Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Finishing Techniques tutorial!

Alrighty! This is my second post finishing up the below earrings. You can find the first post here.

 My teacher asked me once, "Carol, why do you make so much work for yourself?" Well, that made me think. How am I making more work for myself and more importantly how the heck not to??  There are so many different ways to buff, polish, finish, texture, etc..that my little brain became confused and overwhelmed with all the different options. I sat down, did some research, listened to my teacher and watched Nancy Hamiltons videos. She has a great one here on finishing techniques. So for this post I am going to break down the process that works for me. Keep in mind you may choose to do something totally different. There are so many options out there, that you get to choose your own workflow, one that you are comfortable with and what works for you.

Ok, finishing up the earrings. With these next steps it is very important to wear goggles and a dust mask. Also, if you are headed out to run errands after, make sure you wash your face! Oh yes, I have forgotton.

Step ten
For the next step, which is my first step in finishing, I use a cratex wheel and flex shaft to remove the solder and any firescale. Firescale is the icky purplish stuff that comes up to the surface of the metal. Some designers use a process called depletion gilding for sterling silver to remove firescale. I haven't figured this out yet, so for now I just use Cratex. You can find individual ones to try here. The one pictured is the red Cratex which is a fine grit. Cratex comes in other grits and also different shapes for the types of pieces you are working on.

Another popular option is to use a slotted mandrel and wrap a strip of sandpaper around it. I tried this technique twice. The first time sandpaper flew all over my studio, and the second time...well, I FORGOT to put my hair up. got stuck in the mandrel and instantly created a dreadlock on the whole right side of my head. I was so freaked out I kept pushing the flex shaft pedal and screamed like a dork. Yep! It took me about an hour to untangle my hair! Needless to say, I am currently turned off to the slotted mandrel, sandpaper technique.

If I  haven't soldered or used Cratex, I will just throw a bunch of pieces into the tumbler to polish.

Step eleven
After the Cratex, I will use Tripoli and a buffing wheel. Tripoli is a compound that is slightly abrasive and leaves a dull finish on the piece. Why yes, I did purchase this buffing wheel from Harbor Freight. It would be nice to have another in the studio like this, with the tapered spindles for easy removal of buffing wheels. Maybe some day.
This is what the pieces look like after tripoli. I don't use the finger cots or tape because I am a glutton for punishment. The metal gets super hot though, so sometimes I use a ring clamp to hold my work. 

To clean the metal you can use a crockpot with a basket. You use a mixture of water, ammonia and dish soap. Then take a soft bristle brush to scrub the metal clean. OR you can use an ultrasonic cleaner. 
Here is mine. THIS machine is AMAZING. Look at how fast it cleans the metal! Again, a MAJOR time saver. I use a mix of water, ammonia and the sonic cleaner powder for maximum cleaning! 

Step twelve
I then used the above hammers to texture the metal. If I wanted the metal to have a mirror finish, I would use the Rouge wheel after hammering. For these earrings though, I wanted a more rough texture and used the fiber wheel below.

Step thirteen
Here is the metal after a nice hot bath of liver of sulfur. I love how each metal changes a different color.
I then used an extra-fine mini fiber wheel to remove the oxidation in the areas where I wanted to highlight the metal and to give a light brushed look. To finish these earrings I sprayed with Clear Guard Lacquer, used a hole punch, and attached my handmade earwires. I usually don't spray sterling silver, but when used with other metals I do. 

So there you have my basic finishing workflow! Here are some additional tools for you to try.

My finishing kit arsenal
I made this kit with graphs of grits taped to the lid for reference. Sometimes pieces require special finishing such as ring bands or pieces with tight spots. (You can use a slotted ring mandrel with sandpaper also if you are brave). 

Here are the items in my kit.
3m Radial Bristle Discs in various sizes and grits

Also, here are some sanding wheels I learned how to use from Nancy Hamiltion. You use all items listed below together.
PSA Quick-Change sanding discs in various grits.

Basically you put the sanding discs on top of the Magnum and score the center. You then snap it on the mandrel. What's nice about using these, is the Magnum is plastic-backed so you can bend it when sanding, therefore you have better control. Nancy talks about how to use them in her video. I really like using these!

I hope you picked up a few tricks on finishing and therefore don't spin your wheels in the studio like I used to do! So how do you finish your work? Do you have any tips or tricks you would like to share?  Please feel free to leave a comment!

In closing, I wanted to share something that isn't really thought about too much during the Fourth of July holiday. Animals. Wild or domesticated, they get super scared and freak out during our celebration. If you can, place animals in a quiet place and also consider livestock or wild creatures that may be around. I wanted to mention this because of the wonderful conservation efforts of Karen McGovern. I know she will be taking care of her animals and making sure they are ok during all the fireworks. Thank you so much for all your hard work Karen!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July!


Artisan Beads Plus said...

Wow, Carol! I love all of the tips. I am going to go back to these posts when I put in my next tool order. I have things sitting in the cart on Amazon, but think it might be better to check out Harbor Freight. I have gotten hand tools from there and have liked them.

Carol Dekle said...

Some tools just make working in the studio so much fun! Also, my mechanic hubby comes to me now and asks my opinion on how to fix things. Awesome!

Michelle said...

Thank you for all of this great info. This is the part of jewelry making that I need help on the most.

OMG! I laughed so hard at your description of the slotted mandrel technique. I think 'cos I was happy I'm not the only one to do those kinds of things. (As I have a long scratch on my jaw line from trying to itch my face while holding sharp brass sheet metal. No I was not trying to itch it with that...)

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