In fact, I made, or at least completed, several things today.
First up, the mystery knitting I started just yesterday. I can tell you almost nothing about this yet: it’s under wraps. Embargoed. But I can show you the yarn it was made from (in an astonishingly short time – it took longer to block than to knit).
This is handspun yarn from rhubarbbear, who has an Etsy shop worth looking out for. I was lucky enough to get it in a Ravelry swap, in exchange for this glass mezuzah case (A fair exchange?) I have wondered what to do with it since I got it, and then it self-selected for the Mystery Knitting project by dint of being the only yarn I had in the appropriate weight (so while it turned out to be perfect, there’s the argument for Stash, right there). I don’t think the tiny swatch is giving too much away.
In silversmithing it is essential to have a couple of different projects on the go at once, as after every manipulating process, there is a cleaning process (pickling), when you have to wait before you can manipulate the silver some more. To write out the entire silversmithing process is if it were a knitting pattern would result in something like this:
Cut, *solder, pickle, anneal (heat-strengthen), bash, pickle, solder, pickle, anneal, bash some more, pickle* polish…
That’s pretty much the sum of it, as far as I can tell.
So I’ve worked on two things. The less exciting, and fiddlier, of the two was beveling one of my glass cabochons. The fact that adding a bail ruins the look of some pieces is what drove me to take up silver in the first place, and the result is satisfying, while the process was quite dull. Probably it’s dull because the result (barring accidents) is predictable. And because it’s insanely fiddly and relatively intolerant of imperfections. An accident would almost certainly not be a happy accident where beveling is concerned. So I look at this and primarily, I breathe a sigh of relief.
Mostly though, I offer you the aforementioned bronze-age artefact. I have been fiddling away at this for a couple of weeks in my new silversmithing class, as I may have mentioned. I decided on a bracelet in copper as a cheaper way of learning basic techniques than ruining good silver would have been. A few things became quickly apparent, first among which was the fact that it seems to be harder to saw than silver. But then it seems easier to bend. I don’t understand it, and I could be completely wrong, but that’s been my impression.
So first, I cut a shape out of copper, the shape being very largely determined by the length of the available piece of copper and very minimally based on my sketch of what I thought would slip on my wrist (a vague, leaf-like shape cut rather haphazardly out of paper). Then I filed like a demon (and swore like a trooper throughout). Then I bashed the metal a bit, beause it was pretty badly scratched, and I had devised a cunning plan called ‘texture’ to mask this fact. So I bashed with a couple of different hammers, then I put the copper through the rolling mill a couple of times wrapped in rather random texturizing elements (Plastic mesh from a bag of lemons, if you must know), and then I used some sort of dental-drill-type thing with strange burnishing/scuffing attachments – one looked like a miniature chimney sweep’s brush, another like a metallic cotton bud…
Next I partially flooded the copper with silver. This, the cheapskate’s version of silver plating, involved snipping off tiny shreds of silver and melting them onto the copper. I couldn’t get the piece hot enough with the standard blowtorch, so I was also given a much bigger thing that looked more like a flamethrower and had the childish delight of working with flame in both hands. As some fool had put a paper tissue down on the surface, that caught fire during all this and I chose to disregard it (I figured a tissue couldn’t burn for long, and it didn’t look likely to set fire to anything else, soit wasn’t a problem: my teacher doused the flame, and my torch and my hot copper, and I was a bit put out). Cowboy? Me?
Then I shaped it roughly round my wrist and when I tried it on, it proved to be sharp enough to be sold as part of a luxury home suicide kits (‘Slash your wrists in style’). OK. Next plan, bend back the pointy ends, and in fact bend all the edges slightly outwards, and file again for good measure. Then polish with rouge, pop in the polishing tumbler for an hour and pull out –
– something that really looks as though it has been freshly dug from a prehistoric burial site. I have to report that whatever it looks like, it’s very comfortable, fits me perfectly, and pleases me greatly. When it stops pleasing me, and starts embarrassing me, I will bury it discreetly in the garden and hope it confuses some unsuspecting archaeologist in a couple of hundred years.
So I give you ‘the Cardiff Torque’ copper/silver, date unknown: