In Process – Sweat Soldered Ring

The patterns for the two pieces of metal.
The patterns for the two pieces of metal.

This ring was also inspired by this year’s Super Bowl (it was just a fount of inspiration, huh?) When I was working out whether or not to put legs on it, I made a bunch of patterns. One was shaped like this ring. So I decided to make it using sweat

Back of the piece of copper with flux and pallions of solder. Don't use too much or it will seep out around the edge when you solder it onto the other piece of metal.
Back of the piece of copper with flux and pallions of solder. Don’t use too much or it will seep out around the edge when you solder it onto the other piece of metal.

soldering. I’ve come across a few people who don’t know about this technique, so I thought I’d showcase the process here.

Sweat soldering is when you flood the back of a piece of metal with solder, clean it up then solder it onto another piece of metal so the two flat surfaces are stuck together. It’s a lot easier (and cleaner) to do it this way than to try to lay the two pieces

Back of the piece with the solder flow. I could've used maybe another piece or two of solder, but it worked out in the end.
Back of the piece with the solder flow. I could’ve used maybe another piece or two of solder, but it worked out in the end.

together and just put solder around the edge of the top one. That path leads to heartbreak, or at least a lot of sanding.

The ring right after the liver of sulfur.
The ring right after the liver of sulfur.

Once I got the two pieces nicely soldered and cleaned up, I formed them slightly so that the edges wouldn’t irritate the wearer’s fingers when worn. It also gives it a little more dynamism. Then the shank was soldered on, more clean-up, and then the piece was darkened using liver of sulfur.* Lastly, I shined it up a bit with a brass brush.

All shined up nice and pretty!
All shined up nice and pretty!

Riveting Tips

Drill Bit Gauges

The other day I came across a blog where someone showed a piece that they had riveted together, obviously having trouble with the riveting process (they mentioned how difficult it was.) They also mentioned punching the holes for the rivets. I looked around and saw a tutorial at Michaels that also mentioned punching holes for rivets. This was a bit disturbing, so I wanted to offer some tips for riveting.

Always drill your holes. If you use a punch, you are forcing metal apart creating a very sloppy hole. Yes, drill bits don’t actually make a perfectly circular hole, but it at least removes the metal instead of just forcing it out of the way. If you use a circle punch (which cuts a perfect circle) that would work too, but I think that it would be very hard to get one that exactly fits your wire. Bringing us to…

Drill a hole that’s the same size as your wire or even slightly smaller (and then file it to the correct size.) Use a drill bit gauge to figure out what size bit will fit your wire. If your hole is too big, your rivet won’t fit and it will be a huge pain to push the metal enough to hold the two pieces together properly.

See the length of the wire compared to the parts being riveted together?

Make your rivet the correct size. The wire shouldn’t be too long, otherwise it will look very sloppy and smoosh all over the place. You could do this on purpose, but I suggest first learning to do it right and then experimenting on a practice piece to get the look right. Your wire should be just slightly larger than the two pieces you are riveting together. A good rule of thumb is the width of a fine sharpie line. (Fine sharpie, not regular size.)

Secure your two pieces that you are riveting together and drill the holes at the same time. That way you know they line up.

 

Taped and marked pieces ready for drilling.

Make sure the parts that will be riveted together are flush where the rivets will be. Otherwise you’ll dent your piece. The only way to rivet two pieces together that aren’t flush where the rivet is is by using a tube that keeps the top piece from collapsing while you rivet.

Always rivet on a steel surface. If you hammer on one side and have the back on a piece of wood, it won’t rivet. Using steel on the back stops the wire from sinking into the support surface and also helps upset (technical term for “smoosh”) that side of the wire.

 

The back after riveting. Both the wires and back piece are copper, so you have to look really closely to see the rivets.

Flip back and forth hammering each side of the wire to ensure it upsets evenly on both sides.

There are a lot more tips and I’m sorry that I don’t have photos for everything here, but I do teach a rivet pendant workshop where you learn to make floating rivets like in the photos above if you want to learn more. The next one scheduled is at the Newark Museum in New Jersey on November 18th.

Links to Some of My Tutorials

While I try to get into the studio so I can show you something new (like I said, this is one of my busiest weeks this year) I have a list of past posts that you might be interested in if you are learning metalsmithing.