Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Jewelry Tools

I never knew there were so many tools for jewelers to use! I took a beginner's course in jewelry making a few weeks ago and decided to try making some things at home, so I needed a few things ...

Anvils, hammers -- lots of hammers, pliers, files (big and little), tweezers, solder, flux, torch for soldering, a pan of pumice stones to hold my soldering pieces, a fireproof little square to do it all on, "third hands" to hold little parts in place, files, "pi
ckle" to clean off soldering residue from the parts, a used crock pot to heat the pickle, a pair of copper tongs to fish items out of the pickle with, jeweler's saw, saw blades, bench clamp to saw on, buffing wheels, buffing compounds, and on and on ...

I made two hammers into tools to pattern copper and silver sheets with. One is a random series of lines, and the other is a starburst pattern. I carved the patterns into the faces of the hammers with a little tiny cut-off wheel, using the flex-shaft machine (which I forgot to mention above), and then polishing the hammer faces. Used to pound patterns into sheet metal, they leave a surface pattern that catches and scatters light. The sheets have to be pounded on an anvil -- the bigger the better -- in order to put a clean pattern on the metal. This p
rocedure makes a lot of noise, so I can't do it after my wife has gone to bed.

Then I had to make some tool-holders so I could find things. I made two out of wood -- just holes drilled into the side of a 1x4, about 3 inches deep into which I could put things like tweezers, pliers, saw blades, and other small things. I wanted to make one out of copper tubing soldered to angle iron, so I bought some angle iron and cut a foot off one end with a hacksaw (although I could have used the jeweler's saw -- it cuts ANYTHING). Then I
cut some 1/2 inch copper tubing into four-inch pieces (getting two blisters in the process, one on my thumb and one on one finger). I spent two days thinking about how to hold all the parts for the soldering process, and finally came up with one I thought would work. Applying flux to all the parts, I began.

First try was an abject failure. By the time I got the metal parts hot enough to melt solder, the flux had been burnt to a solid black film. And, there was no adhesion between the copper and the iron, so it just fell apart. I cleaned everything up and tried agai

Attempt number two was no better. In fact it was somewhat worse. I had taken everything out onto the back patio because I thought it would be better to try this operation outside. That was a good idea, but unfortunately, it was the last one I had. Everything was rearranged outside. In particular, the hoses for the torch were rearranged, and when I pointed the torch at one end of the copper tubes, flame shot out the other end of the tube and melted holes in the hoses to the acetylene and oxygen bottles! I heard this tremendous hissing so
und and thought to myself, "That can't be a good thing". It took me a few moments to figure out where it was coming from. Well, I guess there isn't a more fundamental mistake for a beginner to make than to melt his own hoses. Best to get it out of the way right at the start. Now I can make more sophisticated mistakes.

That put me out of the soldering business until I could get new hoses, so I passed the time by downloading instructions on how to change hoses from the web. I discovered that I didn't actually need NEW hoses, I could just cut off the ones I ha
d. But the instructions cited the use of a "ferrule tool" -- whatever that was. I looked closely at the picture of the new hoses and saw what had to be the "ferrule tool" (because it couldn't possibly be anything else) and thought, "I can make that". I did, too. Out of aluminum. And it worked, at least to get the brass holders off the hoses at their connection to the torch. But when I tried to use it to get the brass holders back onto the new connections, the brass slid into the tool and jammed there. So, after un-jamming it, I made a new ferrule tool with a slightly smaller hole, which was perfect for putting the brass holders back on. Also, for the first time I used my very smallest hammer with the plastic face -- perfect for this job.

Back in soldering business, I gave it another try. This time I managed to get a copper tube soldered to the angle iron at one spot, but not along its length. It felt loose, so I pried it up, thinking I would just pry it off and start over. But instead of breaking at the solder joint, I managed to pry a piece right out of the side of the copper tube! Now I had a tube with a small hole in it.

"Well, no matter", I thought, "it won't matter if it has a small hole in it -- it won't been seen anyway." I cleaned everything off for one more try. I decided that I was using a torch that was too small, and I wasn't able to heat the whole area I wanted to sol
der, so I changed the torch tip to the biggest one I had.

