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Friday, January 8, 2016

Teaching Myself Jewelry Hinges Part 1

A *LOT* harder than I imagined... and I imagined it'd be pretty hard.

For my first attempt, I took two 18 gauge pieces of copper (first mistake) and cut some copper tubing.  Decided that since everything was copper, I'd opt for my copper solder as well.

These pieces of copper were way too large (1.5") and thick (18g) to heat with anything other than my plumber's torch.

For those not following my escapades, I don't use any "cool" torches.  I only use butane torches (aka micro torch or creme brule torch) and plumber's torches.
So what I can do is limited but that doesn't stop me from trying.

As I recall, with my first attempt, all that happened was the copper solder just went over to my tubing and wanted nothing to do with the big square pieces I was trying to solder the tubing to.

Then I thought, "Well, I'm just experimenting anyway, so I'll switch to silver solder.  I am more familiar with it and find it easier to deal with."

I did have success (with step one).  I was able to solder tubing to flat pieces in preparation for making a hinge.

With minimal clean up, here is the final effort (you can click on any photo to enlarge it).

I already knew from previous excruciatingly disappointing experimentation that I can not do a double sided balled up pin with my torches so I am doing cold connection rivets on these hinges.

In hindsight, I see I should be filing concave grooves into my panels.  Not a deal breaker, but might make things easier.

So here's the first panel.  Oh wait... there was an identical one to this first... that I managed to totally (and unintentionally) reticulate when I was trying to solder on the tubes.  So here is my second attempt.

First I soldered on the moon eclipse, then I soldered on the two hinges.  Except they didn't solder on at first.  Well, one did and one was "hanging on".  So pickle and repeat.

I finally got both little tubes to solder. 

Trying to solder the other tubing onto the other panel was another matter.  After my reticulation debacle, I was afraid of over-heating. I also thought the fine silver bezel cups would just turn into puddles.

I think it took me four tries before I got my hinge to solder.  By that time I didn't care how much of a mess I made with the solder overflow.  I just wanted the darn things to become one.

And that's pencil lead inside the tubing (if you were wondering).  I didn't have it in there the first time I soldered and... you guessed it... soldering flowed up inside the tubing and clogged it up.

This image makes the panel look quite the mess.  These shots were taking right after soldering.

Here's the same piece after pickling and minimal brushing.

I wanted to add the patina and insert the cabs and then show you... when it dawned on me (yes, I *am* that daft at times) that I still have to solder tube hinges onto the other sides of each of these panels.  Ha!  That will be fun... trying to keep the first tubes in place while I do that.  Next time I'll try to get all the tubes soldered on at the same time.  But that's why we try new things... so we can learn.

These are very small panels.

I hope you stay tuned as I attempt to finished the entire bracelet.  Why did I pick such a huge project when trying to learn a new technique?  I thought forcing myself to make 8-10 sets of hinges would be good practice.  BTW, if this works out, you're getting a sneak peak at one of the pieces of my first 2016 collection.

See you shortly!


  1. Thanks (as per usual you are a veritable font of knowledge without trying!) I know what you are going through re balling up wire etc - I'm a riveter through necessity - a 'cool'torch is a small way away for me.

    1. Thanks for sympathizing regarding the issues of balling up wire (double-ended) with tiny torches. :-) I'm afraid I let my hinges project lapse a bit but I'll be getting back to it shortly. And I have a new tool in my arsenal to try the headpin thing again. :-)

  2. You amaze me with your persistence and drive...I'll stay tuned for the bracelet 'reveal'...

    1. Some call it persistence... others call it stubbornness. :-) The reveal is slow. Everything I do is slow. Thanks for your patience!

  3. You grabbed my attention! I start a silversmithing class on Wednesday and I have multiple goals- soldering and balling are on the list.

    The book recommended by the instructor is: The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight. It contains a wealth of information from my quick perusal.

    1. Thanks! That is a good book. You've reminded me I should go back and read some of my books. Most of them use acetylene torches, so they don't have some of the same problems I do, but I'm experimenting with work-arounds. I hope your silversmithing class went well. I'd love to hear/see details.

  4. I miss seeing your creations weekly and am dazzled by how beautiful even your learning projects are. I am designing and building cabinets for our home now and not even playing with fire! Maybe this summer. Love the newsletter.


    1. How sweet! Thanks Patty.

      You design and build your own cabinets? I'm majorly impressed.