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Topic: Sheet Metal Jewelry- Please Help!  (Read 1578 times)
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« on: August 21, 2011 05:44:00 PM »

I've been a jewelry designer for a while but worked mainly with vintage jewelry. Now, I'm slowly getting hooked onto making pieces out of sheet metal and have made a few already. However, I feel like I may be doing it wrong, here's why:

I use a tin snip (shears) to cut my pieces out. This ends up giving me raggedy lines that take way too long for me to file down. I use a round needle file, and a flat file, then I finish it off with a fine grit sandpaper. The edges still look wonky and amateurish to me. Plus, my hands are usually in agony when I'm done cutting.

I use a dremel drill to make my holes. The whole process is very nerve-wracking. The metal gets extremely hot, and then since it gets so hot, I use a piece of fabric to hold it without burning my hand, the piece ends up flying and spinning around once I get the drill through. The hole itself looks a bit rough and when I file, I end up scratching the surface around it a lot.

I love the look of the hammered metal, so I use a ball-peen hammer to give my pieces the texture. However, I keep finding all these nicks, dings, and scratches on the front surface (I hammer it on the back with the piece atop an anvil.) I finish all my pieces with a polishing tip on my dremel and a polish compound. It doesn't make the scratches go away.

What could I be doing wrong? It's nearly impossible for me to find any tutorials online. Most are for soda pop can aluminum and that's something I don't want to do, I'm pretty sure that my metal is just a little bit thicker than that since plain old scissors were recommended to cut soda pop cans. I can't remember exactly what gauge my metal is, it is either a 20 or 22.

Please help, I'm overwhelmed and very under-informed but oh-so-eager to try this new method!
« Last Edit: August 22, 2011 05:46:47 AM by faerieangelchild » THIS ROCKS   Logged

Re-Vintaged Jewelry


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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2011 06:55:24 PM »

Maybe a jeweler's saw in lieu of the tin snips would help?

I don't know much about it either.

Good luck!

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« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2011 08:43:19 AM »

Can anyone please help? I really need advice. Thank you!

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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2011 07:43:59 PM »

some pointers;

-Get a jeweler's saw, learn to use it. It WILL take quite a bit of practice, so do not get frustrated when you break a few blades. They're not necessarily expensive, a cheap one is just fine for starting. I actually physically flinched when you said you used tin snips; the edges those leave are finger-shredding.

- If your metal is getting too hot to hold while you're drilling it you are doing it wrong. You can always just stop drilling till it cools down. What size drill bits are you using? How new are they? Are they made for metal or wood? Are you centre punching before you drill? I'd also imagine if heat's an issue you're not using oil. Go to Wal Mart and get yourself a little bottle of 3-in-1 oil; it's cheap and it'll work just fine. Before you drill put a drop on your metal where you intend to put your hole. This will help reduce friction and therefore should help with your heating problem.

-Also; what kind of a motion are you using when you are drilling? The way I was taught to do it is with a "pulsing" motion. Pressure on the bit for a half second, ease up for a half second, pressure again, etc. This is slower than just forcin' er through, but your finished hole won't have as many raggedy edges and it should also help with your heating problem somewhat.

-Also be drilling on a wooden surface you do not mind wrecking. that way the drill bit can go all the way through. Try not to apply so much torque that the pieces "Goes spinning out of your hands". (Are you using a dremel with a pressure sensitive foot pedal, or one of those ones where the only modes are "off" and "kill"? If you get really serious about jewellery making you might want to bite the bullet and invest in a Foredom. I use one and I really cannot recommend them enough.) if you are unable to do fine torqu control on what you're using, clamp your piece.

