Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kissing Stones

Kissing Stones: Sterling silver, tourmaline

I didn't set out to create a Valentine's Day project. It started when I received an email from Andy Cooperman. I am taking his ZEngineering class later this month at Danaca and he contacted the students to suggest we identify any topics that we could troubleshoot in class.

I have wanted to find a way to set stones face to face. I like the fact that the stones are different, but their relationship in the piece requires them to work cannot be present in that configuration without the other, yet, both are equally beautiful and valid alone. Now isn't that what true love is about, be it romantic, platonic, or familial? So Valentine's Day seemed the appropriate day to give it a try. Plus, I'll be ready to bombard Andy with questions in class (just kidding, Andy...kind of).

Version 1.0
This project was a long process, and in no way a final process. I'll explain how I made it, and then consider some of the changes I would make next time...and perhaps you'll have some ideas for me too! This way, we can all learn together.

I started out making a very rough copper model so that I could experiment and take measurements.

Version 1.1
From this, I determined the following steps:

Steps 1-3

1- Cut two pieces of rectangle wire (4 X 1mm) to 64mm and texture an edge

2- Cut 6 pieces of 2.5mm tubing to 11.45mm

3- Solder a 3X3 crimp bead to the center of each rectangle wire, use a dapping punch to flare both evenly(to serve as seats for the stones). I pickled everything at this point, for a clean start.

Step 4: Medium solder wire in tube

4- Place a piece of solder wire inside each tube, cut just slightly shorter than the tube

Steps 5-6: Ignore the holes on the tube...
replaced that tube, last minute design change

5- Solder the tubes next to the crimp beads first, using a steel washer to raise the tube to the center of the rectangle wire.

*Remember, my soldering skills are much of the time I spent in this project was trial and error in this area. By placing the solder in the tubes, I found that I could primarily heat the outside of the rectangle wire and the areas around the tubing to get the solder to flow out of the tube into the join.

6- Next, solder the outer tubes, and finally the tubes in between. You will have approximately 8mm between each tube

7 - Solder a 3X3 crimp bead onto the back of the top tube to serve as a bail.

8- After pickling, patina and polishing, slightly bend out the rectangle wire at the point of the crimp beads, insert the 7mm stones face to face (holding them can be tricky) and gently tap the wire back into place using a rawhide hammer until the stones are tightly set.

*It is here that I popped one of the tubing solder joints, which will make me consider if 1) the join wasn't good in the first place, or 2) I need to try a different process.

Version 2.0
Fixing the problem above may be as simple as bending the rectangle wire out at the crimp beads before all of the soldering is done. And, I know I can do it with tube rivets, but I really like the clean sides of the rectangle wire. I've even considered loading a slightly smaller but longer wire (not solder) into the tubing and solder just the end of that wire onto the rectangle wire. That way, when I hammer the stones in, the wires can "collapse" inside the tubing, snugging the tubing up to with rectangle wire without them popping or bending. I can even drill/bore a slight well into the rectangle wire for the tubing to seat itself into.

Any ideas?

Considering this project kept me up until 3am, I think I'll try this another day!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone... fill it with love!



  1. Well for your first time with this design I think it turned out great. Love the look of the outer metal texture and how you made the bail. I let my hubby do my soldering so I really need to learn how myself. I've been wanting him to get me started for a while. Reading your blog is helping me to want to learn how for sure.

    1. Thank you!! Definitely give it a really just takes practice. I am surprised everytime by how much I learn! : )

  2. Hi Melissa!

    Love your blog, and the project! One of these days we'll have to play together at the bench!

    I think the join was not good; I'd give each a good yank before bending out the sides for the stones.

    Bending the middle spots before soldering the tubes (rungs), may make it more difficult to have the tubes and sides touch properly, to get a solid soldered join.

    If I were given the assignment, I'd try to solder each side. Set first side strip into third hand or onto a nest, line up the tubes w/ a piece of solder inside each and heat from below. Mind you, trying to balance the tubes might have me abandon this approach. Hm, how about setting the strip onto a charcoal block and moving the flame around the strip?

    Flip it over and repeat, using another third hand to hold the top strip (with soldered tubes) in place.

    Setting the stones must be a very delicate process - to avoid chipping! Interesting!

    xo, Martina

    1. Hi! Miss you!! We definitely need to play. You know you have an open invitation! Great advice. Will definitely give it a try when I make my next one, which will hopefully be soon. I think the trick to not chipping the stones is to make sure they are set into the crimp tubes with space below them...that way if I over tighten them, the annealed tube will hopefully just flare more, rather than the stone hitting the rectangle wire under pressure.