A passion for silversmithing

STERLING SILVER : Noun, meaning silver of 92 and a quarter percent purity.....

Friday, 24 May 2013

My first bespoke matching wedding rings!

An Etsy customer Sheri asked me to make complementing wedding rings for her and her partner for their wedding in a few weeks time. This blog post is for Sheri and her partner.

She wanted simple hammered sterling silver rings, one 1.5 mm wide and the other 4 mm wide.

I have made a couple of wedding rings for men but not a matching set like this for both partners - very excited to be making these.

For the larger ring I cut a strip from 1 mm sheet silver, and the smaller ring is made from 1.5 mm round wire. I cut them to as near the length I need but final cutting comes after hammering.


I flattened the round wire slightly in my rolling mill to give it a slightly rectangular shape to resemble the other one.


Next step for both rings is to hammer them to add the texture This has to be done before the rings are soldered as hammering stretches the silver, and the rings would be too big. FIRST thing before hammering is to polish my favourite ball pein hammer on my smoothest micromesh sanding paper to make sure it is super smooth. At this stage the silver is still very soft and any dints will transfer to the silver.


The silver is then eased round the ring mandrel then hammered evenly all over. I use the same hammer for both rings to get a matching texture..



The next step is to cut the ends to get the exact length for the size required. I have a plastic ring sizer mandrel  for this. I cut and then file, erring on the small size as I have to hammer the texture again across the join and this will make the ring slightly larger again.

The joining edges have to be sanded flat ready for soldering. Sounds easy but actually takes a lot of care as you need to have a really tight and closed fit to get a neat join that will be almost invisible to the eye. I use a small flat file for this, then push the joint together and hold it up to the light to make sure no light is showing through the join.


You then have to create some tension in the joint and you do this by overlapping the edges, forcing them beyond where you want them to be so that when you pull them back and butt them together the tension holds them tight. Bit fiddly but this sanding and butting together stage is worth spending time on as the joint will be much neater as a result. I used a medium strip solder for both rings, using the smallest chip of solder so that is less filing is needed after soldering to remove excess solder. After applying flux I put the chip under the joint and the solder torch draws it up the joint.

Here is before and after soldering shots of both rings.





I love that after soldering it looks like an old piece of scrap metal, and get great satisfaction seeing it turn from this into something gloriously smooth and shiny and wearable. I pop them into my pickle pot to remove the muck from the soldering process.  When they come out of the pickle they are pale and matt and frankly uninteresting!

The next step is to remove any solder that is showing around the joint with a file and then sand papers working down the grades to super smooth.

Now I need to make them perfectly round and flat and I do this with my ring mandrel and a rawhide hammer. The hammer is soft and doesn't mark the silver.

At this point I check the rings for size (hoping that they are still on the small side) and then hammer over the join with my ball pein hammer to blend the texture in. give an even texture all round the ring, and then all round the ring again until the size is spot on.

Then with the raw hide hammer I work round the ring on the mandrel hitting it firmly and evenly against the mandrel. Take it off put it back upside down and repeat., then  I hammer it on my anvil, working round it to make sure it is flat, turning it over and repeating, then back on the mandrel again to check roundness.

I then make sure the size is spot on, and work with my ball bein hammer round and round until it is.






 The edges on the wider ring need to be softened as the ring is cut from a sheet of silver with very square edges. I do this with micromesh sandpaper wrapped round my finger or a piece of dowelling. It takes time but is quite therapeutic at the same time.

Once I am satisfied with them - and I am a perfectionist so this tidying up/finishing can take some time - I tumble them in my small barrel tumbler for an hour or more which cleans and polishes them, at the same time hardening the silver to make it durable.

When they come out of the tumbler they are bright and clean and shiny, transformed from the dullness they were before. Next I check for any imperfections, then polish with my rotary hand tool, using first tripoli (a course polish) then rouge (a fine finishing polish).




Very pleased with them and hope very much that Sheri and her partner are too!

6 comments:

  1. Those rings are really beautiful! You take so much care with your work, it's nice to see a little "behind the scenes" peek :)

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  2. thanks Amanda. I looked at your blog too and saw a gorgeous photo of you wearing my earrings (which looked lovely even though I say so myself!) :)

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  4. I love your blog, the thing I miss most about my silversmithing classes is the group company and sharing of projects and ideas. Thanks for you for sharing your process :)

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