Friday, 28 June 2013

Making A Hollow Form Pendant With Turquoise Cabochon


I recently finished my first hollow form pendant with a bezel set cabochon and actually remembered to take photos this time (!) so I thought I would share how I did it.

I decided to make a fairly small round shaped pendant and set an 8mm turquoise cabochon onto the front.


I started by forming the frame or wall of the pendant and made the bezel at the same time. After soldering I shaped the frame on a ring mandrel to round it up. I then cut a small piece of sterling sheet for the back piece so it was about 3mm bigger than the frame all round. I flattened and sanded the sheet so there was good contact between the frame and sheet.


Using steel t pins pushed into a fibreboard soldering block I secured the frame to the base so there was good contact all round. You could use binding wire instead of t pins or as it was a small sized piece just pushing down with a soldering pick probably would have worked ok. I just like to have a hand free when I'm soldering if possible just in case! I think I overdid the amount of solder to be honest but I'd rather do that and know the join will be good all the way round than have to redo it. Any excess solder will either be inside the pendant or removed when the base is trimmed anyway so there won't be any cleaning up to do.

I've recently changed the flux I use from Auflux to Easy Flo as I prefer the paste consistency of the Easy Flo. The Auflux works fine but being a liquid it runs off pieces and I was having to reapply it several times before starting to solder so decided to try a paste version which is what I got used to using at night classes at college.


After pickling the base and trimming it slightly I prepared a piece of etched silver for the top. I decided where I wanted to put the bezel and allowing for the overhang I drilled a ventilation hole in what would be the middle of where the bezel would sit which would be hidden later by the cab. The hole is necessary to allow hot air to escape during any further soldering or there could be a risk of the pendant exploding.


I used the t pins to make sure the join was tight and probably too much solder again! I find the residue left by the Easy Flo flux makes it hard to see if the solder join was complete. It looked like there was a gap but once it was out of the pickle I could see it was ok.


Making a hollow form with a hole in it means any liquid will get into the middle and must be removed! After taking it out of the pickle I ran it under the tap so the flow of the water hit the hole and helped to force the pickle out. I then left it to soak in water and bicarb for about 15 mins while I got the bezel ready for soldering to the front.
You need to remove as much of the liquid in the centre as possible before soldering again. Shaking the pendant and blotting the hole with kitchen roll helps but if you are in hurry then you can dry it in the oven set at it's lowest temp for about 10- 15 mins. Or you could do what I did and leave it to dry while you have your lunch and watch Bargain Hunt and the News. I really do live life on the edge.


Once it was dry I applied flux to the whole of the front of the pendant when I soldered the bezel to help protect from firestain. I couldn't see any firestain on the front but I did get some on the edge and back of the pendant. More about this later! I pickled the pendant and after rinsing and drying I trimmed the edges and filed and sanded them. I then made a bail for hanging and soldered this onto the top of the pendant.


In hindsite the way I set this up probably wasn't the best way to do it! What happened was......... the solder flowed at the front of the bail (you can see the piece of solder in the photo) and I turned it over to flow the solder on the back. I supported the front of the bail with my pliers to stop it dropping when the solder flowed on the back but I must have pushed the pliers too hard under the bail as it tipped upwards when the solder flowed on the back so I had to reflow the solder and reposition the bail. I got there in the end but I think soldering the bail on the back first then turning it over to solder the front would have worked better.

If you were wondering what the white stuff around the bezel was in the photo it's Tippex which stops solder from flowing. I put it around the bezel solder seam as I was using easy solder again for the bail just in case the easy solder around the bezel decided to reflow. Make sure you let the Tippex dry before soldering as it gives off fumes and can ignite sometimes.

Now I'm enjoying making more pendants I will need to turn my thoughts to bail design and how to make them more interesting. Being an earring person I've never had to think much about bails before!

Firestain!
I mentioned firestain earlier as I noticed it on the sides and back of the pendant. It shows as a grey/purple mark when you start to sand/clean up the silver. It's formed by the oxidation of the copper within the sterling silver not just on the surface and can't be removed by pickling unlike firescale. Too much heat in the same spot can cause it. Anyway it happens. There are ways to prevent it such as coating the sterling silver with a protective layer such as Firescoff or using Argentium silver which doesn't form firestain. Thoroughly covering the sterling silver with flux before you start soldering can help too.
I managed to remove it by using a sanding disc with my Dremel but this does create a lot of extra work. I decided that using a scotchbrite bristle brush with my Dremel to give the silver a satin finish then oxidizing it worked fine in disguising the slightly darker areas so I didn't stress too much over it!


These are great for a satin finish but make sure you wear glasses/goggles as they love to fire their bristles everywhere if you catch the edge of a piece!

The finished pendant




3 comments:

  1. This is just beautiful. I took a silver-smithing class at the end of last year, and meant to follow it up at home, but haven't managed to yet. Your tutorial and beautiful pendant really make me want to jump in again though!

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  2. Thanks Rebecca! I love seeing other jewellery makers step by step photos showing how they've made something so I'm glad mine has inspired you to carry on with the metalwork :D

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  3. This pendant is just lovely. Your attention to detail really shows. Good job! I've been talking about learning how to solder for years and have never followed through. Your photos may be the incentive I need.

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