Step 5 - Stone Setting and Final Forming

earring embedded into jettset, ready for stone setting.

When the polishing is completed, it's time to set the stones. The delicate nature of the earrings makes stone setting especially challenging. To compensate for this, I use a thermoplastic mold compound (JettSet) that allows for a temporary hold. I'll embed the earring into the JettSet so that it's solidly held but the settings are not clogged.

Completed setting ready for final forming and finishing

Set all stones as you normally would any round bezel setting. I like to use burnishers rather than pushers or rockers as I feel I have more control with a burnisher. Sometimes I'll use a bezel setting punch to get the setting started, then I'll finish with the burnisher.

Once all the settings are completed, heat the JettSet in water until it's soft, then pull the earring out of the polymer.

Final forming completed, all ready to ship

Now all that remains to be done is the final forming of the ear-wire and then any final polishing. Since I'm working with a hard stone (garnet), it's safe to tumble the earrings for a few hours to harden the silver; this will also add a high-shine, burnished finish. 


Step 4 - create a jig for alignment, solder and finish polish

Using the "T" jig to align the settings precisely.

To complete the construction of the tube sections onto the post, we have to first make a jig that will allow us to exactly align the tube sections in place. Start with thick copper wire and make a "T" shaped section by soldering a small piece to a larger piece in perpendicular fashion. The "T" shape can now be used to act as a spacer between one setting and another. Here is how this goes:


Soldering the settings.

First, determine where the first tube section will be soldered on the post. I use the joint of the post and ear wire as a marker and measure about 3mm from that point. Solder with medium solder the first tube aligning the edge with that mark. Repeat with the other post. Then, use the "T" jig to space out the next tube section by placing the small section of the "T" between the first solder tube and the next one to be soldered. In this case, I like to use paste flux; one of the advantages of paste flux is that when you heat it, it bubbles up and acts like a glue once all the water has evaporated.  

Once all the soldering has been completed, quench, pickle and polish the constructions being careful not to distort the constructions when polishing. 

Step 3 - Triple Drops - solder and forge the post

Let's start with the posts.  Using whatever aids you have at your disposal (I use the GRS Solder station with dual 3rd hands), solder the 20 gauge wire into the posts using hard solder.  Careful to be sure you don't melt the post or wire, and be sure to draw the solder into the depression made with the drilling in step 2.  I learned this trick (making an improved joint by creating the "seat" for the wire) from Lindsay Minihan of Metalwerx.  

three pairs of posts/wires soldered

forging completed, only a little filing to clean up is needed.

Now the connection needs to be finessed.  This can be done via filing with a needle file, or you can forge this a bit into a graduated taper, then refine with a file.  I like the later approach as it hardens the connection and if there is a challenge with the solder joint, you'll find it when you forge, and you can correct it at this stage, it will be more difficult to fix as you move forward with construction.

Step 2 - Triple Drops...all the basic fitting of joints before soldering

Refining the fit with needle file - nice and tight

On to the next steps which is all about fitting the pieces together in prep for soldering.  Start with refining the fit of the post intersection with the tube segment that will eventually be the bezel setting.  I find this to be a stronger joint than just a butt joint, plus the additional benefit that the post is aligned perfectly through the center (the template used in step 1 assures the correct bisect angle).  Fit all tube settings before moving on.

I Next turn my attention to refining the tube setting surface.  Use a flex shaft mandrel for a support and mount the tube segment between the screw and main shoulder.  Much easier to hold on to these small pieces.  Use a pin vice to hold the mandrel.  Again, do all tube pieces before moving on to the next task.


20 gauge wire inserted into the post 

Turning attention back to the posts, it's time to focus on the join between the ear wire and the post.  Again, a butt joint isn't ideal here.  To make the solder joint stronger, pre-drill the post being careful to target the center of the posts edge.  I use a GRS to aid in holding the post so that I can drill without slipping.  I drill about 1-2mm in or so into the post-just enough to give the 20 gauge wire that will become the ear wire some purchase.

That's about all for this step....  Next will be soldering.

Step1...and now for something completely different...step by step project: Triple Drops

One of the interesting challenges about building a jewelry business is the way each artist deals with mass production, to whatever degree that may be. For my approach to Cathartic Studio, I wish to retain the hand-made quality of my work, but still be able to produce each piece in a timely manner that allows me to offer work that's available at all price points.

Having just received an order for one of my most difficult pieces to create, I thought it was a good opportunity to explore this process. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting pictures and sharing my process. In this series, I'll produce 3 sets of Triple drops.


So let's start with Step 1, marking and roughing out the bezels. To begin, we need to create a channel in the bezel in which the square bar will inset and soldered. Insetting the joint is much stronger than a butt joint but does require more precision and effort. The challenge here is to mark the exact dimensions of the intersection - no slop can be tolerated in the joint as solder will not fill gaps...the fit needs to be exact. So we have to start with a precise mark. To do this, I prepare the rough tube stock or cast bezel settings by covering the outside surface with a Sharpie marker. Why will become apparent shortly. I then make a jig that allows me to find exact center and 4 quadrants of the tube. I use the same bar stock used to build the earrings in the positioning posts of the jig. With little effort then, I can take a scribe to trace the exact dimensions of the intersection that will later be cut away. With some practice and a cut-off wheel attached to the rotary motor, I'm able to rough out the inset. With a little additional filing, I can achieve a tight fit.