Monday, November 4, 2013

Hold Your Fire! Cold Connection with Micro Screws by Karen McGovern

Welcome to our next BOOT CAMP!  This go round we are going to show all sorts of amazing ways to create using cold connections.  Cold connecting is awesome.  The term refers to joining metals and other materials without heat. The minute I read Making Connections by Susan Lenart Kazmer, I was totally hooked on using rivets and screws in jewelry connections.  Especially since at that time I had never used a torch and was actually too scared to try soldering.  My, how times have changed!  While I do a fair amount of soldering in my work now, I still use cold connections whenever I can.  They are quick; and require so much less finish work than hot (solder) connections (no fire scale, no pickle!). 

A variety of designs I have created using micro screws...
For the purposes of this post I will be discussing and showing how to use micro screws in jewelry design.  This boot camp is going to be full of cool ideas (see what I did there??) so I hope you will follow all the Monday posts—rivets are coming!
Micro screws are really gaining popularity in jewelry design.  Objects and Elements is a great source for brass and steel micro screws and nuts in a variety of lengths.  Nunn Design offers brass and copper micro screws in a medium length.  Just found out about the copper—my order has been placed!  The screws come in a standard 1/16th size, listed at O and E as short and long lengths.  I usually default to the long length; it’s easier to trim excess than to come up short when stacking and connecting elements in your design.
The look of micro screws is a bit industrial, which I love, but the screws are tiny enough not to overwhelm a design.  They are perfect for connecting metals and components that cannot be soldered together (aluminum, enameled elements), great for adding delicate materials to a design (like paper or resin/plastics), and wonderful to create elevated layers and stacks.  I use micro screws almost exclusively for my line of aluminum embellished cuffs.  So, I will be showing here how easy it is to make a really interesting cuff using a variety of materials all held together with micro screws.
What you need tool-wise:  micro screws and nuts in your preferred metal, micro screwdriver, a Dremel, Flex Shaft or EuroPunch tool with a 1/16th drill bit or setting, wire snips, metal shears, needle file, flat file, medium sanding sponge, round end riveting hammer or chasing hammer, domed face chasing hammer, bench block, steel bracelet bender or mandrel.

What you need materials-wise:  6 x 1.50 inch aluminum bracelet blank (available in many widths, this is just my favorite), 6 x 1 inch (or so) length  metal of your choice to overlay (I am using tin from an old cookie container), embellishments (this can be beads, discs, charms, whatever you like, just make sure they have a 1/16th hole in them).

Micro screwdriver, aluminum blank, brass micro screws and nuts,
riveting hammer, curved chasing hammer, round nose hammer.
First, I like to texture the aluminum.  I use a curved/domed end hammer for this and usually just hammer on an interesting surface, like the concrete stone pavers outside my garage.  Aluminum textures incredibly easily, so you can use just about anything for a texture plate.  Wood with a deep grain, brick, wire screen, or just a simple hammer texture all look wonderful.  Using a softly rounded hammer insures the inside of your cuff won't be scratched up or marked by the hammer.  Go crazy!  Run the sanding sponge along the edges when you are done to make sure everything is smooth with no rough spots or snags. 
Bracelet blank after texturing.  Using a hammer with a slightly curved
face prevents metal marks from marring the interior of the cuff.
Next, bend the aluminum into a cuff shape.  I have a bracelet bender and it is so easy and quick.  Two bends and I’m ready to go.  I can’t live without my bracelet bender.  I like oval cuffs, but you may prefer a round shape…do what you like! 

Blurry shot of the bender in use, then the finished shaped cuff.  Adjust with
your fingers as needed to get a perfect fit.
Prep your metal overlay.  For this cuff I cut a length of patterned tin from an old cookie container.  I used metal shears to cut the tin.  I like a tapered look to the overlay, so I cut mine a little narrower to one end.  Make sure the metal is filed smooth on the edges, especially with tin, leaving no snags or rough edges.  I round the corners also.  Sanding sponges work great here to finish and soften edges quickly.  If you are using copper or brass, I suggest a lighter gauge than the aluminum base.  I usually use 24 gauge copper and brass. 
Metal shears, sanding sponge, my favorite flat file and the cookie tin material.
*Don’t panic—I’m listing sources at the end* 
EuroPunch it.  Quick and easy.
Drill or punch two holes at each end of your overlay metal, then bend the metal over the aluminum cuff, centering the overlay top to bottom and end to end.  Once you have the metal placed where you like, mark through the holes at one end to the aluminum using a fine line Sharpie marker.  Drill or punch ONE marked hole in the aluminum, then insert a micro screw from the back of the cuff, through the overlay and add a nut, then tighten.  I learned to place a bit of tape over the screw head to hold it in place.  I have dropped approximately 7,000 micro screws and nuts on the floor under my bench.  On the filthy, bead-ridden, no-man’s land that is my floor…sigh...they are lost forever, or until I clean, so let's just go with FOREVER.  Drill or punch the second hole and repeat with another micro screw. 
Now you have one end in place, smooth the overlay metal to the other end, hold tightly and mark the other end with the Sharpie.  Drill or punch one hole, insert the micro screw, add the nut and tighten.  Finish by drilling or punching the last end hole and assembling the screw/nut as before.
Now you can really tighten the nuts to the screws.  TIGHT!  I usually hold the excess screw material with my fingers or needle nose pliers and tighten the nut with bent nose pliers until the nut won’t turn anymore.  Then snip the excess screw material to about 2mm above the nut.  Place the cuff on a steel mandrel (I use my ring mandrel) and hammer the excess screw material flush to the nut.  Use a round nose riveting hammer or round nose chasing hammer for this so the metal flares and domes, securing the nut in place. Hammer at an angle, not straight down, to flare and dome the excess metal.  Feel it with your finger—you want the metal to be smooth, no rough edges.  Hit it with a sanding sponge to make it smooth as needed.
Pic on left after cutting excess screw material, getting ready to hammer using
my steel ring mandrel for support from below.  Pic on right shows the screw
material after hammering, flared and smoothed.

