pick first (either in water, or in the flux) then heat it until it balls up. Then I place that ball where I want it. This gives you a lot more control of where the solder flows. When you start with the flat chip, it just sort of melts like a pat of butter with the heat. When it's in ball form, it tends to follow the seams of the piece better (e.g., if you are soldering two pieces of sheet together at a 90 degree angle). Also, have a small container of water handy to dip the hot pieces into before dropping them into the pickle pot.

If you've ever been inspired to learn the basics of metalsmithing, or just been interested in seeing how it's done, I hope these posts have been helpful. If you've enjoyed this series, or if you have a question or two, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!