When I say handmade... I mean it!
Here is an article I wanted to post about about making my own stock wire. When I am making a piece of jewelry, I mainly buy two raw materials: Silver wire and silver sheet. What I have ended up with over the years is A LOT of little bitty wire end pieces and A LOT of sheet metal with various holes punched in them. Also (ahem) a few failed projects that I have exiled to my scrap bin. So in short, I have a lot of scrap.
What to do with all this scrap? Over the years I have been buying and receiving many tools as gifts. (Thank you family) I now have all the stuff I need to melt my metal down and pour it into a form to make an ingot. From there, I can roll my own wire and sheet (though I don't like rolling sheet as much).
I have broken the process down into a few steps with photos.
Gather required materials! Here I have labeled the basic three things we need (besides a good hot flame) My scrap silver is sitting in the crucible waiting to be melted down.
Here we are getting all hot and melty. Sterling melts at about 900 degrees celsius and I use a propane/oxygen torch. I would have added flux when the metal was "quick silver" consistency. Flux is a powder that cleans the metal of most impurities and oxidation.
Here is the ingot (the bar of formed silver) after I poured. Sorry no action shot! It takes good aim and a swift pour as the sterling hardens very rapidly as it hits the mold.
Here we go a glamour shot of my pretty ingot. It weighs about 20 grams and has somewhat the same size and proportion of a crayon. The sides and ends are a bit rough, so I will file them a bit.
The rolling mill, my favourite tool at the moment. I could write a whole other article on just rolling the wire, but to sum things up, it takes a lot of patience and time and you gradually work your way though all the different size wire settings until you get the desired dimension of wire. Every second roll or so, you need to anneal (heat) the wire to make it soft. brittle wire will splinter and the first time you get a metal splinter in your hand, you will be very careful forever after.
Here are bits of wire I have rolled over time, with different dimensions. The original that I just poured is there as well. Doesn't look like much, I know, but just wait.
Aha. The project in progress. I have used the wire that I laboured over to create soldered chain links. Originally, I was going to make a cuff with links all soldered together in a sort of cage. Then I decided hm I think it would make a nice solid necklace.
See? She cleaned up nicely. Hours later and many more links later!
I hope you enjoyed this post. I really like sharing with people the process of what I do, and I hope to strengthen the handmade community by doing so.