Coming along nicely!!  Now to add more stuff.....
You’re basically done!  Now the fun part, adding extras!  I love MaryAnn Carroll’s enamel discs and use them in most of my cuffs (and just about everything else I make).  Here, I chose a nice big disc (1.25 inch) layered with a smaller round I cut from the cookie container cover that I drilled and dapped, and another tiny enamel disc.  Be creative here!  Layer large, flat beads, resin paper, stampings--whatever you can think of--as long as it has a hole big enough for the micro screw.  Position your base disc or bead where you want it on the cuff (I like a slightly off-center asymmetrical look), mark the spot with the Sharpie, then drill or punch a hole.  This time, insert the micro screw through the bead/disc stack from the top down so the screw head shows.  Then insert the screw end into the aluminum, add the nut to the back and tighten as tight as you can with your fingers.  For the final tighten, use the micro screwdriver inserted in the screw head, hold on to the nut with your fingers or pliers, and tighten really snug.  Snip the excess screw material.
Adding elements and using the micro screw driver.  A handy little device!

Now, here it can get interesting.  If you use dapped discs like I did, you will need to create a curved surface in order to set the nut.  The screw head must be supported by a metal surface in order to hammer without cracking or ruining your discs.  So, here’s my solution because I don’t have a ton of fancy tools.  I simply place my round nose hammer in a vise.  Then I invert the cuff, make sure the screw head is right on the ball of the hammer, then hammer and flare the excess screw material to the nut using a riveting hammer or another round nose hammer.  Yes, once you become addicted to riveting you will come up with all kinds of contraptions to get the job done.  Again, make sure there are no rough spots or snags and you are DONE!
It may not be elegant, but it works!

Definitely a balancing act, but you need to support the screw head while
hammering from behind.  Otherwise, you will crack and ruin your stacked elements!
Cold connecting designs are as endless as your imagination.  I’m including pictures here of some of my cold connected designs, and please visit our Pinterest page to see cold connections created by other artists in and out of LMAJ.  Come back often, we have more fantastic cold connection tutorials scheduled exploring tube rivets, nail head rivets and more. 
A recent and favorite assemblage pendant I created using micro screws
and nail head tube rivets.  More on those in future Monday boot camp posts!
Until next time—Keep Calm and Rivet ON!!!
Micro screws and nuts, hammers, riveting tools/punches:  Objects and Elements, Nunn Design
Aluminum/Brass/Copper bracelet blanks:  Gotta Getta Deal (check out the anodized aluminum in beautiful colors!)
EuroPunch Tool:  These are now available in many places including Michaels, Etsy, Objects and Elements
Dremel, micro screw driver and drill bits:  Any local hardware store
Sanding sponges:  Local hardware stores
FlexShaft:  Shop around, Google it, and Rio Grande has a good selection plus supplies
Copper enamel discs:  MaryAnnCarroll/Artisan Beads Plus


Artisan Beads Plus said...

I am so excited to challenge myself with this boot camp!

KayzKreationz said...

Thank you so much for this post. I've been wanting to try micro screws for a while and wasn't sure how to use them and where to find them. One question though, what do you snip off the excess of the screw with? Just some cutters? A saw or what? Thanks again.

stacilouise said...

I love the texture and look they add to a piece. this is a great tutorial, thank you for sharing your work methods. I LOVE the ball peen in the vice trick!!!!!

Karen McGovern said...

I use regular wire snips. I have a pair dedicated just for this, and my "good" snips for wire, etc.

SummersStudio said...

Good stuff. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

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