My torch is called "The Little Torch" because it is quite small, and has very small nozzles in the tips. I have five tips, so I picked out the largest of the lot. Ready to go again, I was very careful to position all the parts in place, taking lots of time to get it right. This time things were looking much better. I was heating a much larger area this time, and it looked much better.

But then, about halfway through the process, when one piece of solder had melted and I was working on the second, I discovered that I was soldering the angle iron on upside down.

Obviously, I was out of my league.

Later that same day, however, I managed to make a jig for bending wire into the shape I wanted for making a pendant or earring. I made two of them, and when it came to the soldering part, everything went perfectly.

Maybe I'll try the iron and copper another day. After all, I have lots of short copper tubes around because I made them all (and got blisters!) before even started the soldering trials, and there is still quite a bit of angle iron left over. Or, I might epoxy them together -- I know how to do that.

But I hate to fail. On the other hand, I learned a lot. I especially learned to pay attention to my hoses. And, I learned how to changes hoses. That's something. It will have to do.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Cardinal

22 May 2007

We have been watching a cardinal here at the cabin. He is a very bright red and the very image of the Virginia state bird. And he is so full of himself! I first noticed him when I was looking through the bedroom window at the bird feeder in the Linden tree in the front yard. As bright red as he was, he all but forced the eye to focus on him. Then, later, I saw that he was fluttering up against the window of the Toyota. “What is he doing?”, I asked myself, so I stopped to watch him. Pretty soon it became evident that he had discovered that there was another male, also bright red, horning in on his territory, or so he thought, because he was looking into the side mirror of the car on the passenger side. He would perch on what little window sill there was, and from time to time would fly at the mirror, and then return to his precarious perch. When he got really excited, he would poop down the door.

When we went out to get in the car, he flew off into the woods. I checked the mirror, to find beak marks all over it, and what looked like a fine dust. I think that was from his flying into the mirror to attack his rival. He must have thought that his rival gave as good as he got when he hit the mirror! I had to wash the door off before we drove away.

When we came back, we parked in the same place, and before long, the cardinal returned and went through all the same motions as before: he perched on the window sill and observed himself in the mirror. His attacks were fewer, though, and his observing himself was more prevalent. But he continued to poop all over the door. He spent a long time there – several hours.

Then my wife went out with green plastic garbage sacks and duct tape and covered the window from the top to part way down the door, eliminating the window sill altogether, and covering the mirror and part of the windshield. This move was intensely frustrating for the cardinal. He tried to perch on the windowsill, but there wasn’t any, and he slid off down the door. He perched on the running board instead and surveyed the situation. Then he hopped back and forth on the running board, looking up at the window. Then he tried to fly up to the windowsill again. He seemed to try to hover in order to look into the mirror, before fluttering to where the windowsill should have been, only to slide off again. Then he flew over to the Linden tree and looked the situation over from there. Then he flew to the running board. He hopped back and forth, looking up at the now covered window and mirror. Then he tried to fly up to the windowsill, but there was no purchase there for him to perch. He kept this up for a long time. We left the plastic sacks taped to the car overnight until we left for home. I still had to wash off the running board!

The next week when we came out to the cabin, we parked in the back instead of out by the Linden tree. We saw the cardinal in the Linden tree, but for a whole day we didn’t see him out back where the car was. Then, the next day, he discovered where the car was! But instead of going to the passenger side, which would have been on the side away from us, he went to the driver’s side where we could see him. First he hopped up on the running board and looked around. Then he hopped from one end of the running board to the other and back again (leaving little evidences of his passage as he went). Finally he flew up to the window sill where he could see into the mirror. From time to time he would lose his footing on the window sill, it is so narrow, but he would just flutter his wings and get a better grip. Again, there was less attacking, and more admiring of himself in the mirror. Do you suppose he began to understand it was himself he was looking at? It sure seemed that way to me. He stayed there most of the day and only flew away when we went out to get into the car. Again, I had to wash the bird poo off the car before we left.

The next time we came to the cabin we drove my Honda, and we didn’t see the cardinal at all. We thought maybe because my car was black instead of gray, and a different shape, that he didn’t recognize it as the same kind of object.

This week we drove the Toyota again, and parked out by the Linden tree, but we haven’t seen him this week either. I keep thinking he has found a mate and is now so busy trying to feed his family that he has no time for admiring himself in the mirror. I sort of miss him – he was the most beautiful cardinal I have ever seen.