Saturday, January 31, 2009

How do you make that?

Many, many times I've been asked, "How do you make that?" or even, "Do you really make all these things?" So I thought I'd show and tell a little of the process.

Most of my work starts out as a coil of silver or copper wire of varying gauges (thicknesses). Some of it, such as the cuffs, begins as a plain sheet of silver or copper. I keep the raw materials in a chest by my bench.

Today I'll just talk about how I make the chains. 

First, I cut off a length of wire and wrap it around a wooden or steel dowel until I have a coil of 20 to 50 or so links, depending on the size. I use a jeweler's saw to cut the coil down one side to make a bunch of open links.

Next, I use pliers to push the ends of the links flush together. I then solder some of the links closed with an oxygen/propane torch. I line a lot of them up at one time, and this is what it looks like (except that the board is usually at least half full of links).

Once I've soldered those links, I join them together with others and then solder all of those to make a chain. Some chains require more than 100 solder joins. (Yes, it takes time and patience.)

Next I hammer each link of the chain. Here are my beloved hammers.

See the one in front on the right? That's a planishing hammer, and I use it 90% of the time. It's my oldest and most beloved hammer.

After everything has been hammered, I toss it in a rotary tumbler with steel shot and let it go for up to eight hours. This is where it gets the bright, shiny finish.

And here you have an 18-inch "Paperclips" chain and earrings with 42 individually soldered and hammered links.

So, every single piece of every single chain I make, including the shepherd's hook clasp, has been formed, soldered and hammered by me. (The only thing I don't make is the earwires for the earrings. If I did, I'd spend days and days just making earwires, and even I'm not that crazy.)


  1. Wow Kristin!
    no wonder the pieces are so beautiful, so much care and love goes into each and every link.
    Looking forward to seeing more.

  2. Thanks, Jo! I do love my work, in so many ways, and I hope some of that love stays with the work and transfers to the wearer.