-on raggedy hole edges; Just take a larger drill bit, line it up with the hole, and apply gentle pressure while turning once or twice. (WITH YOU HANDS. NOT in your dremel unless you're counter-sinking.) They make a tool that works quite well for this but it's proper name excapes me at the moment; it looks like a burnisher but is triangular in cross-section and has very sharp edges. Printmakers call them "Scrapers"

-The secret to a realy nice bright shiny hammered finish is that every surface you are using to achieve the surface must be polished up to a scratch-free mirror shine. Think of it like clay; you woulden't push a tennis ball into wet clay over and over again and expect to get a smooth texture out of it. The scratches on your tools are the scratches that will imprint on your metal. Since it's a pain in the ass to polish an anvil you may want to look into aquiring a bench block, which is exactly what it sounds like. They are a bloody handy thing to have around.

-out of curisity, are you using a bench pin? and what kind of "sheet metal" are you using?

-also; SAFETY GOGGELS. Very important, that one.

Hopefully I was able to be of some assitance. Let me know if anything's unclear or if you want further explanation.

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« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2011 04:11:25 PM »

Wow! Thank you for taking the time to write all of this down!

I did think of the jeweler's saw but wanted to know what a more experienced person had to say. I guess I should just get one now then. Where do you recommend I could get a nice affordable saw and what types of blades should I have?

As for drilling, I use a Dremel with a bit made for steel. I learned this from when I drilled beach stones and glass, I actually use light pressure and press down every so often, very much like how you said, the pulsing motion. Perhaps I need to use more oil, I already do, but I think in my impatience to get the hole drilled, I don't really stop to apply more and maybe I should. I'll do that. And I do use a scrap board to do the drilling on. Perhaps next time I'll just use duct tape or masking tape and tape it down to bypass ever holding it. Thank you for the tip on that tool, I'll look around and see if I can find it. If you can think of its proper name, that'd be wonderful.

My anvil is really a bench block but I like to use the term interchangeably. You're right, there are scratches on it and I believe that's why my surfaces are all dinged as well. I doubt I can polish the block well enough to remove all the scratches, could I use a piece of leather over it. The texture I get from the leather may be cool, I'll give that a try, but if you have any other advice on that, it'd be great.

My metal is a very thin aluminum sheet metal I got from the hardware store. Its actually in pretty good shape, no scratches or marks on it. I did read in various places, that other artists also get their metals from hardware stores so I didn't think it was wrong.

What is a bench pin? Clearly, by asking, no I'm not using one. I've heard of it but don't really understand why its so important. It looks like a piece of wood with a notch in it?

And yes, safety goggles. I'm also going to go get a mask just to prevent breathing in any dust! They are truly a must, the goggles.

Thank you and I hope to hear more!

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« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2011 06:43:11 PM »

Check your phone book and see if you've got any jeweler's supply places near you. The first frame I bought ran me about $12. Not dirt cheap, but affordable. The blades are all pretty skinny but I started out with 1/0. you'll break a few but don't get discouraged. also when you're cutting NEVER put your hand in front of your saw. I once saw a guy break a blade on the downstroke and before he could stop the busted section of blade still attached to the top on the saw had poked clean through his finger.

In it's simplest form a bench pin is a rectangular piece of playwood with a V shaped notch cut into it, anchored to the edge of a workbench with a C-clamp. You can buy fancy onces with built in clamps and things but I've always felt they're kind of a spectacular waste of money. A bench pin is meant to be your main work surface; when you are using a saw you hold your piece flat against the top of the pin with the area you're cutting inside the V. That way it is easier to put pressure on to hold down, and the piece has support on most sides while you're cutting. they are pretty much essential if you're going to use a jeweller's saw. (by the way, a pointer for when you're learning; when you finish a cut with a saw, move it over to the inside edge of the V and turn it so you're cutting INTO the wood under your piece as well as the piece for the last few strokes. this'll keep the blade from getting away from you because trust me, those things will cut through flesh like paper.) Bench pins have lots of other uses and once you start using one you'll find ways to customize it to what you like to do with it.

also while drilling I'd highly recommend an *actual* clamp to hold your piece if you must, rather than tape. Tape shears pretty easily and you don't want what you're working on flying across the room.

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