Rings and Things - Part 3 - Putting it All Together
This is the final installment for rings and things, but certainly not all there is to making rings. I hope with this last blog you will have found a new appreciation for what goes into the whole process of ring making. So much thought and small details make all the difference. For those who are truly interested in making rings, I would recommend purchasing "Creative Stonesetting" by Cogswell who really goes into every minute deatil of ring creation and all the fine finishing that can really make the difference in the beauty of the final product.
Choose metal for your band. Lets keep it simple here and use 18 gauge sheet. Using a ring sizing chart- available at www.contenti.com, pick your ring size and use a straigt edge T square use a sharpie to mark off the length and width you want for the band. Use the appropriate saw blade to saw out this length. Remember, the wider the band, the bigger it needs to be to fit- usually you have to go up about a half size. Use a file to smooth any burs or rough edges and make sure it is perfectly flat and squared up. Now take this band and lay it over your ring mandrel a size or so up from where you want it to finish. This is done because metal is very springy and you need to get the curve started and allow for the metal to be forged slowly into shape. Use a rawhide hammer to start tapping it around the mandrel to shape into a circle. (There are lots of other mandrel shapes, because lets face it, fingers aren't really round, but for lack of a book chapter this will give you the idea). Rawhide should not leave marks and also not spread the metal wider or longer as much as a metal hammer. After the metal is rounded, use fingers or plastic coated pliers to bring the ends past each other back and forth until the two ends meet and touch perfectly flat. If they don't, file and adjust, this will be where you solder the ring together and it must be perfect. Check again for size. Now, use those plastic pliers to flatten the area a bit so your solder will stay put- you can round it on the mandrel again after soldering. I won't go through the soldering process again, but I use hard solder again. After soldering and pickling, clean with a brass brush and file and or sand until there is absolutely no sign of the seam where you soldered inside or out. Leave the area flattered a little where the seam is, this is where you will solder on your bezel. After you attach the bezel you can put the ring on your mandreal and round it out before setting the stone and polishing. Also, if the ring size is a bit off, you can forge with a metal hammer to enlarge and stretch it a bit. Important- you must forge slowly and take the ring off and turn it around in between hammering or one side will get bigger than the other- you want it round on both sides.
Prepare your bezel and band with flux. Everyone does this last part a little different, but I lay my bezel face down on a soldering pad, then place the band on top to see if it will stand by itself. No matter what shape your bezel is, you want to be sure the band is centered font back and also looking down from the top. If this is a large bezel you can use a sharpie to make marks on the bezel back to see where the band goes again after you remove to add solder. Now, remove the band, warm bothe the band and the bezel to dry the flux to a glassy stage. Add easy solder- not too much- you don't want to have to do a lot of sanding and filing excess solder on your nice band and bezel. Place the warmed band back on the bezel. I use my third hand tweezers at this point. I loosen the wing nuts so the tweezers are just a little floppy and lay the tip on the band to hold it still. Remember, solder melts when the metal is hot and you don't want the band to move when the solder flows and have it end up all cockeyed. Since the bezel is much lighter weight than the band and solder flows toward the heat, I start with the torch on the band on either side of the bezel. Keeping the torch moving, get down as close as possible and safe (did I tell you to wear protective eye wear any time you are working with metal or a torch? If not, my bad, never work without glasses or goggles). After the solder flows, take the torch away immediately and allow the ring to cool before quenching and pickling. Clean up is the same as for all the other steps.
Now you are ready to put the stone in the bezel setting!!! Put your ring in a ring clamp and screw it in snug. I brace mt ring clamp in a bench pin sawed out in the shape of the clamp. Now we have new tools to get out. I use tweezers to pick up my stone and center it over the bezel. Remember, this should fit perfectly so it's not going to just drop in there- if it does, the bezel is too big and the stone will make a little noise as it moves around inside after you have set it.
Use your thumb or sometimes I use a pencil eraser to push the stone down into the setting. Many times you will even hear a little click as it sets itself in place. Check all around to make sure the stone is level and seated properly, if not, push gently buy firmly on the uneven area until seated. Next step, get out a bezel pusher, this tool has a square piece of metal with a flat face set in a round wooden handle. The face is smooth and will be used to push the bezel into the sides of the stone to hold it firmly in place. With an oval for example, pretending it's a clock face, start at 12 o'clock and push, then go to 6 o'clock, then 3 and 9. After this keep going around until all the areas have been pushed tight against the stone. Remember, the bezel should fit perfectly so you don't have much of anything to go up over the top of the stone to hide it. If you have any marks from the pusher in your bezel or any small areas that wrinkled, now get out the bezel burnisher. This is a curved highly polished almost knife used to smooth out those wrinkles and at the same time polish the bezel- to see what one loks like click on this link:
You can us a little soapy water, a thin coating of oil or even saliva to assure it burnisher moves smoothly around the bezel- keep the tip up and away from the ring so you don't gouge the bezel. Go around until everything is smooth on the sides and when looking down at the top of the ring you don't see a single gap anywhere. This may sound very simple, but I have spend lots of time getting this to look perfect. Bezels can have plain, serrated or scalloped tops which all bring their own challenges. If the top of the bezel is plain, I also use a bezel smoother which looks like the pusher except it have a tiny notch in it the you can scoot all around the very top of the bezel to take out any additional marks and make it very shiny.
Last step- polish! This could and is a whole book chapter, but suffice it to say, the less scratches and marks you leave while fabicating, the less work you have now. Any scratches have to be sanded out with decreasing grit paper, I usually start with 320 and work down 400, 600, 800 I have even gone down to 8000 to get a mirror shine. I wrap the sandpaper in a round mandrel to get the inside and have used all sorts of gadgets to go around the top. When all scratches are removed I use 3M radial discs in my Dremel drill to pre polish then finish with ones that contain polishing rouge. Remember this is all done while the ring is in the ring clamp so you have to keep loosening and moving it to get all the little tiny crevices.
You should now have a beautiful ring to put on your finger and display for all to admire.
Now when you look at the gorgeous hand crafted rings for sale you hopefully have an appreciation of what went into creating that little tiny shiny.
I hope you will also have gained enough knowledge to be discerning when choosing a ring for purchase. There is nothing worse than buying something and when you receive it, it just doesn't measure up to the price you paid. Look for sellers that take pictures from different angles to show all sides of the ring and include the stone and bezel (including from the top), Do zoom in if it's available, the camera doesn't lie. Many of use who make jewelry take digital macro pix of our items and check them out for flaws not visible even with magnifying glasses before we call the item finished and ready for sale. If there is something you can't see don't hesitate to contact the seller and ask for an extra picture- we all have them, but don't necessarily put them up for viewing if they aren't our best.
I hope you've enjoyed this series of blogs. If you like, please leave comments and let me know what else you may find interesting as a topic in jewelry making. I'm sure not an expert by any means, but sometimes I think the experts forget what it's like to be a beginner and they leave out all those little steps and processes that they now do automatically.